BookTube-A-Thon 2017: TBR

Hello everyone,

After a brief hiatus, I’m back on YouTube with a rather ambitious TBR for this year’s BookTube-A-Thon. I’d love to hear what you’re hoping to read soon, whether or not you’re taking part in BookTube-A-Thon so do let me know in the comments section.

To find out more about BookTube-A-Thon, head to their YouTube channel. Anyone can take part, you don’t have to be a BookTuber/Book Blogger etc.

Betsy x

Bookish Betsy Reviews: Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser

A few weeks ago, I was sent a copy of Paulina & Fran by Granta Books as part of their Pride Series, celebrating LGBTQ+ literature. Today was London Pride, a particularly apt time to discuss this theme. Glaser’s novel follows the eponymous protagonists from their heady art school days in New England to them trying to forge lives for themselves in New York as adults. Paulina is large, mouthy and intimidating while Fran is timid, bland and strange-looking. All they appear to have in common is their curly hair, something Paulina treats with particular reverence, which will prove very significant towards the end of the novel.

The hapless pair form an unlikely alliance on a trip to Norway, bonded by their mutual sense of being cool in a sea of undesirables. Museums are eschewed in favour of shared fantasies of a threesome with an imaginary Norwegian warrior called Blood Axe. Paulina’s effervescent, outlandish personality seems to appeal to the shier, somewhat more studious Fran, whose own artistic ambitions begin to fall by the wayside. Paulina has long given up on pursuing a career in the arts, favouring a Dom Juan-esque series of sexual conquests, including the very public pursuit of Tim, an already spoken for fellow student.

The girls’ improbable friendship crumbles when Fran takes in interest in Julian, Paulina’s recently rejected boyfriend. Fran does not seem to mind taking sloppy seconds from Paulina but Paulina forms an all-consuming attachment to Julian after the fact, wanting what she can no longer have. Their relationship soon descends into childish enmity, spearheaded by Paulina’s loathsome behaviour, leaving Fran unable to understand what has changed between them. There is, however, a very thin line between love and hate, as Fran finds out after a steamy encounter with Paulina in a dingy bathroom at a rather debauched house party, typical of many they attend in the novel.

Neither of the girls are particularly likeable or easy to identify with, which renders the story rather remote. I found myself not particularly caring what happened to the pair, aside from rooting for Fran to regain some of her abandoned artistic ambitions. Paulina arguably goes on to achieve more worldly success, but only after a spell of homelessness, hitting the proverbial rock-bottom. Fran, on the other hand, is lost in a sea of mediocrity. This paints a bleak picture as to the value of an arts education, certainly to the more cynical reader, something I do not agree with but instead put down to the girls’ rather selfish, vacuous natures.

Glaser does, however, explore particularly acutely the confusion that arises from Fran’s sexual awakening. She is not as comfortable with her own sexuality as Paulina. This may provoke sympathy in readers where her other characteristics have failed to do so. This also renders her more realistic, Paulina reads more like a female pastiche of Alfie as played by Jude Law in the 2004 film of the same name. The book is very much a case of opposites attract but Paulina and Fran also repel one another in equal measure. It’s fascinating to snatch a glimpse into their rather shallow lives but theirs isn’t a world I would want to linger in for too long.

You can buy a copy of the book here.

Bookish Betsy Reviews: Protest: Stories of Resistance for Disclaimer Magazine

Hello everyone,

I recently reviewed Comma Press’s fantastic new release Protest: Stories of Resistance (ed. Ra Page) for Disclaimer magazine. You can read my review here. It is a fantastic collection historical fiction short stories, written by leading names, such as David Constantine, Maggie Gee and Kit de Wall, in collaboration with leading experts and eyewitnesses. The book spans the Middle Ages to the present day and provides much food for thought. It is a must-read and one of my favourite books so far this year, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

You can buy a copy of Protest here.

Betsy x

Candid Chat over a Cuppa | ft. June Wrap Up

Hi everyone,

I’m experimenting with a new, chatty, more informal format in today’s video so do let me know your thoughts on it. I cover topics from mental health to identifying as LGBTQ+ in the chatty side of the video, before getting into the books I read this June. Do like, share and subscribe if you enjoy my videos.

Thanks for watching!

Betsy x

The Rapid Fire Book Tag

Hi everyone,

I’m on a bit of a video-making roll at the moment! The latest of which is my take on the Rapid Fire Book Tag, do give it a watch to see me respond to some quick fire bookish questions. As always, remember to like, share & subscribe if you enjoy my videos.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Betsy x

 

 

 

Huge June Book Haul & Currently Reading

Hello again everyone,

I’m on a bit of a blog post roll today! I thought I’d share with you my latest YouTube video, which is a haul of all the books I managed to accumulate this June, as well as a sneak peak into what I’m currently reading and working on. I hope you enjoy it! Remember to like, share and subscribe if you enjoy my videos. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Betsy x

Bookish Betsy Reviews: A Passing Fury by A.T. Williams

Hello everyone,

A while ago I reviewed A.T. Williams’s A Passing Fury: Searching for Justice at the End of the World War Two for The Bookbag, a book review website, and it completely slipped my mind to post a link on my blog! So here is a belated link, you can read my review here. If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book, you can do so here.

Very best wishes to you all,

Betsy x

Bookish Betsy Reviews: The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha

Hi everyone,

I’ve collaborated with the lovely people over at The Bookbag again to bring you a review of Martha Batalha’s The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, translated from Brazilian Portuguese to English by Eric M. B. Becker. You can check out my review on The Bookbag website here.

The book will be published by Oneworld Publications in the UK on 7th September 2017. You can pre-order a copy of the book here.

I hope you’re all well, I wish you all a great reading month this coming July!

Betsy x

Bookish Betsy Reviews: Tourist by Andrea Stuart (in Granta Issue 129)

Today marks the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal moment in LGBTQ+ history. A few weeks ago, I was sent Issue 129 of Granta Magazine in order to review this piece. I thought today would be a fitting day to let you know my thoughts on Andrea Stuart’s piece ‘Tourist.’

Andrea Stuart grew up in the Caribbean and moved to England, where she still lives, at the age of 14 in 1976. This piece reads like a memoir, peppered with delicious imagery and extended metaphors. The most notable of these is that of the eponymous ‘tourist,’ a term often used by the lesbian community with somewhat derogatory connotations to describe what they perceive to be a heterosexual woman dabbling in their lifestyle. In fact, Stuart was herself referred to as one by Carla, her first openly lesbian partner. However, Stuart goes on to recognise that in a certain sense she was indeed a tourist, uninitiated in the ways of a community previously alien to her. Arguably, we all go through transitional phases like these in our lives, negotiating one’s place in the gay scene is just one of this situation.

The nineties sound like a delightful decade of sexual liberation and experimentation. However, Stuart notes that many lesbians were still not out in their personal and professional lives. Heteronormativity still reigned supreme, indicated by Stuart’s own mother declaring, ‘Of course you prefer women; everyone prefers women. You just can’t marry them,’ when her daughter finally comes out to her. Now in the 2010s, in a post-marriage equality world, in some countries at least, the LGBTQ+ community still grapples with similar assumptions. The fight that came to a head at Stonewall is still not over, far from over in fact. This makes for very relatable reading.

The piece brims with a rich sense of intertextuality, Stuart appears most inspired by the work of French writer Colette, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. Here is a young intellectual, ardent queer feminist seeking her place in the world, looking to her predecessors for affirmation of some kind. She finds it to a degree in Freud, in Blake but never more so than in Colette’s sense of ‘virile femininity.’ Here is a woman reclaiming what it means to be a woman and that includes her sexuality. Sexuality and the third wave of the Feminist movement were very much intertwined, a shift to lesbian or bisexual relationships represented for many ‘a direct or indirect attack on the male right of access to women,’ and a rejection of the housewife lifestyle to which women had been tethered for centuries.

Alongside this new landscape, there is an accompanying set of unwritten rules and even unfamiliar language. Stuart grapples with what we would now call ‘femme’ representation, that is a lesbian woman who presents herself and dresses in a more conventionally feminine way, as opposed to the ‘butch’ who favours a masculine presentation or the many shades of androgyny that lie in between the two. Stuart notes that the 1980s and 1990s marked the rise of the so-called ‘lipstick lesbian,’ that she picked her timing right in terms of being able to forge herself a space within the lesbian community. Lesbian woman had for so long adhered to dress codes and such like to indicate their sexual orientation in a covert manner and now suddenly lesbian women could express themselves in different ways, or were at least beginning to do so. There was no one type, something certain circles still ought to bear in mind today.

There are many endearing passages that recall the fumbling stage of new love. As early on as the first line, Stuart notes: ‘The first time I was spooned by another woman I could not sleep. I was used to the contours of men.’ Lines such as this will be familiar to many who have first sought to adhere to the societal norm of heterosexual relationships before experimenting with the same sex, whether they go on to identify with labels such as lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, straight, anything else or nothing at all. Stuart recognises a sense of fluidity within female sexuality that is not often discussed but to which I’m sure many readers will relate. Stuart seeks to capture this ‘burgeoning spark’ and does so with beautifully evocative language.

She also notes that a few decades on, her own current, long term lesbian relationship in many ways mirrors ‘a rather conventional familial structure, except with two women as heads of the household,’ but the irony and paradoxical nature of this is not lost on her. Though one could also argue that such equality of this is the ultimate way of undermining the traditional structures that underpinned traditional society, by emulating it in radically different contexts that previous generations would have lambasted as outrageous. Is not equality, after all, the end goal of the Feminist movement? All these years on, we are still far from attaining this equality in many areas including, but not limited to, women’s rights and gay rights. We need more voices like Stuart’s to remind us of this, especially in our current hypersexualised society, in which mainstream pornography often portrays sex between women in a reductive way, designed purely to titillate men. Should we not still strive to reclaim our own sexual and gender identities, just as the women Stuart describes did in the 1980s and 1990s? I for one, definitely think we should.

Summer Reading

Hello everyone,

Happy belated Summer Solstice! Yesterday, on the longest day of the year (well, in the Northern hemisphere at least), I decided to do the Summer Reading tag. It’s a time of year when many of us plan (or at least hope!) to read more so it’s a great time to talk about all things books. Let’s face it, when isn’t a good time to talk about all things books?!

What will you be reading over the summer? Do let me know in the comments section. Remember to like, share & subscribe if you enjoy my videos.

Betsy x