Bitesize Book Reviews 4

books, reviews

I fell behind with my reviews last week because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. To make up for it, I’m back with 3 mini reviews in on post. I guess book reviews are like buses. You wait a week for a new one and then 3 turn up at once. Really though, it didn’t seem worthwhile giving any of these books their own post, which means that they’re all clumped together. Enjoy a bitesize analysis of my last 3 reads.

Urien’s Voyage by André Gide

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I stumbled across this one when I was looking for a book that started with U for my Read the Month Challenge. I didn’t know anything about it going in but I figured it was worth a shot. Really, I didn’t know anything about André Gide, the Nobel Prize winning French author. Turns out, he’s quite an interesting character and I’d be interested in finding out more about him. I’d also be interested in reading more of his works because I suspect this isn’t quite as good as it gets.

Not that Urien’s Voyage is a bad book but it just didn’t grab my attention as much as I expected once I’d read up about the writer. The book is an allegorical account of a sea voyage that charts the fantastic journey of the crew of the Orion. The fantastical elements of the story are symbolic of the sexual and psychological transformations. The men land in strange places and find their moral compass changing with each new discovery. Urien is never sure about the reality that he sees, which means we can never be sure of what we’re meant to be reading as “fact”. It makes the whole experience quite interesting.

Okay, so I get that this an interesting book that’s full of symbolism and it does showcase the difference between sexuality and morality. It’s not that I don’t think there is anything of interest here but it just wasn’t everything that I expected. Maybe it’s the kind of book that demands multiple readings to really appreciate? Maybe you only really get to grips with the Symbolism when you read it again? Even the argument for sexuality vs morals doesn’t seem that groundbreaking but that could be a thing to do with the time I’m reading it. I guess at the time, a book that explored sexual freedom against the constraints of a moral life was a bit different.

This one is worth a read but I might have to give it another look at some point to really get to grips with it. The fantastical elements works well at creating this false reality and sense of unease. You don’t know who to trust or what to believe. It allows Gide to explore some deeper ideas and I think there is a lot to take in. But this is less of a casual read than a book that demands more attention. I don’t think I gave it the time or effort that it needed.

Belinda Blinked Lockdown 69 by Rocky Flintstone

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever discussed it on here before but I am a huge fan of the My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast. I’ve been listening with glee to the latest book and have just finished a run through from the very beginning. Even though I know the books, I’ve never actually read a physical copy of them before. When I discovered that Rocky Flintstone had released a new book during lockdown, I knew that was about to change. How could I not check it out?

First things first, these novels are hilarious and dreadful in equal measure but there’s something very different about reading them alone. Listening to the podcast makes the books more of a group activity. You have the trio there joining in with the laughter and making the awful attempts at eroticism seem okay. That’s not the case when you’re reading them in your head. It suddenly becomes a bit more real. I really did start to question why I was reading such utter trash at certain points. Some of the things that I’d normally find really funny became less funny in this context.

That being said, this was another classic Rocky story and there were some incredibly funny moments. Of course, it’s difficult to really rate a Rocky novel. On the one hand, this is some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen but, on the other, it’s some of the best. The story didn’t really do anything and there is no real development in this book. It’s one of those that sits outside of the realms of the actual books, so it’s difficult to figure out where it fits. However, considering them are no real consequences to the narrative, it doesn’t matter. Nobody really ends this book in a different place to where they started it. If you really think about it, there was no point in anyone getting too caught up in the drama because it was all solved within a matter of hours.

But it’s a quick read and if you already enjoy the podcast, this is worth a look. All of your old favourites are here and you get to meet a few new faces. It’s not going to win any literary prizes but it’ll maybe make your life a little better for an hour or so.

Black Widow: Deadly Origin by Paul Cornell

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This weekend I watched Black Widow and I finished wanting to find out more about her character in the comics. I’ve come across her before but mostly in the context of someone else’s story. I never really bothered with her as the focus because she just seemed like that awful cliché. You know the one. Sexy, super spy with huge boobs who spends as much of her time having sex as she does fighting. To me, the character was just a male fantasy and I didn’t really want to get into it. Thanks to Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal, I’ve gained a newfound love of the character but I still only really know her from the films.

So, I picked up this little baby that came free with Prime. It seemed an appropriate place to start as it covers similar ground to the film. After the people from her past are targeted, Natasha must revisit her previous relationships to keep everyone safe. Then she has to track down the person responsible and get her revenge. It’s kind of standard comic book fare but with the added bonus of flashbacks. The action keeps flipping between the present and different periods in Black Widow’s life. Meaning you get to know a bit more about the character as well as watching her go after the bad guy.

In terms of a story, I can’t say that I was blown away by the overriding narrative. It doesn’t really do anything that interesting or exciting. The series was originally released to coincide with the characters arrival in Iron Man 2 and give non-comic book fans the chance to get to know her. On that level, I think it works. On the level of creating an entertaining and fun narrative, I don’t think it does a lot. In fact, it does a bit of damage. This presents the character in the way that I originally saw her. It’s focus is on sex and the resolution of the story is disappointing. It really does limit her when there is actually plenty of depth to her.

This might be a fine place to start but I wouldn’t have thought this was the best there. The artwork is great but the story is underwhelming. Let’s not forget that some of the dialogue is just mega cringe as well. This graphic novel does sum up my idea of the toxic side of comic books when it comes to female characters. Natasha is more than just the people she’s slept with but, reading this, you wouldn’t know that.

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