Five Great Chocolate Treats To Eat While Reading This Easter!

reading and eating chocolate

Happy Easter! A fun one for you today as I check out five eggcellent chocolatey treats you can indulge in over the holiday period as you delve into your favourite book.

After all, not all chocs are alike, and some are better suited to reading than others. There’s the issue of dropping chocolate on your book, or chocolates that require you to touch them with your hands, and as such leave you running the risk of covering your book pages in smears. What you really want is a chocolate that won’t crumble too much, or can be popped into your mouth whole, and which, on a holiday such as Easter, evokes childhood memories. Take a look at the below and see what you think!

5. Mini Eggs: If you’re looking for something Easter themed then it can be tough finding the perfect treat to eat while reading. Big eggs tend to crumbles to hell and Crème Eggs suck. There, I said it. They are too sweet and just plain awful. But Mini Eggs are great because they are small enough to chuck straight into your mouth and you won’t get your sticky mitts on the pages of your book because of the sugar shell covering the chocolate. Win win!

4. Cadbury Caramel Eggs: I know I know, I just blasphemed Crème Eggs, but Caramel Eggs are a whole different ball game. They are just so much nicer. The filling isn’t overwhelmingly sweet and they’re the right size to eat quickly, in just one or two bites. Also the foil means you can protect your hands and make sure you don’t get marks on your book. Just make sure you don’t dribble the caramel on it!

3. Malteser Bunnies: Maltesers in general are a great reading chocolate, but at Easter the bunnies make for a lovely way to treat yourself and feel like you’re celebrating. The trick to not getting crumbs all down the spine of your lovely book is to turn your head slightly as you bite into it, then hold it away from your book as you munch and read. Sounds a little laborious, I know, but it’s worth it.

2. Lindt Gold Bunnies: Another great example of a rabbit being used to market chocolate, the Lindt Gold Bunnies have been a staple for many years now, and they’re definitely worth shelling out for. Whilst other brand bunnies tend to be made of super sweet chocolate, the Lindt ones are made of their lovely delicious chocolate, making them well worth the extra. They also hold together exceptionally well, and as such are great for when you’re reading and don’t want to get chocolate all over your precious book!

1. Galaxy Caramel: The Queen of all chocolate treats, Galaxy Caramel is a year round winner. Whatever the celebration or if you just fancy a snack while you read, this is the perfect option. Normally Galaxy is too sweet and shiny, but the caramel offsets this perfectly and makes it a great indulgence to munch on while you use your time off to catch-up on your reading.

So, what’s chocolate treat will you be snacking on this Easter? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my line-up and what you would’ve done differently!

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There’s Still Time To Enter! Win A Signed Copy of Nicola Avery’s Within The Silence!

Nicola avery books

There’s still plenty of time to enter my competition to win one of 5 signed copies of Within The Silence by the amazing Nicola Avery. All you need to do to is comment on this post letting me know why you want to read this thrilling tale of secrets and the lengths people will go to keep them.

The winners will be announced on 23rd April so get commenting! Good Luck!

Full Talking Bodies Paper: 1990s Male Detective Fiction and the Objectification of Women

talking bodies 2019.jpg

As I’m sure you’ll have noticed if you follow me on social media I’ve just return from an amazing time at Talking Bodies 2019 at my former University the University of Chester. Massive thanks to all the organisers for hosting us all, giving us an amazing experience and for letting me speak, something which I’m proud to say went off pretty much without a hitch. 

My paper is an offshoot of my Master’s degree work I undertook a few years ago, and I’m very proud to be able to showcase it here, so if you missed it or just fancy a read, please do, and feel free to comment or drop me a line if you’d like to explore some of the topics. 

Two of the key detective series of late 1980s and early 1990s crime fiction, Inspector Morse written by Colin Dexter and Inspector Kurt Wallander, written by Swedish Writer Henning Mankell, were both deeply ingrained with misogyny, and I intend to explore this by looking at two key texts.

The Last Bus To Woodstock is the first Inspector Morse novel, and depicts the rape and murder of a young woman who is later found in a pub car park. Throughout the novel, the characters and, I will argue, the author, believe that the woman cannot have been raped because she was promiscuous, despite the fact that one of her sexual assaults occurred after she died.

My second text is Mankell’s The Fifth Woman, which tells the story of the murders of a series of deplorable men in gruesome ways, all of which have been committed by a woman who ran a support group for the other women hurt by her victims, and whose own mother was murdered by one of them. The novel succeeds in othering the female perpetrator and sympathising with the male victims, showing them both as those who have done wrong but also not being deserving of their punishment, whilst she is reduced, at the end of the novel, to the spectre of a grim reaper fleeing from punishment.

Exploring these two texts and their use of women and portrayal of sexual assault, I will argue that Mankell and Dexter were both setting the tone for a host of crime fiction books that degraded and objectified women and which, ultimately, paved the way for the patriarchal society we live in today.

These two white, male writers helped shape a generation of crime fiction authors who would use the rape, murder and degradation of women as mere plotlines. From TV shows such as Frost and Taggart, through to books such as those written by Stuart McBride or even female writers such as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, Mankell and Dexter’s works influenced the entire 1990 and early 2000’s detective genre. Their work, as shown here, portrayed women simultaneously as helpless objects and calculating temptresses, allowing the authors to blame them for the crimes of their male counterparts.

The Last Bus To Woodstock, Dexter’s first Inspector Morse novel, centres around the investigation into the murder and rape of a young woman found partially clothed in a pub car park. Her body is found by her date for the evening, and it is later discovered that she expected payment for her sexual services.

Frequently throughout the novel Dexter’s characters debate whether or not the victim was raped, due to the scanty nature of her clothing and her reputation for demanding payment for sexual favours. For example, one of the conversations in the book goes like this:

“’Raped too, was she?’

Tompsett drained his glass. “So they say. But I’ve always been a bit dubious myself about this rape business.’” (Page 58).

Throughout the book the reader is given the impression that there is the possibility that the sex was consensual. This is despite the fact that it is concluded by policing bodies around the world that you cannot consent to sex when you are not conscious, including in death, and the pathologist confirms to the detectives early in the book that one of the assaults took place post mortem.

This idea that the sex could’ve been consensual begins when Morse and Lewis initially visit the dead girl’s bedroom, where the following exchange takes place:

“’We’re not making very rapid progress then.’

‘Oh I don’t know,’ said Morse. ‘Miss Kaye was wearing a white blouse, wasn’t she?’

‘Yes.’

‘What colour bra would your wife wear under a white blouse?’

‘A lightish-coloured one, I suppose.’

‘She wouldn’t wear a black one?’

‘It would show through.’” (Page 17).

The implication here is that the pair have discovered a core factor in Sylvia’s character by finding out that she wears dark bras under her white blouses.

At the end of the novel, Morse reveals to Lewis that Sylvia’s date sexually assaulted her corpse, which he does not charge him for, although the boy ‘promised to see a psychiatrist’ (p167). This blatant disregard for what is, in fact, a serious crime shows Dexter’s lack of interest in the actual rape, and his belief that only the death is the only true crime. As such, he effectively dehumanises her by completely removing any control she may have over who enters her body simply based on her clothing and fact that she is a prostitute (she also has another job).

The second novel I would like to look into is Mankell’s The Fifth Woman which is, at first glance, supposed to showcase the malice and violence inherent in patriarchy, with the book depicting the murders of a group of men who have sexually and/ or physically abused women. They are all killed by a woman in an act of rebellion and retribution. However, the novel’s underlying message is far more sinister and misogynistic.

Each of the murder victims is killed in a horrific manner, for example one falls into a Japanese style trap of sharpened sticks and left to bleed to death, another is held captive and tortured.

Throughout the novel Mankell and his team uncover evidence that these men who, on the surface were quiet and respectable business owners, each had a secret. Each was heavily linked to the disappearance of a woman, including a Polish girl who had been missing for decades and whose body is discovered on the land of one of the male victims at the end of the novel. It is discovered that one of the men murdered a woman in South Africa many years previously. She was the mother of his illegitimate daughter, Yvonne Ander, who seeks revenge by murdering him and a number of other men who were abusing women.

At the end of the novel the female murder goes on the run with a rape victim and her baby. No sympathy is shown for their situation, and the killer’s motives are not used to justify her violence, which is much less than her own victims exacted on the women they abused. The killer herself is portrayed by Mankell as a monster only really interested in violent vengeance, as shown in a number of instances such as:

“She was driving through the night, feeling very tired. She had listened to Katarina for hours. She often wondered about the weakness of these women [referring to the abused women]. They let themselves be tortured, abused, murdered. Then if they survived, they sat night after night moaning about it. She didn’t understand them. As she drove through the night she actually felt contempt for them. They didn’t fight back.” (p583).

Here Mankell separated female victims of male abuse into two broad categories: those who complain and those who ‘fight back’ AKA those who inflict as much abuse as they received in return. Neither of these types of women is shown anything short of contempt by the characters in the novel, with the detectives viewing the killer as sad more than anything else and paying limited attention to the other victims once they are ruled out as suspects. Towards the end of the case, as they close in on Yvonne Ander, the protagonist Wallnder discusses her with a colleague:

“’I believe she’s a lonely person’ Wallnder said. ‘And she thinks her purpose in life is to kill on behalf of others.’” (p554).

Later, after he catches her, he also states:

“Yvonne Ander is the first person I’ve ever met who is both intelligent and insane”. (p560).

When being apprehended, Ander shoots and wounds the only female member of the team charged with bringing her in. The officer in question was left alone to lie in wait for Ander, as the male members of the team did not realise until too late that she had picked up a gun earlier when they had first tried to apprehend her. As such, the shooting of the female police officer can be seen as partially owing to the incompetence of her colleagues, and this is the view shared by Wallander, who constantly blames himself for the shooting and refuses to leave her bedside as she recovers.

“Every day during this period Wallander went to visit Ann-Britt in hospital. He couldn’t get over what he was convinced was his responsibility. Nothing anyone said made any difference. He regarded the blame for what had happened as his alone. It was something he would have to live with.” (p560).

Mankell’s reference to other characters trying to reapportion the blame for the incident, and his use of the word ‘convinced’, allows him to draw the reader to believe that the blame is actually squarely on that of Anders. Whilst Anders pulled the trigger, it was Wallander and his team who forgot to tell their colleague that she was armed and left her in a vulnerable position, but in the same way that Mankell does not view her murders as justified in any way or driven by the abuse she and the women she supported had suffered, he also clearly exonerates his protagonist from any blame in favour of levying it entirely on Anders.

Whilst I appreciate that blame is a complicated issue, Mankell effectively uncomplicates this for his reader by showing that although the men in his novel have committed a series of violent murders, rapes and serious abuses of power, they were themselves violently killed by a woman who was, in his eyes, as bad as them. The final chapter of the novel focuses entirely on Anders and her crimes, with the reasons behind them an afterthought rather than any sort of justification. She commits suicide in the end, which is reported to Wallander in the context that he learns there will be no trial, giving the impression that he and the male victims have been robbed of their justice rather than that she’s been robbed of her life.

In the end Mankell focuses more on his protagonist’s feelings of having not uncovered the full truth of why she committed these horrific crimes than the fact that all of these women felt they had been failed by the justice system, which was why they turned to a vigilante in the first place. Anders herself was given painkillers whilst in custody, but this is again viewed more as a tragedy for justice than for Anders herself.

At the end of the day, whilst the examples used here are only two texts, they are written by authors who influenced a generation of crime fiction writers; their works are key to the genre. From Stuart McBride through to Jo Nesbo, plenty of male white writers are writing crime fiction filled with women being murdered, raped and abused thanks to the foundations the genre was built on by writers such as Mankell and Dexter. Their misogyny helped define the crime fiction and thriller space as one filled with mutilated women and made it, for many years, a male dominated space.

That’s now changing with the introduction of female detectives, and writers, but it is a slow process, and the market is still heavily populated with male authors writing about murdered prostitutes and abducted young girls.

Ultimately, whilst this may seem like a small issue- it’s only crime fiction, it’s only one genre- but actually, it’s a drop in the huge ocean of the mistreatment of women. From tiny things like women being policed in what they wear, such as the recent incident of the woman who was bullied into changing out of a crop top on a flight home from holiday through to ‘incel’ attacks around the world motivated by men who believe that women are unfairly denying them sex and every injustice in between, it is clear that every tiny act of sexism has its influence, and these texts showcase and attempt to justify horrific acts of violence against women. We’ve got a president in the USA who thinks it’s acceptable to ‘grab women by the pussy’ and reduce their reproductive rights, and men worldwide who believe it’s acceptable to traffic and objectify women because of a collective consciousness built on work like this.

Written by authors who influenced an entire genre, these books showcase how interpretations of violence and the mistreatment of women spiral and fuel a society that often, as in the case of many rape trials where men are given a free pass because of their athletic prowess or perceived potential, completely allows the degradation, humiliation and dehumanisation of women. This is the legacy that books like these have left, and it’s not a great one.

I’m always keen to hear people’s thoughts on my research so feel free to drop me a shout if you’d like to discuss! 

The Monsoon Ghost Image Review: A Slick Globe-Trotting Thriller

TMGIcovers

Tom Vater’s latest novel is a slick globetrotting adventure, which combines the best aspects of a thriller with a traditional private eye adventure.

The third instalment in the Detective Maier series features the story of a missing photographer who dies in Thailand, only for his wife to discover he is alive and well. She hires Detective Maier to find out more about what’s going on and uncover the truth about her husband’s supposed death.

Quickly Detective Maier uncovers a huge conspiracy involving a plastic surgeon, hookers and the Moonstone Ghost image itself: the victim’s final photograph, which turns out to be incredibly dangerous. Detective Maier turns from the hunter to the prey as soon as he uncovers the photo and he is soon running around the world in search of the truth.

Working with his trusty sidekick Mikhail Detective Maier is in a race against time to find out what’s going on and beat a host of formidable foes including the CIA, a murderous doctor and a range of private international villains. Together the pair set out on a quest to find out the secrets behind the photo and whether or not the photographer who took it is dead or not.

Featuring an ensemble cast of characters from across the thriller spectrum, including an evil doctor, the CIA and of course the protagonist and his accomplice, the novel moves quickly so that readers are constantly enthralled by the ever-evolving plot. Vater keeps his reader hooked from the off, and Detective Maier is constantly on the move exploring new clues and checking out new leads, so there’s never any pause in the action for the reader to get bored in.

In all, The Monsoon Ghost Image is a tantalising thriller that really gets under your skin. With memorable characters, gritty dialogue and a fast-paced plot, this book really does have it all.

 

Giveaway! Win A Signed Copy of Nicola Avery’s Within The Silence!

Within the Silence

Following my interview with Nicola Avery I am proud to announce that I have 5 copies of Within the Silence to give away, each personally signed by the author herself!!

To win yourself a signed copy all you need to do is comment on this post letting me know why you want to read this thrilling tale of secrets and the lengths people will go to keep them. The winners will be announced on 23rd April! Good Luck!

 

Nicola Avery Interview: “I can’t tell you exactly where the ideas for my stories come from”

nicola avery

As a follow-up to my review of her brilliant novel Within The Silence I interview Nicola Avery to learn more about her work and how she came to start writing it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards thriller writing?

I think my writing style developed from a need to create a dialogue with my readers. I tend to write about what I know, think, believe, or have been told. I explore subjects that make me cry, make me angry, make me question, hoping that my voice is always honest and open. Some of my subject matter is brave or controversial and requires the reader to listen, watch and engage with an open mind, exploring their own emotions and views, allowing the plot and characters to develop. I don’t judge in my writing, I leave that to my readers.

Both my books are very different – Whispered Memories is a mixed genre, multi-dimensional love story where a tragedy in the past (the premise of a past existence) and present day collide, as repeating patterns threaten lives once again.

Within The Silence is also a mixed genre, but a darker thriller with a paranormal twist, a race against time to stop an atrocity, where a love so powerful crosses even the ‘ultimate boundary of death’ to keep a love one safe.

As a reader I have always been drawn to thrillers, not frightening horror type, but more psychological, dark, ‘bad people’ led thrillers. That’s possibly why both my books are littered with murders, intrigue, hidden agendas, sadness, brutality, and tragedy… but lifted with the truth that ‘love’ is the final answer.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

My father is a published author, my mother a ballet dancer so the artistic seam runs deep within my psyche. I travelled extensively, in and around Australia, returning back to the UK as a divorced single mother and carving a professional career in the corporate world of finance.

As soon as my daughter reached eighteen I began to follow my own interests, studying and qualifying as a professional hypnotherapist and past life/regression therapist in order to understand the impact that the past has on an individual in their lifetime. The subject matter on past existences was fascinating, the findings although chiefly unproven – persuasive. I needed to share, hence my first published book.

I write now about things that inspire me, move me or allow my mind to literally ‘free-fall’.   Whether these latest stories will go to print remains the question, but as long as there are readers that like my writing, I will find the time to create and put pen to paper.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

I can’t tell you exactly where the ideas for my stories come from. They are in my head and grow in the telling, becoming more layered, more intricate, and more involved as the stories develop. My editor has to cut chapters and pages from each finished manuscript with the cry of ‘too much!’ I’m also asked how do I know about some of the things I write about, especially the more ‘unusual’ or ‘unpleasant’. Research is essential, a vivid imagination and the courage to tackle something that might be seen as sensitive, unbelievable, unnatural, or unexplainable, hoping I will always convey the darker or difficult with compassion and sensitivity.

I treat ‘writers block’ like a virus. We will all get it one day – for me its natures way of saying enough – take a break – breath again…

I ‘word dump’ if I feel the guilt to write during these periods, work on an alternative project. I normally have two on the go so I can dip in to one on the back burner when I feel pressure from another. That way I always have an outline for the future, for another book (guilt is one of the writers curses, the need to write, whatever). Sometimes a break from your work is beneficial as it also allows you to take a step back. Also, ‘life’ does get in the way of writing and we should understand this. When this happens to me – I read – a lot. It’s my chance to go into another author’s world, soak up their wording, plot and characters, and enjoy their ‘place’, like a perfect holiday: it works for me.

Nicola avery books

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Amelia Mary Earhart would be my first choice as a collaborator. I’d like to write her story, her life from her perspective. She was an American aviator pioneer and author, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Married, but with no children of her own, she disappeared in 1937 flying with her navigator Fred Noonan over the Pacific ocean en route to Howland Island from Lae, Papa New Guinea, in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

There is still a mystery as to what really happened to her, her navigator, the plane, where she landed or crashed, and how she met her fate. The mystery of her disappearance would be a fascinating detective story, but weave in her views and past battles as a woman in a man’s world, the choices she had to make, the risks she took, the fear she had to conquer, her experiences as a nurse’s aid during WW1 in a Canadian hospital, her experiences as an author, and her own personal lessons in life, her loves, her hates, then the project takes on real colour.

Spin that with fiction and conspiracy theories then the book takes on a different edge, a fiction book with several potential endings. Her capture by the Japanese for spying, the unknown bones found on an Island, the sunken plane, the mystery woman with a new life and new face, her murder, or the truth; what really happened to Amelia Earhart?

Sadly we may never uncover that, but if she allowed, I could add a twist to the book project and add in a paranormal element-perhaps she could then tell us!

What do you read yourself and how does this influence your writing?

I read as much as possible and can be wooed by a beautiful cover. I love thrillers, mysteries, crime, psychological thrillers and books that cross and mix genres. A ghostly twist to a love story is a bonus for me. As a result of my reading needs I’m writing the kind of books I want to read; mixed genres, murders, crimes, mysteries, thwarted love, reincarnates, ghosts, justifiable retributions, rather like a box of chocolates with no sweet index, where there’s something in it for everyone, and each bite is a surprise.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Yes, a children’s book – but with a difference – going back to the days of Hans Christian Andersen where story telling and children’s tales were filled with love, beauty and pain, where morals are taught and all actions good or bad had consequences. This is a challenge for me as I’m finding it very emotional to write and the intended age group keeps growing – to date it’s for children aged 9 to 90 years! Have quite a following and its not finished yet!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I read at least three book a month and have on occasions been surprisingly disappointed by a ‘well known’ author’s much publicised book, so now tend now to wait for the buzz to die down before purchasing and reading. I always finish a book whatever my opinion and never give a bad review, after all there is no ‘one size fits all’ in the world of books; readers views are varied and personal.

I do now have copies of Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers to read and Kate Atkinson’s Transcription..

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes – a huge thank you to Hannah for inviting me to take part in this interview and to all the other amazing book bloggers out there, that are throwing authors a ‘life raft’ in this bumpy sea of book publishing and supporting us as we paddle.

Thanks Nicola it’s been great to hear your thoughts!

 

 

New Non-Fiction Bestseller Shows Where Book Industry’s At

pinch of nom

The recent success of a slimming cookbook shows the reading habits of today’s book market and could pave the way for a continued focus on slimming and self-improvement books by publishers in the future.

The book in question, Pinch of Nom by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone, went on sale on 21 March and just 72 hours later had sold 210,506 copies according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan. This is an incredible success and shows that books on advice and self-improvement are the way to go in today’s market.

Stemming from a popular blog run by a pair of restaurateurs, Pinch of Nom shares recipes that are compatible with a range of diet plans such as Slimming World and Weightwatchers.

Personally I first noticed this book when it repeatedly cropped up on my social media feeds. Friends were posting about how it was the first cookbook they’ve ever bought (we’re in our mid-20s it’s a tad worrying but we’re not really proper adults so I suppose it’s not really surprising) and how it was a revolutionary slimming cookbook because it combines healthy ingredients with indulgent recipes.

There’s been a surge in this type of cookbook over recent months, with many chefs and cookbook writers have been focusing on quick, healthy and uncomplicated recipes such as Mary Berry’s Quick Cooking. There are also a number of self-improvement books on the market currently: not the sort of thing Bridget Jones would gravitate towards which tells you to sling your boyfriend and meditate, but instead books that seek to use theory and education as tools to help readers to improve some aspect of their lives. For example, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) is written by psychotherapist Philippa Perry to help parents to better support their children. There’s also How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned from Things Going Wrong, based on a popular podcast that gives a glimpse into the life lessons to be learned from failure.

In all there are some great self-improvement and change focused non-fiction books on the market at the moment, and Pinch of Nom’s incredible success shows that readers are drawn towards books that will help them achieve their goals. This, in my opinion, is the future of non-fiction book publishing: books that offer readers the knowledge to empower them to change their lives. Also, the noticeable fact that the book is based off a blog shows that readers are increasingly drawn towards reading books which they have previously seen online or in other interactive formats such as podcasts or vlogs.