Weekly Wrap Up: Bumper edition!

As my last wrap-up was an overview of what I read in 2013, I didn’t get the chance to say a few words about what I read in the last week of December.

Now we’re firmly in January, I have another couple of books to share with you – SO – welcome to this bumper edition wrap-up post!  Featuring all these lovely books:

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Tinder, Sally Gardener

Breathe, Sarah Crossan

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

Spoiler-free reviews below!

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A Year In Books: 2013

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Books read in 2013: 45

Another year over, another Goodreads Reading Challenge completed!

In fact, in 2013 I exceeded my reading goal of 40 books, which I’m rather proud of, as I also managed to graduate university and start a full-time job this year too! I don’t set aside a strict time everyday to read, but I do try to switch off all distractions (the internet…) and retreat somewhere quiet for a couple of hours a day to get some quality reading time. Of course, more often than not I can only snag 20 minutes reading in my lunch-break, 10 minutes in the bath and a few pages before bed, but it all adds up in the end. Having started work this year, I’ve learnt that nothing is more luxurious than a whole day spent engrossed in a book (how I took for granted my Uni years!) – and I’ve been doing a lot of that in the lull between Christmas and New Year.

For my reading challenge, I only count fiction and non-fiction books I’ve read recreationally and completed. I don’t include graphic novels, comics or collected trade editions in the final tot-up, though I did read some absolutley fantastic comics this year (The Gigantic Beard The Was Evil, Rachel Rising and Wandering Son, among many others).

2013 Breakdown:

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Weekly Wrap-Up – December 22nd

I’ve noticed a fair few book bloggers sharing their favourite wintery and festive reads this week as we draw closer and closer to Christmas, however I seem to have unintentionally had a zombie themed week of reading instead. Oops!?

This is rather odd for me personally because I do often struggle to care about zombie fiction in general as I find the whole ‘last one on earth, running from cannibalistic zombies’ narrative more stressful than enjoyable. Happily, this week I read two books which have each taken a different perspective on human reanimation, click below for my reviews of both, and to find out about my new book acquisitions from this week – which were all FREE!

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Enclave, Ann Aguirre (Square Fish)

Revival,Vol. 1: You’re Among Friends, Tim Seely and Mike Norton (Image Comics)

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UltraViolence

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The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (1833) Paul Delaroche. Oil On Canvas. The National Gallery, London.

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I was hanging out at the National Gallery yesterday and was completely taken aback by this painting. It’s stunning work, technically; the textures, composition and light are all so disarmingly beautiful that I didn’t see one person able to walk right past it without stopping and staring.

But it is also a painting that has a strong violent tone, and is profoundly disturbing for how the men in the painting are depicted in relation to Lady Jane Grey. Now, Jane Grey was Queen of England for 9 days, prior to being ousted by Queen Mary. She was executed on the orders of Queen Mary, aged just 16. So in this painting we have a young girl being coaxed into position for her execution by the Lieutenant of Tower Green in a way that might at first seem gentle. But look at the size difference between Lady Jane Grey and the Lieutenant; it’s almost sinister, dominant. Then on the right we have the executioner, nonchalantly standing by and waiting to be called to behead the former Queen, entirely unaffected by both the distress of Jane’s maids on the far left, and by Jane Grey herself.

But what I also saw while I was in the National Gallery was several sketch artists making incredibly detailed sketches from this piece, and all of them, without exception, were focused entirely on the figure of the blindfolded and powerless Lady Jane Grey. This painting is so daunting, and with such a clear, gendered and unbalanced power dynamic, that I do wonder about the draw of this painting for those who surely can only put themselves in the position of the controlling male figures of the work.

It kind of reminds me of the real, sick fascination there was (is?) with images like the evidence photo of Rihanna from 2009 after she was abused, and that hideous domestic abuse themed photo shoot (no really) that photographer Tyler Shields and Glee actressslashmodel Heather Morris did, where she was made-up to look as if she’d been beaten up black-eye et-al, and posed, among other shots, holding an iron to her face.

In all of these cases, the visual of the abused, powerless woman is the captivating image. Why are we so drawn to violent images? Is The Execution of Lady Jane Grey just the 19th Century equivalent of rubber-necking drivers slowing down when passing a car crash on the M25, or is it a clue of something more problematic; maybe even a serious flaw in our cultural ambivalence over images of abuse towards women.