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Goblin Market

My Thoughts

My goodness, what a beautiful and surprising poem this is. The Goblin Market is a classic poem filled to the brim with enchanting rhymes and fairytale-like imagery. It tells the story of a pair of sisters as they encounter goblin men selling fruit. The story is a clear allegory about temptation and has a strong moral lesson about the value and strength of a sister.

“For there is no friend like a sister In calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, To fetch one if one goes astray, To lift one if one totters down, To strengthen whilst one stands.”

This poem has been interpreted several different ways: the wickedness of men, drug addiction, a criticism of marriage and capitalism in the Victorian era, you name it. While it’s difficult to say for sure since the poem is intentionally ambiguous about the meaning, for myself personally it gave me the impression of being about the loss of innocence.

The young girls that ate the fruit became shells of who they were, bringing to mind the “fallen woman” trope from Victorian England. This trope harshly judges female promiscuity and the social belief that a woman’s sexuality should be reserved for their husbands. Marriage is brought up a few times in the poem as part of the natural order, while the goblin men and their succulent fruit were dangerous because they only appeared to un-ruined young maidens.

“She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died”

The prose is lyrical and reads like a children’s nursery rhyme but whether or not it is appropriate for younger audiences is a little blurry, even from the author. The poem is dark and sinister at varying points and deals pretty directly with addiction and death. I felt that the imagery was a little too sexual to be appropriate for younger readers.

All in all, this was a magical poem that I really enjoyed. It’s easy to read in one sitting and the book is beautifully illustrated. It’s an interesting piece to study both for poetry as an art form but also for the era within which it was written. It’s one that I can comfortably recommend for anyone that likes fairy tales.

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The Hate U Give

My Thoughts

WOW. I’ve seen so much talk about this book and I was fearful that it wouldn’t live up to the hype but how wrong I was to worry. The Hate U Give is absolutely astounding and is one of the best debut novels I’ve read in a long time. This is such a great book about the teen experience in America and covers an extremely wide range of topics – the black lives matter movement, police brutality, racism, activism, gang violence, drug abuse, interracial dating, consent, infidelity, relationship violence, blended families, the duality between the hood and suburban life, the list goes on and on.

The story starts with Starr witnessing the shooting of a childhood friend, Khalil, who was a drug dealer and a little bit of a THUG. The book challenges the reader’s perception of the “thugs” that we hear about every day in the media and reminds us that most are unarmed victims in these police shootings. It was startlingly honest about the way in which gangs can be so pervasive in disenfranchised communities, and how often young men just trying to survive find themselves trapped time and time again with little choice if they want to keep food on the table.

“I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve Tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.”

Many of the characters in the book are morally grey, most were simply good people who maybe do some very bad things. Here’s the thing though, just because a person does some bad things, does that mean they’re all bad, rotten to the core? Does that mean that their lives matter any less than anyone else’s? Is there hope for redemption, for an escape from the suffocating grasp of a society that has turned its back on the young people that need understanding and help the most? This is the crux of the dialogue that The Hate U Give brings to the table and it is unflinching in its honesty.

I also appreciated that the book recognized that there is still a great deal of prejudice against interracial relationships. People from the Garden pass judgment on Starr for having a white boyfriend, and his whiteness is brought up often. Starr feels the need to hide her relationship with him to avoid stepping on toes and it is so incredibly true to life and really showed that racism is a complex and multi-layered beast.

I loved The Hate U Give, it is both hopeful and heartbreaking and I haven’t sobbed so much reading a book in a long time. If you haven’t read the book yet I strongly urge you to do so, it is a timely story about the racial tension that still seethes under the surface in a post-civil rights America.

Warnings: violence, racism, domestic abuse

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Women & Power: A Manifesto

My Thoughts

Women & Power is a pair of essays by classicist Mary Beard and it is a great example of how history can provide context for the present day. The author does a phenomenal job linking Greek and Roman mythology to present-day attitudes toward women in power. She dissects the tradition of viewing public speech as a defining male trait.

Beard offers a compelling argument about the way that public speech has been tied to power and by extension masculinity since ancient times. It’s an interesting idea to consider and her essays are well researched, using examples from a multitude of famous phrases, mythology, and plays to back up her assertions. I also liked the present-day examples of the way that different female world leaders either adopt or subvert this idea of power being inherently masculine.

“For a start it doesn’t much matter what line you take as a woman, if you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It is not what you say that prompts it, it’s simply the fact that you’re saying it.”

The book goes further by discussing the abuses doled out by both the media and internet trolls toward any public statement made by women, even referencing some of the harassment that Beard has suffered personally. I was unaware of this and had to do some research on my own, so it would have been nice to know about the events that Beard was referencing within the essays themselves. I don’t like essays that assume that the reader is already familiar with the author.

All in all a fast and thought-provoking read, excellent for anyone interested in feminism and classics. I completed this book in one sitting and highlighted many passages as it gave me a lot of concepts to chew on. My only minor gripes are that this subject deserves so much more time and detail, and I wouldn’t call this book much of a manifesto. It also is politically liberal, which was just fine for me but I know it will push some readers away from a book that I think could be really beneficial for education.

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The Wood

My Thoughts

Winter hails from a line of guardians that protect the space between worlds, a guardian of time. She is raised to fulfill her destiny as another guardian of the mysterious wood, to lead travelers safely back to their own time periods and stop anyone that would use the power of the wood to alter time and space. However there are rules that every guardian must follow, because the wood was never a place meant for mortals. The idea behind the wood, the guardians, and the magic system in this novel is truly unique and I enjoyed the world building. The wood came alive as both this beautiful but also monstrous thing and it instills this feeling that it’s so much bigger than the guardians or the council that watches over it.

The book discusses several key themes that I thought were presented really well through the characters. The importance of fulfilling one’s duty even if their destiny is not something that they want. The desire for a sense of normalcy in any way that you can get it. Of dealing with grief and the strength of family and friends. How love can be this all-consuming passion that makes a person feel alive but can also obliterate the life that they have, how love can be just as selfish as it is fulfilling.

“It was more exciting back then, before I realized what this destiny really was. A prison sentence.”

Winter’s best friend Meredith was a little annoying and stereotypical, but I found her to be a necessary part of the story because she is a representation of “normal” teen life whereas Winter will always be an outsider. Now there is some romance in the novel, because there is always one when it comes to young adult fantasy, and initially I had gripes with it since it seemed to be a distraction next to everything else going on. I ended up giving in as the story progressed later on though because it was thankfully not a central aspect of the story and even served to support the discussion of love and duty explored in the book. It also helps that I adored Henry and appreciated that the romantic aspects were kept sweet, clean, and the characters really did feel like they were suited to each other.

I think the one mild downfall to this novel is that it is pretty darn predictable, you can guess the who immediately but then it also makes sense and, again, adds to the discussion mentioned previously. I think the reasoning is good too, since many books tend to fall back on the old, “Evil people are evil for the sake of being evil” and it never goes deeper than that. This book was ambitious in terms of the plot and the discussion that it tried to get across but I think it is executed exceptionally well.

I’m so happy that I stumbled on this book because it’s one that actually isn’t talked about all that often and seems to have gone under the radar in the book community. It is a relatively fast read that I devoured quickly and it was just such a perfect book for the fall season, this book is definitely an underappreciated gem.