Review: Brazen, by Julia Haart

My Review

Thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for organising this blog tour and to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

I found this book fascinating and shocking. The author writes with candour about her struggles, life within the closed community of fundamentalist Judaism her parents adopted, and her journey to freedom. She is not afraid to call out the hypocrisy of fundamental religions and their followers, and identifies the mechanisms of control that permeate them. Her anger is clear and makes it’s appearance several times as she discusses the abuses in her former community, as well as the ways people take advantage of those who escape controlling groups. She trusted people who she thought were good people only to discover that they were cheats and liars. Help from good people, who understood that getting everything is writing and having contracts is the only way to go in business, got her into a better position and eventually her hard work and creative flare saved her business and freed her family.

The author correctly identifies that women are often used to reinforce their own oppression in these groups; teaching the ‘laws’ to the next generation after a lifetime of indoctrination and abuse, by means of indoctrination and abuse, because they’ve been told it’ll make them holy. Since they can’t be holy or good just by being a decent human, only men can be that. Social pressure, gossip and ostracism are tools used to control women by other women; once the system is set up and in place for a couple of generation, the men no longer have to actively police it, they merely passively benefit from it and never question the problem. In some fundamentalist communities, young men are also thrown out and the stories of their struggles to adapt to a world they haven’t been prepared for are used as lessons to keep others in line.

I would be interested to know how she brought her children and ex-husband away from fundamentalism, as he’s now a Modern Orthodox Jew and the children are all in higher education. The denial of education to children and forcing adults into pre-defined roles based on genitalia are major problems in all fundamentalist religious groups, unfortunately.

Haart’s devotion to her children shines through and she is at pains to make it clear that every risk she took was to give them better lives away where they wouldn’t be forced into early marriage or denied an education.

It doesn’t matter which particular prophet they follow, when your god is a psychopath and his priests can get away with manipulating the people, you’re going to get abuse. Fear of being called a bigot often prevents authorities from intervening where they can, such as in the unregulated and unregistered schools children of fundamentalist parents are often sent to, and to ‘schools with a religious ethos’ in the UK. Just because the parents are *insert religion or denomination here* doesn’t mean the children should be subjected to ignorant, outdated ideas and denied an education. And the ‘God/Allah/YHWH/Jehovah says so’ excuse is lazy and stupid. No, a bunch of old men wrote a load of myths and rules about how to live safely at different times over a thousand years and in different cultural contexts and now you’re trying to force that crap on children living in totally different cultural contexts, in a world with more knowledge available than ever before. You want to believe the myths, go ahead, but you don’t get to force that on other people. Can you tell I have little time for the god of Abraham, and a lot of time for his victims? My Gran would be so upset if she read this.

Back to the book

I found the writing spirited and easy to read. It is a heartfelt plea against fundamentalism and a demand for freedom. I found the descriptions of her creative process and the difficulties of starting a business gripping, while her life in her former community and her travels are fascinatingly told. The details of lives usually hidden from the wider world are enough to give anyone pause, and her discussion of her mental health struggles as she fought to escape and then to build a business are compassionate to herself and others. I’m still surprised at how much compassion she has for her ex-husband, given his behaviour, and that she still has a belief in a higher power, but everyone is different.

I didn’t particularly enjoy reading about Haart’s post-separation sexual adventures, but that’s just me. Some people might be interested. I found some of the phrasing repetitive. There’s only so many times I can read that returning to Monsey was like returning to jail for her, or that she doesn’t let people take advantage of her now. And it felt like it finished a bit abruptly.

In summary

A worthwhile memoir, and peak into the behind the scenes life of a fashion designer.


About the Author

Julia Haart is the star of the Netflix docuseries My Unorthodox Life.

She is the CEO, co-owner and chief creative officer of Elite World Group, the world’s first talent media agency, which is comprised of 48 global agencies representing the most dynamic and culturally connected talent in the world.

She was previously the creative director of La Perla, the luxury Italian intimates brand, and launched her career as a designer with her namesake shoe collection.

Julia lives in Manhattan.

Instagram: @juliahaart.

Review: The Emergent, by Nadia Afifi

Fiction: FICTION / Science Fiction /
Genetic Engineering
Product format: Paperback
Price: £12.95; $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-78758-666-6
Pages: 320 pp

Blurb

Amira Valdez’s adventures continue in the sequel to The Sentient,as she
finds herself in unprecedented danger. The ruthless new leader of the
fundamentalist Trinity Compound seeks to understand his strange
neurological connection with Amira and unleash an army on an unstable
North America. The first human clone has been born, but thanks to the
mysterious scientist Tony Barlow, it may unlock the secret to human
immortality– or disaster. Together, Amira and Barlow form an uneasy alliance in pursuit of scientific breakthroughs and protection from shared enemies.

But new discoveries uncover dark secrets that Barlow wants to keep hidden.

My Review

Thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for organising this blog tour, and to Flame Tree Press for sending me a copy of the book.

Oh my goodness me! I just finished reading this novel (28th May 2022), I read the remaining 250 pages of this 310 page book today after getting started on it earlier in the week but being too exhausted to read for most of the week. I think I read most of it in about 4 hours, which is about normal for me. It was a real page-turner, though, because once I got settled with food and fluids, I didn’t move until I finished reading it.

Amira and friends return some months after the end of The Sentient, the first book in this series. After being cleared by Westport Police of any crimes, Amira has been tagged by the Aldwych Council to prevent her escaping before they could bring her to trial. The opening is tense and moving as Amira deals with her fears about what would happen if she was found guilty on spurious charges. She copes by getting drunk the night before her trial and hiding in an ancient vertical farm. Found and returned to civilisation by her friends D’Arcy and Julian, she finds she has more friends than she thought, or at least people who need her for things, including Dr Barlow. Amira also gets a boyfriend, despite her fears and internalised guilt.

What follows is a rollicking adventure that bounces from calm to tension to explosions and back again several times before an ending that is totally unexpected. There are several gun and ship battles, and once again Amira goes into space and has to do some high level clambering around buildings.

The plot was gripping and I liked the character development of Amira as she realises that she can be someone other than the ‘compound girl come good’ through seeing the manipulation of power players in the city. We learn more about the history of the Pandora project and the Cosmics, and see more of the world post-Cataclysm. There’s an eight year period which demands it’s own novel, from Lee, D’Arcy, Maxine or Hadrian’s POV.

There were some minor typographical errors, couldn’t tell if the author meant to use ‘commandeered’ when ‘commanded’ would make more sense. I can see why, in the context, it would sometimes be appropriate, but not always and it could be a mistake.

Review: Through A Vet’s Eyes, By Dr Sean Wensley

Gaia | £20.00 | 28th April 2022

Dr Sean Wensley is an award-winning vet and lifelong naturalist who has contributed to animal welfare and conservation projects all over the world. His debut book is about how we can choose a better life for animals, from the chickens we eat to the pets we keep.
As our societies become more urbanised, we are further removed from the reality of where and how our food is produced. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the humanisation of our pets is a risk to their welfare; with 60% of UK dogs being overweight or obese, we are effectively killing them with kindness. Through a Vet’s Eyes seeks to redress this imbalance so that we see all animals as thinking, feeling beings not dissimilar to ourselves.

There is high public and political interest in animal welfare, with current attention focused on high-profile topics such as animal sentience, humane and sustainable global agriculture and breeding pets, such as flat-faced dogs, for looks over health. To fully consider and improve the lives of animals, evidence-based information is needed to help us all understand these issues, what they mean from the animals’ perspectives and what we can all do to help.

A polemic with elements of memoir and nature writing, the book takes us through the years in which Sean trained to become a vet and shares his first-hand experience of how animals are treated and used for our benefit. It interrogates the different levels of welfare afforded to them and reveals
how we, as consumers and informed citizens, can reduce our animal welfare footprint through the choices we make every single day.

Continue reading “Review: Through A Vet’s Eyes, By Dr Sean Wensley”

Review: The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport

│14 APRIL 2022│
PB £8.99│EB £5.49│EA £12.99

Blending fantasy and science fiction, N.E. Davenport’s fast-paced, action-packed debut kicks off a duology on loyalty and rebellion, in which a young Black woman must survive deadly trials in a racist and misogynistic society to become an elite warrior.

It’s all about blood.

Blood spilled long ago between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor, ending all blood magic.

Now there is peace in the Republic – but there is also a strict class system, misogyny, and racism. Her world is not perfect, but Ikenna survived in it.

Until now.

With the murder of her grandfather, Ikenna spirals out of control. Though she is an initiate for the Republic’s deadly elite military force, Ikenna has a secret only her grandfather knew: she possesses the blood magic of the Republic’s enemies.

Ikenna throws herself into the gladiatorial war games at the heart of her martial world: trials that will lead her closer to his killers. Under the spotlight, she subjects herself to abuse from a society that does not value her, that cherishes lineage over talent – all while hiding gifts that, if revealed, would lead to execution or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all to find out who killed her grandfather…

So she can end them.

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Review: Anthracite, by Matt Thomas

PAPERBACK 978-1-78965-147-8
5 August 2021
£10.99 / $14.99 / C$19.99 /€11.66
Science Fiction /
Humorous

Blurb

Deadbeat Kevin Jones finds himself kidnapped to an alternative reality where Wales is the single global superpower. Abducted from his mundane existence by the mysterious Gwen, she tells him there are forces seeking his destruction – he has to run or die. It turns out Kevin’s story holds the key to why all worlds but ours turn out the way they do – Pax Cambria.

Featuring a host of mysterious characters, cheese-on-toast based fast food, altright druids and the deadly all-knowing Taffia, Anthracite begins the battle to address the woeful lack of Welsh themed comedy cyberpunk. The fearsome Jones-Corporation might run the world but they have a dirty little secret they don’t want to get out. Swansea has never looked more like near-future LA. It’s already got the rain.

Continue reading “Review: Anthracite, by Matt Thomas”