Kendall Jenner, the Daily Mail and beauty standards.

The media can be a tricky business.  Xenophobic and”pussy grabbing” animals in charge of countries, humanitarian conflicts and refugee crises, Brexit aftermath, natural disasters and terrorist attacks are but a few reasons as to why keeping yourself informed through the media can be exhausting and thankless. If you’re anything like me however, despite the inner turmoil I feel every time I read another article about Donald Trump, or watch another news piece on Facebook about the breakdowns within the British government, I still make it my responsibility to be up to date with the goings on in the world, as I believe we all should. However, there is media that is a necessary evil, that is simply conveying messages to the world, and then there is the mind numbing, detrimental, trashy forms of media which REALLY make my blood boil.

For any Snapchat users out there, you may feel the same distaste that I do every day when I check my Snapchat app and see the Daily Mail’s Snapchat story. Ah…the Daily Mail; a hot bed of gossip, misinformation, judgemental journalism and a perpetuation of gender stereotypes. I am not a fan of the Daily Mail, in fact I make a point of avoiding it at all costs. However, last week I couldn’t stop myself from reading an article from their Snapchat story which filled me with a mixture of feelings, mainly outrage at its existence and its presence on the main page of a popular social media platform:

Now I don’t know a lot about the Kardashian/ Jenner family, and I lack an interest or desire to involve myself in their world through their TV shows or social media presence. However, with that being said I am not someone who thinks that they are undeserving of privacy or respect, and I happily acknowledge that they are strong and successful business women and public characters. Even with my little knowledge of them, I find the constant scrutiny that (particularly the woman in) their family endure, critiquing things as trivial as a small cluster of blemishes to be simply outrageous.

My first gripe with this article is that it is completely and utterly unnecessary and intrusive. We live in a world where people are too invested and informed about the lives of their favourite celebrities. At what point did it become a necessity for fans to be able to find out exactly where a person was, what they wearing, and exactly how many spots are present on their face?  Furthermore, why is this of interest to anyone? While I acknowledge that celebrities are inevitably going to face intrusion to their personal life and this is a side effect of their fame, it does not mean it is useful or worthwhile. I recognise that we as a society idolise celebrities, which is something that has happened throughout history, but there is absolutely no need for such constant, relentless and meaningless information. This sort of mind numbing and thoughtless news concerns me in that it distracts from real issues. It upsets me that more people may be aware of things as small as a breakout on a celebrity’s face than are aware of an avalanche that killed several people in Italy in the same month.

This sort of news also unconsciously adds to gender biases and stereotypes in the media in several ways. If we consider Kendall Jenner as an example, a successful super model who has established somewhat of a prosperous career for herself out with of her famous family, who in comparison with her reality TV star siblings shies away from being at the centre of things, this article becomes even more irritating. Regardless of what or how people feel about Jenner’s beginnings or about her suitability as a role model, an article like this which attacks the trivial  and very normal reality of having a few spots on your face acts as a way of diminishing and belittling her successes, reducing who she is and what she achieves to less important than how she happens to look when caught off guard. Articles like these circulate the idea that women need to look perfect at all times, and also circulates the idea that it is appearance which is most important over other things. While I hate to state the obvious, it is rare that a prosperous and successful man would be judged on their appearance first, actions second. However for women this is an unfortunate catch.

Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner are oftentimes considered as role models. This is to be expected whenever a celebrity has a mass following or attention. I think that role models can be extremely worthwhile and a positive thing for people (especially young women) to have. However, I also feel that role models can become problematic when they are idolised to the extreme, and I worry that those who idolise certain celebrities, such as Kendall Jenner may read articles like this regarding her appearance and that this may fuel their insecurities about themselves. I saw several tweets the day this article was on Snapchat’s main page, of people comparing themselves to Kendall and comparing her small breakout to the acne they have been bullied for and that they resent and it seemed extremely damaging to me. This is one of the countless ways the media subtly infiltrates people’s perceptions of others and themselves, lowering their self esteem and effecting their happiness.

In addition, while this article and others that are published by the Daily Mail and trashy media outlets similar use their influence to critique (mainly female) celebrities on their appearance, this does little except perpetuate beauty standards. Viewers, readers and consumers are constantly faced with some of the most conventionally attractive women, already in awe of a body type or hair look or fashion choice which is unattainable to them. Then in addition, the media takes these very same women and starts picking them apart and showcasing their flaws; a few spots on their makeupless face, dark circles, frizzy hair etc. Instead of making celebrities, and in turn consumers feel ashamed of the natural aspects of their appearance and the individual things which make them a well rounded, normal and beautiful person, the media would be better used as a mechanism to normalise the things that people feel insecure about. Instead of titling an article “Kendall’s acne nightmare’, is it that difficult to simply acknowledge she is a normal 21 year old who does not look perfect all the time, and that that is totally okay?

This post has been extremely ranty, however this article really angered me and made me feel frustrated. With all that is going on in the world right now, this kind of news is irrelevant and uncalled for. We need to preserve our strengths to deal with the times to come, we do not need to be being fuelled with reasons to feel insecure, or with attacks on our self esteem. In short, the Daily Mail can get in the bin, and can leave Kendall alone.

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Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

Hi! This is a review of the poetry collection Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. This was the first book I read this year and I found it simply wonderful.

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look. (Goodreads).

This is a stunning little poetry collection that I’ve seen snippets of all over Instagram, Twitter and the like for months. Quite rightly so, as these poems are inspiring and beautiful.

What I love about this poetry collection is that this is a very accessible and simplistic, yet effective collection of poems, which evoke emotion and are relatable. I think a lot of readers and a lot of people in general are oftentimes put off poetry because at school they are taught to ruthlessly analyse the choice of every word and explain the various potential meanings of each line. It is very offputting, and makes a lot of people think they don’t enjoy or understand poetry, or that it is something only for the intelligent. This collection does not pretend to be anything else, it doesn’t try to confuse with flowery metaphors and similes and analogies. Instead it is raw and honest and easy to understand, while still being absolutely gorgeous.

I love the themes running through this collection, which is another reason I am glad it is getting a lot of attention . These poems scream feminist values, encourage women that they are strong, depict the way women are often treated, while still celebrating them. It covers so many areas; sexual assault, heartbreak, body image, being objectified and more, while at the same time encouraging women to be strong, to rise up and recover when knocked down and to celebrate other women. Some of these poems really resonated with me, and I feel that any woman, particularly young women should read this collection. It inspired me to try writing myself and I will definitely be coming back to it again.

Another thing I loved about this poetry collection was the illustrations scattered throughout. They again were simple and sketchy, however I loved them and they really added to the poems. It added to the feeling I got when reading each one, that they were raw and honest thoughts, an insight into Rupi Kaur’s mind thrown onto paper.

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My first book of 2017 was a great one, and I feel optimistic for the reading year ahead. I am also going to keep on the hunt for poetry collections like this one. Everyone should read this.

I hope you are all having a great month, and a brilliant reading month!

 

Wish I Was Here by Jackie Kay.

Book review time!

In this collection of stories, Jackie Kay explores every aspect of love – the most overwhelming and complicated of human emotions, exposing the moments of tenderness, shock, bravery and remorse that accompany its pursuit, its passions, its passing. (Goodreads)

I picked up this short story collection by Jackie Kay after I attended her and Ali Smith’s event at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August. I read this in one or two sittings.

In all honesty, this book didn’t leave much of an impression on me and I was slightly disappointed. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but some I found no desire to read and found myself getting bored of. Her writing was absolutely beautiful, as I had expected, yet I found there was something missing from the stories. This book is a short read, which spurred me on, however I’m not sure I would have read the entirety of it if it had been any bigger.

I did enjoy the variety of forms of love and the variety of subjects of which her stories were based on. Some depicted familial love, misunderstood love, unrequited love, falling out of love, fleeting love…and I felt that this showed just how powerful and vast of a word it is and how many meanings it can hold. I was impressed by the realness of the characters and the relatability of the living situations and the characters. They weren’t overly romanticised, which I really liked.

I don’t have much more to say about this book, other than that I possibly didn’t get along with it as well as others would. I enjoyed it in part, and would still read more by Kay. I’m sorry that this book review wasn’t overly positive, but I am eager to check out more of Jackie Kay’s work to see if I can get along with her other books a bit better.

Thanks for reading!

Mini book haul.

Hi everyone!

I haven’t had time to sit down and write the book reviews I want to get done, however instead I thought I’d share some new books that I’ve gotten. This is not a very big haul, but that is probably a good thing as I’m buying more books than I’m reading at the moment. Uh oh! Anyway, these are the books:

Bruno Vincent’s Famous Five books:

So, for Christmas I was gifted four of the five new comedic spoofs of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, following the heroic quintet through to their adulthood. I was a massive fan of Enid Blyton as a child, and the Famous Five books made me the reader I am today and made me crave adventure. When I found out about these books I was dying to read them as I knew they would bring back memories and feelings of nostalgia for me. My mum kindly gifted me four of them for my Christmas: Five Go Away on a Strategy Away Day, Five on Brexit Island, Five Go Parenting and Five Give up the Booze. I can’t wait to read these, as I think they will be hilarious. From what I can surmise, these are meant to be a satirical and mocking look at present day and be relatable to the world as we know it now, taking characters from another time altogether.  I can’t wait to read them!

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The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

It was the storm of the century – a tempest created by so rare a combination of factors that meteorologists deemed it “the perfect storm.”

When it struck in October, 1991, there was virtually no warning. “She’s comin’ on, boys, and she’s comin’ on strong,” radioed Captain Billy Tyne of the Andrea Gail from off the coast of Nova Scotia. Soon afterward, the boat and its crew of six disappeared without a trace.

The Perfect Storm is a real-life thriller, a stark and compelling journey into the dark heart of nature that leaves listeners with a breathless sense of what it feels like to be caught, helpless, in the grip of a force beyond understanding or control. (Goodreads)

My internet best friend, Ella sent me this book in December because she was getting rid of books and wanted me to have it. I know relitively little about this book, but it is quite short so I intend on reading it soon.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

In a novel that is at once intense, beautiful, and fablelike, Lloyd Jones weaves a transcendent story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the power of narrative to transform our lives.

On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, where the teachers have fled with most everyone else, only one white man chooses to stay behind: the eccentric Mr. Watts, object of much curiosity and scorn, who sweeps out the ruined schoolhouse and begins to read to the children each day from Charles Dickens’s classic Great Expectations.

So begins this rare, original story about the abiding strength that imagination, once ignited, can provide. As artillery echoes in the mountains, thirteen-year-old Matilda and her peers are riveted by the adventures of a young orphan named Pip in a city called London, a city whose contours soon become more real than their own blighted landscape. As Mr. Watts says, “A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe.” Soon come the rest of the villagers, initially threatened, finally inspired to share tales of their own that bring alive the rich mythology of their past. But in a ravaged place where even children are forced to live by their wits and daily survival is the only objective, imagination can be a dangerous thing. (Goodreads)

Another book sent to me by the gorgeous Ella, and one I am extremely intrigued by and excited for. It sounds right up my street and very topical and interesting. I am fascinated by cultures and stories as far from my life but still within reality as possible, and I love reading about characters who are not from a priviliged Western World.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

From the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun, a dazzling new novel: a story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.

As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.

Fearless, gripping, at once darkly funny and tender, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most powerful and astonishing novel yet. (Goodreads)

I once read a sample of this book and thoroughly enjoyed it, however I stupidly failed to pick it up until now, when I had a £30 Waterstones voucher to spend. I read Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists a year or two ago, but other than that I have little experience of her writing. I can’t wait to get stuck into this book, which is just under 500 pages.

The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen

In this unforgettable novel, Leonard Cohen boldly etches the youth and early manhood of Lawrence Breavman, only son of an old Jewish family in Montreal. Life for Breavman is made up of dazzling colour – a series of motion pictures fed through a high-speed projector: the half-understood death of his father; the adult games of love and war, with their infinite capacity for fantasy and cruelty; his secret experiments with hypnotism; the night-long adventures with Krantz, his beloved comrade and confidant. Later, achieving literary fame as a college student, Breavman does penance through manual labour, but ultimately flees to New York. And although he has loved the bodies of many women, it is only when he meets Shell, whom he awakens to her own beauty, that he discovers the totality of love and its demands, and comes to terms with the sacrifices he must make. (Goodreads)

This book captivated me for a couple of reasons. The quotes covering the book were beautiful, I have never read anything by Leonard Cohen, and I rather enjoy stories which follow a main character as they age, carrying through their trials and tribulations and such.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugeides

Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic. (Goodreads)

I can’t wait to read this book. I have had my eye on it ever since I read (and loved) The Virgin Suicides. It doesn’t sound like anything I have ever read before, and I think this may well be my next read.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed this mini book haul. Unfortunately I will not be buying too many books in the next few months, purely because I need to make a dent in my to be read pile (which is ever growing).

 

 

 

 

 

2017 reading and blogging resolutions.

Happy 2017 everyone! I hope you had a wonderful winter season and a lovely new year. I am excited for another year of books and reading and blogging, and with that in mind I have a few resolutions to share. Shall we press on?

1/ Read 24 books

I always like to set myself a reading challenge on my Goodreads account, however my success at my challenges fluctuates year to year. In 2015 I challenged myself to read 50 books and I met this goal with ease. In 2016 I started off with a 50 book goal and when it became evident I wouldn’t reach this I reduced it to 40, then to 30. I read 34 books this year, which is nowhere near as much as the year before, however I have to concede that my time isn’t my own, and that I’m going into the new year as a third year undergraduate with exams to pass, I work entire weekends every week, I volunteer AND I am trying to do everything else I want to do. Therefore, my compromise is that I set myself a reading challenge but a more tangible goal. 24 books means 2 books a month, which I can and will do.

2/ Read more non fiction

I have read embarrassingly few non fiction books this year, despite having several on my radar and on my to read list. I never was a lover of non fiction when I was younger, however now I adore essay collections, factual non fiction books, autobiographies and more. I would love to strike a balance this year where I read one fiction book a month and then (potentially) one non fiction book a month. However, instead of vowing that this is what I’m going to do, I instead just want to set myself a goal of reading more non fiction, whenever and whatever I pick! I have a few non fiction reads in mind which I cannot wait to get to.

3/ Read a fantasy novel

I do not tend to read fantasy, but not because I dislike the genre. I think I am oftentimes put off by fantasy novels as they are rarely stand alone and are usually part of a series, which I am terrible to comitting to. Also, fantasy novels tend to be larger in page count to make room for world building. While I don’t know which one to pick yet, I’d love to read at least one fantasy epic this year.

4/ Read bigger books

I get so intimidated by big books, and more often than not I will put off reading a chunky book and pick something I know that I can finish quicker. The majority of books that I read are around 350-400 pages in length, which I appreciate. However, after battling through the 700 pages (give or take) of East of Eden by John Steinbeck this year and realising what rewards can be gained from trucking through a bigger book, I have vowed to push myself to pick up some bigger items on my shelves. Therefore I am setting myself a challenge of reading at least 2 (of my 24 goal) books over 500 pages this year.

5/ Join a book club

This one may be a bit harder to fit in or accomodate, but I would love to be part of a book club or read a book alongside others. I know that there is a book club within my university, which I am going to look into going to after the new year. If not, I am going to try and find a book club I like the sound of online, or potentially form one! I love the idea of reading a book together and discussing predictions and plot twists and characters etc.

6/ Publish a post a week

I have slacked on my blog the last two or so months, for a variety of personal reasons which are not important to this post. However in 2017 I would love to have at least one blog post ready to publish each week, whether book related or otherwise. This blog has been so much fun and I want it to remain a fun thing to do, and so I don’t intend on pushing myself too hard by establishing schedules and criteria, instead one post a week sounds doable. And if I fail to write one post a week, as long as I have 52 posts by the end of the year I will be happy.

7/ Don’t limit myself to books

I published a few blog posts this year that weren’t as much to do with books, such as my post about the Syrian refugee crisis, Kim Kardashian and feminism and most recently my 2016 post. I love writing my thoughts on current events or on anything that catches my interest or passion, and so I would love to use this blog as a platform to do that as well as my book posts. I don’t know how successful said posts are, however I enjoy voicing my thoughts and views and will continue to do so, even if nobody reads them!

8/ Give my blog a make over

I would love to do my own illustrations for my blog and move things around and spice things up with a new layout. I am a creative person and would love to access that creativity through designing my own blog.

9/ Interact with other bloggers more

I have to admit that I have slacked in this regard in the last two months, but I desperately want to start to get to know more of the book bloggers in this community. I want to read the books you recommend and maybe even make some friends along the way.

10/ Improve my writing

I think I write relatively well, however when I read back on my posts I see small, clumsy errors that could be neatened up. I love using my blog to fulfill my love of writing, however I would love to see my skill improve over the course of the year.

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There you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed this blog post, and I wish everyone the happiest of new years and all the best for 2017!