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.



Monday, 30 July 2018

SOMETHING IN THE WATER - by Catherine Steadman

SOMETHING IN THE WATER - Catherine Steadman
Published: June 2018 - Ballantine
Genres: Adult / contemporary / thriller
Pages: 342.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild sexual content / mild violence / mild language
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

 Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares? 

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?


I've been a fan of Catherine Steadman ever since I saw her in The Tudors. I also love it when actresses and actors write fiction - I don't know why, exactly. I guess it's because it somewhat combines two things I love: books and films. 


Catherine Steadman is an exceptional writer. She's an instant professional. Her style is clean, to the point, her word choice is so careful, and from the first paragraph I was in love with her writing. She manages to set up each scene with just a mere sprinkling of descriptive words that somehow manage to suck you right into the setting along with the characters. Her descriptions are concise, yet the scenes are instantly immersive and three dimensional. Every detail has been chosen for a reason, and she doesn't waste time. Just......wow.

The story is stunningly atmospheric. The sensory details are all there, and the settings breathe life. It's consuming and it draws you right in.
The pacing is perfect. There's very, very little action - as in, action fighting - but every scene courses with foreboding and the suspicious details keep you reading. It's utterly riveting, with a lot of heart as well, and at the end the thought-provoking themes come to a perfect head. It's clever, it's chilling, and it's very, very real.

One thing, though: I did guess the big twist before I'd even gotten halfway through the book ;)
However: knowing that twist did not make me love the book any less. It is rather predictable, but it's the way Steadman handles it that makes the ending - and the book - extraordinary. The ending still blew me away because of how Steadman wrote it.


I have the feeling of being too near to something I don't want to be near to. To something dangerous. I can't quite see what it is yet but I feel it, it feels close. I feel the trapdoors in my mind creaking under the strain of what lies underneath.


The characters are so good!! Everyone is three dimensional the instant they're introduced, and they're all vivid and interesting. I also love just how realistic everyone is. They act like day-to-day people.
Erin is by far my favourite, though. She's an amazing heroine: neurotic, fallible, naive, and downright capable and strong when the situation calls for it. She's vulnerable, but she's also brave. She's terrified, but she takes the measures she needs to save the people she loves. I respect her so much. My heart broke for her at the end, and I just wanted to hug her and tell her how proud of her I was ;)





Something in the Water is a phenomenal debut. Powerful, relatable characters wherever you turn, compelling relationships, and an atmospheric, suspenseful plot.
WHEN'S THE NEXT BOOK, STEADMAN?????

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Weekly What's Up - reading, school, bookmail


I didn't write anything for my WIP this week :( But I have been reading a ton and writing lots of blog posts, so I feel less guilty than usual ;) 


I'm also thinking of starting Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I'm still working my way through season 7 of TVD, but I want to take it slowly and watch something more light-hearted in between. As a result, I need a new series to binge! Any suggestions? 


Posts of the Week

I reviewed Slay by Kim Curran.

I reviewed an amazing film, I, Tonya.

I participated in the book blitz for The Secrets of Villa Rosso.

I reviewed The Favourite Sister.

Currently Reading

I'm enjoying The Fates Divide, but not so much the other three :(




For Review

I got so spoiled this week! Thank you, publishers, for these amazing books.











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

Friday, 27 July 2018

THE FAVOURITE SISTER - by Jessica Knoll

THE FAVOURITE SISTER - Jessica Knoll
Published: May 2018 - Simon Schuster.
Genres: Adult / women's fiction / contemporary / thriller
Pages: 384.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sexual content / strong language / mature / adult themes
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder… Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates. Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret. Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Love the cover, love the premise, and I expected to love the inside of this book as much as I did the outside.


The writing is fair. Knoll writes well, and she digs very deeply into what's happening in the scene. Honestly, though, I found it too much. There is so so so much going on in one scene, all of it muddled together in a heap of back story, character perception, and action and heavy dialogue, that it drags you under. It's like the author's diving into her story, but it's not translating well from her head to the page. She doesn't explain well what's going on, she doesn't centre the scene, and the scene lacks structure completely. It's information and internal monologuing and dialogue and thick flashes of history and every scene just seems to merge into the next. Sure, maybe that's just Knoll's style, but for me it doesn't work. It's too much. I was confused and weighed down.

The writing is also very Devil Wears Prada-esque, if you know what I mean: detail by detail description of the clothes the characters are wearing,their personal history, the food, the characters' expressions, etc etc.... All this heavy info that doesn't actually serve a purpose. It doesn't play a significant role in the story, and it doesn't even flesh out the characters because it's too vague and random and inconsistent.

The plot is slow. It's vague. It's hard to follow, and I found it boring because I couldn't get a grip on anything. Having expected a tantalising, scandal oozing murder thriller, I was extremely disappointed. It doesn't even feel like a thriller; that aspect totally escaped me. Most of the book simply feels aimless and tedious.

It wasn't until I admitted to my own place in the {abuse and trauma} cycle that people gave me the respect I always knew I deserved. And now that I have it, I can't stop wondering why it is that for a woman's work to be taken seriously, she has to bleed first? and why I was so quick to open a vein?

The thinking that women of all shapes and sizes can be beautiful is still hugely problematic, because it is predicated on the idea that the most important thing a woman has to offer the world is her appearance.

The patriarchy survives so long as women are pitted against one another. It is a threat to a man’s way of life when women gather, when they question the status quo, and when they inevitably start to resist it.


The cast is too big. It also doesn't help that almost everyone is introduced at once. I never got a clear idea of who any of the female leads were, and so I couldn't care about them. In addition, they monologue on for pages and make abstract observations of each other, but none of it ends up meaning a thing. It may thicken up the story, but its relevancy was lost on me. It's all white noise.

The one thing this book does do right, however, is dig into topical issues with searing scrutiny. It speaks volumes about women, intersectional feminism, and the sexism in our society. It talks of diversity, social media, and positive and negative relationships in all their messy glory. It does make some good points; if only those points had been lifted up out of the cluttered writing.




The Favourite Sister is well written, and it's packed with many bold, powerful messages. But there are too many characters, the writing is often too busy, and the plot is painstakingly slow and muddled. 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Book Blitz and Giveaway: THE SECRETS OF VILLA ROSSO - by Linn B. Halton


Today I'm super excited to be sharing some information and an international giveaway for this lovely book! Read on to find out more...









Some places stay with you forever… When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she's reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn't prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate's director Max Jackson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso. It's not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors? What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie's life forever.

             

 Goodreads      /       Amazon








From interior designer to author, Linn - who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman - says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Harper Impulse (Harper Collins) and Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.
Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK's Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic. Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.


Twitter   Twitter  /    Facebook    /  Amazon   Amazon







Giveaway to win a signed copy of The Secrets of Villa Rosso (Open Internationally) 


*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner.
Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.







Do you work from home, or spend long periods in front of the PC? As a writer I admit that sometimes I don’t take as many breaks as I should but here are my top tips for making my working day as pleasant as possible:

- Have a mega comfortable chair or typing stool – something your back and posture will love! 

De-clutter but have everything you need within easy reach. If necessary, have a box with a lid or pretty mugs to hold pens, stapler etc. 

Make your environment as visually attractive as you can – make it bright and go minimalist. Use colours that make you feel happy. 

On dismal, grey days brighten the room by using a sidelight that gives a soft glow. 

Ambience is everything – I use an ultrasonic diffuser. Easy to plug in, cost £12 and I add a few drops of essential oils (lavender, geranium etc) to the water. It also has an LED light which changes colour but can be switched off. 


Making your environment welcoming, colourful, fragrant and uncluttered makes a huge difference – believe me, I know! 


Thanks so much Amy for being on the tour! Much appreciated, and I will see you in July. 

 Linn x











Do you like the sound of this book? Is it something you think you'd enjoy reading? 

Hope you enjoyed this post!  

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

I, TONYA packs its punches

I, TONYA - 2017
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margot Robbie / Allison Janney / Sebastian Stan
Score: Peter Nashel.
Cinematography: Nicolas Karakatsanis.
Content Advisory: R for strong, frequent language, violence, nudity, and sexual content.
Source: Rented.


Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.



I had never heard of Tonya Harding before I heard of this movie. But Margot Robbie earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the infamous skater, and Allison Janney even won an Oscar for her role as Tonya's mother. After that happened, I was sold.


The production is beautiful. The scenes are gorgeous, the colours are rich and saturated, the sets soft and atmospheric, and the cinematography subtly powerful. The dialogue is also brilliant, and the soundtrack boasts catchy, timely song after song. 

The plot keeps you hooked from start to finish. I was gripped. It's a harrowing, ultimately tragic story, but it's also entertaining and with a dark, dry humour to it. I learnt a lot about Tonya's journey, and overall, was equally enraged and heartbroken to see how her abusive husband and mother manipulated her and her career. It's a gritty, powerful tale with a lot of heart.




The cast is sublime, and all I want to do is sing their praises. Allison Janney is excellent, just excellent, and Sebastian Stan (although slightly weak compared to the performances of the two leading ladies) holds his own.

But for me, it's Margot Robbie who steals the show. She captures Tonya's ambition and rage with intimidating ferocity, at the same time bringing out the character's intense, almost childlike vulnerability and raw femininity. One moment she's screaming, swearing at judges; the next she's just a young, lonely woman craving affirmation from her abusive mother. It's refreshing to see such a complicated anti-heroine on screen and thanks to good writing and Robbie's performance, I found myself both loving and hating Tonya in different moments of the film. She's just so dastardly human.




I, Tonya is a dark, hard hitting movie that shines scalding and objective light on the controversy surrounding Tonya Harding, as well as delving deep into her complicated personal relationships. With an excellent production and terrific actors, it's well worth a watch.

Monday, 23 July 2018

SLAY - by Kim Curran

SLAY - Kim Curran
Published: May 2018 - Usborne Publishing.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / paranormal / adventure
Pages: 304.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild fantasy violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Meet SLAY – SLAY do two things and they do them well: they play killer music and they slay killer demons.

When Milly, the lonely daughter of a world-famous opera singer, arrives home to discover that her mum has been taken over by something very evil, she finds herself in mortal danger. But the last people she expects to rescue her are the hottest boy band on the planet… Enter SLAY: playing kickass gigs in the spotlight, and saving the world from demons in the shadows… Suddenly, Milly’s on the road with JD, Tom, Niv, Zek and Connor, racing against the clock to stop the demons who killed her mum… One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a hell of a show!


If you're looking for a light, fun, adventurous tale with easy-to-root-for characters, read this little book.


It's well written, albeit a little cheesy and predictable, and the story is fast-paced, action packed, and exciting. There are many cliche scenarios we've seen so many times before, but they're also scenarios we know and love: there's the token fancy-dress event scene, where the main characters disguise as guests and have to dress up and oh how the sexual tension abounds; there's the scene where the two main characters have to hide from people and end up in a tiny enclosed space, where of course it's awkward; there's the scene where the girl is kidnapped right near the end of the book, bringing everything to a climax, and she becomes the pivotal component of The Evil Plan; and etc etc etc.

However, these are still exciting scenarios. At least I think so. They're classics for a reason. In this story, they're just as enticing and entertaining.


Slay did two things. And they did them well. 
Play killer music and kick demon butt. 
Music done. It was butt-kicking time. 


The characters are a beautiful group of soft boys and cinnamon rolls and all round broken boys in need of a hug. They're also swoony and hot, and come on - who wouldn't want to be rescued from demons by a group of young, hot rockstars who are so respectful and gentle with you? They're lovable.
I also appreciate how from the very first chapter we get a sense of who each guy is and what he's like; the author gets their personalities clear upfront, and throughout the rest of the book she simply deepens them.

The only character I feel isn't as well written as the others, is Milly. She's the average bookworm type whom every character loves and appreciates, and we've seen that kind of heroine way too often. It feels like the author kinds got lazy with Milly's character and so just sunk her into a stereotype. Yeah, she's sweet and smart, but she isn't very three dimensional or unique.




Slay is a fun, fast, and entertaining adventure with sweet, swoony characters. Think National Treasure with demons and teenagers. 
I highly recommend it! 

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Weekly What's Up - reading and writing


My holidays end tomorrow and I'm back to school :( Ugh.  

My Camp NaNo writing stalled again this week, so at the moment I doubt I'll be hitting 50k by the end of the month. My novel needs a lot of work and I've realised an unrealistic deadline isn't gonna help reduce my stress.   


Posts of the Week

I reviewed two movies in a mini review post: Tomb Raider and Game Night.

I wrote a very long review of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

I reviewed The Smoke Thieves on Goodreads.

I reviewed These Rebel Waves on Goodreads.

I reviewed Star-Touched Stories on Goodreads.


Currently Reading

Just started Ocean Light, taking it slow with The Favourite Sister, and I'm really enjoying Something in the Water.




For Review

I got this fantastic book from Penguin, and I've already finished reading it ;) Review coming soon!













Around the Blogosphere

Genni reviewed Everless

Lauren reviewed This Mortal Coil

Di reviewed These Rebel Waves

Kariny reviewed Sea Witch

Angela reviewed The Academy

Aneta reviewed Campfire

I wrote a guest post for Rebellious Writing on the topic of romanticised abuse





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

Thursday, 19 July 2018

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is ambiguous

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI - 2017
Director: Martin McDonagh.
Cast: Frances McDormand / Sam Rockwell / Woody Harrelson
Score: Carter Burwell.
Cinematography: Ben Davis.
Content Advisory: R for strong language, violence, and sexual references.
Source: Rented.


A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.



It's won Oscars. It's won Golden Globes. It's received numerous award nominations. It's also sparked intense controversy and fueled fierce social media discourse. It goes without saying that I was very interested to watch this movie.


The soundtrack is a wealth of intelligently chosen musical pieces - although at first they may seem like odd choices, they do actually work. For example, who'd have thought that ABBA's "Chiquitita" would work for a harrowing scene where a building is set on fire and a man gets severely burnt? It's pure genius.
I also love how music isn't always used. Some scenes are better because of it. Silence is powerful, and this film proves it better than most.

The use of colour is amazing. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I love that particular scene where McDormand's character is getting interviewed in front of her billboards, and the red of the boards behind her just immediately ties to the subtle red of her shirt poking out from under her overalls. Or the scene where she's sitting outside talking to Woody Harrelson's character, and the shot isolates her so all you can see is the bright green of the land behind her and the blue of her overalls matching the piercing blue of her eyes. It's scenes like that that make me go "Wow", because I can tell that serious thought has gone into composing that shot. It's cinematic art, really. It's inspiring to watch.

The editing is also incredible. The dialogue is superb. The direction is flawless. Overall, the production of this film is absolutely brilliant.




The actors take on their characters with a shocking authenticity. They suck you right into their world, as if they're gripping you by your throat. They simply command the screen. And no one more than McDormand, who is every inch worthy of her Oscar win.

The characters are all well written. Everyone is three dimensional, everyone is real and human and deeply flawed and hurting, and they all have histories and pains and desires. There's also some top-notch character development. I love how we see the good and bad of every character, and how we watch the characters change and grow and learn. They're far from perfect, but they're human. They're antiheroes we can relate to.

It's breathtaking to watch these characters' personalities lead the plot. It's harsh and at the same time beautifully profound to watch McDormand and the writers encapsulate a woman's - a mother's - rage, and let its ripples loose on a torn up community. It's a rage so tangible and so well handled. It's thought-provoking, and it's relatable.

Relationships also play a big role in this story. There are plenty of messy, complicated dynamics between people, and these relationships are invaluable when it comes to the characters' roundness. They shape the characters, and the writers do an incredible job of showing character through the characters around the character. If that makes sense?




But as good as this movie is, it unfortunately also has its issues. I'm going to list them because it's the best way I can try to explain my thoughts.

- The ending. After an amazing movie, I was expecting an amazing ending. I was expecting to find out who had raped and killed the daughter, and I was expecting justice to be served. But maybe I was missing the point...

Honestly, I've been back and forth about this ending ever since I watched it. The way the film ends is this: Mildred and Dixon team up to go kill a suspected rapist, not the one who killed Mildred's daughter but who is definitely guilty of some crime involving another girl. While driving, however, they both admit to each other that they're not sure they'll be able to follow through. The film leaves us with that - with no conclusive answers, no justice, and no solutions.

My first reaction was one of fury. I didn't want to be left hanging, and I wanted to know who had raped and killed that poor girl. I wanted to know who he was and I wanted justice.  But since then, I've been thinking about the ending more and more. I've read articles, and I've read what the movie's writer has to say of how he ended his film: “It was about not wrapping up the story with a bow, not finding the solution and that person getting his comeuppance and all of that, because the story is more about change than it is about solutions.” 
He has a point. The characters in this movie do terrible things and they often aren't punished. Yet the movie never excuses this, never says that it's okay. The characters are people who deserve justice, but unfortunately, at this stage, we don't see them getting it. Solutions aren't given.
Looking at where Mildred and Dixon are at the end of the movie is quite astonishing; the two sworn enemies are actually talking, they're actually teaming up, and Dixon shows that he has a heart after all. As far as character goes, we're seeing incredible development. And maybe that's what the ending is about. It's about the characters finding a kind of peace within a terrible situation and it's about them changing.

On one hand, I respect how it ended and I can totally see what the writer was trying to do. On the other hand, it is still a movie, and a movie tells a story. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and a story should follow through on the promises it's made to an audience. The way this movie leaves it, the story is incomplete. We still don't know who killed the daughter, and we don't know what the two main characters are going to do about it. Is it satisfying? No. But have the characters growth and changed, while the world's still trash around them? Yes. 

-  Unrealistic no consequences. In the film, Dixon beats a man and tosses him out of a window. He also punches a woman in the face. In both cases, his actions are exposed to a gathered crowd, including the police chief. Another scene in the movie has Mildred setting fire to the police building, which so happens to have Dixon inside of it (he survives, but is badly burned). In this case, the police chief asks Mildred and another man on the scene - not in so many words -  if they were involved. They give a weak excuse. And that's that. The chief doesn't push it further.

Now that's just plain unrealistic. Dixon beating a man and hitting a woman is assault, and yet he's not even arrested. The worst thing that happens is that he's fired from his job as a cop. That's it. But he beats these two people up in front of witnesses and the incident is totally glossed over! That is not realistic! Putting aside the fact that yes, we would've liked to have seen him arrested (again, the movie isn't so much about solutions, so while it never excuses the bad behaviour, it doesn't always punish it), it's unrealistic because there's no reason why the police chief didn't arrest him. We're not even given a reason why he might've been let off. Same with Mildred's setting fire to the building. Any good police chief would not have let her weak alibi slide, he would've pressed further. But in this instance, he doesn't! I can look past the fact that their actions should've been punished, but I find it hard to look past the fact they weren't. If that makes sense? Within the story, the no-consequences just isn't sold well.



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an intense, gritty drama that hooks you from its opening scene. It's fueled by well rounded characters and topical issues, and is brilliantly written and stunningly presented. 
But the ending is inconclusive. There are also a number of small issues that take away from the otherwise solid story.