#BangingBookClub: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

So Youtubers Hannah Witton, Leena Norms and Lucy Moon are  running a book reading club called #BangingBookClub. As opposed to making a video, I’ll be participating via my blog!

Their video review

The first in this year’s list is…

Asking For It by Louise O’Neil

**trigger warning:novel contains rape and descriptions of self-harm**

{Blog post will be referencing these}

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Is it possible to want everything to change and nothing to change, all at the same time?

This book got me thinking a lot about how we treat victims of rape, how every societal institution plays their part in victim blaming, through the eyes of the media, the law, local communities, and family & friends etc.

Admittedly, yes, the main character Emma was portrayed as an absolute bitch from the very beginning: she belittled her own friends, bullied her fellow students, and was generally a right pain in the arse. However, that dislike of her character I had felt at the start instantly disappeared once she became a victim.

While she wasn’t there for Jamie, her friend who also tells her that she was raped,she soon learns what it actually means to be. None of her friends are truly there for her, although after some initial hostility her friends talk to her again, there is still a sense of blame from them (Ali: “forgives” her for sleeping with Sean, the guy she fancies, the guy who rapes Emma).

Her parents are also very oblivious to how their behaviour is affecting their daughter. Emma’s Father ignores her completely, again reinforcing this feeling of self-blame within Emma, while her Mother turns to alcohol and becomes a victim instead of staying strong for her daughter who is an actual victim, always stopping short at ‘this wouldn’t have happened if… [you hadn’t gotten raped]’. Reading this through Emma’s eyes made me feel like nobody cared for her wants and needs, even when she decides to withdraw her complaint to please her parents, I felt like it was not what she truly wanted.

Media hysteria, and in this day and age, social media also, play a part in victim blaming, highlighted through the the snippets of the Ned O’Dwyer show that Emma eavesdrops on and sensationalist newspapers she finds.  

  •  What did she expect?
  •  Wearing skirts up to their arses
  •  She was asking for trouble

These kind of questions and thinking are preventing young women in situations like Emma’s from being helped.

Even religion’s part in the treatment of rape victims is criticised in the novel, with Father Michael, the book’s local priest, openly shaking hands with and giving his condolences to the perpetrators. I don’t want to go too much into it but I feel like many fundamentalist thinkers see women as temptresses, thus again enforcing this stereotype that women who are raped are to be blamed, especially in Catholic communities in Ireland like Ballinatoom, where the book is set in (which I can’t help thinking sounds like a fictitious Cbeebies town!)

The only characters who fully understand, or attempt to understand Emma, and are completely there for her throughout are Bryan (her brother) and Conor, whom are ironically both male (I’m not sure if O’Neill did this on purpose or not!)

Another thing which shocked me was how much the small community they lived in mattered to the issue so much, an aspect I hadn’t considered having lived in a city all my life. The fact that everybody knew each other  and that the perpetrators were considered to be ‘good local boys’ added to the disbelief of the fact that Emmie had been raped,her  Mother even going as far as to say that she didn’t understand how it could have happened because “he dressed nicely”.

And finally, I’d just like to comment on the injustice of the law that allowed Emma’s abusers to still walk free in her community and allowed them to continue harassing her. How is this allowed? I don’t completely know how the Irish justice system works in comparison to other parts of the UK or how claims of rape are dealt with, but the fact that abusers can get away with their behaviour and continue harassing and abusing is completely absurd to me.

I liked the use of the repetition of negative phrases throughout the book which Emma had heard and read about her, as it showed how much the negativity around her had impacted upon her, which I thought perfectly depicted the anxiety aspects of depression, the words going around and around in her head, squeezing into every part of your brain and chest, rendering you worthless and necessary, at least mentally anyway.

The novel ends on an ambiguous note, atypical of normal books, but it serves to indicate that it is not all rainbows and sunshine for victims like Emma, like all the Emmas of the world, who still have a long way to go and a lot of healing to go through.

I  really enjoyed this novel. I’m glad I read it as it gave me a lot to think about and really presented ideas of rape in a very thought provoking manner.

Thoughts? Have any of you read this before or would like to?


 

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues talked about here///

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999.

NHS Direct Helpline ‐ 24 hour medical advice and information service: 111

Alternatively, you can contact several voluntary organisations for emotional support:

The Samaritans | 0845 790 9090 | www.samaritans.org

Saneline |0845 767 8000 | www.sane.org.uk

RoI Rape Crisis Centre | 1800 77 8888 | www.drcc.ie

UK Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre | 0808 802 9999 | www.rasasc.org.uk


Don’t forget to follow!

Until next time,
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#10 Book Review: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

This book me took me a while to read, both because in all honesty it’s not genre I usually read and so it took me a while to really get into it, and because I’ve been so damn busy!

“soon she wouldn’t witness the miracle of blood and sinew responding to her thoughts. Soon she wouldn’t feel anything at all.”

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Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke tells the story of Gretchen, a former family friend of Adolf Hitler, who progressively finds out that things are not all what they seem. In falling in love with a Jewish boy, Daniel, and having to face all  the consequences that come with it during the unfolding of Nazi Germany, all the truths Gretchen once thought she knew start falling apart. The mesmerising authority figure of her childhood, Hitler, is not as charming and fantastical as he once seemed, and she even realises that her own father had his flaws. This applies to so many of us, the naïve view we have of our parents when we’re young is often faulted and tinged with childhood idolization before realising that they are in fact not as perfect as we thought and we could be a better person than them of we chose.

Additionally, all the stereotypes Gretchen has ever known are called into question throughout her evolution within the book. Jews are obviously not the “virus” that she was taught they were and even the corrupted and evil criminals she expects when she meets The Ringvereine men (a gang of criminals persecuted by the Nazis), she finds that they are much more complex than that. They treat her with kindness and welcome arms and Gretchen is surprised to see that their leader, Friedrich, is so kindly, especially in his gentle attitude towards his children, proving himself to be a better father than the upright National socialist her own father was.

“what would death be like? The fields of wildflowers and angels her childhood priest had preached about, or a void of blackness and silence?”

The only negative thing I can think to say is that at times I felt like Gretchen’s thought process was oversimplified and  2-dimensionalised , she would make correct decisions without explanation or deliberation, like when looking for the door to the Reichstag building, she managed to bypass two sets of forked corridors and get to her desired destination by an utter and complete miracle.

Despite knowing what was going to happen in terms of the historical aspect of the book, as I knew what the events were that led to Hitler becoming Chancellor, and later on Führer, especially regarding Enabling Act, the fact that the story intertwined fiction with history meant that you could really focus on the main story and become invested in the heart-wrenchingly beautiful relationship between David and Gretchen without the fact that you knew what was going to happen historically becoming an anticlimax.

Thank you to bookbridg and Headline Publishing for sending me this book, all opinions (and this whole review in fact) are my own!


Opinions/comments – tell me what you think! And if you haven’t read it, would you like to?

As always, follow Acreativegirlnadia for more of my book reviews and other such things!

Hasta pronto,

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#9 Book Review: Holy Cow by David Duchovny

Holy Cow  tells the story of Elsie, an anthropomorphic cow with human attributes which receive no acknowledgement and no explanation, who along with a turkey and pig, escapes her farm in order to pursue her dream.

Holy Cow

“Oh yeah, we believe in God. In the shape of a cow. Not really. Scared you,though, didn’t I?”

Although it took me longer than expected to read, due to both my impending coursework deadline and difficulty to immerse myself into the story, I on the whole greatly enjoyed this satirical tale.

Reading some reviews on Goodreads (as you do), many people complained about its rambliness (not a word, I know) but I think that that’s the whole point. It acts as an inconsequential kids book to serve the purpose of the satire that Duchovny means to present.

This humorous novel is arguably the best satire of the twenty-tens. In what other context would a turkey, a pig and a cow solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?! It is a criticism of human selfishness and behaviour, our obsession with technology, and animal mistreatment and farming.

“You people are funny, constantly thinking about eating and trying to look like you never eat at the same time”

“Humans will eat almost anything if you put a little salt and butter on it”

With the discovery of what cows are turned into when they mysteriously disappear (did someone say burger?!), Elsie explores ideas about human superiority and how humans feel like they have power over every other being . All animals are sentient, and I feel like this book serves to show this. Although we wouldn’t quite agree, Elsie reinforces this by joking “you think plants don’t have feelings? Maybe not the type of feelings you and I have, but they do have planty feelings…”. I mean plants clearly don’t have a brain, but that’s besides the point!

“Hate is like a poison you make for your enemy that you end up swallowing yourself”

As Elsie points out, we do not want to be reviled, but its is not right to want to be worshipped either. Every one of us is equal, both amongst people and on the wider scale of within the whole animal kingdom too.

I enjoyed how it broke the fourth wall, with Elsie going into tangents about her editor and what she would do if her story was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster – I mean who wouldn’t want to be played by Jennifer Lawrence? (2015 pop culture references down!)

“innocence is nice, but the world offers us more and it’s wrong not to take it. You can’t stay a calf forever.”

We all eventually grow out of oblivious innocence, and even though some, like Mallory, are content to stay where they are, many of us,like Elsie, will yearn to get out and explore the wider world and what we can learn from it.

And even though Elise, Tom (the turkey) and Shalom (the pig’s) big beyond the seas dreams don’t come true…

…” it’s not important that dreams come true,it’s just important that you have a dream to begin wit, to get you to take your first steps.”


 

I hope you enjoyed this slightly different style of book review. I don’t know if it’s all this essay writing, but I’ve somehow developed this need to jot down any quotes I particularly like.

I don’t normally read satires, so this was definitely an interesting read and a genre I will definitely look out for more.

Thank you to bookbridg and Headline Publishing for sending me this book, all opinions (and this whole review in fact) are my own!

As always, subscribe to follow my brain in book-review form.

Hasta luego,

Nadia xx

#8 Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

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Although I feel as though I’m a little too old for this (despite mentions of drugs, sex, and swearing – okay maybe not TOO old?!), I know that this is the kind of book I know I would have absolutely loved when I was younger. The kind of book where a character takes something trivial and exaggerates it into huge profundity. In this case, the need to fill up the hole of a break up with a ‘replacement’.

One of the issues Colin explores in this novel is the existential crisis of needing to matter. It is an idea that I have struggled with for a long time, and many others probably have too – the idea of wanting to be someone and make your mark on the world. As Colin muses, “I just want to do something that matters. Or be something that matters. I just want to matter”. You want to matter so that you aren’t simply slowly forgotten until eventually everyone who knew you is gone and then it is as if you never existed in the first place. Nothing but a forgotten being in “the ground”, “where we all go”.

I guess this book has taught me that you don’t have to do something grandiose and genius in order to matter. Small changes, like Hollis working extra and hiding the fact that her company was going bust in order to not have to fire people and help out the ‘oldsters’ with their pensions. Or even telling a story that’ll  change someone’s perspective or life in the most infinitesimal way, as Colin discovers. Even doing something  meaningful with your life, doing something rather than “just sucking food and water and money out of the world” as Hassan realises.

“There’s no level of fame or genius that allows you to transcend oblivion”. In the end the future will “swallow us up” and erase everything, and no matter who you were or what level of fame you’ve reached in your life, eventually it won’t matter. Even the greatest philosopher we know of today will eventually be forgotten – and that’s sort of comforting! (I think…)

Colin feels frustrated at not being able to calculate his theorem, he feels he’s not genius enough. But the fact of the matter is, we can never scientifically or mathematically predict the future (whether that is predicting who will be the dumpee /dumper or otherwise). The past can easily be accounted for and mapped out, but the future (cheesy as this sounds) is what you make of it! And I’m glad Colin had this realisation.

Just like the future, personality is not set in stone either. Lindsey feels like a chameleon. She is a different person around different people. But thinking about it, we’re all like that really – smiley and hard-working around teachers (well…), obedient around our parents and our wildest versions of ourselves with our friends. And this brings up the question: who’s the real me? After this realisation Colin feels like everything he knew about himself is gone. But aren’t we all these different versions of ourselves? We simply show a different side to different groups of people – but they all add up to make you you- right? And as the characters in AAOK progress they figure this out too, they can be all these versions of themselves and remake themselves however they like. You can be whoever you want to be.

Even though the Maths was extremely confusing (thank God for the appendix at the end!), I honestly thought An Abundence of Katherines was funny, culturally aware and I loved the little annotations at the bottom. Despite the fact that I’m clearly not the target demographic (age-wise) for this novel, it did give me a lot to think about and I definitely enjoyed it!

Have any of you read AAOK before? What did you think of it? Please let me know!

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back”

Follow if you haven’t already to keep up with my rambles (if you want…)

Hasta luego,

Nadia xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

#7 Book Review: The Letter by Kathryn Hughes

The Letter

This book was an emotional tale of sorrow, loss and family.

Warning: it did contain multiple descriptions of both emotional and physical abuse, an aspect which surprisingly really touched me emotionally and even angered me at times. I was angered by Rick’s treatment of Tina,  pantomime internally screaming “don’t do it!” when she returned to him. It so truly depicts the thought process of women in domestic abuse situations, of women who feel they should give another chance to their abusers,who just want what they think is best for their families, which I think is what makes this novel so heart wrenchingly powerful.

‘The Letter’ jumps back and forth from two key historical periods -1939 and the 1970s. I liked how it focused on the personal perspectives of the individual and how they dealt with the issues of their time, rather than an overall view on what was happening at the time like many other books tend to do.

The whole novel is based on the idea of the butterfly effect and what could have been. Just like anything in life, there are so many different strands or paths where the story could have gone, where Chrissie or William’s lives could have been totally different. It’s strange to think that a small little thing – a single action or decision- can alter the course of your life entirely. If Chrissie had known that Billy had tried to contact her, or even gotten his letter, her life could have been much more fulfilled and happy, but at the same time, that unopened letter was the cause of Tina (30 years later) finding happiness and fulfilment. It’s a two way thought process really, while you want to be angry at Dr Skinner for denying his daughter a chance at being happy (and boy was I!), you also have to think that BECAUSE of his very foolishness, Tina now has a chance at being happy with William, a man she would never had met had it not been for her persistence in tracing the recipient of the letter.
Overall, I think the actual story and characters are what pulled this novel through, as that is what kept me reading and connecting with it all. I recommend it to anyone who has some time and a heart ready to be tumbled into a washing machine of stirring and emotional weepiness.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Headline Review Publishers but all opinions are my own. 

#6 Book Review: Daughter by Jane Shemilt

Firstly…HELLO NEW FOLLOWERS! Thanks for following and I hope you enjoy all my content and all the stuff there is to come! Now to continue…

Daughter

I first picked up this book because I saw it advertised on an underground billboard (great reasoning eh!?) and to an extent, it did not disappoint.

While I was confused at first with the back and forth of the timeline (the book jumps between before and after the daughter’s disappearance) after I got into it I honestly started to enjoy it. Finding out about the characters, gaining clues as to what had happened, and what Naomi might have been doing the weeks before her disappearance…

…Then the middle happened. I don’t know why but it seemed to drag on for a while and I really had to push myself to reach the last section. All she seemed to do was paint, visit her neighbour and talk to her neighbour’s grandson (riveting).  In addition, her fling with family liaison officer went nowhere, except to reveal that he was a bit racist in the end…

However, I definitely started to enjoy it near the end, during the 13 months later section when it got closer to the conclusion. And let me tell you – it was a rather surprising ending! Like I have a love-hate relationship with that ending – on one side I’m super happy that she didn’t die, however, I don’t understand why Naomi would choose to make the choice she made (despite her parents constantly working, her home life was rather good!) , or why the mother seemingly chooses to do nothing about the discovery after she finds out that the information the police have is wrong.

So overall, I don’t regret reading it, but I gained nothing out of it either!

Has anybody read this? Did you have similar opinions? Would you read this if you haven’t read it? Opinions welcome!

#5 Book Review: The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train

This book has been raved about so much on social media that when I saw a hardback copy for £2.99 at a charity shop, I had to get it! (I love hardbacks, okay?! I don’t have nearly enough)

I’m on an internet-less holiday right now (literally posting this was a nightmare) so this book came in as a really great light read to fill my youtube and whatsapp-less days. I loved the simplicity of the layout, and although the dates were sometimes hard to follow, the story overall was easy to get your head around and in my opinion, well told.

As the kind of over imaginative person that loves to people watch and gets on the tube almost every day (namely not a train as in the book, but same thing right?!) the idea that you could become so entangled in a complete stranger’s life fascinates me.

This book offers you your classic mystery, in a wonderfully simple read that will leave you literally open-mouthed until the very end. I liked that it was written in separate chapters from different characters’ perspectives, so you could slowly gather the pieces which amounted to the end of the story and that the end left you with a little bit (not the greatest, but a little bit of) a cliffhanger as well.

It’s also quite nice how the book dealt with the very heavy and topical issues of alcoholism, mental health and adultery.

I honestly think that if you have some time to spare, you should definitely check out this book, as although I read it in between spare hours during 3 days, you could probably finish it in about a day and it’s a nice mystery to get your teeth into!

#4 Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Now this is not the kind of book I would normally read, but I saw it came out in cinemas a couple of months ago and I thought: hey, I should really read it before watching it. Also this has made me realise how I seem to have a knack for  reading books that are made into films – ehh I read other books too, I swear!

One thing  I loved about this haunting murder mystery is the distinct tones used to distinguish between the character’s different personalities. This may not make sense to you if you haven’t read it, but it really adds to emphasise how truly ‘messed up’ Amy is. While my oblivious self was really annoyed at the beginning at what seemed like Amy’s total stupidity and blindness when it came to her husband, the change of tone in the second half came as a huge shock – like literally, I was left mouth-opened on the bus!  I also loved the switching between Amy and Nick’s POVs as it really gave you a sense of how each of them viewed the same things and why they chose to behave in a certain way.

An interesting idea that was brought up in Gone Girl is the existence of this supposed ‘Cool Girl’ – women pretending to be the “perfect woman” in order to appease men. This seems bizarre knowing how far we’ve come in terms of women’s rights, and giving that up just so we can go back to simply being an ideology craved by men is playing right into the patriarchy. As Gillian Flynn succinctly put it in the conversation section at the end of my copy of the book (a great little section by the way): “to pretend to be today’s ‘Cool Girl’ is just as restricting and confining as it was for women back in the 1950s who were forced into the ‘Happy Homemaker’ role.” I wonder if women actually feel the need to become a different person in order to impress men and if men truly go the whole of their relationship with this woman unaware that she is a ‘fake’.

Another thought touched upon is how much the internet has changed the opinions we abide by, and especially in terms of the legal system. Now everyone, regardless of whether they’re involved in the issue or not, as long as it’s in the public eye, will have an opinion and will take a side . How we view people in the limelight is largely influenced by social media -both in how the media portrays them, and how other people are responding to them. This can be a big issue in notorious cases when it comes to the very traditional (maybe too old-fashioned?) jury system.  Are the decisions made based on fact and evidence or on preconceptions? This will affect the overall outcome greatly.

Overall I loved this novel and the twists and turns it took me on, despite the fact that I found the ending very frustrating, it was a thrilling read for the most part. Without giving away too many spoilers, the decision made by Nick in the end is not a choice I would have made. Although the newborn child may have made a difference, I honestly felt like it completely contradicted with the resolution that he took the whole novel to come to.

#3 Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

RoomNow I bought this book back when it was nominated for the Booker Prize and I  had heard so many good things about it. But then I somehow forgot about it and there it sat on my bookshelf  until last week – boy I do not regret it!  (Beware for spoilers if you haven’t read it)

We hear and read  all kinds of horrific stories about years of kidnap and confinement but the full picture of such a harrowing tragedy does not hit you until you read it from the oblivious innocence that is a five year old’s perspective, as he learns what is real and what isn’t in horrific captivity.

While reading this, I found it is hard to decide whether ‘Ma’s’ (no name – obviously she’s Jack’s ‘Ma’) decisions were the correct ones, if they were what I would’ve done in the same situation. Was her telling Jack that everything that he saw on TV was not real and separate from the real world the right thing to do? Now I am not a mother, and I realise that it might have been difficult for Jack to conceptually understand, but it affects his overall understanding, an understanding that’ll help him be aware of his surroundings and situation in the long term – for him to learn the truth about where he is and why he is there. On the other hand, I completely see how she wouldn’t want her five year old to realise what a  horrific situation they are in, and in the case that they would never escape, she would want him to live in happy obliviousness. That’s a major question that can also be applied to many other situations: would we rather know something bad and live in its miserable consequences or not know and remain blissfully unaware? In addition, I feel as if Ma’s decision to want to keep Jack at her side at all times after their escape proves less beneficial to Jack. Although understandably after the ordeal she’s faced she doesn’t want to risk letting go of him, it is clear that she requires psychological help separate from that of her son’s, and so keeping him with her constantly does not help with his development in my opinion.  Even her rush for them to live in an apartment together so soon after her attempted suicide doesn’t seem like a good idea – it looked like Jack was doing a lot better with his grandparents to be honest!

The novel also touches upon how Jack comes to terms, as we all have,  with the fact that our parents are not as worldly and all knowing as we see them from young eyes. There is only so much that ‘Ma’ can answer before starting to make things up. And his realisation becomes increasingly apparent e.g. when his Uncle Paul informs him that sewage does not go into the sea as his Ma previously informed him and he also realises that people do in fact lie. I feel as if this is an honestly raw feeling that we all experience, as the innocent beliefs we carry in childhood become increasingly watered down with society’s harsh reality – that people lie, even the people we love lie.

The moment when Jack bids goodbye to Room and realises how cramped  and squalid the place he once called home really is, is in my opinion probably one of the most touching  moments in the whole novel, especially as Ma doesn’t have the same strength and courage to bear it as her five year old son does. It’s the first step to staring to forget the past and staring afresh and I found it so beautiful how Jack had the incentive to take that step when his mother didn’t. It truly shows Jack starting to become his own person away from “the spit” of his Ma.

Overall, I loved Emma Donoghue’s first-person portrayal of Jack, I honestly think she got the language and simplistic thoughts ‘spot on’ – even how several words are joined together in one instance when Jack is nervous and says them all at once. However, I must admit that I honestly felt that after the point of escape the narrative voice changed and did not feel the same any more. To add to this, I felt the end was very rushed and Jack’s development seemed far too quick. Regardless, I loved the simplicity of living the horribleness of Room through Jack’s eyes in the beginning of the novel, it made a touching novel despite it’s negatives.

#2 Book Review: Paper Towns By John Green

Paper Towns

So this book isn’t the most brilliantly written in a literary sense but I feel like the themes and ideas John Green tries to put across in this book are very real and raw. Now I’ve heard this book is very similar to John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’ but I haven’t read it, so I wouldn’t know.

This book revolves around the fact that not everything we think to be true is in fact true. When Quentin and Margo look at their town from atop the SunTrust building they realise how material their small world really is, people getting on with their routine lives amongst ageing streets. “All those paper people living in their paper houses,burning the future to stay warm” as Margo suggests. Is that really all we are? “Paper-frail” people living meaningless lives in “paper towns”?  It brings a whole new meaning to our self-absorbed and greed filled existence. Green is almost questioning the validity of humanity itself in my opinion. Are our lives really all that worthwhile?

The second topic I think John Green brings up is the reality of idolisation. We live in a society run by stars we worship in every form. Celebrity culture is what’s in magazines, Tumblr and on our adolescent room walls, admiring and revering every actor, singer, and model we aspire to become. However, in reality we don’t know them at all. Quentin thinks he knows Margo Roth Spiegelman and is in love with his idea of her, until he realises that he does not know her at all. That super, cool, awesome girl in high school we all wanted to be, yeah she wasn’t as super, cool, and awesome as we imagined her in our heads, and neither are the countless celebrities we think we know from a few minutes of interviews and screen time.

So overall I think that although this book could have been written a lot better, and I really think it could have done without the ending as I feel like it defies what Green was trying to put across, I do think that the messages are very relevant and give us a lot to think about.

Hasta pronto,

Nadia x