Lavinia’s Book of the Month: June

As you can see from my shameful lateness, I’m still catching up with these (it’s been a mad summer in the Collins household) but here it is, June’s Book of the Month, which can be found in its original form here. 

everyday sexism.jpgEveryday Sexism – Laura Bates

June’s Book of the Month is (!) a non-fiction book.

This book was lent to me by a kind and beloved friend, and I thought it would just be everything I knew, set out in nice neat statistic form. I’ve seen Laura Batestalk, and she presents a very clear-cut case. She’s angry – of course she is – and utterly sick of this shit, but she’s calm. Ordered. Logical. This book is the same. Broken up sensibly into neat categories and set out with factoids and headings, it is a very rational book.

I found it quite emotional to read. I expected to a little, but I was surprised by the toll certain sections took. Would I say it was a fun read? No, I don’t think I would, but it is an important one. To tackle a problem that affects all of us – because sexism is not just women’s problem – we must see it for what it is. Systemic.

You’ll love this book if:
– You’ve been dismissed in one too many conversations and told that ‘feminism is irrelevant’
– You don’t mind looking hard facts in the face
– You want to be armed with cold hard info the next time you get into an internet dispute with a Reddit neckbeard (jk; they don’t care about info)

You might want to avoid this book if:
– You are sensitive to sexual violence and harrassment triggers
– You have ever unironically used the #notallmen hashtag

Lavinia’s Book of the Month: May

So, obviously I’m a little behind on these. Partly that’s because I write them for my friends, Chapter and Verse Reviews (lovely people who always support indie authors), and they run them first, partly because I have not been as organised as perhaps I should have been. Please accept my apologies and enjoy May’s book of the month! 

Every month, our friend Lavinia Collins is going to share with you a book she’s read and recommends. As Lavinia has been busy with the release of the last part of her Queen of the North trilogy, and with the upcoming paperback edition of the series, we’ve decided to put her May and June choices back-to-back.

The Edible Woman– Margaret Atwood

edible woman.jpgAn oldie, but a goodie. The Edible Woman is one of the older and less well-known of Atwood’s works, but it is by far my favourite. I’m slightly cheating because I re-read it rather than read it for the first time this month, but here it is.

The Edible Woman tells the story of Marian, a woman who works at a survey company and is engaged to Peter, a boring man who likes to have sex in the (dry) bathtub. She tries to run away from him (literally), is collected, scolded for being silly, and returns to her life. But the quiet frustrations of everyday sexism – microaggressions, perhaps we could call them now – wriggle under her skin, and Marian finds herself going progressively off her food.

The Edible Woman is a wonderful book, because it is so subtle. All of the little niggles and digs are small and everyday. There is nothing wrong per se with Peter. There is nothing wrong per se with Marian’s life. There’s something about her frustration which is so real, and something about the way it manifests – in the quiet refusal of more and more food – that is at once so real and immediate and so keyed in to a tradition hundreds of years old of women silently objecting to their circumstances by refusing to eat, from fasting nuns in the early middle ages to suffragettes in the early twentieth century. When you can’t control anything else, you can refuse to eat.

This book is also so much more than a feminist parable. It’s funny, it’s light, it’s ambiguous at the end – we are left with the question: who is trying to consume whom?

I would highly recommend this as a first Atwood for anyone who is yet to read her, one for Atwood lovers, and one to re-read. It’s perhaps the most mundane of her works in terms of subject matter (most similar in tone to Cat’s Eye), but in this ordinary setting she achieves so much. I cannot recommend this book enough.

You’ll love this book if:
– You like humour with an edge
– You have ever been a woman

You might want to avoid this book if:
– You secretly (or indeed openly) hate women

The Guy Ritchie King Arthur Trailer – Excitement and an important question…!

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Here it is! The first glimpse of the latest King Arthur movie (I heard the rumours before and I was excited then). Here’s the trailer for anyone who hasn’t seen it:

Now, I am still excited. I see you there, fire-weilding Jude Law Vortigern – what is your deal? I simply must know. But I have some concerns. Indeed, I wouldn’t say that the trailer has dampened my excitement, but it has confirmed a few worries I had about the film in the first place. The big one being:

Where are all the women? 

You can see one creepy sorceress woman (bet you £5 that’s Morgan le Fay), and that’s about it. There’s lots of men with those particularly Ritchiesque mockney accents making glib comments, some pretty stunning looking CGI and a lot of fightin’, but no women.

I mean, this is fairly typical of Ritchie’s oevre. A passer of the bechdel test he ain’t. So I wasn’t surprised. But it is disappointing when the sausage-fest that is medieval literature manages to provide a more nuanced and gender-balanced version of the myth than this trailer seems to suggest (and I look forward to being proved wrong when I sit my sweet ass down in the cinema to watch it). The women of Arthurian literature are many, complex and just as prominent, especially for writers like Malory, as the men. It will be a little disappointing if it turns out that this has been consciously excised (for there is no other explanation for their absence, other than making this a “man’s film for men”) from a twenty-first century version.

Now before you say it’s a tough-as-nails King Arthur with a gritty modern twist so there’s no room for women, just sit yourself down a minute. I could see a very tough and gritty Morgan, Morgawse or indeed Guinevere in a version like this. Perhaps I will. Perhaps in the cinema I will weep with joy. I hope so.

Watch this space for a review when it hits the screens!

Why Pokémon Go is the perfect game for writers

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pokemon-go.pngI (am supposed to) spend all my day inside writing, how can a walking around game catching little monsters be good for me?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I absolutely loved Pokémon when it first came out. I caught them all – including a rather dodgy mew downloaded from a friend’s gameshark cheat cartridge, about which I still feel immensely guilty.

The arrival and manic rise of Pokémon go is both terrifying for city-dwellers watching Pokémon players trying to cross the road and something of an irresistible opporunity to wander around when you should be working, looking for imaginary pokémon in local parks etc. etc. Why not make your walk to work twice as long? Think of all the pokémon!

3c19f3282c76463a22ea8ad97ae8ca29When you sit down all day worrying about what words are going on the page, something silly that takes you back to being a child is just the job to get you out of your seat and rustling in the long grass (/ walking around anywhere off-road). I went for a run the other day, just for the purpose of hatching an egg. My game froze so it was all pointless (I mean, apart from exercise), but I left the house! I felt the sun!

I’ve seen a lot of worry online and among my friends about the evil of this augmented reality game, but they’re not going to end up being a Pokémaster with that attitude, are they?

Fun that gets me out and about? Yes please. Gotta catch ’em all.

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*NEWS* A FRAGILE CROWN FREE *NEWS*

Grab it while you can! A Fragile Crown, the second instalment of the Morgawse: Queen of the North trilogy is completely free for your kindle!

This ‘sexy medieval psychology class’ and ‘highly charged romantic extravaganza’ recovers the untold story of Queen Morgawse.

Ruthlessly dismissed from Camelot by King Arthur, Morgawse returns to Lothian Castle with her sister, Morgan. Her pregnancy remains a delicate secret from her vile and domineering husband, Lot. But he is endlessly suspicious, and discovers her swelling belly. Fuming with anger, he pledges war on King Arthur to regain what he considers the only thing worth living for – honour.

Lavinia’s Book of the Month: April

(Reblogged – quite a few months after the fact! – from Chapter and Verse Reviews)

The Lady and the Unicorn – Tracy Chevalier

Just like her famous novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Chevalier’s The Lady and the Unicorn imagines the female muses behind the bewitching and beautiful Lady and the Unicorn tapestries now in Paris’s Musée de Cluny. If you haven’t seen the tapestries, you really should: they’re gorgeous.

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In The Lady and the Unicorn we switch between multiple perspectives: Nicholas, the artist; Claude, the daughter of the patron and one of the figures Chevalier suggests that the tapestry depicts; her mother, the inspiration for some of the other figures; and characters at the Brussels lissier that weaves the tapestries, including Alienor, the weaver’s blind daughter who loves her garden and can feel colours in the wool.

The book is pacy, sensory and engrossing. Just as the tapestries themselves potentially express the senses of sight, taste, touch and smell, the book is loaded with sensuous and sensory description. Nicholas is the most beguiling character – a swaggering artist and incorrigible slut, he is nonetheless able to charm the reader as much as the various women who fail to see through the self-interest in his charms. Chevalier gets the balance just right – Nicholas is a jerk, but he’s a jerk you can’t help but love. Perhaps it’s something to do with his seemingly supernatural ability to bring even the nervous virgins he encounters to the giddy heights of pleasure without too much of an effort (!). This is a far cry from the rather wide-eyed ingenue Griet in Girl with a Pearl Earring – and in my personal opinion is much more charming.

I completely adored this book. It was over too quickly, but that was because I couldn’t put it down. I love these tapestries, and I loved Chevalier’s imagining of their production. From my perspective, a must-read!

lady and the unicorn chevalier.jpgYou’ll love this book if:
– You like historical fiction
– You like romance
– You like books
– You can read

You might want to avoid this book if:
– You have no taste

lavinia collins authorLove Lavinia xoxo
Find this book on Amazon

Moments in a writer’s day, expressed with cats.

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Done my research, ready to work. 

8am. It’s a writing day. Excellent news! Today you will indulge your creative self, you will get loads done and feel amazing. But first, to see what is on Buzzfeed.

 

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Just five more minutes writing time! 

8am. It is not a writing day. It is a day when you have to do your other job, but you woke up with a great idea, and you’ll just write for a minute. Fifteen minutes tops. Now you’ve missed the bus.

 

12pm. It’s a writing day. You haven’t started yet, but the day is your oyster. Also you still have to watch next week’s game of thrones, which might obliquely be inspiring to your own work.

 

Looking out for co-workers reading over the shoulder. 

12pm. It’s not a writing day. Your lunch break comes around, and you try to jot down everything you thought of during the day, but a co-worker comes by and you have to pretend you were reading Buzzfeed like a churl.

 

 

3pm. It’s a writing day. You are reading Buzzfeed again.

3pm. It’s not a writing day. You are writing, even though you should be working.

 

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Time for a treat. 

7pm. It’s a writing day. You re-read everything you wrote last week and make a few minor changes. This is hard work. You reward yourself with wine.

7pm. It’s a non writing day. You are still writing. Your eyes hurt from the screen (or perhaps your hand hurts from the pen?? #oldskool). You have piles of busywork you have ignored and will do at 10.

10pm. Inspiration strikes! You reward yourself with wine, and instantly feel sleepy.

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You know you should stop. 

10pm. You are still writing. Soon it will be 2am, and tomorrow you have to go back to work.

Are you a British Citizen, or an EU Migrant? Take this historically accurate* test.

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Next step: Fight the Grockles for our independence. 

Now that we are breaking up with the EU (sad times) I have devised for you, my beloved readers, a completely scientific and accurate test to help you determine whether you have secretly been an EU migrant all along. I have consulted our great nation’s finest historians (John of Fordun and geoffrey of monmouth – representing three British states between them, just for balance) to give you a complete history of EU (and non-EU) migration to Britain, so that you can determine for yourselves whether you are British enough to belong.

In the beginning, Britain was uninhabited.

First to arrive on this sceptred isle was Albina, giving it the name Alba. Albina and her sisters (who in some accounts are Greek first EU Migrant alert but might also be Syrian non EU migrant alert) come to Britain after murdering their husbands.

But oh no! They’re all women! How will they live? Happily, devils, incubi or demons of some kind are on hand to help. Albina and her sisters copulate with the demons and give birth to…

The Giants. The first British natives. Hurrah for them. This green and pleasant land is theirs.

But oh no! Another Migrant is on the horizon. This time, it is Brutus, one of the Trojan remnant, fleeing from his fallen city. Historians now think that Troy was situated in Turkey. Brutus was not an EU migrant, then, but one from one of those wicked countries that wants to join the EU, and he killed all the native giants, thereby taking their jobs and their benefits, and made the island his own, naming it Britain after himself.

Simultaneously, two more migrants rear their ugly heads. The Greek prince Gædel Glas (EU Migrant!) and his Egyptian wife Scota (non-EU Migrant) are sent into exile and come first to Ireland, giving the people they leave there his name as Gaels, and then on to Scotland, from whence the people are known as Scots.

The Britons, Gaels and Scots (and Picts and etc. etc.) all live happily until along come The Romans. These are most definitely EU Migrants. They bring awful things like literacy, roads, sanitation and brick houses. We hate them.

After the Romans come the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. These are also EU Migrants. They take everyone’s jobs and only leave us with Beowulf in return, which most people don’t even “get” anyway.

Just when all of that settles down, along comes the greatest EU Migration of all. William the Conqueror (that French bastard with his croissants and delicious cheese and laissez-faire attitude to sexual morality) invades, takes over England (some say Britain, Scottish histories disagree…) and really does take the jobs off all the natives and give them to his fancy friends.

So there you have it, up to the date of the last major invasion. Of course we also have Danish raiding and settling (more EU Migrants) throughout the early middle ages.

So, how do you know if you’re a British national? That’s dead easy.

Are you a giant? If so. You’re golden. They’re the only peoples who are truly “native”.

*  According to medieval history… https://laviniacollins.com/2014/03/17/blurred-lines-history-and-fiction/

Today is a Sad Day

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boaty mcboatface.pngAs anyone who follows this blog might be aware, I voted to remain in the EU. I believe in the EU, in the value of shared sovereignty, cooperation, international community and free movement.

Today, by a slim margin, my country voted to leave.

Before you cry it’s a decisive majority, just consider this. If 52% were a decisive majority we would all be living under the matriarchy right now.

I’m sad. I’m angry. But not at the people who voted for the Brexit. In fact, one of the things that’s making me sad is all the tweets, facebook messages and blog posts I can see blaming the older generation (who did proportionally vote to leave, I do agree) and expressing hatred and divisiveness. Already apportioning blame.

Blame won’t change anything. The decision is made. Now is not the time to tear ourselves to pieces. I also say that as a paid-up member of the Labour Party. With one major political party acephalous before 9am today, a second leadership contest will weaken us even further.

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The pound has fallen off the cliff. Anyone with money tied up in stocks and shares – particularly in banks – saw their savings shrunk by up to 30% in some cases. Everything is uncertain.

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I don’t blame the Brexit voters. What’s galling is the lies. Farage already backtracking on the NHS pledge. Because of course he is. The numbers of the Brexit campaign were either egregious falsehoods or compiled by people who were out of touch with the facts. A campaign that began only as Boris Johnson’s power-grab forced a referendum, which he then fuelled with hate-filled rhetoric of division and fear.

I am so immensely sad. I am so incredibly angry that things have turned out this way. I believed in unity over division, shared responsibility over individualism, and Europe. Right now, I want to move to Scotland. Someone up there, please have me to stay.

 

Here’s Why I’m Voting to Remain

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I’ve already mentioned on the blog that I am pro-Europe, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but tomorrow on the 23rd of June I’m voting to remain in the EU, and I think you should, too. Here’s why:

We need migrants.
The UK has an ageing population and an NHS under strain. The argument that there would be more money for the NHS in an independent Britain is somewhat moot given that a. our leaders would have to make the decision to siphon that money into the NHS and b. the figures are somewhat vague anyway. What our NHS needs is more nurses, more custodial staff, and generally more young people caring for the ageing. Migrants give us working-age people, willing to do the jobs that many British nationals sniff at. It is my belief that migrants are a positive force.

The EU protects scholarship, human rights, and our national security.
Currently, the arts and humanities in the UK benefit not only from UK research grants, but also EU-wide grants. We can travel and study in other countries. We can work there. Free moment is a positive force in scholarship, culture and the arts, the areas in which I work.

We also have the European Bill of Human Rights. Now, we still have human rights if we leave, but read that bill and tell me if there’s anything you think you’d not mind living  without.

A bigger, united Europe is more powerful. Things as they are, I’d say that’s only a good thing.

An EU-Britain is much more democratic than a non-EU Britain.
There’s a lot of bandying about the idea that the EU is ‘non-democratic’. This is, categorically, nonsense. OUr leaders and MEPs represent us in Brussels just like our local MPs represent us in Westminster. We voted for them. They all vote together. The difference? The pool of people voting is larger. That’s it. That’s democracy – you don’t always get what you want. It’s a mandate from the people, and the more people who vote for something, the more likely it is to happen.

What is undemocratic is the British Monarchy and the House of Lords. Is Rupert Murdoch influencing Downing Street. He himself has said that he wants to leave the EU because he does not have personal influence in Brussels. The larger a federation of states, the harder it is to corrupt. Shared power is always a good thing. I am anxious about a “Brexit” future where our government is held hostage by the super-rich.

I believe in togetherness.
I love Europe. I consider myself a European citizen. I travel. I have friends who live there. I have friends born elsewhere in the EU that live here. Together is better. Is the EU perfect? No. Would an independent Britain magically become perfect? Also no. But we’ve got a darn sight more chance of fixing things together.

 

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