Month: March 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks

Published in 2000, Bell Hooks discusses the nature of love and how America’s society and culture prevents many from learning how to love others or receive love in return.

Whilst supposedly a discussion on love and how to achieve it, I constantly found this book to be repeating the many ways in which love has become unavailable to us due to the way that we live. Men and women are treated differently by Hooks, with women being the main carriers of the beacon that is love, whilst men are clueless and are waiting to be taught how to love others. Hooks continuously refers to men being more likely to lie and therefore they have a limited capacity to love as they see  relationships as a way to feel powerful. To continue feeling this sensation of power they will lie to and manipulate their partners.

Allegiance to male domination requires men who embrace this thinking (and many, if not most, do) that they maintain dominance over women by any means necessary.

Hooks establishes herself as a moral authority who knows how others should behave to love or be loved. And because of this fills her book with anecdotes that lead to sweeping denunciations of patriarchy and the limited view that only a bad upbringing and childhood will lead someone (typically a man to hurt another whilst calling it love. However later in her book she also puts this abusive nature down to “job misery” and the male desire for dominance.

Even as a moral authority she doesn’t shine that bright. In her book, Hooks talks of how she threatened to tell a friend’s family secret as she felt that it was disloyal to her relationship and would ruin her love if she didn’t tell her partner. This, in my opinion greatly reduces her credibility in being anybody’s moral compass. She would rather cause pain to many people then keep a secret that wasn’t her information to give away. She would rather betray the trust given in her and therefore be disloyal to that friendship.

This book relies on the reader agreeing that women are the carriers of the rightful way to love others. And also that they are the only ones capable of showing men how to love, as if men can’t figure this out themselves. She purportedly backs this with analysis of “many” men claiming allegiance to male dominance but no evidence to back these wide spread claims.

The first two chapters are well thought out and provide meaningful insight through her search for a way to define love, but it soon descends into a self-help book that relies on other self-help love books to provide evidence to these ideas and theories. With the continues tone of a “perfect survivor” of the abuse of love, Hooks brings some of these good ideas to the forefront but negates any impact of these words by her glaring oversight of being unwilling to criticize and analyse her own mistakes. Instead she focuses on the mistakes made by family and friends that have affected her in a negative way.

Hooks constantly refers to her life and how she has been victimised in ways by her friends and family and remarks on how she is often the only one who can see that they are creating a loveless environment. Whilst doing this, she makes no mention of her own personal flaws in sustaining or creating a loveless relationship. Although we all know there is no such things as a perfect human being, Hooks appears to be trying to give her readers this image of her doing no wrong.

She alludes to consumerism and the media as being the cause for lying saying that “lovelessness is a boon to consumerism” and “in our public life there would be nothing for tabloid journalism to expose if we lived out lives out in the open.” As the chapters evolve and progress, Hooks seems to mention all the ways we live that makes love attainable for the general population. Capitalism and consumerism seems to be part of this. She calls on others to share their wealth and learn to criticise their choices but neglects to show how she shares her wealth which has been predetermined by her mention of owning two houses.

If we listened to all the ways we lived that prevent us from living according to Hooks, it is surprising that anybody in the world has had the chance to experience a fulfilling relationship where both participants experience real love.

She puts Bill Clinton’s affair down to low self-esteem and males claims that:

He created the context for a public shaming that no doubt mirrors moments of childhood shaming when some authority figure in hi life made him feel he was worthless.

However, Monica Lewinsky was given no such excuse and instead is portrayed by Hooks as a loveless person who knowingly went into the affair and then was pushed by her greed for fame and wealth to sell her story by claiming it was a loving relationship.

Whilst some of her theories are sound and insightful, her lack of evidence to justify the sweeping claims she makes reduces her credibility as a serious and reliable voice on the subject. Her vagueness on how many and exactly how things will affect the way we love further decreases the impact and strength of her voice on these matters. In order for her piece to achieve it’s high potential, statistical evidence and analysis is necessary to provide a more justified data backed pkatform for some otherwise poignant ideas.

 

The Haunting Lessons by Robert Chazz Chute and Holly Pop

The Haunting Lessons follows our protagonist Tamara Smythe when she gains the ability to see the dead after the murder of her boyfriend. Drafted into a group of psychics, oracles and warriors with her gift. She is one of the Choir Impossible and she fights against the demons trying to break through the barrier into the human world.

Intially the story idea is good but all over the place, we start with Tamara’s love life but suddenty it cuts back to the past to the first live of her life. Dubbed the “love of her life”, the authors give the skewed impression that all teenage girls think about is love and living with their boyfriends. Contrary to belief, we females don’t all fall in love with our male best friends and neither do we dream of life long plans after a few years with a high school sweetheart.

Whilst some story points such as the mental hospital feel real and creative, they lack depth and rely on continuous fourth wall chatting and numerous flashbacks to provide any length. It all seems a little too thin– like a vaguely padded out plot plan although that plan is well constructed and has interesting ideas.

My main annoyance is that my curiosity and thirst for detail in the narrative is never satisfied. The plot is threadbare and doesn’t do justice to a potentially captivating book. Whilst the over-arcing theme of the battle between good and evil is the only idea explained in any length and even then I feel like pieces are missing. The authors define the good and evil sides but skips out on what we want to know – the characters and what motivates them in this ultimate war over the fate of the world.

Battles seem to last moments and the well rounded characters that we have come to know are killed off with a lingering on how and the emotions of the other characters. What should be been a penultimate event in the book, and a thrilling skirmish between the two sides turned dull as it was lacklustre in description and seemed negligent when in the longer scheme of plot is was supposed to be important.

What should have been a well crafted YA fantasy novel, instead leaves me feeling shortchanged and unsatisfied.

A Mission to Nepal

Most 18 years old’s spend their time partying, working and applying to universities. When Nathan Voyle turned 18, he was working out how to fund a 5 month stay in Nepal to volunteer at the Kathmandu International Study Centre (KISC). During his stay Nepal was struck twice by earthquakes, where Nathan helped out the local community and assisted in getting the school back to normal. Tallulah Lewis speaks to him about his experiences in Kathmandu.

“The kids at KISC are incredible, and you could see it after the earthquake with the number of kids who just got on with it.” Nathan regaled me with a story of exams after the second earthquake. Just thirty minutes before an A-level exam was due to start, the second earthquake hit Kathmandu. With the school on alert, the kids were quickly evacuated out into the courtyard, but for these kids the clock was ticking as if they didn’t start the exam on time then they would fail. “Once it stopped shaking they asked if they could of back across to the hall to sit the exam and then they did. They moved all the furniture back into place and started the exam just on time and as far as I know they all passed. All this just half an hour after a major earthquake.”

“It was an idea that had been brewing for a few years,” he told me, “My aunt had just gotten the job as head of Student Support at KISC and suggested a trip over there for my gap year and it soon became a firm decision to go.” He applied for a position 2 years before he went and dealt with a lot of confusion when they mixed up the dates he wanted to volunteer for, believing he would be there late 2014 instead of early 2015. In all the confusion, he had forgotten to mention in his application about his aunt’s position at the school. “I was happy to get in off my own back. It was very much my own thing, my aunt wasn’t around to help me with everything – she was busy with her own job.”

Nathan tried to make his entire trip as independent as possible, focussing on his work. He explained how he didn’t spend much time with his aunt and uncle except for a few dinners, but “it was good to have that sort of connection in the first couple of weeks, especially when you’re settling in to a country as crazy as Nepal.”  It’s clear that Nathan wasn’t there for a family visit though as within a few weeks of arriving he had to take over a friend’s class and went from supporting to teaching several classes. ”So two weeks in I was teaching a science class. I covered them from when school began after the earthquakes to the day I left to come home. I left thinking maybe I could become a teacher after my degree.”

To raise the money for the trip Nathan worked several jobs in the months before, but it didn’t take long to realise that it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to sustain him for five months. “I applied to a trust called Nepal Napa which helps pay 18-30 year olds to go out and do missionary work whether it is home missionary or overseas. My church helped support me by providing money towards flights as well as helping me run events within the church like a car wash,” he explained.

He continued, “My grandmother literally made hundreds of cards which I sold for £1 each. She made all the cards herself and about 450 in total. People wanted to support what I was doing and buying these cards was a way of doing that whilst still getting something useful in return.”

“I also had people donate money to me for my living expenses. I tried to do crowdfunding about 2 years beforehand and it just didn’t work. It was difficult to explain what I was trying to do and why I wanted to go to Nepal in one sentence they the websites wished without it coming across as ‘please pay for my holiday.’ That didn’t work out but I managed to get the money which was great. It just sort of arrived from where I wasn’t expecting it. I had no money a year before I left and by the time I left for Nepal I had exactly the amount I needed.” After getting to Nepal, it wasn’t long before Nathan was settled in at the Kathmandu International Study Centre guesthouse, with 7 other volunteers, in the more affluent area of Dobighat.

Within the first week of arriving in Nepal, two bandas took place, “banda” meaning closed in Nepali. A banda is a strike often enforced by a political party, sometimes small but many are nationwide, where shops are closed and no vehicle with tyres is allowed to be on the road. This meant they weren’t even allowed to cycle across the city. “If you were caught, you were yelled at very loudly by Nepali’s across the city,” he said with wide eyes, “It’s never a pleasant experience, but for a Nepali to yell at you, you have to have done something pretty bad.”

The aim of the KISC is to provide western-standard education to children of missionary families — particularly those who work in non-governmental organisations. It provides education to both students and teachers of primarily Christian families, whilst students do not have to be Christian in order to attend, they must take part in all educational activities (including religion) and priority is always given to missionary families. They recruit Christian missionaries and teachers from all over the world to help the students. Due to the voluntary nature of the position Nathan had to raise all the funds to travel to Nepal and live there, himself.

The children who attend KISC are a wonder in their own right due to the rigorous nature of their education and lives. Students who attend the school are required to have a certain level of English due to the nature of the teachers. Some Nepali’s attend from 4 years old so they can keep up with the English teachers. He commented, “In my year 8 class, only 7 out of 20 were native English speakers but at least 80% of them were genuinely fluent in English. I was amazed as they were from all over the world and many were political refugees for one reason or another.”

On April 25th 2015, Kathmandu was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8, and the disaster is thought to be the worst natural disaster in Nepal since the earthquake in 1934. The earthquake flattened villages and homes across the country causing hundreds of thousands of people to become homeless. The earthquake also caused an avalanche on Mt Everest killing 19 people, making it the deadliest day on the mountain.

Having already climbed Everest earlier in his trip, Nathan was booked to take a flight around the mountain just six hours before the earthquake happened. “I had gotten up at 4:30am that day as were the first flight at 6am. We went up and we couldn’t see anything, not even the end of the plane wing. It was just really dark and cloudy,” Nathan explained.

Later that day, the earthquake hit the city whilst Nathan was at home. “I was looking forward to relaxing when I heard a beeping which turned out to be the earthquake alarm – I’d never heard it before and no-one had bothered to show it to me. So I was standing in the middle of the lounge when everything started shaking and suddenly I was watching a crack go up the wall and dived under the sofa. As I was under the sofa I listened to things crash down in the kitchen. I remember I kept worrying about how long it would take to clean it all up,” He chuckled at the thought.

 “I know it was a bizarre thing to be thinking, but I guess for that first minute my brain was in shock. I was lying there not really knowing what was going on. And then I started thinking, ‘this is an earthquake zone. It’s perfectly normal.’

He continued, “I thought I was all alone in the house, but I heard one of my housemates – Charlotte – scream, from the sounds she was making I thought she was hurt and I was going over in my head whether I could do a fireman’s lift down a set of stairs. Turns out she had just panicked. It was all just a bizarre experience. I’d looked out the window where three of my friends were standing outside and they just started shouting at me to get out of the house. I must have seemed like an idiot. “

Saturday is the day of worship in Nepal, so many of Nathan’s housemates were out in the city attending church when the earthquake happened. “We couldn’t get hold of our housemate Amy who had been attending church on the other side of the city about an hour’s walk from where we were, whilst another friend was in the top floor of the school. The school was the emergency zone for everyone at the guesthouse so we headed there to try find the rest of our housemates. Amy finally managed to contact us after four hours she had to borrow someone else’s phone, as hers had broken during the earthquake.”

At the school, the noticeboard was being used to put up notes and let others know they were safe. “The entire time we couldn’t help but gawp at the mess that had been made of the school. The back wall of the main hall had collapsed entirely. It had fallen down in one piece and crushed the stage and the first 4 rows of chairs that had been set up for class the next day. One of the chimneys had also fallen down. It was like 20ft tall and had fallen straight into the middle of the gas stores, we were really lucky it hadn’t hit any of the canisters. It was shocking how much had been damaged as when the earthquake first started we had no idea how big it was or how wide spread. Living in the more affluent part of the city meant that buildings weren’t earthquake proof but more likely to withstand one. Still many of the buildings were damaged so we had to move out of our house, but others in the area were fine. It was mainly garden walls that had collapsed which for the people down our road was really annoying. They had just taken down their walls and moved them due to a road widening scheme in the city. Many of our neighbours had just rebuilt the walls only to have them shaken down by the earthquake a week later.”

“One of the hardest things about being safe in our new house was seeing people watch the news to try see if their loved ones were okay, but the news just kept showing the death toll get higher. That was definitely the bit the hit me the most. And it wasn’t just the deaths, but seeing the community watch as their cultural history collapsed. The Dharahara Tower in the centre of Kathmandu was a landmark for the city and it fell that day. But the community just kept going,” he explained. Many of Nathan’s neighbours built extra tarp ceilings around their homes and opened them up to those who had their homes destroyed in the earthquake. Some are still living there, 8 months after the disaster.

“The amount the kids just bounced back was inspiring. Many of them have been through a lot in the past, they’ve grown up in different countries with harsh laws and conflict. They don’t really have a home country and it is hard for them to relate to others sometimes as they have experienced a completely different way of life. But they were such a joy to work with and so committed to improving their lives.”

 

 

 

The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love

This book will be released April 19.

Set between 1937 and 1947, this is a historic novel that artfully incorporates truthful accounts of the Second World War as a backdrop to interweaving love stories. Not a romance in terms of chick flick-esque delightful endings, instead it portrays believable strain and heartache as well as passion and love.

At first the book suffers from an overwhelming amount of description and detail that almost seems to drown out the narrative. The first few chapters become flighty because of this; details are given too much focus and the characters are never followed long enough to get an idea of who they are and why we are supposed to be interested in them. However by six chapters in, author Alison Love starts to fill in the backgrounds of each of our main characters — Antonio, Olivia, Bernard and Filomena — the tale she tells becomes beautifully crafted as we start to see more emotions and less mindless detail. Love builds the atmosphere of each scene as she builds the connections between the protagonists, using history to give the story depth.

Love brings us to question passion, romance and love and the certainty of forever and promises. Antonio faces uncertainty in his marriage when he comes to remember it was in fact arranged. What happens when someone you thought loved you did nothing other than obey their family’s orders?

“Had they been – not false, of course not false – but exaggerated, designed to flatter his vanity?”

The author weaves the story through layers of secrets connecting each of the characters together. From Antonio’s first meeting with Olivia, to her quick marriage with Bernard. Bernard’s first time listening to Antonio’s singing, and his eventual time spent with Antonio’s sister Filomena. Each person tells their own part of a wider story that has tears, statements of ardour and acceptance of fate.

Love transitions the book from a political based history into a love story smoothly, and lays the groundwork for a sequel on what will happen next to the broken family that wishes to mend itself.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

The Name of the Wind by Peter Rothfuss

Book one of the Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy.

When I was first given this book I was sceptical as it was given to me with the promising catch-line as the “next Game of Thrones”. For those that know me, that sets the standards very high. I trust people’s opinions when things are recommended but I’ve read enough failures branded the next GoT to err on the side of caution.

An epic fantasy in all forms of the word, it follows the life of the renowned musician, arcanist and warrior known as Kvothe (pronounced like Quothe). Little is really known about this feared man with stories unsure whether to proclaim him a hero or brand him a monster. Rothfuss begins the story in an interesting fashion, set in the present time Kvothe (or Kote as we know him to begin with) is used to introduce to us the patrons of his tavern. Mysterious events allude to Kote’s mysterious background but it takes a few chapters for us to find out that he is the king killer named Kvothe. By the end of the book, I’m still not sure which king he has killed, and I’m not sure if I’ll find out in the next book either.

On a dark, foreboding evening, the Chronicler arrives in the inn of the man previously known as Kvothe. He is there to write his story, and is informed that it will take three days for Kvothe’s tale to told. And so the real story begins on Day One.

As a young Edema Ruh, Kvothe travelled with his family of performers who are soon to be joined by Abenthy, an arcanist. Abenthy teaches Kvothe about the art of magic known as “sympathy” as well as history, science and how the world works. He is given all the tools he needs to get into the prestigious University. Accepted at 15 years old due to his quick wits and sarcastic intelligence, our protagonist makes it in 3 years younger than most. He moves through the ranks fast but manages to make enemies faster.

We follow him as he progresses in magic and falls in love, and even as he manages to talk his way out of the stickiest of situations, although we are constantly forewarned of his inability to get out of everything. Whilst Rothfuss artfully weaves his story, and allows readers to work out how each event will affect the characters, he also tries to leave us hanging in expectation of events which aren’t in this book, but will be in the 2nd or last book in the series. Although it does give a sense of the wider picture of the story, too often it leaves us wondering about things too far in the future and distracts us from the problems facing Kvothe at the time.

Rothfuss develops each character thoughtfully and carefully. As readers we become invested in them,we have times where we have to put the book down to the sheer stupidity of some actions, and tears slip down our faces at the heartbreak of others. Not only is Kvothe this god-like figure of terrifying power, he is also so full of charisma that he commands to be heard. But we see that he is human too, despairing after events long past; he is left lonely and full of sorrow from the death of his family despite the time passed.

Rothfuss’s small but complex twists on all aspects of his story make him the next genius in the fantasy scene. He appreciates his reader’s intelligence by letting them gather their own clues and creates a system of of magic (“sympathy”) that is so well reasoned it could almost be happening now. The system is based on the similarities of objects and the strength of theses similarities to build connections capable of moving, mending and sometimes setting fire to these objects. But the most powerful magic is all in the name of things, and in this book Kvothe shows us the power of the name of the wind. Full of logic and reasoning, Rothfuss gives the book depth as we learn how the laws of this world work. What makes it enjoyable it that these laws aren’t stretched beyond believability in any setting, what has been set down as possible isn’t broken in any of the events so far.

 

The next book in the Kingkiller Chronicles is The Wise Man’s Fear.

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