Review of Crushed by Eliza Crewe

Well.

That was some unexpected awesome right there.

It is rare, like a diamond in the rough, but it exists; a sequel that is better than the first book.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Cracked, the first installment in Eliza Crewe’s book series of undetermined length; I loved the characters and the humour, but wasn’t overly impressed with the plot and pacing. I gave it three stars (bordering on four), but for the longest time I wasn’t sure if I was interested enough to pick up the sequel. Having then procured an ARC of Crushed, I thought I might as well, if only for a bit of fun. I was in need of a light, fun read at the time and expected Crushed to be as funny and entertaining as its predecessor.

Yeah. I didn’t anticipate the awesome.

Eliza Crewe has seriously upped her game. The stakes are much higher in book #2; while the fun and comedy is still a big part of the novel, it takes a back seat as protagonist Meda’s struggle with good and evil becomes a lot more intense. She’s as sassy and bad-ass as she’s ever been, but the whole point of this story is that she has to pick a side.

“Those were the options I was given, side with the demons or die. I came up with option three – kick ass and take names.”

Meda being Meda, she begins by resisting. But as the severity of her situation dawns on her and she realizes over the course of the book the impact of her decisions, we really see a focus on her insecurities, her mistakes, her selfish and childish side. We really revel in her flaws in this book and watching her indecision to either overcome or succumb to them is just so riveting. I kept going back and forth between rooting for her evil side and her good side and I still don’t really know what route I’d like to see her take in the next book(s). She’s Andromeda Melange! Her name literally encompasses her entire being: she is a mix between the two and I have a feeling she’ll always be straddling the two sides. But in the end, I guess that’s the point, and the underlying message of the series.

Meda also gets a love story in this. I enjoyed the fact that Meda had no love interest in book #1 (and that she never even contemplated her relationship status), so when a love interest popped up in Crushed I was a little disappointed. But it ended up being absolutely perfect.

“You can love a monster. It can even love you back, but that doesn’t change its nature. This isn’t Beauty and the Beast where my kiss would transform the monster to a prince. If anything, it’s Shrek, and his kiss brings out the ogre in me.”

Armand is a very good love interest. He is, quite literally, a bad boy, and Meda responds to him exactly the way a young woman should: she doesn’t trust him. She knows his game and keeps her distance, even though sometimes she finds him hard to resist.

“But he turns his long-lashed eyes on me, full of entreaty, as if he were saying: please, please let me come murder the molester with you. How do you say “no” to eyes like those? They are a magical combination of sex and puppy.”

It’s awesome to see this in a YA novel, a genre that’s currently overflowing with shit like Hush, Hush where idiotic teenage leads are overly trusting of shady characters. I’m sick to death of it, but of course Meda didn’t disappoint me. She’s one of the best YA protagonists I have ever seen and her whole love story was perfect. And it didn’t overshadow the plot either, which was fabulous by the way. It definitely gripped me more than the plot of book #1, and was filled with twists and turns that I couldn’t see coming a mile off. Just as in Cracked, Eliza Crewe got the formula down. The perfect blend of action, explanation, MAGIC!, character development and humour. All at the right time. It was remarkably well pulled-off (*takes notes*).

I do wish we had seen more of Chi in this, I did love the adorable, puffed-up dumbass in book #1. He’s a bit of a caricature, but he’s still awesome. He reminds me of Prince Edward in Enchanted.

Instead of Chi, we got a lot more of Jo, and to be honest I can’t really complain. Jo has grown massively in this; first presented as the hard-boiled bitch in book #1, we see a much more important and softer side to her in this. She proves herself to be the ultimate friend to Meda, and what Jo goes through for her is heartbreaking when you compare it to the shit that Meda selfishly puts her through. Though she’s only seventeen, Jo strikes me as the bad-ass mum character; a strong woman who takes charge in protecting those she loves, but ultimately still needs that same love back. And I absolutely love her.

“But seriously, what do you say to your best friend when you stand at the gates of the gates of hell?
Nothing. If it’s your best friend, she already knows.”

I couldn’t not give this five stars. There was so much that I was completely in love with, it didn’t matter that we didn’t see enough Chi, that maybe it would have been cool to have more world-building, or some explanation about the magic system. When there’s so much that a book’s got going for it, the flaws are so easily overlooked.

I could fault Crushed if I tried enough, but I don’t need or want to.

Actually you know what, I can fault it; it was over too soon.


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Amazeballs

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Remember the importance of water this summer and help fund a well for a village in Africa

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I’ve pimped my blog out to a good cause for once! My little brother – He Who Is Too Good To Be True – is donating his 20th birthday to fundraise for The Water Project and he needs everyone’s help! If you follow me on Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest or are just subscribed to this blog you will probably be submitted to daily updates on the fundraiser and multiple pleas for donations. You know how shameless people can get with these things. But, if you donate today…you will still not be exempt from these promotions so best to donate a couple more times so my brother hits his target sooner rather than later.

To tell you more about the cause itself, here is a message from the Bro.

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Poser.

Hi there, my name is Jay Burton and I’m a young European student of Environmental Management living in Germany.

Over my two years of studying here so far, I – and my classmates – have been learning a lot about the problems the world is facing. I’m sure you’ve all had enough of all these awareness campaigns trying to scare people into believing in Climate Change, but sadly these problems are very real and very present, even today. I’ll try to make this short.

Even though Climate Change is a global issue, it will be felt worst in developing countries where people depend on rain-fed agriculture or precious livestock to get by. Increasing heat and population growth will only make the situation worse, and the poorest people will suffer the most because of it.

Here in Europe we take most things for granted. I’m not blaming anyone or anything, it’s just the way things are. Water is available in every building, and most of us have enough money to buy the food we need and the roof over our heads.

During my studies, we all learn about environmental issues and how international cooperation could help mitigate and adapt to Climate issues, but I also believe that through individual actions we can make a difference. I’ll be turning 20 on the 13th of July, and instead of asking friends and family for presents, I want to ask for a small amount of money to go towards a bigger cause. I was lucky enough to be born a European and I have absolutely everything I need in life, others do not.

I chose to start a fundraiser aiming to build a well in the areas of Africa that need it the most. Water is one of the cheapest resources for us here in developed countries, and yet it’s by far the most important. Today, 1 billion people are struggling to access water. By 2025 that number may rise to 2.4 Billion. I find that number ridiculously high, and yet with a little help from us it could be greatly decreased.

The NGO I wish to donate money to is called The Water Project, who work hard at building wells in Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, and other places in need. Through fundraising initiatives, small donations of $10 has led to over $2 Million total, helping tens of thousands of people access water in their communities. Here’s a little video showing the fruits of their labour:

I want to show people everywhere that even a little initiative like this can lead to big global differences. Our borders are getting thinner and thinner, and it’s time to start thinking about are neighbours who honestly don’t deserve to live the way they do just because of the randomness of where they were born.

This is my first fundraiser, and so I’m asking you to help me help this project come to be. The only present I want for my birthday is the possibility to help people in need! Please share this short message and help me reach the small goal of $5000 to help create a well! Here’s the link to the fundraiser: https://thewaterproject.org/community/profile/jay-burton

Thank you,

Jay.

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Review of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Let me paint you a picture: family of supernatural hunters, specifically ghost hunters. Magical knife plays a big role. Dad is dead and the family keep moving around to crack different cases. Sounding a bit familiar? The main character is even called Cas…

Anna Dressed in Blood is kind of like a diet Supernatural, or Supernatural-lite, if you will. The premise has a “Winchester: The Early Years” vibe to it; as if Sam and Dean had amalgamated into one person and was still in high school. Ghost hunting.

And it really was a cracking little read.

Thesius “Cas” Cassio (not even kidding) is a teenage ghost-hunter, taking over the family business from his dead father. His white-witch mum doesn’t particularly enjoy letting her young boy go off a-hunting, but she nonetheless indulges this practice because PLOT. Mum and Cas move around a lot as each ghostly case crops up and Cas has to juggle school and ghost research. But then the legend of Anna Dressed in Blood finds its way into Cas’s life. Something is very different about this particular vengeful spirit an could threaten to disturb Cas’s routine forever…

Entertainment-wise, this book was pretty damn solid. It gave me all the elements of Supernatural I enjoy (except for the eye-candy, but you can’t have everything in life), but adding in a pick-n-mix of unexpected twists and turns. I liked the story; I had no idea where it was going to go and I love that in a book. Obviously there were a few trivial high school shenanigans thrown in there for the intended YA audience, but whereas I tend to yawn my way through those parts in most YA novels, it wasn’t the case here. There was hardly any focus on school time, and what little there was served great purpose. The secondary characters Cas meets at school are fairly important to the plot (which would have suffered without them), but I do wish there was a bit more to them. Trying to weigh them up against other SCs in YA novels, I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse. At the end of the day I was just indifferent towards these characters, just like I was towards Cas.

Cas is quite like an amalgamation of Sam and Dean Winchester. He’s got that arrogant and ballsy Dean-like exterior, but with a softer, more caring, and certainly more naive Sam side that comes out sometimes. But there was no happy middle ground with him, I found. I was too irked by his arrogance one minute then annoyed by his stupid mistakes the next; I never found a moment when I could connect with him as a person and appreciate his good qualities. Though I like a flawed protagonist, I can’t stand overbearing flaws and Cas just wasn’t the ticket for me.

What I probably enjoyed the most was the horror aspect. There was some good shit in there, some good shit that I wish there had been more of. There was some fabulous, gory, ghost shit; the kind you’d love to see on the big screen but at the same time you know it probably won’t compare to the horrors you’re imagining inside your head. Anna herself, however, could have been a bit scarier.

“Anna is descending upon me, coming down the stairs without taking any strides. Her feet drag horribly along like she can’t use them at all. Dark, purplish veins cut through her pale white skin. Her hair is shadow-less black, and it moves through the air as though suspended in water, snaking out behind and drifting like reeds. It’s the only thing about her that looks alive.”

I’ll be honest, I was disappointed with how the whole Anna thing developed. She just wasn’t dark enough.  She wasn’t the kind of ghost or demon the Winchesters would come across, more like something Buffy would come across. Anna Dressed in Blood ended up being PG-13, whereas the twisted nature of my soul really requires something R-rated to capture my full attention.

Yep. Just like that.

Really though, this was a good summer read. Kept me turning those pages, kept me guessing, kept me entertained up until the end. If you like a bit of light-horror with a good, fast-paced plot, give this one a go.


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Page-turner

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Disney Princesses have as much of a right as you to procreate (Part 2)

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A while back, an article was published called Why Disney Princesses would make terrible mothers. While the article was no doubt intended to ruffle a few feathers, needless to say I, and some of my friends, hit the Goddamn roof. It would be a different matter if the arguments in the article had any weight to them, but this nameless entity who wrote this piece of shit had absolutely nothing to work with, and therefore grasped onto the most pitiful semblance of potential reason in order to spew out this hunk of crap.

So I thought I’d dissect it, and tell you exactly why Disney Princesses have just as much of a chance of being fantastic parents as the idiot who criticized them.

This is Part 2! Check out Part 1.

#5 – Anna

“Anna from ‘Frozen’ would be a total embarrassment to her children [...] because she’s so awkward and dorky! People like that can make fun parents at home, but in the light of day — and in front of their kids’ friends — they’re nothing if not super embarrassing.”


*Le sigh* – you could be a freaking rock star and you’d still embarrass your kids. That’s part of the parent job description. Anna’s adorkableness has nothing to do with her ability to raise a child right.  And boo to you if you think that’s a negative personality trait.

#4 - Jasmine

Jasmine would be an atrocious mother, and here’s why:

  • She keeps a live tiger in the house as a pet. Who does that?!
  • She’ll believe any lie in the book, so her kids could easily manipulate her.
  • She’s been spoiled by her daddy throughout her entire life, so get ready for some more spoiled, entitled rich kids!
  • She uses her sexy, womanly physique to seduce even the most vile of men (see: Jafar). Bad role model alert! Take a legitimate self-defense class, Missy.”


Okay so this one actually has some weight to it. Raja, you have to go, I don’t care if you’re house trained, you are a flipping tiger and the palace needs baby-proofing. And yes it’s true that Jasmine, along with every other fucker in Agrabah fell for Aladdin’s prince trick – but she was also the one who blew the lid on the whole operation. Her kids will damn well not be spoiled – you could make the same argument for every other freaking Disney Princess’s kid - they are all royalty! If anything, Jasmine’s kids are the least likely to be spoiled. Daddy Aladdin spent his whole life as a street rat, he’ll be right there to teach his kids the importance of managing your finances. And so what if she seduced Jafar? She took the opportunity to exploit a misogynist culture in order to try and save her people from Jafar’s rule. Excellent role model, thank you.

#3 - Merida

“Why would Merida be a bad mom? Because she has no interest in settling down and having kids. That’s it. Any kids she would have would be unwanted, which is never a good thing for a child.”


Hey? You know why Merida doesn’t want kids? Because she’s a fucking child. In this day and age we actually encourage 16-year-olds to stay child-less for a little bit, we don’t assume they’ll be bad mothers because they’re not usually old enough to embrace the idea of parenthood!

#2 - Giselle

“Okay, yes, you’re right; Giselle did make a pretty convincing case in ‘Enchanted’ that she would be an excellent maternal figure. After all, Morgan took quite a liking to her! But just think of all of the dangerous messages she would impart on a little girl:

  • It’s okay to marry someone you just met, because it’s true love.
  • Looking pretty and making boys like you is the most important thing to focus on in life.
  • If you’re ever in trouble, don’t worry, because Prince Charming will come and rescue you.
  • Cutting up nice curtains and turning them into new outfits is perfectly acceptable.
  • All boys can be trusted, no matter what, because everyone is good, and all they want to do is kiss you.”


True, if this was real life Giselle impart some iffy nonsense on her kids. But let’s not forget that she comes from Andalasia, a fairy-tale 2D land where princes rescue damsels and the only one to look out for is your token evil stepmother. Obviously she needs to adapt to life in our world, but she’s perfectly capable of doing so while still retaining all of the wonderful qualities that make Giselle, Giselle.
And cutting up curtains for outfits is perfectly acceptable. If Julie Andrews can do it, so can we all.

#1 - Elsa

“Lastly, we come to Elsa, the older sister of Anna from Disney’s ‘Frozen.’ Considering that Elsa’s powers to create ice and snow nearly killed Anna as a child, it should be fairly obvious why it would be dangerous for her to become a mother.
Because she doesn’t want to hurt anyone she loves, she isolates herself from everyone, which would basically mean that she would abandon her own children. Sure, it would keep them safe, but they’d get some serious abandonment issues out of the deal. No child should have to go through that!”

I will hereby present all the ways in which this is wrong. *Ahem*. The entire movie goes through Elsa’s attempts to control her powers, how accidents happen, and how everything was fixed without anyone getting hurt. In the end, Elsa learns that the key to her powers is love. By loving herself, loving others, and accepting the love of others, she can control her powers; and with a new baby, wouldn’t Elsa just be the most loved-up version of herself she could ever be?

Speaking of love, the person who wrote the original article clearly wasn’t capable of feeling it. It was one of the most bullshit articles I have ever read, and you probably could have guessed since it took me two blog posts to respond to it. Disney princesses can be criticised for many things, but the logic behind why they’re supposedly terrible mother material is just pathetic. And you can be damned sure I’ll defend my childhood heroes. Even Snow White. And I can’t stand that pointless tool.

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Review of XVI by Julia Karr

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Unbelievable

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I’m having trouble beginning this review. I feel like I should give the author just a little bit of credit. This book was (I am presuming) intended to be a deconstruction of our culture’s attitude towards female sexuality. And I did appreciate that it wasn’t just one more vapid YA bag of crap with a focus on one teenager being able to save the world. I liked that the plot was personal and family-oriented, which is different for the dystopia genre.
But in the end I completely disagreed with how the author went about making her opinion on sexuality known, and it ended up being one of those stories where the world the author created needed a hero to save it because OH MY GOD WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.

The key to writing about a future world, especially a dystopia, is to make it plausible. If you can’t make it plausible, you better have a damn good explanation why the world suddenly changed so drastically because readers don’t just let that shit slide. Even if it’s a rubbish explanation, it’s better than none at all. The world that Julia Karr has created is just so ridiculously unbelievable, I actually feel a little insulted on behalf of humanity.

The story takes place in the year 2150; not a massive leap into the future, but apparently far enough that humans have colonized the moon and other planets, have started to use bloody annoying slang, and…there was something else, what was it..? Oh yes, society’s attitudes towards feminism, religion and equal rights have taken a complete turn for the worse.

In the world of XVI, when teenagers turn sixteen they get an XVI tattoo on their wrist to signal to the world that they are adults now. That doesn’t mean they can live on their own, drink legally, or most of the things we associate with adulthood; it means they are essentially fair game. Sixteen-year-olds, or “sex-teens” as they are oh-so-affectionately called, are expected to have lots and lots of rampant sex, and are typically portrayed as wild sex-fiends.

“Everyone knows what’s expected of a girl when she turns sixteen. They don’t call it “sex-teen” for nothing. We’re all supposed to be excited about sex and willing to do whatever with practically any guy who asks”

Our protagonist Nina is one of the rare sunflowers who wants to remain virginal (read: pure) after she turns sixteen. Oh sorry, “sex-teen”. This is where our author’s very strong opinions come screaming in: not only does she constantly slut-shame women but she pulls a double whammy and portrays the vast majority of men as rapey sex-pests.

Not only is that shit wildly offensive, I have immense difficulty believing a society like that would ever exist in our future. I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic by thinking there is no way humanity would have devolved so much in less than 200 years that it’s common practice for men to “use their illegitimate daughters as Cinderella girls, servants – and other things – for their legit families“. Yes, that is a thing that happens in this world.

“If you were paying attention in class, you’d know that before they’re sixteen, girls don’t have choices. Even after you turn, guys get to make the decision about babies, if they want to.”

So men are top-dogs, women don’t have equal rights, abortion is entirely men’s choice and you know what else is a thing: “sex-teens” being drafted to become Female Liason Specialists (FeLS), which is a government sex-trade ring.

HOW ON EARTH COULD THIS FEASIBLY HAPPEN?

Today we are increasingly open about our sexuality, and we celebrate this. A lot of us agree that sex should no longer be a taboo subject and people should be allowed to indulge in their own (safe) practices without having to submit to judgement. Yes, there are problems in the world: sexual assault is disturbingly common. But people work everyday to fight this problem and educate people about it. No matter what obstacles may come, I refuse to believe that in 100+ years our progress will have done a complete 180. I don’t think men will become nothing but sex-pests, with no regard for women as equals. And a government-funded sex-slave industry, what the hell?? NO. This is America in the year 2150, not goddamn dark ages. We will not get to the point where women have to fight not to be raped on their way to their work at the brothel each morning!

“What was I going to do when I had my tattoo? It wasn’t going to be easy turning down guys who thought the tattoo was a free pass. And I wasn’t some martial arts expert like Wei.”

If our author believes that you should wait until marriage or whatever and wants to write some propaganda featuring an over-exaggerated future world she thinks we’re headed to, then that’s her opinion. I’m not going to berate her for not being an overly sexual person. But I don’t agree with her implication that the world’s going to turn into a massive clusterfuck. This isn’t just some fictional universe, it is a comment on our attitude towards sex and where Julia Kerr thinks we’re headed. And from a reader’s point of view, her novel doesn’t get any stars for the unbelievable world-building.

It’s not just the sex thing either, she fucks up massively with religion too. In XVI, religion is out-of-fashion and the government was actually banned the church from imposing any beliefs on others or preaching in the media, saying it “could be used to sow discontent and incite rioting”. Again, I have to ask, how could this happen in our future? I don’t care how many atheists/agnostics there are, religion is still so big in our culture and incredibly powerful. The government wouldn’t get that much control over it! We’re only just beginning to get equal rights for the LGBT community and the biggest reason for the delay is because of religious tradition and/or belief. Hell I don’t even have to go that far: Christian protesters are the reason the film adaptation of Northern Lights was shit.

Religious establishments have power. I cannot easily envisage a world where the government completely owns religion’s ass. I could be naïve, it could be entirely plausible, but Julia Karr you need to bloody well explain your logic because I cannot fucking see it.

“After everything I’d read about the Religion Wars, it was easy to understand how people would accept the GC’s edict.”

IS IT REALLY? For thousands of years humanity has raged wars in the name of God. In most religions, accepting one true God and trying to persuade others of this truth forms an integral part of the belief system. So why, oh so suddenly, has humanity decided “ah well, enough’s enough. The government is right, how could we not have seen this before? We should relinquish our rights to religious broadcasting and turn down monetary support from the media. Our shit will cause discontent; we shall accept the inevitable closure of our church due to lack of funds. For the good of mankind.”?

This is why I said at the beginning of the review that this book needed a hero to save the world. And maybe our MC Nina does so in the rest of the book series, but she spent almost the entire first book oblivious to the world’s problems just like the rest of humanity. It kind of reminded me of Wall-e in a way, where we see surviving humans in deep space living on a fully automated space ship engulfed in the millions of adverts surrounding them, blind to the reality that’s behind them.

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“Sandy and I talked via our PAVs so we could hear ourselves over the verts. We were plotting out the day’s events when there was a loud bang, followed by two more. Three trannies had slammed into each other right in the middle of the street. All the other traffic stopped. We clicked off our PAVs. Not one vert was blaring. There was total silence. Which was more jarring than the crash of the accident.”

This scene is right out of Wall-e and, yes, that’s a whole bunch of annoying slang right there. The technology it’s referring to isn’t even as creative as Wall-e, just re-vamped stuff we already have: PAV (Personal Audio/Video) is the in-ear Bluetooth. Verts are adverts, because shortening the term to “ads” is just uncool in Granite Middle School, Cementville. I shit you not, that is where they live. Oh and guess what they call transportation? Trannies.

I don’t know why Julia Karr thought using a modern-day slur out of context in her book was a good idea. Probably for mature and sensitive sentences like these:

“Are you coming into town? I told him you really like trannies, too.”

“When the hire-trannie rounded the corner, I grabbed Sandy and held her tight.”

“You know, Sal’s cool. He likes music and his brother has all those great trannies.”

“While I waited, a trannie with a couple of guys inside stopped at the light.”

When the only comedy in your novel is by using the word trannie in this way, you’re not funny. And in my eyes, not really a decent person.

Do I need to say any more about this shit novel? Have I warded you away?  Did I mention the virginal, slut-shaming protagonist whose Bechdel-test failing BFF Sandy gets raped and murdered after being villainized for 300+ pages because she wears skirts and wants to lose her virginity? Did I also mention that Nina gets a boyfriend, and urges, and ultimately accepts that it’s okay to have sex when she’s good and ready? I mean the hypocrisy is unreal here. It would be one thing if Sandy was dressing provocatively and obsessing over sex if she felt compelled to by society. But this is never mentioned. No matter what role society and the media may have played in her decision-making process, Sandy comes across entirely as a teenager who is self-assured, confident in her sexuality and ready to have sex. So why is she slut-shamed? If Nina can have sex when she’s ready, why the fuck can’t Sandy?

Be honest Julia Kerr, this book isn’t about “being okay with waiting until you’re ready”, is it? It reads like you look down on women who have a fair bit of sex, and it really sounds like you endorse the “she was asking to be raped” philosophy.

Julia Karr, with the greatest respect,

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Why do people give a shit about insignificant cultural differences?

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The world is a great and glorious beast, full of beautiful places and different cultures. The vast majority of people in the world love going travelling or on holiday, exploring the world and experiencing countries and civilizations that are different to their own. It’s something we celebrate, it’s something we love.

But if really gets on my tits when people point out cultural differences in a negative light.

Now, I’m not talking about really significant cultural differences that can be considered offensive or downright immoral to some people. I’m not getting into the hijab debate, the death penalty debate, or what have you. These are important differences that I feel should be discussed and have no place in the topic I’m bringing up.

But so many people comment on minor cultural differences that exist because all cultures are different. In itself there is nothing wrong with that; you can be curious and want to know the reason or origin for a cultural difference. Go ahead and ask questions, I’m down with that. But it’s when people at as if these tiny cultural differences are wrong that I get peeved.

Let’s take the American vs British cultural differences, seeing as that’s been quite prominent on the web recently. There are a lot of differences between our cultures, and it gets commented on all the time because of our shared language. It’s easier to be confused by a culture that uses your language differently than by a country who just uses a completely different language. For example, the French call perfume “eau de toilette” which literally means “toilet water”*. Personally I’ve never heard anyone say something along the lines of “that’s wrong”; reactions tend to be laughter and comments of “that’s so weird”. You’re commenting on the difference in language and finding it funny; it’s a perfectly acceptable response to me because you’re not insinuating that a culture is wrong for their use of language.
But my God, the amount of times I’ve heard the “it’s not a cookie it’s a biscuit!” argument. No one get all up in arms because the Spanish call a biscuit a galleta; it’s a different language. But because of the common language we can get that much more obsessed with the differences. And that’s understandable, but why do we have to keep insisting that our respective ways are the correct ways?

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I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of this in the past before acknowledging my acts of petty ignorance. And the big reason for this post is that I still don’t know why I ever did it. It’s probably because I didn’t think about it too much, but these days it just gets on my nerves more and more. Why can’t we just see a cultural difference, shrug and move on? I know most of these kind of comments aren’t intended to cause offense, but it doesn’t take long for the distasteful ones to come along…

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Oh just bugger off. It’s this kind of attitude that keeps our cultures so separate, impedes us from bridging the gaps between nations. Sure that’s in its extreme form, but by ignorantly making these backhand comments you are in no way helping towards the cause of cultural acceptance. I’m not going so far as to claim you’re being racist, but is there really anyway to claim a rude comment about someone’s different culture is a positive action?

We shouldn’t be telling people they are wrong for their cultural differences. It pisses me off when I see something like that. But hey, if you are curious about a cultural difference or get irritated by one, I can understand that. I’d rather you made the effort to educate yourself on that matter though, so as a Brit I’m going to answer some common cultural questions to try and help the matter. There are only really a handful of these questions I consider valid and also know proper answers to. For questions like “why are British people so polite?” for example, it’s futile to try and answer them because the answers are literally: our culture is different to yours. Theoretically there could be an actual historical reason behind our inherant politeness that someone could try and document, but then again why should be have to? We’re culturally polite, I don’t understand why we should feel the need to justify that.

But do enjoy these questions that are worthy of answering. Feel free to ask more and I’ll answer if I can. I’d also love to see people from other cultures talk about their own experiences with cultural questions.

Why do British people say Maths instead of Math?
The root word is Mathematics. It’s plural because it is a multi-disciplinary field. Hence why we keep it plural when we shorten it.

Why do British people call their mom “mum” but don’t say “dud” for dad?
We spell “mum” differently to you. Word spellings change and evolve depending on pronunciation. We happen to pronounce “dad” quite similarly. We don’t pronounce dad as “dud” so why would we change the spelling?

Why do British people say “Happy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas”?
We do still say Merry Christmas. We say Happy Christmas as well. The reason mainly being the meaning behind the word “merry”. In the UK “merry” doesn’t just mean “pleasant”, it also can mean “intoxicated”. Historically the word had even more meanings: “Merry-bout” (an incident of sexual intercourse) was low slang from 1780. “Merry-begot” (illegitimate) is from 1785. Apparently our dear Queen doesn’t like all the connotations (especially the modern drunk one), so she wishes people a “Happy Christmas” in her annual broadcasts to give the intended message. This may be where we started to use “Happy Christmas” more frequently.

Why do british people pronounce “th” as “f”?
Countries have regional accents. The UK is not exempt from this. The Cockey and Essex accents are well-known for pronouncing “th” as “f” in the UK and “th-fronting”, as it is called, occurs in other languages as well. The first reference to th-fronting in London speech occurs in 1787. By 1850 it appears to have been considered a standard feature of working class speech in the city, and had the same status in Bristol by 1880. Although th-fronting is found occasionally in the middle and upper (middle) class English accents as well, studies found that there is still a marked social difference between working and middle class speakers. Th-fronting is often viewed negatively because of this.

Why do British people lose their accents when they sing?
Here is a brilliant article on the subject. To summarize: “When people sing, their regional accents are obliterated by physiology, phonetics, and the music itself. In effect, their accents are neutralized. And if they sound American, that’s because the general American accent is fairly neutral itself.” Some Brits deliberately try to keep their accent when singing. I’ve personally found this very difficult to do.

Why do British people format the date dd/mm instead of mm/dd?
Historical reasons aside, it all boils down to how we speak these days. In England when we speak the date, we will say: “Thursday the 24th of May”, which puts the date before the month. Americans tend to say “Thursday, May 24th”, which puts the month before the date. People in Britain tend to claim that our method is “logically” correct because the date format corresponds to how often the date is changed. The day changes everyday so it comes first, the month is changed every month so it comes second, and then of course the year. But obviously this is saying “Americans are wrong” so I don’t indulge in this practice.


* To expand on the subject of “eau de toilette” because it’s interesting: the French word for perfume is actually “parfum” but “eau de toilette” is sometimes used even in other countries because it is a brandof weak perfume designed to be applied after showering. The same concept as using the words “vacuum” and “Hoover”. Hoover is the brand but we can use it the same way we use the verb “vacuum”. Though the phrase does translate to “toilet water”, in French the term “toilette” means both “toilet” and “bathroom activity”. In French we say “faire sa toilette” to mean “have a wash”. So the phrase actually means “scented water for use after your wash”.

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A Story About Fat-Shaming

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Let me tell you a little story…

My friend Jim and I had just been to see The Fault in our Stars (excellent film, by the way). We were happily discussing it when a Facebook notification popped up on my phone from a friend who shall be referred to as K. She posted a video on my wall accompanied with the comment: “Did you see this? Makes me think of Jim every time!!!

This is the video in question:

The video is essentially a re-enactment of the Numa Numa Guy, who I think everyone who has ever had an internet connection probably knows about by now. It’s a very popular viral video and it is essentially a bloke (Gary Brolsma) lip-syncing and dancing. It’s a classic; a feel-good video about having fun, making a bit of a fool of yourself on the internet, and not caring what anyone thinks of you. But what sticks in mind with a lot of the viewers is the fact that Gary Brolsma is a bigger guy.

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Now I’m pretty sure that 99% of comments about Numa Numa Guy are not about fat shaming him, but for a lot of people Numa Numa Guy’s body weight accentuates the video. It could be because it sends a positive message about self-esteem, it could be because fat people dancing is often used as a comedic device. Whatever the reason, to me it never seemed like a problem because it was a fun video Gary Brolsma made to entertain people and his size was (mostly) seen in a positive light.

Back to my story.

Jim and I watched the video re-enactment advert whatsit, wondering what had reminded K. of Jim. As soon as the large bloke in the advert came along, Jim said “…it’s going to be because there’s a fat guy, isn’t there?

Then, of course, the man in the video erupted into the Numa Numa dance and the video ended, leaving Jim and I confused with irritation growing by the second.

We didn’t know why this particular video could be linked to Jim. Well, we did know why: 1) Because Jim likes to do the Numa Numa dance OR 2) Because Jim looks like the Numa Numa guy OR 3) Because fat people dancing is entertaining. We just needed to figure out which one was intended.

It was quite easy to eliminate the first two options; Jim has never done, nor will ever do, the Numa Numa dance. He doesn’t like the video and never has. He doesn’t doesn’t often engage in physical comedy, and doesn’t like to make himself look a bit of a twit just to entertain other people. Plus given the fact that a lot of people associate the funniness of the video with Gary Brolsma’s weight, for Jim the video just reminds him of the issue of “weight humour” and how he disagrees with it. It doesn’t help that he’s a larger bloke himself and there are always going to be a level of insecurity that comes along with that.
The point being: anyone who is friends with Jim would know his personality and the kind of comedy he indulges in. It has never been anything close to Numa Numa.

Jim also looks nothing like the Numa Numa guy so it couldn’t possibly be what K. was insinuating. Unless her view was that “all fat people look the same”, which is so damn offensive and ridiculous we couldn’t conceive it. We’ve never heard anyone say that. Ever.

We ended up with option number three. And we weren’t happy with it. Initially Jim didn’t want to say anything, he just tried to bury his displeasure under a metaphorical rug. But I didn’t and I replied to K. on Facebook. I was as civil as I could be, but firm in my opinion, which then prompted Jim to reply also.

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We were hoping our friend would feel bad for hurting Jim. Intentions aside, K. had left Jim feeling insulted, and good friends generally apologize for that shit while swearing to the Gods above that’s not at all what they meant. We would forgive each other. We would move on. God knows we’ve all said stupid and offensive shit without thinking it through, myself most definitely included. You apologize and try not to do it again.

You certainly don’t do this:

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First of all, no apology? Thanks, friend. Throwing another friend under the bus as well? What exactly are you trying to achieve here?

Jim and I spent a while feeling upset, but then we began talking about the issue in a wider sense. Casual fat-shaming is a problematic part of our culture, and there are not enough people doing something about it. I’m not talking about people being openly bullied and called horrible names because of their size; there are many prominent campaigns that attempt to tackle this problem. I’m talking about your friends’ passing jibes about your tum. I’m talking about our own self-deprecating humour, how we do sometimes poke fun of our own weight. There is nothing wrong with being able to make fun out of yourself in this way, but not everyone does it and sometimes we can forget that.

Fat-shaming is not generally considered socially acceptable anymore, but so many people still engage in what I like to call “casual fat-shaming“. Whether or not they are conscious of it or even doing it on purpose sometimes, people still make comments, make jokes, relating to someone’s size DIRECTLY TO A FAT PERSON. Something as seemingly harmless as a grandma telling her grandson “ooh you’re getting big” while absent-mindedly patting his belly could be the beginning of an eating disorder. It’s serious. It doesn’t even stop at weight, it can be applied to a number of subjects that I won’t go into lest this post deteriorate into a massive clusterfuck of my conflicting opinions on different topics.

The thing with casual fat-shaming is that people aren’t intentionally trying to make fat people feel bad. Well, most of the time at least. But in our culture where overweight people are viewed so negatively, I find it difficult to believe that thinner people can fully understand the impact of a simple throw-away comment. Even simply acknowledging the fact that someone is overweight has the potential to bring layers upon layers of insecurities bubbling to the surface. What happens if you start mocking their weight?

I like to tell risqué jokes with my friends. We downright insult each other sometimes; for example, my friends often tell me to get back in the kitchen because I’m a woman. But it’s okay because they are my friends; I know them and I know they are joking and the joke doesn’t actually reflect their beliefs. If I knew someone was offended by that kind of humour, would I do it to them? NO. I know that my friend Jim does not like jokes about body size. So do we pull that kind of shit? NO.

I don’t want to take away your right to casually insult your friends, hell I do that shit all the time. But I know what is acceptable in my circles and I know when to keep some views to my fucking self. I refuse to be one of those people who says things like “oh don’t get so offended, it was only a joke”. Jokes can hurt and people have a right to their offense. It’s gotten to the point that people don’t believe they can express their offense. As you read in the beginning of the story, Jim didn’t want to respond at first, just bury his feelings.  Why? Because he has grown accustomed to the fat-shaming that had gone on all his life, and so often we are told to just ignore or learn to laugh at yourself. When dealing with internet bullies, ignoring them is probably the best solution. But if your friend is fat-shaming you they can go guzzle a cock then crawl back and apologize. It is not acceptable and we need to actually do something about this. It’s not on.

So when our friend K. thought of Jim because she saw a big guy in a video doing the Numa Numa dance, which not the kind of thing Jim would ever do nor did the man in question even resemble Jim, I was angry because I knew it was because the only common denominator between the two men was the body size.

Even if K. was genuinely oblivious to the weight correlation and literally only imagined Jim pulling that kind of Numa Numa stunt, she still publicly shared a video that Jim looked at and understood as nothing but a jibe at his weight.

To quote Jim: “…so if myself and Tess don’t think it’s something I’d ever do, something that’s not in my character and the only possible link we see is the weight thing, then what do you see? What kind of guy do you think I am? An uneducated chubby guy flailing and bouncing around the place for comic relief? [...] You’ve basically said that a video of a fat guy making a fool of himself in a way I never would makes you think of me. So am I a fool or am I just fat?

I completely understand Jim taking it that way. I took it that way too.

I can almost believe K. claiming to think it was something Jim would do. I can definitely believe she didn’t mean great offense.

I cannot understand K. for seeing she caused offense and not apologizing. That’s just terrible friendship.

“Lots of folks think fat-shaming is actually a good thing, because with shame as a motivator, perhaps those darn fat people will stop being so fat.
It doesn’t work, though — shame is not a catalyst for change; it is a paralytic. Anyone who has ever carried extreme personal shame knows this. Shame doesn’t make you stronger, nor does it help you to grow, or to be healthy, or to be sane.”
Xojane.com

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Review of Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

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Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

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Rating
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Recommended For
The chronically stupid
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One Word Review
Painful

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Gif Summary Of Reading Experience


When a book has been pitched as a Hunger Games-meets-Pokemon crossover, people like me tend to get a little bit excited. Then when we finally sit down to read said book, people like me tend to get a little disappointed (read: very disappointed. And angry).

I think I knew, from the very first paragraph, that I was not going to enjoy this book. Bold statement, you say? Just take a look at the paragraph in question:

“I stare at my reflection in the pond and run my hands through the bane of my existence. For a moment, I seem victorious, my chestnut curls wrangled into submission. But when I drop my arms, the curls spring out, worse for the wear. I point an unmanicured finger at the water. “I hate your face.”

This is the heroine we are introduced to; a whiny, juvenile, twat who is more focused on her looks than anything else in her life. And that includes her dying brother and a hell-ish, Battle Royale/Hunger Games event that could easily claim her life. She is a complete bellend.

The story is set in the near future (?), predominantly in America (?), where an unknown disease is beginning to spread widely (?). As you can see, the world-building is second to none. Yes, that was sarcasm.

The reader has no idea what is going on. Just that protagonist Tella’s family has moved to Montana to see if the country air will help Tella’s brother’s health improve (?), and Tella ain’t having none of that.
The whole getting-to-know-you part of of Tella’s life story was rife with bitching. She pissed and moaned about every. single. fucking. occurrence. My hair is so shit, she moans. I miss living in the city, she wails. My brother may be dying but, woe is me, what I wouldn’t give to be able to indulge in some Feta cheese and kalamata olives while getting a mani-pedi with my besties, the vile cow spews.

An unfortunate stereotypical dumb, white teen, Tella’s priorities never cease to amaze me. Here is a girl who, in the absolute direst of circumstances, cannot help but think of appearances. She receives a mysterious invitation to compete in a race to win a cure for her brother’s ailment. Her folks act sketchy about it, try to get rid of the invitation, so instead of confronting them for answers she nicks their car and runs off to the race anyway. But not before packing up some beauty products!

“I can’t bear to go without taking a piece of them with me. That and my glittery purple nail polish.”

She is the absolute antithesis of a strong, female character. She’s not even a character at all; she’s just a collection of annoying traits combined with the inability to function as a successful human being. How on earth is this character supposed to prevail in a hardcore survivalist setting? Well, to be honest she’d snuff it first thing if it weren’t for all the men who keep rescuing her. Because girl power.

This book was clearly supposed to be a Hunger Games ripoff. We’ve got the same premise: teenage girl trying to save sibling by competing in a rather deadly event hosted by evil-ish governing forces unknown. We’ve even got the same kind of details: a pin/symbol of an animal, an Effie Trinket, an annoying love-triangle.
What we don’t have is the same kind of depth and grace that The Hunger Games possesses. The romance is ridiculously forced and unnecessary. The characters are vapid and forgettable. The plot doesn’t offer the same sense of urgency (although it does improve as the story continues) but oh my god what is with the MC?

She’s the kind of girl who’s not even a main character in her own fucking story. She doesn’t do a damn thing. She cries and vomits at anything that grosses her out. She cannot defend herself worth a damn and relies on men to save her on multiple occasions. She does not contribute any ideas, knowledge or expertise to her group of contenders during the race. The only reason she is still alive at the end of the book is because she banded together with much more capable people who are entirely more worthy of the prize. The only reason. Despite my prayers.

Not only was this ripoff an insult to The Hunger Games, but it was also an insult to Pokemon and Digimon, which it also ripped off. It was bloody obvious that the author thought to herself “hey, I like Pokemon/Digimon, maybe I’ll get some creatures with powers to hatch out of eggs and fight each other for the glory of their respective masters”. We’ve all entertained that idea at some point during a novelling process. But whereas pocket and digital monsters make sense within their own worlds, they made absolutely no sense here given the big reveal we get at the end of the book concerning the origin of the race. They were intended to be a cute little add-on, something for the MC to form a connection to and show that she’s special because she’s the only contender who treats her pet nicely. Like in the Pokemon games where the Tree Professor of whatever region you’re in congratulates you after you complete the league, saying that you won because you treated your Pokemon with kindness, friendship and love. As opposed to everyone else, for some fucking reason.
I didn’t buy it in Pokemon, and I didn’t buy it in the story and unless some serious shit goes down in the sequel, these Pandoras were just annoyingly gimmicky and meant nothing to the overall plot and denouement.  The biggest disappointment is that they weren’t even Pokemon-esque creatures. They were animals from our world. With powers. You know, foxes, elephants, fucking llamas. With weird powers to help the contenders survive. The lion breathed fire.

This book was a joke. An uncomfortable reminder that people can still become successful by ripping off books by much more talented authors. It didn’t have one single quality, not one tiniest morsel I could pick out and say “actually, I liked that”. Go read Divergent if you’re hankering for more Hunger Games; despite my immense issues with it, it was far, far better than Fire & Flood.

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Disney Princesses have as much of a right as you to procreate (Part 1)

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A while back, an article was published called Why Disney Princesses would make terrible mothers. While the article was no doubt intended to ruffle a few feathers, needless to say I, and some of my friends, hit the Goddamn roof. It would be a different matter if the arguments in the article had any weight to them, but this nameless entity who wrote this piece of shit had absolutely nothing to work with, and therefore grasped onto the most pitiful semblance of potential reason in order to spew out this hunk of crap.

So I thought I’d dissect it, and tell you exactly why Disney Princesses have just as much of a chance of being fantastic parents as the idiot who criticized them.

#15 – Ariel

“Ariel is far too immature and reckless to be a decent mother. Her entire life has been one rebellion against her father or another, so chances are good that she would let her kids do pretty much whatever they want, regardless of the consequences or their safety. Want to grow fins and become a merman? Go for it, honey! I support you! Want to go skydiving without a parachute? That’s sounds like a great adventure! I’ll come with!”


Oh heaven forbid a sixteen-year-old acts rebellious! Let King Triton curse the teenagers who seek to forge their own path and discover their own identities which may be different from what their parents want of them! Because, as we all know, no one learns from their experiences and grows into responsible adults. Sure Ariel may have been a bit reckless, trusting the goddamn sea witch of all people. But how else was she to follow her bloomin’ dream?! Apart from her dad, Ursula was the only one who could give her a vagina, and an hour and a half of her repeatedly trying to convince her dad to listen to her wouldn’t have made for a very interesting film.

#14 – Cinderella

“A great mother often puts aside her own desires in order to do what’s best for her child. Cinderella may be great at cooking and cleaning and maintaining a house, but she’s far too selfish to be a good mom!
“Mommy, I’m hungry!” “Sorry, little one. Mommy’s busy getting dressed up to go to the ball and meet her next Prince Charming! Make your own dinner.”
“Mom, can you help me with my homework?” “What? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. I was busy daydreaming about a better life.””

Bullshit, bullshit, let me count the ways. In many ways Cinderella is the most selfless Disney Princess. Acting as a slave to her step-mother and step-sisters all because they are family? Um…how is that selfish? Sure, she could have benefitted from Ariel’s aforementioned rebellious streak and got the hell outta there, but she didn’t. Through idiocy or selflessness, it doesn’t matter, she stayed. She wouldn’t be leaving her child to go dance with her prince, and if she did she’d leave the child in the fucking palace’s daycare. And she wouldn’t neglect the kid to dream of a better life: she’s already got it! What film were you watching?

#13 – Belle

“Look how hard they have to try to get her attention! Her nose is always stuck in a book; she doesn’t have time to focus on actually parenting her kids.”

You know that randomly mentioned spell in Harry Potter? Ron mentions it; a spell that makes it literally impossible for you to put a book down and you have to go through life like that, doing everything one-handed and stuff. Remember that spell? Yeah, that shit didn’t happen to Belle. She is physically capable of putting down a fucking book to take care of a child: look how fucking caring she is. The whole plot of Beauty and the Beast revolves around her choice to protect her senile old dad. If you wanted an argument with more weight, how about the fact that Belle and the Beast’s love child would be the product of Stockholm Syndrome? Now that’s worth exploring…

#12 – Rapunzel

“Rapunzel is basically a child herself, so how could she be expected to raise kids? She has barely existed outside of a single room, so even if she’s done all kinds of research, she has no idea what life is really like outside of those walls.
Plus, she was raised by Mother Gothel, the worst adoptive mother in the history of time. If she picked up even a single parenting tip from her “guardian,” Rapunzel’s kid is doomed!”

Yes, Rapunzel is a teenager. Most of these Disney Princesses are. Do you think, maybe, there’s a sight possibility that they would wait a few years before having kids with their respective Princes? Just, maybe? So what if she doesn’t know much about the world, she has enough time to learn, and if Mother Gothel taught her anything it’s to be careful in the outside world. We’ve seen how well Rapunzel can take care of herself and easily protect any kid with a frying pan if her royal fucking guards somehow failed to do so…

#11 – Snow White

“Snow White is far too naive to successfully raise children. They would most likely end up dying before age 3, because although their mother is the most beautiful woman in all the land, she doesn’t know to check food to make sure it’s safe before consuming it. She’d feed poison apples to her kids “because the lady at the store said they were delicious,” and wham — no more little Johnny.”

I think Snow White is a pointless princess and I do despise her, but whereas this argument carries a little more weight I’d at least give Snow White the benefit of the doubt. I’m pretty damn sure she’d learn from her mistakes in this situation. It’s not a minor incident, the girl fucking died because she was too trusting. That kind of trauma will change a person. If, however, we were talking about the original fairy tale in which the Evil Queen manages to “kill” Snow White three times because she never fucking learns, I’d really have to agree.

#10 – Aurora

“You never know when some evil sorcerer is going to put a spell on Princess Aurora. Since she’s clearly susceptible to any spell involving excessive sleep (or maybe she’s just lazy and uses a “spell” as an excuse to take extended naps), motherhood isn’t a good idea.”

This. This is just spot on. You’re absolutely right, we can’t have mothers so susceptible to these many, many sleeping spells. In fact, anyone who had ever had a car accident should be banned from parenthood, and anyone who has been the victim of a mugging or another act of violence. Clearly these people are like magnets to this dangerous shit. We need to protect the kids.
Also, post writer, you inadvertently just insulted narcoleptics everywhere. Way to go.

#9 – Tiana

“Tiana would be an embarrassment to any children she birthed. Her frog-kissing escapades would be the talk of the town, and her poor kids couldn’t go a single day at school without some bully making kissy faces at them and teasing them for their mother’s questionable taste in “men.””

If “embarrassing her kids” is the worst Tiana has to worry about, I think she’s going to be fine. Who gives a shit if Tiana’s child is mocked for having a frog for a father? That frog is also a prince, and his child could instantly bury the bullies under a column of gold coins and ride away from them on a surfboard made of indifference.

#8 – Mulan

“Mulan would be the overbearing type of mother who forces her kids into sports and lessons in which they have absolutely no interest whatsoever. Her daughter who is more interested in reading would be out there getting crushed in football. “If I can go out there and save China in the army, you can play a silly game of pigskin!””

Mulan was brought up in a restrictive era of ancient China. Like most women, she felt like had no choice in life but to accept what society wanted her to be: a beautiful, graceful homebody. Trouble is she wasn’t, and she never would be. It was only after going against all rules of society that she was finally celebrated for being herself.
So do you really think she’d go against everything she ever stood for and force her own offspring to be something she wanted them to be and not encourage their individuality? Again I ask, what film were you watching, dickhead?

#7 – Pocahontas

“Pocahontas would constantly lecture her kids about saving the environment. Even if they never littered, recycled, respected nature, and took excellent care of animals, she’d still talk their ears off about how important it is to do those very things.”

What a knob. Teaching her kids valuable life-lessons. Trying to ensure a future for her children’s children. Wanker.

Part 2 coming soon!

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Review of The Program by Suzanne Young

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.
Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.  And The Program is coming for them.

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Rating
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Recommended For
No one, really
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One Word Review
Fail

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Gif Summary Of Reading Experience


When you’re picking up a YA dystopia with a twist on depression, you go into it with certain expectations. Number one on that list of expectations is probably: the author will know what depression is. Surely that’s a given, right? Right?

For some ridiculous reason, depression is an epidemic in this world and considered to be a virus. I don’t know whether The Program takes place in a futuristic version of our world or some other dimension (all information is conveniently vague), but either way it’s no excuse. The entire premise is flawed as fuck.

“When the deaths first started increasing, there were all sorts of rumors. From defective childhood vaccines to pesticides in our food – people grasped for any excuse. The leading view says that the oversupply of antidepressants changed the chemical makeup of our generation, making us more susceptible to depression.
I don’t know what I believe anymore, and really, I try not the think about it. But the psychologists say that suicide is a behavioral contagion. It’s the old adage “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you, too?” Apparently the answer is yes.”

Even if your book takes place in an alternate universe, if you’re calling your epidemic ‘depression’, then you have to follow the fucking rules. If you think “fuck that shit”, then just call your disease something else. You’ve already proved you can think up names for shit. You’ve named your characters (poorly, in my opinion, but hey) and you dreamed up an instant suicide concoction called ‘QuikDeath‘. Yes, dear readers, here is an author who doesn’t fuck around with fancy, pharmaceutical titles: it just does what it says on the bottle.

Circling back round to the point: I can’t get over the fact that you have not portrayed depression correctly at all. I don’t know if an actual epidemic of depression is possible and what on earth would cause it but I know for a fact that psychologists would not decide that it’s a behavioral contagion. They would not round up all the teenagers and stick ‘em in facilities to erase their memories. Depression doesn’t work that way, it doesn’t come from seeing bad shit. Sure, bad shit can often act as a catalyst, but once those brain chemicals are imbalanced, you can’t just amnesia your way out of that. You would still have depression, and you’d have a disturbing case of amnesia on top of that.

To add salt to my figurative wounds, none of the characters actually display symptoms of depression. I am not joking. They cry a lot and they tend to off themselves, that is all. And the only reason they cry all the time is because their lives are shit. Their friends and siblings are killing themselves, others are taken by The Program and come back with no memories of anyone at all. They can’t mourn their losses and live in constant fear that they’ll be taken away and brain-raped at any time. And the only reason any character has had for committing suicide was to escape The Program. Not because they were so wrapped up in their own mind and misery that they were pushed to the edge, no; because it was a choice between losing the memories that made them who they were or death.

It’s not depression when the only two symptoms out of a bloody long list of ‘em are actually caused actually caused by the very institution that wants to cure them.

At first I thought that was the point, you know. I thought The Program was up to something and our main characters were going to bust the place open and expose their operation.

The plot of The Program is the love story with some half-arsed and poorly researched dystopian elements thrown in. It’s not even a decent love story with fully rounded characters. And there’s a love triangle because we all know how everyone just loves one of them. I guess the romance genre lovers would get into this book a lot more, but I was in it for the dystopia and I was hoping for a clever and original plot. The ‘depression’ hook reeled me in and the only reason I kept reading was to find out whether the author redeemed herself.

The only possible thread I was briefly able to cling to was this:

“”This discussion is over,” my mother says quickly. I meet her eyes over the table, and I can see she is in full panic mode. “You tried to kill yourself, Sloane. They told us you were resistant in The Program, too. We could have lost you, just like we lost your brother. The Program kept you alive, and for that I’m blessed. Any inconvenience you may feel now will fade soon enough. And if you just can’t bear it, maybe we should call the doctor and see if there is another treatment available. I can’t go through this again” She starts to cry. “I just can’t.””

I found this mini-monologue quite poignant, and spent ages trying to figure out if Suzanne Young was trying to make a point. Is she commenting on the selfishness of ‘the depressed’ versus the selfishness of those who aren’t, and the power play that’s at stake? Sloane may or may not be depressed; all the reader’s seen is that she’s very upset that her life is shit and people keep dying on her. Ultimately her memories are erased. To help her? Surely not because that method is bollocks. For her parents’ convenience..? Perhaps…

Maybe that was the vague point Suzanne Young was trying to make. Maybe I’m giving her too much credit. But my review of this book will not hinge on a ‘maybe’. My point and rating still remain.

Needless to say I won’t be sequeling it, and I don’t recommend anyone else gets close to this series either.

Picture7

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