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Cinders Magazine

Your one stop shop for fandom, feminism and pop culture

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Books and Authors

What we’re reading: Stephanie Garber, Sara Pascoe, Jane Austen, and Jo Baker

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Caraval is a book that has been all over my ‘recommended reads’ lists for months now. I finally picked up a copy to see what all of the hype was about. Billed as being similar to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus Caraval tells the story of two sisters who are invited to a mysterious island, where they can participate in a carnival to achieve their ‘heart’s desire. Think a cross between The Hunger Games and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it as nuanced as either one of those.

Caraval is compelling certainly- I read the book over two days-  but it falls into a few too many familiar tropes. The love interest is introduced within the first few pages. Although he and our lead character patently do not get along it remains obvious throughout that he’s who she is meant to end up with. And that’s the largest criticism of the story: it spends far too long on the couple’s will-they-won’t-they romance and not enough on her relationship with her sister. She is largely absent for most of the story. All in all I felt Caraval ended abruptly. I would have loved to know more about the magical world of the island rather than the characters romantic histories. Fans of The Night Circus may enjoy it however the world wasn’t quite rich enough for me.

Animal by Sara Pascoe

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Sara Pascoe’s Animal is the book you didn’t know you needed in your life. Subtitled ‘The Autobiography of a Female Body’ the book hilariously examines the way we grow and develop as women in today’s society- mostly focussing on our bodies. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable about their body and sexuality to read because it gives such wonderful advice told in such an approachable way. Pascoe examines the way that we talk about female sexuality and how that can be traced back to Darwin and his contemporaries. She gives us a window into her own experiences growing up and tells them in a honest and very, very funny way. Have you ever wanted to know exactly why it is that we obsess over why someone who we didn’t really like hasn’t called us back? Or the scientific reason we fall in love? Animal answers both of those questions and many more, in a way that doesn’t feel overly complex and will have you laughing far too loud. Definitely pick up your copy today.

The works of Jane Austen

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2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and – although we’ve held back on our fangirling for five issues – both editors of Cinders are gigantic Austen fans. Not just for her romances, but for her characters, her sense of humour and her general understanding of human nature, Jane Austen we love you.

If you too are interested in Austen or maybe in seeing why everyone thinks so highly of a woman who wrote less books than are in the Harry Potter series you should absolutely check out a YouTube channel called Pemberly Digital – you won’t be sorry. It has two fabulous vlog-style adaptations of Austen’s best loved novels that have won many awards (including two Emmys!). Many people have been participating in a year long re-watch of their most famous outing – the Lizzie Bennet Diaries in honour of Austen’s 200th anniversary. I [Méabh] have been celebrating Austen by reading Persuasion – the Austen novel I know the least about.

I’ve also been reading Longbourn by Jo Baker. Longbourn is an excellent retelling of Pride and Prejudice but from the perspective of the servants who work in the Bennet household! It’s sharp and entertaining and I really do think Austen would have liked it. Tweet us @cindersmag and tell us how you’re celebrating Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary!

Feminism Forwards – An interview with Rosita Sweetman

First published in Cinders issue three

We had the pleasure of speaking with author, writer and feminist Rosita Sweetman. Author of Father’s Come First – which we reviewed in issue two of Cinders – Rosita gave us her impression of feminism today, how it has changed since Ireland of the 70s.

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What with the strides that the feminist movement has taken in recent years for privileged women of the developed world, it can be easy to forget how much more change is needed – but also how recently in Ireland that women’s power was os much less and so reliant on the men in their lives. But that is the world that Rosita Sweetman’s Father’s Come First is set in. Rosita wrote the small but powerful novel when she was living in East Africa and thinking of home.

The book is the coming of age story of Lizzie while she tries to figure out how to fit in, how best to be a woman and live up to the expectations that are put on her by her family, her teachers and society. It’s a very different world from the one we have now. Rosita see’s some changes as extremely positive, “Isn’t it brilliant that more young people are more willing to say that they are feminists,” she said. She saw this through the reaction from people after the book was rereleased.

“It was one of the things that  has been  a really nice surprise after Lilliput republished it, was that young people really got it. I thought it was going to seem really weird to young people but it did seem to have some relevance for them so that was really interesting.”

Rosita pointed out that feminist energy is returning among young people,  young women care about being seen as feminist in a way they haven’t since the 60s and 70s. “I felt really strongly that the feminist energy which has been dormant is really coming up again. More strongly even than before  because there are so many more young educated women dying to have a voice. I feel it’s a really optimistic time to be a woman. We know so much more.”

“I felt really strongly that the feminist energy which has been dormant is really coming up again.

I asked her does she still think that, given the outcome of the US election? “Even with Trump  look at the Women’s March – it was fantastic. The Trump win and everything is pretty horrendous and the big business that he’s pushing around him but what’s amazing is seeing how many passionately real feminists there are in America, people who really care about values for a good long time – there’s Trump trashing around but there are hundreds of thousands of people saying ‘not in our name’ that’s up lifting at the same time.”

“I look at my daughter Chupi now and I think wow- a daughter  of the revolution! She’s got her own business, is thriving, you know there was never any question for her that she would make her own way,” she continued.

It can be very easy to forget just how recent it is that attitude for women. While reading the book I really identified with Lizzie and  with her perspective as a young women  but the struggles that she was going through that were a product of the time – her whole reliance on men that felt like something I hadn’t experienced. Rosita agreed, “It was just the reality, the guys had all of the money it was a totally skewed equality and relations. The women movement’s has certainly opened up relations but there’s still a long way to go.”

It was just the reality, the guys had all of the money it was a totally skewed equality and relations.

And while double standards still exist for many women, particularly those who are in less privileged positions, Rosita smells the winds of change.

“Double standards will exist until the end of time! I think it’s loads better, so much of the hypocrisy has gone , there are pebblestones in it but we are growing up as a nation slowly. Look at the marriage equality referendum, I think the eighth amendment is going to be repealed, it’s on its way it’s not going to go back now.”

She sees that as coming from an improvement in attitudes from young people today.

“I look at the openness and clarity of your generation and my children’s generation and it’s just so different. Positively so. It’s centuries ahead of most people in power. I suppose every generation is a new generation and a new reality.”

This is interesting as I pointed out to Rosita that most young women, myself included, who identify themselves as feminists now, wouldn’t have always done so – everyone had their own journey to becoming one. It took time and learning for our attitudes to become inclusive.

“The book I’m working on at the moment for Lilliput is called ‘Feminism Backwards’ and its about exactly that, the journey towards becoming a feminist. It’s a development of consciousness. It’s sort of like becoming politically aware.”

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That balance is central to Rosita’s beliefs, the balance between these two energies, between any two energies. “I think that it’s the core of the world it’s yin-yang, it’s the balancing opposing energies that are equal, male-female, whatever you call them, that is where the balance is. It’s absolutely necessary for both powers to be equal to have the right things to happen. One of the things with the alt-right I feel is it’s just so male. All of these guys just look so desperately male – it;s not the way that we’re  meant to live – we’re meant to live mixed up! All ages, all sexes, all groups, we’re not meant to hive off of a particular energy, then it just goes mad!”

I think that it’s the core of the world it’s yin-yang, it’s the balancing opposing energies that are equal, male-female, whatever you call them, that is where the balance is.

The way forward she believes is acknowledging that feminism and female energy go hand in hand. We can’t help but completely agree with her. “I think feminism it’s right there at the core of our own female energy, and moving forward it’s about taking cognisance of that fact.”

Photos of the Women’s March by Roya Ann Miller and Jerry Kiesewatter.

Teenage Dreams – An Interview with Claire Hennessy

First published in Cinders Issue Three

Claire Hennessy has been a published writer since she was twelve. Since the release of her first book Dear Diary, she has been at the forefront of Irish teen literature. Now as a children’s book editor and author she has even more feathers in her very large cap! Meabh McDonnell had a chat with Claire about her last book Nothing Tastes as Good and her upcoming release, Like Other Girls.

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Continue reading “Teenage Dreams – An Interview with Claire Hennessy”

Unusual Beauties and their Beasts continued

First published in Cinders issue three

What with the new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast hitting our screens earlier in the year it got us here in Cinders thinking about some of our favourite unconventional interpretations of the classic fairytale. Méabh McDonnell looks at the ways the tale as old as time can be interpreted.

Continue reading “Unusual Beauties and their Beasts continued”

Beauties and their Beasts

First published in Cinders issue three

What with the new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast hitting our screens earlier in the year it got us here in Cinders thinking about some of our favourite unconventional interpretations of the classic fairytale. Méabh McDonnell looks at the ways the tale as old as time can be interpreted.

A tiny ladybird edition of Beauty and the Beast was my favourite book as a child. The Disney animated movie also held a special place in my heart – still does in fact. Beauty and the Beast is a complex story. On the one hand it’s the magical tale about how love is all you need . It’s the concept that rings true with most people in love – it doesn’t matter what the person looks like – if you love them, you love them. That being said… on the other hand it’s a story where a young woman’s freedom is claimed by a vicious domineering beast who then proceeds to win her over by granting her ‘freedoms’ within what is a very well furnished prison. It’s hard to reconcile that with the happy story of love conquering all. Some people find that too much of a turn off – others might point out that fairytales were written in a time where they were meant to be more gothic than sweet. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall upon Beauty and the Beast’s enduring nature as a story is undeniable.

This is why I decided to compile some of my favourite interpretations of this classic story that I feel really capture the best Beauties and even better Beasts. Some are closer to the original tale than others but all have a special allure.

Continue reading “Beauties and their Beasts”

Write what you need – An interview with Meg Grehan

First Published in Cinders Issue Four

Last issue we had the pleasure of reviewing Meg Grehan’s gorgeous verse novel, The Space Between. This month editor Méabh McDonnell was delighted to talk to Meg about her writing inspiration, mental health and poetry.

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1.What was the inspiration for The Space Between? 

It wasn’t inspiration so much as desperation, to be honest! When I started writing The Space Between I was an absolute mess. I couldn’t go two days without a panic attack, I was afraid of everything, I couldn’t bring myself to leave my house and I needed to do something. I read a lot which helped at first but I could never find exactly what I needed in the books I read so I decided to write what I needed instead. It was inspired by the tough things I was going through but also the good things. I’m lucky to have had someone who was there for me every step of the way, my girlfriend came home every evening and listened to every rambling thought I had. She constantly reminded me that I had to help myself but that she would hold my hand while I figured out how. I wanted to write about how while people aren’t medicine, there’s power in letting people in and she inspired that in a million little ways.

Continue reading “Write what you need – An interview with Meg Grehan”

Hermione herself

First published in Cinders magazine issue four

When I was ten years old I reluctantly began to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I say reluctant because when I was seven I had the unfortunate experience of hearing the second last chapter of the book, completely out of context. It gave me a very warped perspective on the stories including thinking they were about businessmen, played nothing but magical baseball and there was no mention of the superhero that is Hermione Granger.

Because if I’d known about her, I would have eaten those books up. Instead I maintained my stubborn attitude to all things JK Rowling for three years. It wasn’t until I received the first book for my 10th birthday that I finally decided to read them. And then something very special happened, a few chapters into the book, I met Hermione.

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Continue reading “Hermione herself”

Recommended Reads: Lauren Nicolle Taylor, Moira Fowley Doyle, Renée Ahdieh

First published in issue four of Cinders

Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

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Nora and Kettle is a novel I stumbled upon while reading recommendations for fairytale fantasy online. After purchasing the book, I binged the whole story in one morning. The compelling little novel is a re-telling of Peter Pan but from a very different perspective. Set in 1950s New York in the aftermath of WWII  our ‘Peter’ is a Japanese-American runaway, nicknamed Kettle who is terrified of having his band of lost children (other Japanese runaways) discovered and re-homed.

Continue reading “Recommended Reads: Lauren Nicolle Taylor, Moira Fowley Doyle, Renée Ahdieh”

Book Review Corner: The Space Between by Meg Grehan

First published in Cinders volume issue three

Spoken word novels are a new trend in YA literature. We saw it with last year’s highly successful One by Sarah Crossan and Meg Grehan’s The Space Between uses the same format. And it uses it so very well. 33972290

Once you are a few pages into The Space Between it’s difficult to imagine the book being written in anything but verse – it’s the absolutely perfect format to tell Beth’s story.

The Space Between is a beautiful examination of how mental health disorders can pin someone inside their own mind and then how through small but significant battles they can work their way out and live with them.

Beth is not okay. She has made a decision to remain within her house for a year. She is falling in on herself and only going further down when she meets Mouse. Mouse is friendly and kind and fluffy and warm.

Continue reading “Book Review Corner: The Space Between by Meg Grehan”

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