Tag: Kate Belle

Why I Read Confronting Books

Posted November 21, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

I listen to a lot of bookish podcasts and one of my favourites is The Readers. This week on The Readers they talked about Comforting vs. Confronting Reading which got me thinking. So I thought I would try to articulate my response about Confronting Reads. I read a lot of confronting books and I have been thinking about why I do this for a while now. When The Readers spoke about this topic I thought it was time to blog about it.

One of the reasons I like confronting reads has something to do with my interest in transgressive fiction. I like to understand the mind-set of flawed characters and how their minds work. I have an interest in psychology, while I doubt I’ll ever fully understand it completely. It is the same reason why I like TV shows where the men always make mistakes. There is something about getting into the mind of someone who is making mistakes so you don’t have to.

Consider this; if you read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Tampa by Alissa Nutting, The Yearning by Kate Belle, Me and Mr Booker by Cory Taylor and other books with similar themes, does that make you more likely to be a paedophile? I think not. Reading is an emotional experience and if you are part of the suffering and the mistakes of the protagonist, then you probably don’t want to experience it in a more extreme and realistic way. For me, I read about serial killers because I want to understand why a person would have that desire to kill without having first hand experience. Does that make sense or am I missing something here?

There are also many other reasons to read a confronting book; most of these books are satirical and are trying to send a message. Look at Tampa, not only is this a disturbing look at a female sexual psychopath, it is also a look at the schoolboy fantasy of an older woman or the fantasy of getting a boy before he has been corrupted by society; trying to show the reader that these fantasies are extremely damaging. A young boy is not developed enough to handle a purely sexual relationship with an older woman without getting attached or if you get a man before he is corrupted, you are just doing the corrupting.

I find a confronting novel far more enjoyable, I like the macabre and I like a darker plot, but most of all I like that satirical messages in these book (read my post on Satire if you still think it is meant to be humorous). The lessons learnt and the experiences had, may prevent me from making the same mistakes. I’ve made plenty of bad mistakes in my past and the consequences are not pretty. I much rather someone else experience them while I enjoy the book with a cup of tea in my hand. What do you think about confronting reads? Are there more reasons to read them that I haven’t covered here? Let me know in the comments.

Monthly Review – May 2013

Posted May 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As May comes to a close, like all months, I want to have a quick look at what happened. First of all I managed to get fully up to date with my reviews; a few months ago I was about 20 reviews behind, waiting to be posted. Now when I finish a book the review will go up within a few days (sometimes more) and this frees me up to do other bookish posts. This is so exciting because I really like to write my thoughts about the world of literature without being confined to reviews. Also as you can see we are smack in the middle of being green with envy of everyone attending the Book Expo of America (BEA). I’m participating in Armchair BEA again and this will hopefully mean new blogs and new people to talk to. I’m also currently overseas so I’ve scheduled all these posts, I still have access to internet but I wanted to be free to comment and read instead of writing blog posts.

As for this month, the book club theme was Supernatural and we got to read the classic Victorian Gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. My review went up yesterday and there have been some interesting discussions about the book and its influences in modern pop culture over at Goodreads if you’ve missed it. Next month’s book is going to be a little obscure, something I’ve not heard of; I’m really looking forward to diving into The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

Last month I was in the middle of a reading slump so I was worried that May would be a terrible month for me but I’m pleased to say the slump didn’t last long. I was able to read heaps of great books including Invitation to a Beheading, Main Street and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid. Interesting enough the highlight of the month was none of those books, but a reread of The Great Gatsby; I just enjoyed returning to that novel and then picking it apart trying to understand it. I would love to know what your highlights of the month were or even what you read this month.

My Monthly Reading

The Yearning by Kate Belle

Posted May 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Yearning by Kate BelleTitle: The Yearning (Goodreads)
Author: Kate Belle
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2013
Pages: 323
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1978, in a small country town, a fifteen year old girl’s world is changed with the newly arrived substitute teacher. Solomon Andrews is inspiring, charismatic, charming and beautiful and she wanted him more than anything else in the world. While he was aware of this shy girl interests he thought it was a harmless high school girl crush; that was until the erotic love letters started coming. He knew he should resist but her sensual words stirred him. First love feels like a great love, a forbidden love.

Kate Belle’s The Yearning is not erotic fiction and it’s not really a romance; this is a book that is hard to put into a genre. Well, in a sense you could categorise this book as romance but it’s a dark romance, a one sided romance; I don’t think there is a genre called ‘disturbing obsessions’ or ‘infatuations’ so how can you put this into a genre? I know, I know, genres are annoying and we should get rid of them all, and just have fiction and non-fiction but as a quick way to identify books, I do like to label a book.

I went into this book thinking it sounded a little like Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor but thought maybe there might be similarities to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (also books I’ve not read yet; An Education by Lynn Barber, What Was She Thinking? by Zoë Heller and Tampa by Alissa Nutting) but this book managed to surprise me in the direction Kate Belle took with The Yearning.

A rather daring novel, which I felt there was a sense of predictability within the plot; it was exquisite in parts but also awkwardly erotic and sexy in the approach. Fifteen year old Eve’s desires for her new next door neighbour Solomon Andrews starts off as a simple crush but as her obsession with the sexy teacher grows, so does the yearning till it reaches a dangerous level. To me I like to think this is a look at the intensity of a high school crush and the ignorance towards understanding what true love is; in high school you think every crush really is your soul mate.

Then you get the point of view from Solomon Andrews, who is not as despicable as Humbert Humbert; while he comes across as a hebephile, I get the feeling maybe he is just a pansexual and will take whatever he can get. Without going into much thought into the psyche of Solomon I will say he is weak and should know better, he lets his desire to get laid and the feeling of being desired get the better of him. Highlighting the dangers of giving into your desires and also the problems with falling for someone that is bound to break your heart and have a negative impact on your life.

This novel then takes a surprising turn, something similar to The Reader; it shoots forward twenty years. Now Eve’s is about to marry Max even though that yearning for Solomon has remained and her heart still belongs to him. This marriage is very problematic and she never tries; the relationship as husband and wife is a disaster, the sex is not satisfying, she pressures him into children and the list goes on and on. The downfall of the marriage and the link with her yearning for Solomon is clear to Eve from the start and soon became evident to Max as well.

Now I like uncomfortable novels and I really liked how Kate Belle approached The Yearning with the dark romance and desires. I also liked how she created Solomon as a character you end up having a love/hate relationship with, leaving the reader unsure how they should feel about him; obviously you are meant to hate him but you can’t help feeling other emotions towards him. This only get the book so far for me anyway; I got to about the middle of this book, when Max showed up before it went downhill. The first half was new, somewhat exciting and sexy in all its awkwardness but the second half was a real let down. Sure I like how her yearning for Solomon affected her future relationships but I got a sense that this has all be done before. It just felt so predictable and I was no longer surprised. Many people might be alright with this but for me it felt like the book started off strong and then hit a wall.

I really liked elements of The Yearning and ended up hating others, so this leaves me a little confused with my overall opinion of the book as a whole. Much like the genre, I’m not sure just how to rate it, so I’m going to be neutral and give it two and half stars. This book has gotten a lot of positive reviews, so I think this just shows how bitter and cynical I am to give this book a middle of the road rating. If this book sounds like it will interest you, check it out; don’t let me put you off.