Friday, 17 August 2018

TRADITION - by Brendan Kiely

TRADITION - Brendan Kiely
Published: May 2018 - Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres:  Young adult / contemporary
Pages: 342.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Graphic scene of sexual assault / strong language / sexual innuendo / drug abuse
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us. When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?


I love boarding school stories!! The vibes are usually pretty messed up, but they're irresistible at the same time ;)


The writing is okay. It's neither here nor there. Kiely's style is easy to read, but it's not profound or brilliant or striking. However, I did enjoy the dialogue.

There is very little plot and it has no structure. It's loose, it's messy, and it's weak. Bad as this sounds, the story actually improves from the assault on-wards, which happens about halfway through. I hate to say that, but it does. Until then and even a bit afterwards, the scenes are weak and random and totally without direction. It is frustrating to say the least.

The messages are on point. The author certainly has some good points about the dangers of toxic masculinity and the horrors of rape culture. And they are good messages - the injustice and messed up handling of sexual assault and the way women are treated in the story succeeded in making me, as the reader, furious. And that's why it's there! It's supposed to come across naturally and non-preachy to make an impact, and it does.

But I still think it could've been done better. If the writing and characters were stronger, the emotional connection would be stronger, and so would its impact. While Kiely has a solid theme, he's chosen poor scenes and poor characters to actually convey his message. It's like he doesn't know how to tell a story. That's my issue.


Everything that had once felt so alive now suddenly felt so dead. That was what I wanted the world to know.


The characters are indifferent. Jules, Javi, and Aileen are cool, but they could've been fleshed out more. As for Jamie, I'm sorry but I hated hated hated him. I know he's supposed to the good guy - the guy who isn't like the other guys and who supports our uptight feminist heroine - but I found him boring, irritating, pitiful, and stereotypical. He's so perfect and so good, and it makes me want to barf because it feels fake. He feels fake. And I simply could not warm to his character.

But there is a positive ;) I appreciate how Jamie and Jules aren't a ship. I was expecting that, and I'm glad it didn't happen. I also like how friendship takes the focus instead of all the romances (Max and Javi, Aileen and Jamie).




Tradition has solid messages at its core, but its characters, plot and writing are very nearly ineffective. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

THE PUPPET SHOW - by M.W. Craven

THE PUPPET SHOW (Washington Poe #1) - M.W. Craven
Published: June 2018 - Constable.
Genres: Adult / thrillers / mystery / contemporary
Pages: 352.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / graphic, gruesome descriptions / strong language / child abuse / mentions of rape
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District's prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of. Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it. As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he's ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive...


How chilling is that cover?! Every time I look at it, my stomach curls. Those burnt letters make me think of flesh (which is probably the point) but ew ;) 


The writing is stellar. I like Craven's style, and the dialogue, specifically, is excellent - witty and to the point, it's just terrific.
I also love that the chapters are short. The plot is fast anyway, but short chapters just make everything so much more enjoyable and easy to read. The story is richly entertaining, with a dash of action here and there, and it's compelling and tight with a surprising and infrequent inclusion of dry humour.
In addition, the mystery took me by surprise. It is so, so clever, although definitely dark. And speaking of, a number of descriptions in this book are rather hard to stomach ;) They're graphic.

What a cast of characters! Poe is the "do whatever it takes to get things done" detective who thinks as impulsively with his fists as he does with his brain. Stephanie Flynn is his boss, and although I like her, her personality definitely isn't as strong as the other characters; I would've liked to have seen her fleshed out more.
Tilly is another great character. She's a genius, a whizz with IT, but at the same time socially inept and extremely naive. Her bluntness is endearing, as are her comic book T-shirts, and she's a unique if not unusual addition to the lead characters.

I also love her relationship with Poe. There's no romance between them - she's like his little sister - but he always has her back, looks out for her, and she clearly respects and trusts him. They're sweet together.




The Puppet Show is a dark, gruesome tale that allows its stand-out cast to pull the strings (#sorrynotsorry). Brilliant writing, strong action, and a smart plot make this a wickedly good thriller. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Weekly What's Up - reading, watching, school


Another week's gone by and I can't believe we're heading deeper into August. It's crazy. Before you know it it'll be Christmas and New Year, and that's just insane. 

In other news, I started watching Riverdale! Only two episodes in, but I'm enjoying it. I've also finished season 7 of TVD - just one left to go! - but I'm gonna be watching Riverdale season 1 before I start season 8 of TVD

My Mum and I have been watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, too. AND GUYS WHY DIDN'T I START IT SOONER?! It's seriously one of the best shows out there - the humour, the characters, the dialogue... the writing is so freaking perfect. I'm obsessed. 


Posts of the Week

I reviewed two thrillers: The Quaker and The Death Knock.

I reviewed the amazing Grace and Fury.

Currently Reading

Not loving any of these yet......






For Review

Yay! Thrillers galore :)







Writing Questions! 


For an upcoming WIP Diaries post, I thought id' be fun to answer any writing related questions you might have for me. They can be about my personal writing process, my characters, my WIPs, and etc etc - just anything you might want to know :) 

So if you have any questions, just leave them in the comments and I'll feature and answer them!




How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? 

Friday, 10 August 2018

GRACE AND FURY (Grace and Fury #1) - by Tracy Banghart

GRACE & FURY (Grace & Fury #1) - Tracy Banghart
Published: July 2018 - Hodder Children's Books.
Genres: Young adult / romance / fantasy
Pages: 320.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sexual innuendos / violence
Format: ARC paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive. Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace - selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman. But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret, and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything. Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?


The reviews for Banghart's debut have been mixed. But as soon as I opened the book and read the first paragraph, I knew what my review would be. I was falling into a book slump, and this books saved me. It took me on a wonderful, thrilling ride of feels and emotions and empowerment, and all I want to do is gush about it. SO GO FORTH AND READ.


The writing is lovely. Tracy Banghart's style is extremely similar to Sara Holland's (Everless), and so needless to say I enjoyed it. The imagery is also gorgeous, and the dialogue is good. Overall, it's an easy-to-read tale that doesn't sacrifice quality prose.

The story's action starts right away. The hook grabs you, the central story conflict is immediately introduced, and the characters are clear. It doesn't leave you floating. There's lots of action throughout the story, the plot's always entertaining, and it's exciting. The pace is fast - you'll simply fly through the pages, losing yourself in the fluff and thrills of the conflict and characters. You'll have fun and you'll be invested.

Oh and the twists! I admit I didn't expect to be so flabbergasted, but I'm so glad I was. This book is not predictable, and it'll probably steal your breath away in more than a few scenes. Yay for awesome twists and turns!


“It isn’t a choice when you don’t have the freedom to say no. A yes doesn’t mean the same thing when it’s the only answer you’re allowed!”

“For every woman who has been told to sit down and be quiet... And who stood up anyway.”
- from the author's dedication


The characters are predominantly a diverse group of women. I love that they all have different strengths and support each other - albeit eventually. There's a lot of emphasis on women uniting and having each other's backs and how crucial it is they do so if they want to fight sexism, etc. It's an empowering message, and it's not preached. The characters individually, too, are vivid, although the secondary cast have rather simplistic stereotypical personalities. Still, they're lovable and inoffensive. 

I also love all the strong female friendships. Even the romances are lovely and swoony and entirely shippable. But no relationship is more amazing than the sisterly bond between Nomi and Serina, our two heroines.
Serina is the obedient, beautiful daughter. She's been groomed her whole life to be a Grace. Nomi is the rebellious one, the underdog, the one who admits she wants more than this life. I love how the story forces the girls out of their comfort zones and develops and grows their characters as a result; Serina has to basically "unlearn" everything she's been taught, and Nomi has to find answers while squashed into a role she's spent her life hating. They're terrific heroines, and their bond is strong. I'm also a sucker for sisterly relationships, so Nomi and Serina's relationship made me happy ;)




Think The Belles meets Everless, with a stab of The Hunger Games and a sparkle of The SelectionThis little fantasy has it all: action, romance, intrigue, twists, and at its heart a cast of women with diverse strengths who have each other's backs. Do not miss this book!

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

2 Mini Book Reviews: THE QUAKER and THE DEATH KNOCK

THE QUAKER - Liam McIlvanney
Published: June 2018 - HarperCollins.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary
Pages: 400.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Adult themes / strong language / violence / sexual content / gruesome descriptions
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer whose name fills the streets with fear: The Quaker. He’s taken his next victim — the third woman from the same nightclub — and dumped her in the street like rubbish. The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. After six months, DI Duncan McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation — with a view to shutting it down for good.
His arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider, for McCormack is an outcast in more ways than one. When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city — and his life — forever . . .


This book is superbly written with impeccable sentence rhythm. The author is a master. The dialogue crackles and races, the atmosphere is rich and haunting, and the setting is a character in itself - the smoky, grimy streets throb with macabre undertones, and the pubs and casinoes crawl with a dark energy.
I also love that this isn't a contemporary; I think the era is perfectly suited to the story, and it works with the crime so well.

The story is dark. Very dark. There are many gruesome descriptions, fleshing out horrific crimes and painting a terrifying image of a nefarious psychopath. The crimes are brutal, and the story's twisted. It's uncomfortable. It's also very clever
 
The plot is slow. I think that's my one major problem with the book overall. It isn't boring, but ideally with a thriller you want to feel the urgency, the tension as it builds, and you want to stay in the book's clutches for the one sitting you can't help but take to finish. But with this story, it isn't like that; yes, it's exceptionally well written, but it's not gripping until the very end. That disappointed me.

The characters leave something to be desired. I expected more relationship dynamics and tensions, considering that the premise says McCormack faces hostility in his new work environment, but I don't think the author taps deeply enough into that potential. The relationships aren't as strong as they could be, and neither are the characters. They're kinda half-done.



Despite some aspects letting me down, I'd highly recommend this smart, haunting thriller.




THE DEATH KNOCK - Elodie Harper.
Published: June 2018 - Mulholland Books.
Genres:  Adult / thriller / contemporary
Pages: 336.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild sexual innuendo / mild violence / strong language / adult themes
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Three women have been found dead in East Anglia. The police deny a connection. TV news reporter Frankie smells a story... Ava knows that the threat is real. She's been kidnapped by someone claiming to be the killer: a stranger who seems to know everything about her. As Frankie follows the case, she enters a terrifying online world where men's rage against women may be turning murderous - and where her persistence might just make her a target.
And Ava must struggle not only to stay alive... but to stay sane.


This feels like a missed opportunity, and I hate to say it because the premise is so fascinating. Unfortunately, it disappointed me.

The writing is unexceptional. The leading ladies don't have much personality, and Ava, especially, simply tells her emotions, instead of showing us how she's feeling. The secondary characters are also easily forgettable, and I didn't feel connected to anyone.

But on the positive side, the book is incredibly unique. I love how the author's chosen to tell the story from the perspective of a journalist, instead of a detective, and it does make for some interesting insights. However, I think Frankie's role could've been been bigger and better executed. There're a lot of missed opportunities for great scenes and conflicts, yet the author plays it safe and rather mediocre.

It's not a bad story, but the execution is poor.


Sunday, 5 August 2018

Weekly What's Up - Netflix, school, writing


Lots of school stress this week and I had a few really bad anxiety days :( But, I did get to read a fair bit, I actually did some book writing (GO ME), and I'm watching TVD and re-re-re-re-watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S on Netflix. When I finish season 7 of TVD, I'm gonna start Riverdale. Then season 8 of TVD, then Gilmore Girls. Woohoo! I'm excited ;)


Posts of the Week

I reviewed the incredible thriller Something in the Water.

I talk about Heathcliff and Cathy's abusive relationship.

I wrapped up July!

I reviewed Ignite Me and Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi.

I reviewed The Fates Divide.

Currently Reading

I'm enjoying all of these so far. I'm buddy reading an eARC of Damsel with Di :)






For Review

I got an eARC of this book from Netgalley, but I won't be starting it till late August.













Writing Questions! 

For an upcoming WIP Diaries post, I thought id' be fun to answer any writing related questions you might have for me. They can be about my personal writing process, my characters, my WIPs, and etc etc - just anything you might want to know :) 

So if you have any questions, just leave them in the comments and I'll feature and answer them!



How has your week been? What are you reading and watching? 

Friday, 3 August 2018

THE FATES DIVIDE (Carve the Mark #2) - by Veronica Roth

THE FATES DIVIDE (Carve the Mark #2) - Veronica Roth
Published: April 2018 - Katherine Tegen Books
Genres: Young adult / romance / science fiction
Pages: 443.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence and trauma.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Fate brought them together. Now it will divide them. The lives of Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth are ruled by their fates, spoken by the oracles at their births. The fates, once determined, are inescapable. Akos is in love with Cyra, in spite of his fate: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. And when Cyra’s father, Lazmet Noavek—a soulless tyrant, thought to be dead—reclaims the Shotet throne, Akos believes his end is closer than ever. As Lazmet ignites a barbaric war, Cyra and Akos are desperate to stop him at any cost. For Cyra, that could mean taking the life of the man who may—or may not—be her father. For Akos, it could mean giving his own. In a stunning twist, the two will discover how fate defines their lives in ways most unexpected.


I read the first book in this duology last year and loved it. When the sequel arrived on my doorstep, I started reading right away.


Veronica Roth's writing style is powerful. There's a very real weight to her words, an intensity, almost profundity, and it clutches at you. Her dialogue is also incredible, and that's probably my favourite aspect of her writing. It's just so clean and witty and relates with character so well. I love it.

The plot is slow, but it's not tedious. It just lacks urgency. It's certainly a character driven book, though, because as well as being slow, the plot is also thin. Not a lot actually happens. If you love the characters, you'll like the book. If you don't like the characters, then I doubt the story will hold much for you.
The world is intriguing. The politics confuse me, but it is fascinating and original.

Roth leaves a lot to the reader's imagination, and that applies to every aspect of the book: characters, plot, world building. Honestly, I think it's a mixed blessing. On one hand you could get confused because not everything is spelled out to you (for example, you don't always know how or why the characters are going from A to B) and you have to fill in the blanks yourself. I did get confused sometimes and rather frustrated at all the vagueness, but overall I actually enjoyed "imagining in" the answers. Roth doesn't have the characters explicitly explain their direction and every motivation. In many ways, you as the reader are eavesdropping and trailing behind the characters, catching what information you can but otherwise thinking for yourself. I totally get why this way of doing things would annoy some readers (it does get too vague at times), but I found it refreshing.

A soft heart was a gift, whether given easily or with great reluctance. I would never take it for granted again.

Roth writes characters beautifully. Her cast is in this book is a group of mysterious, resilient anti-heroes and heroines trying to do the best they can in their messed up lives in their messed up world, all the while grieving the events of the previous book in their own specific way. Their personalities and backstories are subtly revealed, they're not in your face or overdone, but they're tenderly drawn and achingly real. I just wanted to hug all of them at different points in the book. They're struggling, it's not obvious, and that makes it more heartbreaking.

The romance between Akos and Cyra is hot and cold. Their relationship is pushed to the sidelines here because although they want the same thing, they go about getting it in different ways. And they both have more important things to do than stress about their love life; I respect them for being mature about it. They get on with what they need to do for the good of their world, despite their relationship crumbling, and it's sensible instead of easy. 




The Fates Divide is a dark and intense story that pounds with the hearts of its scarred, corruptible characters. The plot is slow, but it's a well written and chilling sci fi novel.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

2 Mini Book Reviews: IGNITE ME and RESTORE ME by Tahereh Mafi

IGNITE ME (Shatter Me #3) - Tahereh Mafi
Published: 2014 - HarperCollins
Genres: Young adult / dystopia / romance
Pages: 421.
Triggers/Content Advisory: A few graphic sex scenes.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.


I liked this book! The writing still isn't my favourite ever, but it's a fun story.

There's not much of a plot, however. It's very character driven, lots and lots of relationship drama, and it's heavy on dialogue and hormones. Not that I mind, personally (it's still entertaining, and teenagers will be teenagers) but it's more focused on characters and relationships than the previous two books were.

In terms of character, I'm glad we get to see a lot more of the secondary cast (Winston, Ian, Alia, Lily, James, Kenji...) and how they contribute to the story. They have amazing chemistry, their banter is awesome, and they're all-round good company. Kenji, especially, is terrific. He's insanely funny - providing much needed comic relief - and he's well developed and human. I loved seeing more of him. His friendship with Juliette is also one of the book's best features; it's so nice to have a guy and girl be best friends when he isn't in love with her and he isn't gay.

My main issue with this story is Adam's character arc. Just to be clear, I'm not Team Adam or Team Warner at this point (I'm Team Juliette, FYI) but I hate, hate, hate how Mafi felt she needed to butcher Adam's character to make the love triangle lean in Warner's favour. She's literally given Adam a personality transplant: he's verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive towards Juliette. Like, what the heck?!

My issue isn't that Juliette's now Team Warner. People fall in and out of love and you don't always stay with your first love; I get that. It happens. But Mafi has completely manipulated the situation and the characters because she's on Warner's side and wants Juliette to be with him. It's like she thinks she needs to make Adam a horrible person so we can hate him and love Warner. It's bad writing. It's bad character development, because it's sloppily done. It's just so darn obvious she prefers Warner. For example, here are a number of the presumably awful things Warner did in the first and second books that are now supposedly justified:

1: Juliette was furious at Warner for making her torture and almost kill a toddler. Well, turns out he didn't. The whole thing was just a simulation, and silly Juliette for not realising it.

2: Juliette was angry that Warner kept her away from his soldiers and isolated her. Turns out, he was doing it "for her own good" because his soldiers were sex-starved would be rapists.

3: Juliette was horrified that Warner killed one of his own soldiers just for stealing some food. Turns out, the soldier beat his wife and abused his family, so Warner's actually did the world a favour here.

4: Juliette was mad that Warner kept her to use as a weapon. Except, he wasn't. He just wanted to study her in case there was a way to save his poor sick Mummy, whose powers were similar to Juliette's.


It's a cop-out.



RESTORE ME (Shatter Me #4) - Tahereh Mafi
Published: March 2018 - HarperCollins.
Genres: Young adult / dystopia / romance
Pages: 440.
Triggers/Content Advisory: A few explicit sex scenes / strong themes of suicide, torture, and PTSD
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Juliette Ferrars thought she'd won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she's still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she's got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?


I loved this book! I didn't expect to, given my feelings about the previous ones, but I did.

You know how Mockingjay was a lot darker than the rest of The Hunger Games series? Which made sense, cause it's the last book; it's appropriate that it go out with a bang. Well, Restore Me is the same (although it's not quite the last book in this series, apparently...). It's a lot darker, more intense, more unsettling, and the emotions are overwhelming. The characters ' demons come out to play, and the results are catastrophic. It's painful, heartbreaking, and yet at the same time so beautiful. Mafi brings everything to a breathtaking head. It's stunning. She handles it all so well and the scenes are perfect.

Although I'm not a fan of Warner, I must appreciate his character development. He's well written. I also love Kenji, of course, and Nazeera is a fantastic additional character. She's brilliant.

But Juliette is the highlight. Her character truly became real for me during this book. She's so broken, so hurt, but so realistic and flawed and compelling. I also love how Mafi addresses the fact she's ignorant and naive about how to run things as the new Commander. I mean it's realistic, because she is only 17. And I like that that is acknowledged. She's not immediately competent.


This book also ends on a freaking cliffhanger, which I am not okay with. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS ASAP.


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Monthly Wrap-Up: July-August


It's August!! Yikes!!

I'm planning to write a lot more this month. That's the plan. I've also had a ton of new ideas for some other stories, so I'm hoping to flesh those out and see if they're worth working on. We'll see :)

I read a lot in July, and also pushed myself out of my social comfort zone. I'm hoping to keep that up, and maybe, maybe, maybe get brave enough to apply for a job at my local bookstore. Maybe ;)


Blog Posts from this month

Romanticised Abuse: The Kissing Booth
Book Blitz and Giveaway: THE SECRETS OF VILLA ROSSO - by Linn B. Halton


I worked very hard on my post about The Kissing Booth, and I'm proud of it.

Reviews from this month

Unravel Me - Tahereh Mafi
Small Spaces - Sarah Epstein
Lady Bird - 2017 film
Paper Ghosts - Julia Heaberlin
Tomb Raider - 2018 film
Game Night - 2018 film
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - 2017 film
Slay - Kim Curran
I, Tonya - 2017 film
The Favourite Sister - Jessica Knoll
Something in the Water - Catherine Steadman


My favourite read this month was Something in the Water. My favourite film was I, Tonya.

August TBR

I will definitely be reading more than 4 books, but these are all I could think of right now ;)










Foodie Bloggers?

I'm looking for any foodie bloggers who'd be interested in doing a food-themed guest post on my blog. If food's your passion and you're interested in baking or cooking etc etc and would be keen, let me know and I'll get in touch! 





Happy August! Did you have a good month? What's on your TBR? 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Romanticised Abuse: Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering Heights


Our goal is to raise awareness and draw attention to romanticised abuse in films, books, etc, in order to fight it
- Join us! Start posting whenever you want.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books or films - doesn't even have to be a whole book or film; simply one scene is enough, if there's an instance of romanticised abuse in it.
- Please link to my blog as the original creator.
- This is not only about romanticised abusive relationships. It is about romanticised sexual assault, rape, and harassment, as well.
- Please consider the following statement a trigger warning: this blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.



Today I'm going to be discussing the novel Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. This post will also make a lot more sense if you've already read the book or at least watched one of the film adaptions, as I'm not going to explain much of the plot.

Fun fact: This post was originally an essay I wrote for school. I've kept the original format, but I have edited the content a bit :)


Introduction:


Emily Bronte’s classic Gothic novel, Wuthering Heights, is as popular today as it ever was. The complexities of the characters, the raw ferocity of emotions, the depth of the tale itself, make the book a rich example of the Gothic literature of the time.  Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship especially has captured audiences and readerships all over the world. 

But is Wuthering Heights truly a story of beautiful romance and love between Heathcliff and Catherine? Is that how Emily Bronte intended their relationship to be perceived?


Backstory and Plot Summary

Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under Emily Bronte’s male pseudonym, Ellis Bell. It only became famous after Bronte’s death in 1848, and its legacy has spawned numerous film adaptions and plays.

The story is relatively simple, although its connotations are not. The tale revolves around the turbulent relationships of Heathcliff and Cathy and the numerous other characters affected by their story. Its landscapes and atmosphere are rich, the characters complicated and deeply flawed, and the passion between Heathcliff and Cathy almost otherworldly. We read about the relationships between families; about Heathcliff and Cathy growing up and about the harsh childhood they both endured; we see Catherine marry a childhood acquaintance, and Heathcliff’s resulting jealousy; we see Heathcliff marry, and subsequently father a child; we see the children of these  compelling characters grow and mature; overall, it’s a story about love and it’s a story about hate, and how both are often intertwined.

At the very forefront, however, Wuthering Heights is about Heathcliff and Cathy. It’s about the tragic consequences of their relationship.


Catherine/Cathy’s character

Cathy Earnshaw’s childhood is difficult. Her father shows her little love, she’s dismissed as a wild little girl who can’t be tamed, and she’s lonely. She finds comfort in a kindred spirit - in Heathcliff - but even that friendship is fraught with the harsh influences of external forces and uncontrollable young hormones.

Cathy is violent. On one occasion she slaps and pinches her maid, Nelly, but then denies it: ‘and pinched me {Nelly}…very spitefully on the arm…..{then said} “I didn’t touch you, you lying creature!”……then slapped me on the cheek a stinging blow….”. She even hurts her nephew and her husband: ‘she seized his {her nephew, Hareton’s,} shoulders and shook him until the poor child  waxed livid, and Edgar {her husband} thoughtlessly laid hold of her hands to deliver him. In one instant one was wrung free, and the astonished young man felt it applied over his own ear in a way that could be mistaken for a jest.’

Cathy is passionate and volatile, much like Heathcliff, and having spent most of her childhood neglected, it’s easy to see where her rage and strong feelings come from. She’s lonely, and she’s unloved.

Heathcliff and Cathy fall out as Cathy begins to return Edgar Linton’s obvious romantic attentions. She’s mad at Heathcliff and he’s mad at her, but Cathy is so angry and hurt and desperate to make him suffer, that she decides to marry Linton. As of their relationship:
‘“First and foremost, do you love Mr. Edgar?” I ask.
“Who can help it? Of course I do,” she answered......
“Why do you love him, Miss. Cathy?”
“Nonsense, I do – that’s sufficient.”
“By no means; you must say why?”
“Well, because he is handsome, and pleasant to be with….and because he is young and cheerful…..and he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband….I love the ground under his feet, and the air over his head, ad everything he touches, and every word he says – I love all his looks, and all his actions, and him entirely, and altogether….My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware….”’
Cathy admits she would probably ‘“pity him {Linton}”’ and ‘”hate him”’ if he were ugly. When Nelly points out the dangers of that, Catherine confirms she is only concerned with the present, and considering that Linton is handsome and rich now, there is nothing to worry about. 

Perhaps by marrying Linton, Cathy’s trying to prove to herself as well as to Heathcliff that it’s a good, true match. She’s ignoring the darkest parts of herself that Heathcliff brings out, and deluding herself into believing she can be happy with someone who is everything she is not: calm, restrained, sensible, and attractive. Linton is the safe choice. He is not Heathcliff, and considering that Cathy will not allow herself to love Heathcliff, Linton is the right choice.

Cathy is also proud. I think a great part of her decision to marry Linton comes from the fact she would not be satisfied to stoop so low as to give herself to Heathcliff. He is, after all, a social outcast and pariah. He’s an embarrassment. With Linton, she has social standing. She even admits it would ‘”degrade me to marry Heathcliff.”’

But, inevitably, Cathy is not satisfied with her marriage to Edgar Linton. They have nothing in common, and Cathy admits to feeling bored. He’s devoted and affectionate, but ultimately, he’s not Heathcliff. She’s unhappy because Edgar cannot give her the passion Heathcliff gives, and he cannot match her wits. He’s a bore to her. Her mental and physical health suffers because of it. Cathy feels everything tremendously, but her desire for Heathcliff is killing her.

When Heathcliff re-enters the picture, he puts a strain on Cathy and Edgar’s marriage. Cathy is torn apart by indecision, and Edgar is jealous and hurt: ‘'It is disgraceful that she should own him for a friend, and force his company on me... Catherine shall linger no longer to argue with the low ruffian - I have humoured her enough.”’
To Edgar, Heathcliff is still the dirty gypsy who belongs on the streets. He cannot understand Cathy’s affection for him, and he doesn’t appreciate how she enjoys Heathcliff’s company. 

Cathy eventually dies. Edgar is distraught, as is Heathcliff. Nelly Dean observes: His {Edgar’s} young and fair features were almost as deathlike as those of the form beside him, and almost as fixed: but his was the hush of exhausted anguish, and hers {Cathy’s} of perfect peace. Her brow smooth, her lids closed, her lips wearing the expression of a smile; no angel in heaven could be more beautiful than she appeared. And I partook of the infinite calm in which she lay: my mind was never in a holier frame than while I gazed on that untroubled image of Divine rest.’


Heathcliff’s character

On page 3 of the novel, we get a description of Heathcliff from the point of view character, Mr. Lockwood: ‘Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman – that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure – and rather morose – possibly some people might suspect him of a degree of under-bred pride – I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort; I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling – to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He’ll love and hate, equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again…’

Heathcliff is brought to the Heights by Cathy and Hindley’s father and immediately forms a bond with a Cathy starved for company and affection. They become playmates – one as wild and untamed as the other, and to say Heathcliff influences her would be an understatement. However, not even Cathy’s presence can make Heathcliff’s life with her family endurable.
 
Almost immediately upon arriving, Heathcliff is bullied and abused by Cathy’s brother, Hindley. As Nelly narrates, ‘Hindley hated him…..and we plagued and went on with him shamefully….. he {Heathcliff} seemed a sullen, patient child; hardened, perhaps, to ill-treatment: he would stand Hindley’s blows without winking or shedding a tear, and my {Nelly’s} pinches moved him only to draw in a breath…’ Heathcliff even blackmails Hindley on one occasion and threatens to tell his father about the abuse: ‘“I shall tell your father of the three thrashings you’ve given me this week, and show him my arm, which is black to the shoulder.”’
Hindley threatens him, beats him, and treats him like a servant. As Cathy sobs to her maid, ‘“Hindley calls him {Heathcliff} a vagabond, and won’t let him sit with us, nor eat with us any more; and he says, he and I must not play together, and threatens to turn him out of the house if he breaks his orders.”’ Hindley even cries to Heathcliff, ‘“Off, dog! I pray that he may break your neck... be damned, you beggarly interloper! I hope he’ll kick out your brains!”’ When at their Christmas celebrations Heathcliff tosses hot apple sauce over Edgar Linton after the latter insults his long hair, Hindley takes the opportunity to beat Heathcliff: ‘He administered a rough remedy {beating} to cool the fit of passion, for he reappeared red and breathless…’

His abuse begins a feud between the two men that lasts until Hindley’s death, and Heathcliff makes no secret of his desire to get even with Hindley: ‘“I’m trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don’t care how long I wait, if I can only do it, at last. I hope he will not die before I do!”’ 

A miserable childhood eventually becomes a turbulent adulthood. Heathcliff finds himself competing with Edgar Linton for Cathy’s affections, and then is forced to watch as she eventually marries him. Not to be left out, Heathcliff marries Edgar’s sister, Isabella, more out of revenge than anything else, and takes out his pain and hurt on her. However, he appears furious that she’s falling for him because he sees her devotion as a sign of weakness, considering how badly he treats her (‘“She degenerates into a mere slut! She is tired of trying to please me, uncommonly early – You’d hardly credit it, but the very morrow of our wedding, she was weeping to go home……{she} picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion. I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature…”’), but seeing how Cathy favours Edgar over him, he decides to use Isabella to get back at her and Edgar. He inflicts emotional abuse, humiliation, and physical violence on her; Isabella relates her situation in a letter to Nelly: ‘“Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil? I shan’t tell my reasons for making this inquiry; but I beseech you to explain, if you can, what I have married…..I told him {Heathcliff} the cause of my staying up so late – that he had the key to our room in his pocket. The adjective our gave mortal offence He swore it was not, nor ever should be mine; and he’d – but I’ll not repeat his language, nor describe his habitual conduct; he is ingenious and unresting in seeking to gain my abhorrence! I sometimes wonder at him with an intensity that deadens my fear; yet, I assure you, a tiger or venomous serpent could not rouse terror in me equal to that which he wakens. He told me of Catherine’s illness, and accused my brother of causing it; promising I should be Edgar’s proxy in suffering, till he could get hold of him.”’

Heathcliff is relentless in his abuse of Isabella. In one scene, he even throws a knife at her. But eventually, Isabella finally manages to escape the house and flees to safety, although now pregnant with Heathcliff’s child. She says of Heathcliff: ‘“He is not a human being…..and he had no claim on my charity _ I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death; and flung it back to me – people feel with their hearts, Ellen, and since he has destroyed mine, I have not the power to feel for him…”’ 

Heathcliff doesn’t only abuse Isabella. On a number of occasions he takes his anger out on Cathy and Edgar’s daughter, Catherine (‘Heathcliff lifted his hand, and {Catherine} sprang to a safer distance, obviously acquainted with its weight’, ‘He seized her with the liberated hand, and pulling her on his knee, administered with the other a shower of terrific slaps on both sides of her head’, ‘“Keep your eft’s fingers off; and move, or I’ll kick you!” cried Heathcliff, brutally repulsing her’,) he’s verbally abusive towards Nelly, the maid, and even abuses animals (‘“You’d better let the dog alone,” growled Mr. Heathcliff…checking fiercer demonstrations with a punch of his foot.’).

Heathcliff suffered through a painful upbringing as a victim of physical and emotional abuse. While it might account for some of his adult inclinations, it should not excuse them. Heathcliff suffered, yes, but he made others suffer, too.


Cathy and Heathcliff’s Relationship

When they were children, Cathy took Heathcliff under her wing. They were inseparable.  He was lonely and being bullied by her brother; she was lonely and feeling neglected by her family. The maid, Nelly, observes their childhood relationship: She was much too fond of Heathcliff. The greatest punishment we could invent for her was to keep her separate from him: yet she got chided more than any of us on his account.’

While still a child, Cathy leaves home to go stay at the Linton estate. Heathcliff is heartbroken by her absence, and even more so when she returns and he sees how she's matured.  He’s hurt by how she seems to have forgotten him and the fun they used to have, and he’s especially offended by her growing friendship with Edgar Linton. Heathcliff and Cathy both refuse to apologise to each other for who they are and what they want, and perhaps because of her stay at the wealthy Lintons, Cathy realises the importance of marrying well.  She even tells Nelly: ‘”It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now; he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same…..”’

The above quote is worrying; not only because Cathy is putting social standing before real feeling, but because it confesses the unsettling depth and instability of Cathy’s feelings for Heathcliff. “More myself than I am” hints at obsession and blind devotion, rather than true love. She and him are much alike, but the above quote doesn’t sit comfortably. It’s disturbing. 

When Cathy eventually marries Edgar, her relationship with Heathcliff worsens. She’s tormented by indecision as her feelings for him refuse to subside, and she’s clearly unhappy in her marriage. Heathcliff, for his part, refuses to let her go so easily. He is torn apart by her actions: “You teach me now how cruel you've been - cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears: they'll blight you - they'll damn you. You loved me - what right had you to leave me? What right - answer me - for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery, and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will did it. I have no broken your heart - you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me that I am strong. Do I want to live?What kind of living will it be when you - Oh, God! would you like to lie with your soul in the grave?” 

The violence between Heathcliff and Cathy escalates under the turbulence of their situations. Both their mental states deteriorate. They scream, they shout, they provoke each other, and yet they are unable to be apart. Cathy continually declares how she cannot be without Heathcliff: ‘“Nelly, I am Heathcliff - he's always, always in my mind - not as a pleasure, any more then I am always a pleasure to myself - but, as my own being.”’  -‘ “If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”’ 

Whatever they feel for each other, it does not look like love. Their feelings range from passionate adoration to furious hatred, and they are frequently violent with each other.  It’s a toxic, abusive relationship, with both of them to blame. Quotes such as ‘”If you ever looked at me once with what I know is in you, I would be your slave”’ and ‘”I have not broken your heart – you have, and in breaking it you have broken mine”’ show an unhealthy relationship. They do not know of any other way to cope with the hurt dealt on one another by one another, so their feelings run wild.  

After Cathy dies, Heathcliff becomes even more unhinged. He is so broken by her death that he even goes as far as to dig up her corpse: ‘Her presence was with me, it remained while I re-filled the grave, and led me home. You may laugh if you will, but I was sure I should see her there. I was sure she was with me, and I could not help talking to her.’
Life without Cathy, from Heathcliff’s perspective, is not life at all: Two words would comprehend my future—death and hell: existence, after losing her, would be hell. Yet I was a fool to fancy for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton's attachment more than mine. If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn't love as much in eighty years as I could in a day.


Narration and Writing

Bronte writes in first person past tense. Her narrators alternate between Nelly Dean (the maid) and Mr. Lockwood, a visitor to the Heights, and in both cases the perspectives are deep and personal. We only know what the narrators tell us and we can only observe what the characters say or do – there is no head hopping into any of the other characters’ heads. We are allowed no one else’s perspective, not even the author’s. In other words, the story’s themes are implicit and we must make judgments for ourselves based on evidence. 

I think Bronte’s choice to write from the point of views of two characters so intensely and intimately involved in the story was a clever decision.  By doing so, she removes herself almost completely. Her skill as a writer is obviously there, but the story and characters unfold without her intervention or judgement. She offers no opinion in regards to anything that happens. Even as narrators, Nelly Dean and Mr. Lockwood offer very little judgement of their own as they tell the story. They recount, they observe, and remark infrequently, but they cast little to no opinion. The characters speak for themselves. The story plays out. The author is independent of it.

Cathy and Heathcliff often call their affection for each other “love”, but the author makes no such judgement herself. The words come from two fallible human characters, and we as the readers are left to interpret their feelings for ourselves. The characters are unreliable because they’re people with flaws and misconceptions. We cannot claim that Bronte is romanticising an abusive relationship because nowhere does she claim to support the relationship. She lets the actions of her characters speak for themselves. We are left to deduce what we can.    


Legacy

Emily Bronte did not romanticise Heathcliff and Cathy’s behaviour. So why am I writing this post? Why do I need to prove that their relationship isn’t one of romantic love if the author herself never claimed it is?

I’m writing this argument because nowadays Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship is called a romance. I’m writing it because Heathcliff’s character is swooned over, adored, and his behaviour is romanticised in pop culture. I don’t need to tell you that Wuthering Heights has been called an epic romance, or that Heathcliff and Cathy’s “love story” is up there with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, and even Titanic’s Jack and Rose. Amazon and Goodreads consider the Gothic novel a love story, and readers are drawn to the dark passion between the central characters so much so that they’re quick to call it love.  Passion becomes synonymous with love. Violence becomes acceptable as long as both characters are doing it. It’s disturbing, because what we see between Heathcliff and Cathy is more about obsession than pure, true love.

What is love? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). What we see between Heathcliff and Cathy is a tidal wave of uncontrollable emotion, raw desire, and manic pain, selfishness, and cruelty. To call it love is dangerously misguided indeed. 


Conclusion:

If Cathy had had the influence of a loving, doting mother, or another female role model, perhaps she wouldn’t have been driven to do the things she did. Perhaps if Heathcliff had felt more love and acceptance, he wouldn’t have constantly felt the need to prove himself. Both characters are victims of their circumstances, but they are not bound by them.

When we cite Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship as one of true love, or when we idealise Heathcliff as a romantic hero, we are romanticising toxic behaviours, unhealthy relationships, and abusive characters.  There is no doubt of Wuthering Heights’ genius, but I do not believe Emily Bronte wrote Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship as a romance. She, through her narrators, was a mere observer of these characters and their tragic, passionate story.  It’s up to us to make a decision based on what we’ve read.  And when we call their relationship one of love, we are romanticising abuse.