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Posts Tagged ‘trigger warning’

April Updates and March Reflections

April 1, 2015 1 comment
April Updates and March Reflections

Boston’s space savers got repurposed into ice falling warning signs.

Hello my lovely readers!

I mentioned at the beginning of March that I was hoping to start doing a monthly post reflecting on my reading and writing, blog happenings, and mentioning any updates that need to be mentioned.  Here’s the first one!

I did quite a bit of work on the blog this month.  You already know that I upgraded to my own domain name.  I also totally revamped my astore.  For those who don’t know, an astore is a listing of items hosted by Amazon.  I use mine to conveniently list out books I have read and reviewed on this blog that I recommend.  Every book listed in my astore has received 4 or 5 star reviews on this blog.  Previously the lists were mostly just divided into fiction or nonfiction.  That was getting unwieldy.  They are now divided into much more convenient genres, such as historic fiction or urban fantasy.  As always, my astore is linked to in the sidebar of the blog under “Shop 4 and 5 Star Reads,” or you can click through to it right here.  I hope my readers find it useful when looking for something to read for themselves or to pick up as a gift for another.

I’ve been book blogging since March 2009.  I was thinking that it would be nice to highlight some of the older books I reviewed and really enjoyed.  So every month there is now going to be a book of the month.  The book highlighted will be one I read and gave 4 or 5 stars to in the same month of a previous year.  The book will be featured in the blog sidebar and also in the landing page of my astore.  For the month of April, the book of the month will be:

Glasshouse by Charles Stross
First reviewed in April 2011.
“I recommend this to scifi fans, and highly recommend it to GLBTQ readers and advocates.”

My monthly updates will briefly mention the book of the month.  I hope you all enjoy the monthly throwback!

The final change to the sidebar is I have added links to my publications.  So be sure to check that out!

One final addition to the blog is a new page (pages are linked to on the header).  The new page is called “TW Lists,” and you can view it by clicking here.  Basically, I realized that I frequently find myself noting the content of rape or attempted rape in books that I am reviewing whose blurbs gave no hint as to having that content.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a book having a plot point of rape or attempted rape, but some readers seek to avoid them for personal reasons.  Some readers just don’t like reading about rape or attempted rape, while others find reading about rape or attempted rape to be triggering for a mental illness they may have, such as PTSD or OCD.  It is for the latter reason that a content note like the one I am providing is often called a “trigger warning,” often shortened to an acronym of “tw” followed by the content note.  For instance, “tw: rape.”

The content I by far find myself needing to note in my reviews more than any other is rape or attempted rape.  I thus decided to curate this list of books I have reviewed on my blog that contain rape or attempted rape.  A book being included on this list does not necessarily mean I consider it a bad book or a badly written book.  It is purely a content note.  To see the list, click on out to the TW Lists page.  I hope my readers who need to a content note on rape or attempted rape will find this listing helpful.

That’s it for the blog updates!  How was my reading, reviewing, and writing this month?

March books read: 3 (1 urban fantasy, 1 scifi YA, 1 paranormal romance)

March reviews: 6

Other March posts: 1 update, 1 short story, 1 giveaway, 1 reading challenge sign-up

March writing: My current project is progressing, and I am excited at a new direction I came up with thanks to a helpful chat with my fiancé.  I also posted an older short story to this blog.  You can read it here.

Coming up in April: Get ready for an influx of fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology, thanks to my participation in Once Upon a Time IX (sign-up post).  I have also finished reading the first of my accepted ARCs for 2015.  That review will be posted, along with a giveaway!

Happy April and happy reading!

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Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Audiobook narrated by Robin Miles)

February 20, 2013 6 comments

An African woman's face in silhouette against a reddish background.Summary:
The Nigerian-Biafran War (or the Nigerian Civil War, as it is also known) is seen through the intertwining lives of four different people.  The daughter of a wealthy Igbo couple, Kainene, with a fierce business sense.  Her fraternal twin sister, who is also the beautiful one, Olanna, an academic in love with a revolutionary-minded man named Odenigbo.  Kainene’s boyfriend then fiancee, the white English writer Richard.  And Ugwu.  Olanna’s houseboy who came to them from a rural village.  Their lives are irreparably impacted, and in some cases destroyed, by the war for a cause they all believe in, but that the world largely ignores.

Review:
I originally intended this Nigerian book to be my final read for the Africa Reading Challenge 2012, but even though I started it in November, the audiobook took over three months to get through, so it ultimately missed counting for the challenge.  I thought it was much longer than my usual audiobook fare, but a quick check of the listen length shows that it is 18 hours and 56 minutes long, which is only about 7 hours longer than my norm.  So why did it take me so long to finish?  Well, I just didn’t enjoy it that much.

I believe I was expecting something else from Adichie, since I had previously read her book Purple Hibiscus (review), which is far more character driven than this novel.  In this novel I would say the main character is actually the war, and that is something that simply does not work for my reading style.  Perhaps also playing into this general feeling I got was the ensemble cast.  Instead of getting to know just Olanna, for instance, and seeing her life before, during, and after the Nigerian-Biafran War, truly feeling as if I was her and living it through her, the reader is constantly jostled around among four different people.  It left me unable to truly connect to any one of them, which left me feeling like they were just there as a device to let Adichie talk about the War.  And it was truly an awful, horrible war precipitated by a genocide of the Igbo people, and it absolutely deserves to be talked about.  It’s just for me this type of ensemble piece with the War as really the main character isn’t the best method for me to learn about a War or an atrocity.  I prefer to get to know someone and see it through their eyes.  Given what I had read of Adichie’s work before, I was expecting that level of connection, just with multiple characters, but that is just not what happens in this book.  Perhaps it was too large, too sweeping, too much for one book.  I’m not sure.  But I was left without an emotional connection beyond the horror at the war atrocities, and that simply is not what I am looking for when reading a fictional piece set during a war.

As far as the plot goes, it was interesting but it was a bit confusing.  Part of my confusion could have been because I listened to it, but from my understanding when I was listening, first there was an affair, then we jumped back to before the affair, then we jumped forward, then we jumped back to a different affair that came before the first affair.  It was profoundly confusing.  Particularly with a child referred to only as Baby (with no explanation about this for quite some time) who also randomly shows up and disappears.  There was already so much going on with four different main characters and the war that this non-linear plot felt unnecessarily extraneous and confusing.  However, it is possible that this plot is more clear when reading the print version, as opposed to the audio version.

The language of the writing itself is pretty, and I found periodic astute insights that I’ve come to expect and enjoy from Adichie.  For instance,

Why do I love him? I don’t think love has a reason. I think love comes first, and the reasons come later.

Passages like these are what helped me enjoy the book to the extent that I did.

There is one plot point in the book that truly distressed me, so I feel I must discuss it.  It is a spoiler though, so consider yourself spoiler warned for this paragraph.  Throughout the book, the narration style is third person limited, which means that it is told in third person, but the reader knows what is going on in the main character’s head and is generally limited to that character’s perspective.  The point of view is switched around among the four main characters, one of whom is Ugwu, the houseboy.  We thus get to know him as the houseboy, he gradually grows up, and then later he is conscripted into the Biafran army.  At this point, he participates in a gang rape on a waitress in a bar.  I read a lot of gritty things.  I routinely read books offering up the point of view of sociopaths or serial killers.  I’m not averse to seeing the world through a bad person’s eyes, or through the eyes of a person who does bad things.  But it has to be handled in the appropriate manner.  I felt that there was entirely too much empathy toward Ugwu in the case of the gang rape.  Adichie sets it up so that he walks in on his fellow soldiers gang raping this woman, and he says he doesn’t want to participate, they question his manhood, he admits in his head that he is turned on by the view of her pinned to the ground crying with her legs held apart having just been raped by a different soldier, and he participates.  I think what disturbed me the most about this passage was how the narration makes it seem so ordinary.  Like it’s something any man would do in that situation.  Like it’s only natural he’d be turned on and get a hard-on from seeing a woman forcibly pinned to the ground so she can be gang raped by a bunch of men including himself.  I think it’s awful to treat men like that.  To act like they clearly are incapable of standing up for what’s right or that they’ll get a hard-on any time they see an orifice they can physically bang.  Men are human beings and are entirely capable of thinking with more than their penis.  Now, obviously there are men who rape, but there has got to be more going on there then I have a hard on and there’s a woman who I can stick it into.  To treat rape that simply is a disservice to men and women’s humanity alike.  Part of the reason why this reads this way is that we don’t know Ugwu well but we know him well enough to think that he’s an at least moderately decent young man.  We don’t see a gradual downfall.  No one holds a gun to his head or even implicitly threatens him with death if he doesn’t participate.  It makes it seem like war makes men, even moderately good men, rape, as opposed to war simply providing more opportunities for rapists to rape.  That is a perspective that I do not endorse, that I do not enjoy having sprung upon me in my literature, and that I found triggering as well.  I was shocked to see it in a book by Adichie.  Shocked and disappointed. It left me wishing I could scrub my brain of the book.  Wishing for those hours of my life that I spent listening to it back.

Now, let me take a moment to speak about the narrator, Robin Miles.  Miles is an astounding narrator.  Her audiobook narration is truly voice acting.  She is capable of a broad spectrum of accents, including Nigerian, British, and American, and slips in and out of them seamlessly.  She easily creates a different voice for many different characters.  I absolutely adored listening to her, in spite of not enjoying the book itself.  Her performance of this book is easily a 5 star one.

Overall, though, the high quality narration simply could not make up for a story that failed to hit the mark with me on so many levels.  It covers an important time period in Nigeria, and the highly important human rights issue of the genocide of the Igbo, but the style in which it does simply misses the mark for me.  If this was all, I would still recommend the book to others who are more fond of a more impersonal, sweeping narration style.  However, I also found the treatment of rape in the book to be simultaneously offensive and triggering.  For this reason, I cannot recommend this book, although I do recommend the audiobook narrator, Robin Miles.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Three by Robert Kirkman (Series, #3) (Graphic Novel)

December 27, 2011 4 comments

Zombies surrounding a man in green.Summary:
The rag-tag band of survivors have adjusted to living in the prison.  One day they spot a helicopter go down in flames.  Rick, Michonne, and Glenn head out to check on it and end up finding another group of survivors whose leader is known as The Governor.  Unfortunately for them, not everyone has maintained their humanity amid the walking dead.

Review:
This entry in the series puts the graphic in graphic novel.  We’re talking mutilation, torture, and rape.  Also the usual murders and zombies.  It is not a book for those disturbed by those things or who find them gratuitous.  However, for those of us who love violence all up in our literature, it’s a squee-inducing violence fest.  Although you may not want to read it in public just in case someone glances over your shoulder during the rape and/or torture scenes.

The addition of another group of survivors where everything is not hunky dory and evil has arisen was exactly what this series needed.  It shows the very dark possibilities that the group we’ve been following have thus far managed to avoid.  It puts things like Tyreese and Rick’s fight in the previous book into perspective.  Woodbury and The Governor also demonstrate how key Rick has been to the group’s survival and maintenance of a healthy community.  All it takes is one bad apple wanting the power for a bad culture to spring up.  It’s a good lesson that’s taught here in a subtle way.

I thought long and hard about how I feel about Michonne’s rape.  At first I was angry about it with reactions ranging from, “she’s so strong; it doesn’t make sense” to “oh sure, rape the only black woman *eye-roll*.”  But the more I thought about it I realized I was being unfair.  In a world gone to hell and full of evil rape is going to happen.  Rape happens every day now let alone in a post-apocalyptic world, and Kirkman manages to show it in a graphic novel in a way that is respectful to the victim, which I am sure was not easy to do.  The concept of what is happening is clear, but at the same time, the drawings focus in on the victim’s emotions and reactions.  Similarly, Michonne is the logical choice because she is the most adventurous of the women.  She does not stay at home with the kids while the men run out and do things.  She’s a strong woman, yes, but being strong doesn’t stop bad things from happening to you.  That said, if you are a person who finds rape scene triggering, you should definitely skip this entry in the series and get someone to sum it up for you.

Overall, this is a strong entry that keeps the series fresh and introduces more drama into the post-apocalyptic world.  Fans of the first two books will not be disappointed by this one.  Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)