After recently enjoying the The Wrath & the Dawn duology by Renée Ahdieh, I wanted more fantasy with a similar feel, so I eagerly picked up Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. I've had this on my TBR for a while now, and it's so good, I wish I had picked it up sooner!
Amani lives with her aunt, uncle, his many wives and his many children in Dustwalk, a harsh town where money is hard to come by. The only reason the town hasn't fallen under is the factory that makes guns for the Sultan, who gives them to his foreign allies, the Gallans. Life is hard for Amani; her mother is dead, her aunt and uncle treat her badly, and being female, she has very few prospects. The only thing she has going for her is her secret talent with a gun. She wants to get out, but with very little money, it's difficult. Her need to leave becomes desperate when she overhears her aunt and uncle discussing that it's time for Amani to marry, her uncle expressing his desire that she marries him. She needs to flee, and she needs to do so fast, so when a stranger, Jin, saves her life and gives her the chance to escape, she grabs it with both hands. But obstacles fall in her path towards Izman, the city her mother always spoke about running to. The desert is full of creatures who would feast on her and Jin if they're discovered, and soldiers who are seeking those in alliance with the Rebel Prince, who plans to overthrow his father, the Sultan. Soon Amani finds herself caught up in an uprising that promises change and reveals truths she never would have imagined.
Aah, Rebel of the Sands is so good! So much happens in this story, you barely get a chance to relax. It's fast-paced and action packed, and so damn exciting! I love the world Hamilton has created in this series. It's a world that is inspired by the Middle East / South Asia, so there's not a single white person is this whole story. It's so wonderful to read fantasy outside of the usual Medieval British inspired world, and have world building based on a different culture. I loved the folklore Hamilton wove into the story, with the world having it's own stories, it's own myths and legends, of the Djinn, First Beings and immortals. I loved reading all the stories about specific Djinn, and the various creation stories people believed. These people have their own religion and religious holidays - Shihabian, a day to celebration and prayer, when at midnight for a few moments, all light goes out; no stars, no moon, no fire, no lanterns, just complete and total darkness, to remember when the Destroyer of Worlds brought the endless night. It's all just so fascinating, and there's so much detail. It has a slight Arabian Nights feel to it, but these are stories, myths and legends that Hamilton created herself, stories within a story, and it gives this world a real history and culture. Hamilton really put the work into creating this world.
Rebel of the Sands is also a feminist story. In Amani's world, women and girls are treated so badly. Men want sons not daughters, because girls are weak and weak minded. Men have numerous wives, and the women have no say in who they marry. This is a world where women fear when the Gallan army come through their towns, because the soldiers are known to rape women. And if you've been raped, you get treated despicably by people, including your own husband, for being a "foreigner's whore". And any children you bear as a consequence of being raped, like Amani, are also ill-treated. Women are beaten and abused, and this is the norm. This is Amani's life.
So it's completely understandable that she would want to escape. As it is she is beaten for any by her aunt - her mother's sister - for any toe she puts out of line, and now her uncle has his sights set on her becoming his next wife. She's already suffered so much, at the hands of her mother's husband, who she called father, then with the death of her mother, and now with how she is treated by her aunt and uncle. She can't accept that this is her life, and she is determined to get out. Amani is so brave and so strong, and has a quick, smart mouth. She's funny, but more, she's inspiring. She's good with a gun because she would practise over and over shooting bottles in secret, and the book starts with her entering a shooting competition as a boy in an attempt to win money that will help her get her out of Dustwalk. It's there that she meets Jin, the strange foreigner who's about to change her life.
There's only one thing that's wrong with this novel; I wish it was longer. It's 358 pages, but with fairly large font, so you find yourself flying through Rebel of the Sands faster than expected. No matter how fast or slow you read, if you could set aside a day just for reading, I'm pretty sure you would get through this book in a day, easy. As well as being a quick read, it's also really fast-paced, as I said. At one point, a fair bit into Amani's journey with Jin, between one chapter and the next, six weeks have gone by. Over the next few chapters, six weeks is two months. Later in the book, when Amani meets more people, a chapter starts a week after the last finished. Amani forms relationships with Jin and these characters over all this time, but we don't get to see those relationships develop. As a result, I don't feel I know very many characters beside Amani that well, even Jin. It made it difficult to get behind the romance, because I don't really know why either like the other, because I didn't see enough of their friendship developing. It makes high stakes and emotional moments later in the story difficult to be as invested in, because I don't know the various characters well enough to care that much. It bugged me, because there's a moment that should have been a much bigger deal to me than it was, and although I was affected, I wasn't affected anywhere near as much as I should have been. So I would have preferred Rebel of the Sands to have been longer, so we get to see those relationships develop. At the moment, Amani is really the only character I care about.
Despite that, I still really enjoyed Rebel of the Sands! There was a twist I was absolutely not expecting at all that has me really intrigued, and the ending was fantastic, though it happened maybe a little too quickly. I am so excited for the second book in the series, Traitor to the Throne! I just hope this one is a little longer.
After absolutely loving The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh, I was so excited to read the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger - so much so that I bought it as soon as I was able. And although I really enjoyed the story, I'm left with mixed feelings.
After being whisked away from the crumbling city of Rey by Tariq, Shahrzad has now been reunited with her sister and father in the Badawi camp in the desert. But here it feels like a prison, with everyone watching her, trying to see where her loyalties really lie - with her first love, Tariq, or with the murdering boy-king. Forces are gathering to march against Khalid, and Shazi knows she needs to make a plan. Shazi must prevent the impending war and find a way to break the curse that threatens the kingdom of Khorasan if Khalid doesn't kill a young woman each dawn. She needs to get to the Fire Temple and seek the help of the magus Musa Zaragoza, but to get there she must search deep within herself and connect with the magic in her blood.
When I first finished this book yesterday, I thought it was amazing! I had a few little niggles, but I really enjoyed the story on the whole. But as I continued thinking about it, the more those niggles became problems. I was left with so many questions, there were things that felt a little too convenient, and characters who felt like the sole purpose for their existence was to be the solution to a problem.
The Wrath & the Dawn ended on such a cliffhanger, I expected The Rose & the Dagger to get things moving pretty quickly. I was expecting a lot of action right from the offset, but in actual fact, it took quite a while for anything to really start happening. There were reasons for this that I was able to accept, and so continued to enjoy the story, though it felt quite at odds with how the last book ended. However, there was very little to come that reached anywhere near epic.
When Shazi finally manages to get to the Fire Temple, Musa introduces her to a young magus, Artan, who he believes will be able to help Shazi break Khalid's curse. Artan was a really great character; he gives as good as he gets when it comes to Shazi, and is really quite amusing. But really, the whole purpose of Artan is to introduce Shazi to someone else. He is such an interesting character and he had so much potential for having a bigger role and being a better potential ally to Shazi, but his part ends up being quite small, and it just felt he was there to solve a problem. I had so many questions surrounding him and his family, and just felt his character wasn't developed enough.
Then we get to the whole issue of the curse and how to break, and this is where my niggles kept on niggling until I couldn't ignore them. I have some big questions surrounding it all, and I can't talk about it without spoiling the story, so if you haven't yet read this book, don't click the button below.
So why does Artan's aunt, Isuke get to decide how the curse should be broken? First she says it took a life to create the curse, so it will take a life to break it. If that's the case, why, when she hears about the magical book Jahandar has, does she change her mind and say destroying the book will break the curse? She wants the book destroyed because it causes such destruction, fine, but why does she get to decide that if Khalid does that, the curse will be broken? She says the curse was paid for in blood, thus time, and so blood must be paid to break the curse. And as destroying the book will also require blood payment, the curse will be broken when Khalid destroys the book. Why?! Why do things suddenly change so drastically? From death to some blood and the destroying of a book? Again, it just felt like a solution to a problem: get the book away from Jahandar so he doesn't cause any more magical disasters. What is this book? How did Artan's parents create it? Why did they? What has it done in the past? And why does Isuke care so much, when she's hardly the most honourable person going? I don't understand.
And the actual destroying of the book and breaking the curse? Too easy. Ok, Khalid struggles a bit, but not a huge deal. It's hardly the most massive or epic of scenes in this book. This curse has cost the lives of so many young women, has given Khalid such a terrible reputation, and has led to forces gathering to take him down... and breaking the curse took five pages. And most of that with Khalid internalising a lot of thoughts rather than actual action (It felt a whole lot like when Ron tried to destroy the locket Horcrux in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but not any where near as exciting.). Five pages to break a curse that had caused so much chaos. It just felt far too easy! Considering all this curse has caused, it should have been much harder to break it, and was such an anti-climax.
Things did get pretty exciting towards the end; I was really anticipating all the danger and action that would surely be coming any second now. But even that felt resolved all too easily for me. And the ending? Such a cop out. There was nothing epic about this book. I'm so disappointed by how easy everything seemed, how convenient, and The Rose & the Dagger just didn't deliver the fast-paced action I felt the end of The Wrath & the Dawn hinted at.
And yet I love these characters. I enjoyed being with them again, seeing Shazi being spunky and brave, and Khalid being such a lovely guy. I loved seeing the development of other relationships, and I enjoyed how some things turned out. So I did enjoy the story for the characters, but there were too many issues for me, too.
I will give Ahdieh another go and read her next book, The Flame in the Mist, the first in another duology, this time a retelling of Mulan. I really hope this duology doesn't have too many issues, or I might just have to give up reading Ahdieh's novels....more
Please note: I have a lot of thoughts about this book, so this is a very long review.
I cannot tell you how deeply I fell for Jennifer Niven's YA debut All the Bright Places last year. I was so moved by that book, it's stayed with me, and though I haven't yet re-read it, I can still see scenes from it; I can see and hear Finch, I remember quotes... it's just one of the most incredible books I've ever read. So I was absolutely over the moon to hear about Niven's second YA novel, Holding Up the Universe. This story is just perfection.
When Libby Strout's mother died when she was 11, Libby was so overcome with grief, the only way she could deal with it was to eat. And eat. Until she was so big she couldn't fit through her front door. Now, after medical help and couselling, Libby isn't as big as she was and is ready to return to high school. She is feeling confident and brave, and ready to show the world who Libby Strout really is. But her high school peers aren't as welcoming as they could be. Cool and funny, Jack Masselin is liked by everyone. But what no-one knows is that Jack has Prosopagnosia; he can't recognise people's faces - when he looks away, or they turn around, he completely forgets their facial features. He doesn't recognise his family or himself. He goes through life putting on a front to try and keep his condition under wraps, but each and every day at school is a struggle when he can't be sure who is who. When Jack's friends start playing a cruel game on their fellow students, Jack is uneasy. It's humiliating, it's hurtful, it's bullying. He doesn't know how far his friends will go, but if he takes part, he can make sure things don't go to far. The game leads to Jack and Libby having to take part in group counselling, and though Libby can't stand him at first, as the two get to know each other, for the first time, they both felt seen - Libby sees the person behind the front, Jack sees the person beyond the weight - and everything changes.
I need to start off by saying that Holding Up the Universe is not All the Bright Places. Expecting it to be so, even though I adore that book so much, is unfair to this story, and I think puts too much pressure on Niven to write a book that matches or surpasses All the Bright Places. These are two completely different stories. The only thing they have in common is that they deal with grief, but the way they do that is completely different. Do not go reading Holding Up the Universe expecting All the Bright Places. But do read it expecting an incredible, amazing story, because that is exactly what you'll get.
This book is really interesting, because at the heart, it's a romance, but Jack and Libby have their own individual stories and struggles, too. Libby has anxiety and is recovering from an eating disorder, she's still grieving for her mother, and she's bullied because of her weight. As well as his Prosopagnosia, Jack is dealing with some family issues. And yes, they help each other to some extent, but mainly, and most importantly, they do the work themselves. Libby may give Jack a nudge in the right direction with her support, but it's Jack who takes the initiative to finally get himself tested, to understand more about his brain, and to, eventually, come to terms with it. Jack may have a thing for Libby, but Libby's sense of self-worth doesn't come from Jack being attracted to her, that comes all from herself. And though I absolutely adored the romance between Libby and Jack, and how they affect each other, I was equally invested in their individual stories.
I felt kind of uncomfortable at the beginning of the book. Libby is bullied for her size throughout the novel, and it's bloody disgusting. But when a main character, a narrator you're starting to like, becomes the bully... I really, really struggled with that. There is absolutely no excuse, and I can't forgive Jack for what he did, but at the same time, I understand, and that is what I really struggle with. Jack didn't want to bully Libby, he felt sick at the very thought, but he was genuinely worried about what his friends would do to her, how far they would go, if he wasn't the one who "played the game" (I'm not going to talk about it, you can read it, it's just too awful to give words to.). So why didn't he just tell his friends they were out of order and they shouldn't be doing this? Because they were his friends, and without them, with his Prosopagnosia, who would he have?
There's a moment where Jack wonders if he's friends with Seth and Kam because he likes them, or because they have unique identifiers - certain features that he can identify as definitely their's and not someone else's, like Kam's white-blonde hair and Seth being the only black guy at school with a mohawk and his very destinct laugh. Jack is pretty certain that he's looking at Kam or looking at Seth when he sees them, because no-one has hair, or a laugh, like them. But other people are too similar. With these guys, he's safe; he doesn't have to worry about if this person is who he thinks they are, he knows. It's difficult to be friends with other people when, to him, they all look the same. So if he tells them to back off and leave Libby alone? He'll end up alone. But if he bullies Libby himself, he can make sure things don't go from disgusting to far, far worse. I can't let him off for what he did and I don't like it, but I can understand why he did it. And as the story went on, I really felt for him. There is a truly heartbreaking moment when Jack has to pick up his little brother from a party, and, oh my god, it is one of the most upsetting things I've ever read.
Libby is a force to be reckoned with. She has spent far too long in her house or in hospital to let bullies stop her now. How she's treated does affect her, and she does doubt whether going to high school rather than continuing with home schooling was wise, but she strengthens her resolve, and keeps going. And Libby challenges stereotypes; she's a big girl, but she's an incredibly fast runner, and thi girl can dance. The dance is in her, as she says, and she dreams of joining the high school's dance troupe and applies to audition. Despite her size, despite how people treat her. She loves to dance, so why shouldn't she? And why should her weight be a problem when she's got the moves? Libby is still a big girl, but she's happy in her skin now - it's everyone else who has the problem.
'It is my job in life, apparently, to teach gawking, laughing girls lessons about kindness. [...] I know what you're thinking--if you hate it so much and it's such a burden, just lose the weight, and then that job will go away. But I'm comfortable where I am. I may lose more weight. I may not. But why should what I weigh impact other people? I mean, unless I'm sitting on them, who cares?' (p310)*
Libby is just absolutely amazing. She takes a stand against the bullying and fat-shaming in such an incredible way, I am in complete awe of her. Seriously, it's epic. And the way she stands up to how she's treated, challenges the views of others and impossible beauty standards, it's like her own feminist campaign. Feminism is not mentioned at any point in this book, but I feel certain that Libby is a feminist in the making. She's wonderful!
I also want to touch on Libby's anxiety. It's not a major element of the book, but it's present and something Libby struggles with occassionally. And as someone who was diagnosed with anxiety a few months back, it was so wonderful to read about a character who has anxiety, where it wasn't ruling their life. It's just a part of it. It made me hopeful that I'll get to the point where my anxiety is just a part of my life, and not so prominent. The panic attacks she does have felt realistic, and it was great to read in the acknowledgements that Niven herself struggled with anxiety - as well as weight issues and bullying - when she was Libby's age, so it's great to know Holding Up the Universe is an #OwnVoices novel.
Libby's anxiety was born from the death of her mother, who died out of the blue because of an aneurysm. Years have gone by, but the pain and sorrow are still with her. It's thoughts of her mother, the things she taught her, the sayings she had, that informed Libby's actions and keep her going, as well as what she thinks her mother would say to her about certain situations if she was still alive. She tries to be the daughter her mum would be proud of.
Together, Libby and Jack are adorable. Neither of them are perfect, neither are as honest as they could be, and things aren't always wonderful. But they each give each other something they have never had before, and oh my god, their moments together and how they think of each other, it's just so, so beautiful.
Finally, this book is brilliant when it comes to diversity. As stated, Libby has anxiety and had an eating disorder, Jack is biracial, with an African-American mum and a white dad, and has Prosopagnosia, which, by some who have the condition, consider to be a disability (though others don't. Clarified by Disability in Kidlit on Twitter.) There are also a wide range of secondary characters from various ethnic backgrounds.
This isn't All the Bright Places, but Holding Up the Universe has a similar feel. While reading this book, your heart will break and your heart will mend. When I went to bed after finishing it, I couldn't stop thinking about Libby and Jack and their story. I was so moved by the beauty of Holding Up the Universe, it brought tears to my eyes. Niven has written another unbelievable novel that has deeply affected me, another I won't forget. With these two books, Niven has firmly secured a place as one of my favourite authors.
*Please note my copy of Holding Up the Universe is a proof, so this quote may be different in the final, finished copy, and may be on a different page.
People have been raving about The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh ever since it was released last year,Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
People have been raving about The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh ever since it was released last year, and with every review, the more I've wanted to read it. But I've also been a little wary; I've previously read books that were hyped up only to be disappointed. I didn't want this to be the case with this book, when it sounded so good! And now I wish I'd listened to the hype and read it straight away! The Wrath & the Dawn is brilliant! An absolutely fantastic retelling of One Thousand and One Nights!
Each day, Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, takes a wife. Each dawn, he has them murdered; a silk cord wrapped tightly around their throat, strangling the life out of them. When her best friend, Shiva, becomes the Caliph's latest victim, Shahrzad swears vengeance. She volunteers to be the next bride, but is determined that it will be Khalid who dies. When he comes to her room at night, she weaves enchanting stories, captivating the young king - stories that aren't finished by sunrise. But Khalid is not what she expected; this young man who has been killing the women of Khorasan dawn after dawn isn't the unfeeling monster she thought him to be, but a boy with a tragic past and secrets that lie heavy on his heart. The unimaginable happens as Shazi slowly falls in love with the Caliph, who looks at her as if she is the very sun. Despite her feelings, she is committed; Khalid's life is forfeit, and Shazi will end his life after discovering the reason for all the needless death. Khalid has blood on his hands, and he must pay.
Aah, this book was so good! I have to start with the writing, it was absolutely captivating! It's lush and poetic, and everything is described in such detail; the food and the clothing, the smells and the tastes. It's absolutely beautiful, and I was completely swept away on the tide of Ahdieh's words. The Wrath & the Dawn really is so gorgeously written, it put me in mind of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. Just perfect!
I was completely enthralled by the story itself. Why was this melancholy young man killing young women every dawn? There's all this talk of Khalid being a monster, but as the story goes on, we clearly see that he's nothing of the sort. Yes, he's murdering young women, but his actions don't match his personality. Khalid is not a cold-hearted man who takes perverse pleasure from the death of his brides. He is quite clearly tormented by what he does. The story starts off with a prologue from when Khalid starts killing his brides, so as readers, we already know that there's something behind these killings. Khalid must pay the price of a hundred lives. But why? What is he paying for? And why must it be paid for by the lives of young women? What happened?
Shazi is an absolutely wonderful character. She's strong and brave, and fiercely loyal. She's whip-smart and bold, quick with a retort, and very capable. She is assertive and stands up for herself. Khalid is used to people treating him with respect and deference, so is constantly caught off guard by how Shazi behaves. She's not what he's used to; she's unpredictable, and she volunteered when she knew what the outcome would be, and he wants to know why. Shazi is a mystery to Khalid, and she quickly goes from being someone he's trying to figure out, to someone who's captured his heart.
The romance is really interesting, because of the circumstances. The king doesn't behave the way Shazi expects him to, and he is quite obviously someone who cares. He keeps his cards very close to his chest, and Shazi has trouble finding out much about him, but falls for him anyway. I found her feelings for him a little unbelievable at first, because she doesn't really get to know him for a long time. But it's the way he treats her as he falls for her, how he looks at her, how he talks about her. Her heart softens to him, and she is constantly battling with immense guilt. This is the man who killed her best friend, how could she possibly have any feelings for him? She considers it a great betrayal, and tries so hard to get back on track. And for Khalid's part, the fact Shazi is still alive is quite an issue, but how can he kill the woman who is giving him life?
There are other things going on in the background, outside the palace walls, and oooh, it is exciting! Those who knew and loved Shazi haven't forgotten her, and, knowing she is still alive, are putting together plans to rescue her. Big plans - huge plans. I spent a lot of my time reading those part of the story in such anguish. Because here's this beautiful forbidden romance unfolding before me, and these people are going to go an interfere and cause all sorts of problems! But at the same time, oh my god, it's massive. I'm not going to say anything, but oh my god, but the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger, is going to be epic!
Ahdieh has done to us what Shazi did to Khalid; as her stories would end on such cliffhangers when the dawn came, so has The Wrath & the Dawn. The biggest cliffhanger! Just enough has been revealed to leave us shocked, and we are left on tenterhooks, awaiting the outcome of the storm that is about to bring the walls of Shazi and Khalid's world crumbling down. And I cannot wait!...more
As you'll know from the Sex in Teen Lit month long events I've previously held, I'm passionate about YA novels that deal with sex and how they portray it. So when I heard about Cherry by Lindsay Rosin, I was so excited to read it! And although I had a great time reading it, I'm left with slightly mixed feelings.
Layla, Alex, Zoe and Emma are best friends in their senior year of school. Once they graduate, they'll all be going their separate ways. All but Alex are virgins, so when Layla decides she's finally ready to have sex with her boyfriend, and both Zoe and Emma want to have sex, she comes up with the sex pact. They will all attempt to lose their virginity AND - as Alex is no longer a virgin - have good, enjoyable sex by graduation. This isn't so bad for Layla, who already has a boyfriend, but the other three are single. Zoe is pretty shy and blushes at the mere mention of sex, Emma is stressing out so much about the prospect of graduating, and Alex is hiding something. But they're all determined to go through with the sex pact, as it's the last thing they'll be able to do as a group. But not everything always goes to plan.
As I said, I'm really a big fan of books that have sex at the heart, especially if they're going to be realistic and not make out that sex is something completely beautiful and magical every single time. Cherry was that kind of book, and, on the whole, was extremely sex positive. These girls really talk to each other about sex; they ask questions, they talk about their experiences, they talk about penises, they discuss dick picks and porn, they have proper real life conversations without any judgement. No-one is bashing anyone for not knowing something. They talk about the subject with curiosity and interest. They even have frank conversations, more than once, about themselves masturbating. There are even several scenes of the a couple of the girls masturbating (separately and not at the same time, of course, this is not that kind of book). It also takes a look at double standards; Alex enjoys kissing guys, and she's kissed a lot of them, and because everyone knows she's had sex, too, she has a reputation and gets crap for it, and yet her neighbour, Oliver, is exactly the same as her, and yet he's a "stud". It really is quite sex positive, saying girls are allowed to kiss whoever they want, girls can be sexual beings who want and and enjoy good sex. There is emphasis on having good sex, not just losing their virginity; the girls should have an orgasm - or "firework" - at some point, the idea being that girls can and should enjoy sex.
And when it comes to the sex itself, it's wonderful! There is mess. There is sex that is ok but not brilliant, sex without "fireworks" most of the time, first time sex that is uncomfortable, sex that is over sooner than they'd think. It's just real. But it's not overly graphic or gratuitous either; we don't get a blow-by-blow (hehe, pun intended) description of all that happens, but we're given enough to know what's happening. This isn't a book that's aiming to be a turn on; the girls may be 18 and soon to head off to college, but this isn't a new adult novel. But it is still a little sexy, but I think that mostly comes from how the girls are feeling about the sex their having, rather than because of how the sex is described. Really, it's just brilliant how Cherry handles it all.
Except... well, the pact itself. I found that a little problematic. All girls must have sex by the day they graduate. Ok, they don't have to. No-one forced them to be part of the pact, and there's no issue, mostly, with you deciding to back out. But there are some issues. Emma is stressed enough about almost everything in her life, and Layla asking for progress reports each week isn't helpful. And because of this, I do have slightly mixed feelings about Emma's first time. If there was no pact, would it have happened? I can't say either way for sure. It's a possibility. But if it would have happened, it wouldn't have happened then. The whole idea of the pact and whether having sex before a certain date is a good idea is addressed, but I would have liked a little more on that, because to me, it just feels... a little like peer pressure. They all want to have sex - great. So why can't they just have sex when it happens, rather than have a day they must have lost their virginity by? It just felt a little contrived. I think without the pact, some of them would have had sex how they did anyway, but for others? Maybe not. I just wasn't comfortable with the idea, and how their "progress" was important.
And also, a number of times is ableist language used through the novel. I counted, and "lame" appears ten times, and "lameness" once. Now I know how harmful such language can be, I can't help but notice it, and it makes me uncomfortable. There are so many other words you could use instead. It just doesn't sit right with me.
Saying that, Cherry is pretty diverse in some respects. Alex is a woman of colour. Emma has a Japanese-American mum and an Irish-American father, and her being a quarter Japanese shows in the shape of her eyes, and she mentions how it leads to questions about where she's from. Emma also discovers throughout the course of Cherry that she isn't straight. Or, at least, that she's attracted to a girl involved in Year Book with her, Savannah. She has been attracted to guys in the past, but there's no indication as to whether she's a lesbian or bisexual, as there's only ever really one conversation about her sexuality, and it's about how she doesn't like labels. Her story isn't so much about her sexuality, in regards to how she sees herself, as it is about dealing with being attracted to a girl and their relationship. There are some scenes of Emma having sex with Savannah, and there is a conversation about what actually counts as sex between two girls, and I think it's all done really beautifully.
I did really enjoy Cherry over all! It was very funny, but also very frank, and had such wonderful things to say about friendship, and there are a number of individual romance stories to get invested in. There are a couple of awful love interests, but also some really lovely ones. You go through a whole range of emotions while reading this book, and it's such a good fun read... apart from my issues with the pact itself, and the ableist language. I'd really love to hear what anyone else thought of the book, because I really am of two minds.
Thank you to Hot Key Books for the review copy....more
It's no secret that I love Holly Bourne's The Spinster Club Trilogy, and I have been so excited to read the third and final book, What's a Girl Gotta Do? Being Lottie's story, the member of the Spinster Club with the most knowledge of feminist ideas, I was sure this was going to be incredible. But it's not incredible. No, it surpasses incredible. It's bloody epic!
When Lottie has a terrible day - sexually harassed by two men on her way to school, has a guy in her Philosophy study group take a point she made and pass it off as his own, and discovers a girl in FemSoc may have been sexually assaulted by her ex boyfriend - she decides she's had enough. Enough with sexism. With the help of Amber and Evie, the rest of FemSoc, and Will, a guy in Evie's Film Studies class who's pretty nifty with a camera, Lottie decides to start the #Vagilante campaign, where she will call out every instance of sexism she sees, no matter how big or small for a whole month. No billboard, pharmacy or person is safe. Will videos everything and uploads it all to a vlog, and the views keep mounting. When Will arranges for Lottie to be interviewed for the local newspaper, her story gets picked up by major news corporations, and everyone wants a piece of her. But all the attention she's getting has brought out the trolls. Will Lottie be able to continue with her campaign, or will she buckle under the pressure?
Oh my god, I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing this book is! What's a Girl Gotta Do? takes everything that's been discussed in the previous books, and actually puts it into action. Lottie is so incredibly passionate about fighting sexism, and her fire and strength is a wonder to behold. She believes that to really tackle sexism, you also have to fight against the small instances as well as the big ones. She talks about the idea that the more serious acts of sexism - like sexual assault and domestic violence - are held up by the smaller ones - the sexist advertisements, the pink box of of pills for period pain, which is bog-standard ibuprofen but more expensive, how women must state their marital status by their title; "Miss" or "Mrs". If you don't fight against the smaller acts of sexism, if you let them go, how can you hope to truly remove the sexist ideas that lead to abuse against women? It all has to go.
This on it's own is, of course, brilliant, but it's seeing how big Lottie's campaign gets that I really loved. When people who are campaigning against something go viral, they draw the attention of the media, and things snowball. Suddenly their campaign is reaching more people - those who agree, those who have had their eyes opened, and those who want to do all they can to shut you up. Lottie's little personal project becomes something so much bigger once people start taking notice, and it's wonderful to see how she deals with it all. The struggles she faces, the self-doubt, the exhaustion. You feel for Lottie, but you're also made aware of what all those campaigners you see in the news have to deal with. You root for Lottie, and as you do so, you root for every other person out there campaigning against sexism.
There was one thing - a small, tiny thing - that disappointed me about What's a Girl Gotta Do? Lottie's mum is a bit of a hippy, and when Will comes to Lottie's house, she cleanses his aura, and they joke about it:
'"I'm not sure what good it will do you," I said. "Some auras just can't get clean..." He laughed at that - a short burst of it, like he hadn't meant it. "I have an incurable aura?" I giggled too. "A herpes aura." "That's disgusting." "You're telling me."' (p168)*
No-one wants herpes or any kind of STI, but some people have them, and they have to live with them. Some, like herpes, are incurable. We seriously need to stop shaming people people for the diseases/infections they have. They're still people. They're not disgusting. STI+ people shouldn't have to be on the receiving end of jokes and judgement over something that is really not anyone's business (unless you're a sexual partner), which is exactly what, in this example, someone with herpes will find when reading What's a Girl Gotta Do? It is a small thing in the great scheme of the whole of the book, but in a book that's about fighting against the prejudice and discrimination a group of people face, my heart sank to see another group of people being discriminated against.
But back to the awesomeness of this book. As someone who reads feminist non-fiction, not all of the ideas brought up in What's a Girl Gotta Do? or the other books in the series are new to me. But Bourne introduces these ideas to teenagers, new or soon-to-be feminist who haven't read feminist non-fic, and breaks them down and explains them in such a way that there's no confusion. This doesn't mean she dumbs things down for her teenage audience, but explains things more simply than the dense non-fic does. She's even flicked a switch for me a couple of times, where I finally understand ideas I've read about before.
I honestly believe that The Spinster Club Trilogy are real game changers; where other YA novels have tackled feminist topics, The Spinster Club books talk about feminism itself, what it is, and why we need it. Where the other books enrage readers, The Spinster Club Trilogy shows readers exactly what they can do with that rage to enact change.
This is a powerful and incredibly inspiring finale to the trilogy that will spark many a flame in it's readers, making them want to get out and fight the patriarchy too! There was an incredible and stirring author's note at the end of the book from Bourne that is pretty much a call to action; it was so impassioned it really got to me, and actually brought tears to my eyes. I'm so sad that this is the end of the Spinster Club. I just want more! So I am so, so, so excited to read the novella being published in November, ...And a Happy New Year? But what I'm going to do after that book, I don't know. I guess I'll have to start my own Spinster Club.
*I have a proof, but I checked this quote and page number in a finished copy.
I really enjoyed This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, so when I heard about No Heroes by Anna Seidl, a book that looks at the aftermath of a school shooting rather than focusing on the shooting itself, I was really intrigued. Unfortunately, I wasn't a fan of this book.
It's a perfectly normal day at school - until Miriam and her class mates hear gunshots. Loner Mathias Straudt is shooting at teachers and pupils. Hiding in a cubicle of a toilet with her best friend, Miriam hears a boy outside the cubicles - a boy they tried to get to come with them, but was frozen in fear - shot and killed. Her boyfriend Toby is also killed. In the days, weeks and months that follow, Miriam and her friends try to come to terms with what happened, and why, whilst overwhelmed with grief, fear and guilt. What if Mathias' rampage was their fault?
This is a German novel that has been translated into English, and unfortunately, the translation is a little clunky and awkward. I believe I've only read one other translated novel, Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and perhaps I was spoilt by how good a translation it was. Maresi could have been written in English, the translation was so good. I kind of expected the same level of knowledge of the English language with No Heroes, too, but it wasn't brilliant. It's not so much that it didn't make sense, it made perfect sense, but it was the choice of synonyms that made it so clunky, or words used in slightly the wrong context. It just didn't flow as well as it could, and it kept nudging me out of the story.
The story itself was quite a let down. There wasn't much of a plot, it was more a novel of Miriam's internal thoughts and feelings. Not a huge deal happened other than her coming to terms with the shooting and the grief over the death of her boyfriend. It was also very repetitive. Miriam kept coming back to the same thoughts, the same fears, the same worries time and again. I can understand this is probably quite realistic, but it doesn't make for an interesting novel. It was constantly, "Oh, I miss Toby! I need him! I can't go on without Toby! How can anyone go on? What's the point? There is no point. We're all going to die, so why bother trying? Nothing is the same, nothing matters any more." These are Miriam's thoughts almost constantly throughout the novel, until she starts to make a breakthrough, but even then she's still repeats some of the things she thought previously.
And, I don't know if it was the story or the translation, but I didn't feel anything from it. I didn't really feel anything from Miriam; it's all internal really, so we get what she's thinking, but apart from hiding away in her room under the duvet, we don't really see her expressing her emotion in any real way. It's all about what's in her head, and I simply couldn't emotionally connect with her.
All of this coupled with very little plot, with very little going on at all... I just really didn't get on with it at all. No Heroes wasn't for me, unfortunately.
Thank you to Little Island Books via Foyles for the reading copy....more
I picked up You Know Me Well by Nina Lacour & David Levithan expecting a light, happy read. What I got wOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I picked up You Know Me Well by Nina Lacour & David Levithan expecting a light, happy read. What I got was a very quick read that left me feeling lukewarm.
Mark and Kate sit next to each other in Calculus, but have never spoke. However, a chance encounter between the two at the beginning of Pride week sees them becoming close friends. A bond is formed as they help each other through their problems. Mark is in love with his best friend, Ryan, who has no idea. Kate has loved Violet from afar for years, but when the time comes to meet her, she panics. The two find solace in each other's friendship as they struggle with their problems, but the courage to take the steps forward that they need with the support and encouragement from each other. This Pride week will be unlike any other.
You Know Me Well was heavier than I expected. I think the theme of friendship and that light coloured cover led me to believe this would be the light book I needed, but it wasn't. There was nothing too awful about the problems the characters have, it's just the frame of mind I'm in at the moment, I need books that aren't going to bring me down - and unfortunately, this book did a little. It was nice, though, to be reading an LGBTQ+ YA where the issues have nothing to do with the characters' sexuality. The problems revolve around love, relationships, change and the future. Both are dealing with fear in one way or another, but they're each able to help the other.
But You Know Me Well is a very short novel, and I think it was perhaps too quick, because I wasn't very emotionally involved with the characters. That may sound odd considering it was too heavy for me, but I just didn't feel I really got to know the characters that well, I didn't really care about them. The story moved too quickly, not giving me a chance to warm to the characters.
That saying, there was such a huge cast of characters, and all but three, I believe, are part of the LGBTQ+ community. With the mention of The Angel Project, a charity that helps LGBTQ+ youth, the story touches on the homo- and transphobia LGBTQ+ people experience, and how it can lead to them being homeless. I loved the poetry slam and the experiences the various characters shared. And I loved the huge community and celebratory feel to the book as it takes place during Pride week, all these people celebrating who they are was just wonderful.
I'll end with a beautiful quote that I think sums up the whole celebratory feel, but also the theme of the story. 'Hiding and denying and being afraid is no way to treat love. Love demands bravery. No matter the occasion, love expects us to rise[.]' (p243)
Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy....more
The last time I did a re-read of the Harry Potter series, I left out Deathly Hallows, and so a review is reqOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
The last time I did a re-read of the Harry Potter series, I left out Deathly Hallows, and so a review is required this time round, rather than just a re-read post. As I was re-reading Deathly Hallows this time, I realised that I'd only read it once before; there were so many details that I had completely forgotten, and most of my memories of the story were from watching the movies, so it was really interesting to rediscover certain elements again.
I was a little wary before picking it up because I remember feeling disappointed the first time round because of how much time Harry, Ron and Hermione spend doing nothing. It felt like nothing was happening for a really long time, whereas in the other books, even when nothing was happening in regards to the major plot, there were always lessons, Quidditch, or confrontations with Malfoy. There was always something happening. But in Deathly Hallows, there's a lot of time spent moving from place to place, trying to work out what they should do next, when I wanted to get the plot to get moving and see how things would go. This time round, I appreciated how little the three know and how that affects them all. There is no real plan, it's all guess work backed up by the information Dumbledore gave Harry, but no real certainty. I loved how Ron and Hermione seemed to worry about there not being a plan, and how Harry started doubting himself, feeling like he wouldn't be able to finish destroying the Horcruxes because he just didn't know what he was doing. The pressure is on, and he's really starting to feel it. It's because of this, although awful, that I really loved the bust up between Ron and Harry.
I didn't enjoy as much Harry questioning Dumbledore and their relationship. I don't see why Harry thought Dumbledore would have shared his whole family history with him. It wasn't really any of his business for one thing, and it was in the past. Plus he was his teacher. Sure, Dumbledore was a mentor/guide to Harry as well, but I just don't understand why Harry thought Harry should have told him his whole life story. I could understand why these feelings were cropping up, because he was feeling so lost and so much was being revealed about Dumbledore's past because of Rita Skeeter's book, but not why he felt he deserved to know everything. This is just me disagreeing with Harry, though, not a problem I have with the book.
When things get going, though, boy do they get going! The deaths are so hard to deal with. Dobby always gets me, always. He is the most bravest little guy, and god, I love him. But Fred, Lupin and Tonks, too... too much, just too much. And poor Colin Creevey! It was like being stabbed, and then having the knife twist and twist with each death. I absolutely loved the epic Battle of Hogwarts, it was just so incredible! And can I just take a moment to say how wonderful Snape is? I still hate the guy, there was no real need for him to be so cruel throughout the other books, but protecting Harry this whole time for the woman he loved... that's just heartbreaking, but so, so beautiful.
I found it surprisingly emotional this time round when Harry realises he has to die, because I already knew he actually doesn't. But I think it was down to how Harry was feeling, walking towards his death. The first time I read this book, it was all about what I felt and thought of what was happening, and now I can appreciate how the events affect the characters more. It brought tears to my eyes when Harry used the Resurrection Stone and brought back his family, it was such an incredibly emotional scene; knowing he had to die, but having the people he loved and who loved him with him in some form to keep him going. It's just wonderful.
I also think I understood a whole lot more this time round when it came to how Harry survived, with his conversation with Dumbledore. I think I was either far too emotional to really get it the first time round, or it's because I'm older now, but I finally got it. And I absolutely loved seeing Dumbledore again, that he got his appearance, and got to impart more advice and guidance. That was just such a wonderful, wonderful touch.
I was really bloody disappointed with the climax the first time round - Voldemort was defeated simply because of a rebounded spell? What?! But I think with understanding more about wands in general and the Elder wand, and how Voldemort completely screwed up, it was kind of brilliant this time. I loved it! And the epilogue was pretty awesome, too!
I finished my re-read this time round with a feeling of sadness, but satisfaction, and also excitement. The story isn't over yet. There's still Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the story will continue with that play. I just need to get ahold of some tickets! Deathly Hallows was a brilliant finale to the Harry Potter novels, and I'm always going to love them dearly....more
With Half-Blood Prince, one of the things I will always love is learning about Tom Ridd**spoiler alert** Originally published on Once Upon a Bookcase.
With Half-Blood Prince, one of the things I will always love is learning about Tom Riddle's life through the pensieve and the Horcruxes. Discovering just how evil Voldemort is, just how far he went. However, this time, I also found it weird to think of Voldemort as a child, and it made me think of the question about whether it's nature or nurture that makes a person evil; Voldemort was certainly dodgy as a child. "I can make them hurt."
I also loved learning more about the prophecy and Harry's role. How the prophecy doesn't actually mean anything, just that Voldemort took stock in the part he heard, and how he actioned on it led to Harry being the only one who could defeat him. (Also, if Voldemort had never heard any of the prophecy, or went after Neville instead, I wonder how different the story of this world would have been.) I felt super proud of Harry when he finally realised that he wasn't going to go after Voldemort because of the prophecy, but that he would go after him because he wanted to, to get back at this evil villian who killed his parents and continually tries to kill him. If he never heard of the prophecy, he would still have gone after Voldemort. I think I finally got that this time round, too. Harry had the choice, and choosing to face such a deadly foe is just beyond brave.
As weird as it may sound, I liked seeing a more sensitive side to Draco. He was given this terrible task, as punishment for his father's failure, but he really struggled with it. For all his arrogance and seeming support of Voldemort, when it comes down to it, he has a really hard time facing what he has to do and going through with it. The failures he has with the cupboard and his tears in the bathroom... I felt for him, just a little, in that he finally realised how ruthless and villianous Voldemort is, and the consequences of letting him down. And he wavered at the end, he changed his mind.
I'm going to finish with how upsetting I will always find Dumbledore's death. The guide, the mentor, the protector... gone. Not just for Harry, but for me, too. I know he's just a character, but Dumbledore was so wise, and he imparted so much wisdom and advice, and words for us all to live by. And I grew up with this character guiding me as he guided Harry, and his loss was hugely felt for me.
I'm really, really looking forward to reading Deathly Hallows now, and completing this re-read. It's been so wonderful, and I'm really looking forward to this conclusion. ...more
Re-reading Order of the Phoenix is always causes such mixed feelings in me. I love the book, my mixed feelinOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Re-reading Order of the Phoenix is always causes such mixed feelings in me. I love the book, my mixed feelings aren't there, but I do despise Umbridge with such a passion, I spend a lot of the time feeling angry. And yet, I absolutely love everything that happens at the Ministry, and discovering the prophecy.
I actually really enjoy how angry Harry is in this book. He's left in the dark for so long at the very beginning; he has no idea what Voldemort is up to, if he's safe, and he gets nothing from Ron and Hermione. But also, he's been through so much in his life so far, and not that long ago he saw Cedric die right in front of him, and saw Voldemort come back; that's a hell of a lot to deal with. It makes sense to me that dealing with it all would affect him in some way, and it's resulted in a lot of anger.
The anger comes in useful, of course, when it comes to standing up to Umbridge. Oh my god, that woman is foul. I have this very strong image of her in my head, and it just makes my skin crawl. The pleasure she gains from torturing children is sickening, and I just can't deal with her. She's almost on par with Voldemort to me. I'm really not a big fan of Snape at all for the first six books of the series (even knowing what's revealed in Deathly Hallows), but I prefer him to Umbridge. Umbridge makes my blood boil.
But ooh, all that happens at the ministry! One of the main reasons I signed up to Pottermore when it first started was to find out more about the Department of Mysteries! Though I never found out. I am so intrigued by what is being studied down there! I so want to know more, though I did work out what subjects are being studied this time round; time, thought, death, and as Dumbledore revealed, love. But I want to know more about those studies specifically! Why are their brains in a vat of green liquid? What exactly is behind the veil, and what would happen if you went through it? Could you get back? What's with the bell jar that goes back and forward in time? And what exactly is kept in the locked room of love? I so desperately want to know! I doubt I'll ever get my answers, though.
And the prophecy. I remember the "Woah!" I felt the first time I read Order of the Phoenix and discovering that either Harry or Voldemort would do the other in. Previously, I thought Voldemort kept going after Harry because he survived and brought about his downfall when Voldemort tried to kill him as a baby, but to discover that it was also because of the prophecy... and that Harry learns he will have to face Voldemort in a duel at some point, that was shocking. This time, I paid much more attention to how Harry reacted. He's only 15 at this point. I think his age never really hit me when I was reading the books the first time round, because I was a similar age, and it never really mattered to me during my other re-reads, but I've been very much aware of how young Harry is. And to discover at 15 that you have to try and kill the most dangerous dark wizard of all time... that's so much to take in. The thing is, we all know when we read these books the first time round that the two would come face to face in a big show down at some point, because that's what the series is leading to, but forget Harry is a fictional character for a second: he's a boy who's just discovered that he has to kill or be killed by Voldemort, who has never really given him a moment's peace since he discovered the wizarding world. There's suddenly no doubt about it for him; he will face Voldemort; he will kill or be killed. (Or at least it seems at this point; Dumbledore shines some more light on the prophecy in the next book.) That's bloody huge. And my heart just went out to Harry, because who could see past such an event? That's all there is to his future at this point, that's all he can see.
God, I am absolutely loving this re-read of the series! I really am getting so much more out of these books than I have before!...more
I said in my re-read of The Prisoner of Azkaban that it was my favourite of the first thre**spoiler alert** Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I said in my re-read of The Prisoner of Azkaban that it was my favourite of the first three, but when it comes to the last four, I find it really difficult to choose. From The Goblet of Fire onwards, the excitement, danger and darkness levels are really upped. I love The Goblet of Fire, I love the whole Triwizard Tournament, I love Moody, and I love the climax when Voldemort returns.
I don't know if it's because I'm older or because different things are important to me now, but there were certain elements of this book that affected me differently. I was in completely awe of Hermione, her disgust at how House Elves are treated and her determination to do something about it. She doesn't actually make any difference in this book, but she won't let anyone sway her in her beliefs or put her off from standing up for what she thinks is right and trying to do something about it. And she's only 14. She is opinionated and she isn't afraid to use her voice to fight against injustice, and that's just so incredible and awe-inspiring. I suppose this has more of an impact on me now as I'm a feminist, but I wish her actions were inspiring to me when I was younger. At the time, I just thought she was annoying whenever S.P.E.W. came up.
I also really loved how Dobby was demanding wages and time off - he might not have accepted much money or time off, but he wasn't going to work for nothing any more. He was proud to be a free elf, proud to wear clothes and actually earn money, despite other House Elves thinking him a disgrace. Dobby and Hermione are two tiny ripples in a vast ocean, but they could lead to waves of change, eventually. They really are people to admire, and to emulate. And I think the issue of House Elves rights in this book and the way Lupin is treated as a werewolf in Prisoner of Azkaban say a lot about how we as society are prejudiced and discriminate against those we consider "other". I'm enjoying seeing these different sides to the books now that I'm older and more educated on such things.
I was also more deeply affected by hearing what happened to Neville's parents and by Cedric Diggory's death. I think because we never really know Neville's parents and we don't get a huge amount of Cedric in this book, I never really warmed to these characters, so what happened to them never used to affect me. But now... again, I don't know if I've become more emotional as I've got older, or if the horrific events that have been happening in the world lately are affecting how I read, but I just found it so horrific.
"Kill the spare." Cedric dismissed, not even considered a person, just an inconvenience who shouldn't be there, and killed without a second thought. It was so needless. He died because he was there, not because Voldemort had any real issue with him, like he did Harry. Not that murdering Harry would have been justified, but at least Voldemort hates Harry for a reason. There was no hate for Cedric. He was just there. And then he wasn't.
And when Dumbledore explained to Harry exactly what had happened to the Longbottom's, I felt sick. Tortured to the point where their minds broke, just because the Death Eaters thought they knew where Voldemort was after attempting to murder Harry. This happening when Neville was just a year old. his parents no longer knowing who he is. It's absolutely heartbreaking. I was really, really upset by what happened to the Longbottom's and Cedric, and felt Harry's sadness as the book came to a close. And poor Harry with his guilt - Cedric was only there because he suggested they take the Triwizard Cup together. To have to live with that... I was also completely dumbstruck with how Cornelius Fudge reacted to the news that Voldemort was back; his complete refusal to believe it and his denial leading him to doing nothing. I was so angry, and so scared for the future - even though I've read the books before. I don't know, it was just a completely different experience for me. I was really emotional on finishing The Goblet of Fire.
As I said at the start, I really love Moody (despite him not actually being Moody but Barty Crouch Jr, but we'll ignore that as he was imitating Moody and he fooled most people, so he must have been pretty spot on). However, there was a lot less of him in this book than I remember there being. I finished the book feeling like I actually hadn't seen that much of him. It was strange, I felt quite disappointed, yet there was no less than there has been in my other re-reads.
I also really enjoyed Voldemort's explanation to the Death Eaters about how his rebirth. I loved the hints about the Horcruxes; his experiments with magic to reach immortality, how he had gone further than any wizard has previously is his search for it. It was a little... unnerving, really.
I really feel that I'm going to find the rest of these books much more disturbing, upsetting, scary and emotional than I have previously. I'm reading with a different perspective, as a person with more experience, more education, and a greater awareness of what's happening in the world, and this is obviously affecting how my reading experience and how I feel about these books. We all say how we wish we could relive our first ever reading of certain books, but with how I've been reading the books recently, it almost feels like I am reading them for the first time. There's so much more I'm seeing now than I ever did before.
Have you ever re-read a book years after first reading it and found yourself more powerfully affected the second time round?...more
Of the first three Harry Potter books, Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favourite; i**spoiler alert** Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Of the first three Harry Potter books, Prisoner of Azkaban has always been my favourite; it's much darker and more exciting than the first two, in my opinion. I have always loved finding out about the truth about Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, and then Harry and Hermione's adventures trying to save Sirius and Buckbeak with the Time-Turner.
I have always found the Dementors terrifying, and Harry hearing his parents die each time he's near one (or a Boggart shaped one) is just so upsetting. However, this time round, it was more of a case of my memories being more dark and exciting than the actual book. I don't know if it's my age or that I'm more widely read now, but Prisoner of Azkaban just didn't quite reach the levels of excitement I expected it to.
Don't get me wrong, it was still completely wonderful, but the anticipation for certain events was more exciting than reading those events. I think part of this is due to the movie; we see a whole lot more of Lupin as a werewolf in the movie, and I see very little of him in that state in the book. And when the Dementors attacked Sirius, Harry and Hermione, I remember that being absolutely horrifying, but it wasn't as nearly as scary this time round. And had me wondering if maybe I should have left the re-reading?
I will continue on this re-read, and I'm sure I'll re-read them again in the future, but maybe as I get older and change, my reading of the books and my experience of reading them will also change... and I'm now worried that maybe I won't love them as much with each re-read. There's a huge part of me that completely refuses to believe it - no way will I ever fall out of love for these books that have meant so much to me, and were an integral part of my teen years. But I still worry.
What do you think? Do you thinking getting older and experiencing more can affect how you read a book when re-reading? And do you think that affect, over time, could lead to losing the love you originally felt for that book?
Also, in my re-read post for Philosopher's Stone, I questioned what year Fred and George were in, but in Prisoner of Azkaban, this is all cleared up. It says they'll be starting their fifth year - while being the third book, Harry, Ron and Hermione are in their third, so Fred and George are two years older than them, and so would have started playing Quidditch in their second year. All sorted, I was mistaken, no plot hole here!
I'm still deciding whether I'll jump right on to Goblet of Fire or read something else, but either way, I am super excited for the Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament!...more
This isn't a review, exactly, but my thoughts after re-reading. Tons of spoilers about thi**spoiler alert** Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
This isn't a review, exactly, but my thoughts after re-reading. Tons of spoilers about this and other books in the series.
And on with my Harry Potter re-read. I originally planned to alternate Harry Potter books with other books in my TBR pile, but once I finished Philosopher's Stone, and was looking at my shelves, trying to decide what to read next, Chamber of Secrets was calling to me. Once you give in to that compulsion to read Harry Potter, I'm not sure you can really stop until you've read them all.
Re-reading Chamber of Secrets, I found I really enjoyed the mystery of this story and picking on up all the clues, knowing where the story was leading. It was really interesting to see the way Ginny behaved and reacted to everything, knowing what was happening to her while everyone else was oblivious.
Though I had misremembered how often Harry heard the Basilisk's voice; I thought he heard it far more often than he did, and it being more sinister. "Let me kill! Let me rip!" is pretty terrifying, but I though I remembered it saying more. And for some reason, I also thought messages where painted on the wall with each person/animal/ghost that was petrified. I was also surprised by the climax - actual fight with the Basilisk - was much shorter than expected, and was over pretty quickly. Perhaps that's my memory of the film, though.
I loved all the tiny clues and elements that hint at Riddle's diary as a Horcrux - during Harry's conversation with Riddle in the chamber - and Harry himself being one, during his conversation with Dumbledore at the end about Voldemort transferring a piece of himself into Harry when he tried to kill him, that led to him being a Parselmouth. It reminded me of Dumbledore's speech from Order of the Phoenix (I think?), where he tells Harry about all the times he could have told him the truth about him having to face Voldemort eventually, and how this could have been one of several moments he told him about his future. Though I don't think Dumbledore knew about the Horcruxes at this point, let alone that Harry was one himself at this point, if I remember rightly.
What I loved most about re-reading Chamber of Secrets was seeing Dobby again. Dobby! The first time we get to see him! I found him so annoying when I first read this book, but knowing how we all grow to love him, and how devastated I always am over what happens in his future, I revelled in every moment he was on the page. I also completely forgot it was him controlling the rogue bludger, too. Aww, sweet, misguided Dobby!
I have thought about picking up another novel... but I can't. I need to read Prisoner of Azkaban now. It's my favourite of the first three, and just the though of reading it is so exciting! So, on to the next! ...more
This isn't a review, exactly, but my thoughts after re-reading. Tons of spoilers about thi**spoiler alert** Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
This isn't a review, exactly, but my thoughts after re-reading. Tons of spoilers about this and other books in the series.
I've been having a tough time lately, and needed to read something comforting. I decided on re-reading the Harry Potter books because I've been wanting to for such a long time. I haven't before now because I've already reviewed most of them, and it felt like by doing so I'd have nothing to post. However, because of things that have been happening in my life lately, until recently, I hadn't posted in weeks. So I decided it wouldn't make much difference, and that I should read for me. And I needed Harry Potter; to me, the books feel like being snuggled up in bed, a hug, and home all wrapped up in one.
However, when I was re-reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, I noticed a few things that I felt like talking about. Mainly plot holes that didn't exactly fit with what I've read in later books, so I thought I'd right a post!
First of all, I want to talk about the cover! I have the whole series in the original hardbacks, but when the editions with the Johnny Dudle covers were released, I fell in love. I decided to buy the first four because they're so pretty (and we're a bargain at the time), and paperbacks are lighter, so I can drag them around with me. But really it was for the covers. I absolutely love Johnny Duddle's style, and I think the cover for this book is just gorgeous! I love how bright and colourful it is, and how it shows the students seeing Hogwarts for the first time, before rowing across the Great Lake. In comparisson with the hardback cover, although Harry first seeing The Hogwarts Express after making his way through to platform nine and three quarters is a pretty awesome scene, I think the first sight of Hogwarts holds a lot more weight; it's when Harry and us readers first see the castle that became our home for so many years. I think it's beautiful! And the map! These editions come with a map of Hogwarts' grounds, illustrated by Tomislav Tomic, and it's wonderful! I have had these editions for maybe a year now, but I never knew about the map. It made me so happy!
Now to a few things I spotted in my re-read. Harry is the youngest Quiddith player in around a century (I've forgotten how many years exactly). Fred and George Weasley are Beaters in the Gryffindor Quiddith team, and were the previous year. But aren't Fred and George only in the year above Harry, Ron and Hermione? I guess I'm thinking out loud, and will be reminded as I read on, but that's what I've always believed. I thought, in Order of the Pheonix, they left Hogwarts when they only had one year left after their current year, and Harry, Ron and Hermione had two years left to go. If I'm right, that would mean Fred and George became Beaters in their first year, surely? It made me ponder.
Also, Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback. When Ron arranges to have friends of his brother Charlie, who works with dragons, to take Norbert in when it becomes clear Malfoy is going to get Hagrid in trouble for having a dragon, Charlie's friends fly to the highest tower on broomsticks. And yet, in The Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore has to remove an enchantment that surrounds Hogwarts when he and Harry make their way back from getting the Horcrux locket. So how was Charlie's friends able to bypass the enchantments? How'd they get to the tower?
I also got to thinking about the obstacles the three had to get pass when they were trying to go after Snape - so they believed - when he was going after the Philosopher's Stone. Obviously, these are fun and exciting stories for children/teens, and there have to be things for Harry and co to overcome, but I was thinking, these obstacles are there to stop people getting through, and yet there are ways to do so. The correct winged key is amongst the others - it's there, you just have to work out which one and catch it. There is the riddle with the potions, a riddle that can be worked out. And so on. I was just thinking, if you really wanted to keep things out, why leave obstacles that can be overcome. Why not enchantments that would just lock people in a room without being able to get past at all? Or something like it. Something that couldn't be solved or worked out, or got past in some way. The story wouldn't have been the same if there weren't these obstacles, there wouldn't be anything for Harry, Ron and Hermione to do. But it just seemed a little odd.
I say all these things, but of course, I still absolutely love this story, and it's complete perfection for me. These things would never ruin something that's come to mean so much to me. I just thought it was interesting that I had spotted/thought of these things, and it would be fun to discuss them....more
As you know, I am hugely passionate about diverse YA, and YA featuring characters who have mental illnessOriginally published on Once Upon a Bookcase.
As you know, I am hugely passionate about diverse YA, and YA featuring characters who have mental illnesses are books I am a huge champion of. However, things were a little different with reading Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall. For me personally, this book is the most important YA novel on mental health I've ever read.
Anxiety rules Norah's life. In the form of agoraphobia and OCD, anxiety keeps her from the outside world and has her completing rituals and routines to feel grounded. It's all too easy for her thoughts to get fixated on something, to then spiral out of control that leads to her falling into an anxiety attack. Living her life - with her mind - is hard. It's exhausting for her to be so constantly scared, and she can't see there ever being a time when she'll be able to live like everyone else. When new boy Luke moves in next door and wants to get to know her, new fears arise. What if he finds out and thinks she's crazy? She desperately wants to be a "normal" girl who can talk and flirt with guys no problem, a girl who goes to school and only worries about her grades. For how long can she keep up the charade and hide her mental illnesses? What Norah doesn't consider is that Luke might not have a problem with her being ill.
This book is wonderful and heartbreaking - but it's also wonderfully uplifting and full of hope, and so much bravery. Luke is an absolutely darling. I would have loved to have seen more of his conversations with Norah, but with what we do see it's so obviously clear that he has a heart of gold and genuinely cares about Norah. He's not perfect, and he makes mistakes, but so does Norah. This whole situation is new to them both; Luke is learning about Norah's mental illnesses, what she can and can't cope with, and Norah is learning to interact with someone outside her mother and therapist, someone she's attracted to. There's is a really sweet romance; slow-burning out of necessity, but still so beautifully sweet as the two learn to navigated uncharted ground. But what is the most incredible thing about Under Rose Tainted Skies is how Norah slowly, slowly starts to make progress.
It's hard to describe the level of terror Norah experiences on almost a daily basis. Trying to get through and past the things that scare you when your mind is rebelling against you is so hard, but this is Norah's life. Norah doesn't want to be ill; she has so many dreams, so many things she would love to do, but she can't see a way out of the web her mind has created out of irrational thoughts. She can't imagine a future where she would be ok stepping out her door or touching someone's hand, let alone travel to France or kiss a boy. But when she meets Luke, she wants to be better, and strangely, when her thoughts are occupied by him, her other thoughts are quieted - not extinguished, but not so loud and all-consuming. This isn't the kind of book where the girl is cured of her mental illnesses because of a guy, it's nothing of the sort. But she makes progress. Tiny, little things. Things she forgets to do, things that aren't taking up as much head space. But there is still so much she struggles with, thoughts that wouldn't have entered her head if Luke wasn't in her life.
Reading Norah's thoughts spiral out of control and lead to an anxiety attack is so terribly heartbreaking, but on a personal level, it was also really, really difficult. Because of events over the last few months, for the past week I have been trying to get a doctor's appointment, because I believe I might have anxiety in some way, shape or form. My life is nothing like Norah's, which, while I was reading, filled me with relief quickly followed by guilt for being relieved. However, there were moments of her story where I could absolutely relate, and reading her going through an anxiety attack would cause a physical reaction in myself - the tightness in my chest, the difficulty breathing. I would have to put the book down and go and do something else for a few minutes in order to calm down. At those times I was thinking it probably wasn't the best idea to read a book about a character dealing with types of anxiety. But I would pick it back up with gritted teeth, because this isn't going to stop me from reading a bloody book! I was determined to read the whole thing now, and not put it off until weeks later. And I found, the more I read, the more... it helped. It helped reading about a character who experiences what I go through, even if in a more extreme way. I felt better about my decision to see my doctor; despite already knowing it's the right thing to do, I have been so scared about the outcome. Now, I feel a little more ok with it. The ending brought tears to my eyes, and a quote from a book that Norah found helpful (that I'm not sure is real or not as I can't find it online - and as this is a proof, I can't quote it)* made me feel stronger.
Under Rose Tainted Skies was a hugely emotional read for me, a book I picked up at exactly the right time. I needed this book, and I'm sure there are so many others out there who need it, too. And as someone has had agoraphobia and OCD, Gornall knows what she's talking about. Under Rose Tainted Skies is a perfect example of why #OwnVoices novels are books you can trust. It has made such a huge impact on me, and I'll never be able to thank Gornall enough.
I've been wanting to read Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates for a long time. When I heard she was going to be dOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I've been wanting to read Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates for a long time. When I heard she was going to be doing an event at Foyles with Hibo Wardere on 31st May, I nabbed a ticket and bought both her books - this one and her latest, Girl Up. Everyday Sexism was just as incredible as I thought it would be!
Everyday Sexism made me angry. It upset me and terrified me. Because not only does Bates talk about various elements of sexism - such as rape and sexual assault, the sexism towards young girls, those in university, and in the workplace, sexism around mothers or becoming a mother, and so on - but each chapter includes actual tweets and entries to the Everyday Sexism project from real women. Bates perfectly uses these tweets and entries to highlight her points, to give further evidence that what she's talking about actually does happen. That might sound ridiculous, maybe even unnecessary - of course this happens! But there are those who believe sexism no longer exists, that we've already reached gender equality. And that's exactly why Bates created the project and wrote this book, to show everyone that we are far from erradicating sexism.
Each chapter starts with a list of statistics about the things covered in that chapter. You're forced to face this information about just how rife sexism is right from the get go. Here are some examples:
At the current rate it will be more than 150 years before an equal number of women and men are elected to English local councils The Centre for Women and Democracy, 2011 (p50)
1 in 3 girls aged 16 to 18 have experienced some form of unwanted sexual touching at school YouGov, 2010 (p80)
1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls think it is sometimes OK to hit a woman or force her to have sex Zero Tolerance, 1998 (p80)
More than half of American women ages 18 to 64 have experienced 'extreme harrassment', inluding being grabbed, touched, rubbed or followed Penn Schoen Berland Associates, 2000 (p154)
The average female executive earns £423,000 less over her lifetime than a male worker with an identical career path CMI, 2012 (p214)
These statistics are really quite schocking, but statistics on their own don't have nearly as much impact as one might like - numbers are difficult to equate into real people. But Bates has set out this book so brilliantly: statistics first, followed by tweets to the Everyday Sexism project, then a closer look at these elements of sexism, highlighted with interviews and other real life accounts. This balance of evidence in regards to statistics and other information along with real women's stories makes for a hard-hitting and emotional read. There were moments when I was so upset that tears came to my eyes, and moments of exclaiming "Jesus Christ!" out loud in horror. But also moments when I could absolutely, completely relate to what I was reading, and they were the most difficult to deal with. There was a sense of not feeling so alone when I could relate to someone, but I would also feel so sad that others had experienced what I had.
Most of all, I was angry and impassioned. It opened my eyes to various elements of sexism that I never thought of as sexism before - a point Bates comes back to time and again, how sexism is so ingrained in our society, that we come to accept it as the norm. She made me realise that every single act of sexism, no matter how small, must be challenged and rejected. Bates makes the point that all acts of sexism, even the small ones, create a society that normalises sexism, makes it something we're told we shouldn't make a fuss about, silencing us, and allows for bigger, worse acts of sexism, like sexual assault and violence, to take place. Everyday Sexism has made me think about myself and my life, and where I might slip up and let sexist remarks go by without a word. It's made me more aware, and really think about how I react.
Everyday Sexism is an absolutely incredible book, and I am in so much awe of Bates and the incredible work she's done with the Everyday Sexism Project. I am so looking forward to reading Bates' second book, Girl Up....more
I have been such a huge fan of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, I was so excited while reading the firsOrigially posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I have been such a huge fan of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, I was so excited while reading the first three, knowing I had Fairest, a prequel to the series from Queen Levana's point of view, to read! I was so looking forward to see why Levana is who she is, and what her motivations are. Fairest wasn't the story I expected, but it was wonderful!
I was completely surprised by Levana's story. We get her backstory, right from when she was 15 until just over a decade later. I was expecting to see a cruel young girl who enjoys others' pain, but what I found was a girl who is so unbelievably insecure. Something unimaginable happened in her past that left her terribly scarred. Levana is mocked and ridiculed by her malicious older sister Channery, everyone at the palace looks down on her and laughs at her, and her parents never seemed to care.
She has a crush on one of the guards, Evret, and when he shows some kindness, it's the first time anyone has been nice to her for so long. Her crush becomes a desperate infatuation, and with her innocence and naivety, she reads far more into his words than there is to read, and makes herself believe he is in love with her, too - despite the fact he is married to a woman he quite obviously adores with all of his being. Their story is such a tragic one, and I can't help but feel so deeply sorry for Levana. She just wants to be loved, and she makes herself believe it so fully, she won't accept any denial on his part. She does some terrible, disgusting things, but they are born of desperation. She is so alone, and so unbelievably lonely. She just wants to be happy, and believes Evret is the only person who can bring her happiness.
Queen Channery dies while her daughter, Selene, is just a baby, and so Levana becomes Queen Regent. Under the reign of her parents and Channary, Lunar hasn't faired as well as it could, in the hands of those who cared more about their own interests than that of their home and people. Levana, however, has always taken a keen interest in politics and how Lunar is run, and discovers she's actually very good at making decisionsand coming up with ideas for the betterment of her planet. Lunar thrives, and so does she. But it's here that we start to see the Queen she will become. The people of Lunar would be more productive if they had compulsory breaks, as she has seen works well on Earth. This works well, but she is advised that revolt is likely if the people of Lunar have too much time to socialise with each other, and so she decides there should be a curfew after the work day, which will be enforced by more guards. She starts small, but the dictatorial and manipulative rule that we know her for has it's roots here, taking away this freedom from her people. She doesn't even blink at the idea, but this is probably links to how she feels about how she's treated Evret, and she does genuinely believe that she's doing what's right for Lunar, and has her people's best interests at heart.
We get more of a history on leutomosis, the disease that ravages Earth in the first three books of the series. Dr. Erland touched on how he believes that Leutomosis is a biological weapon from Lunar, but in Fairest, we're told exactly how this came about. I expected to read about a cold-hearted Queen, who revels in the thought of the pain and death she is the cause of, taking sadistic joy from it all. But that's not the Levana we see. She's a politican and a strategist. What befalls earth is terrible, but Levana isn't enjoying it. She might enjoy how her plans are working, but it's a means to an end, the end being an alliance with Earth - that will be made by offering the antidote - so Lunar can have access to resources the planet is running out of.
They don't have huge parts, but we get backstory on Cinder as Selene and Cress in Fairest, and are introduced to Winter. We get her backstory as well as Levana's, as they are so intertwined, Winter being Evret's daughter. Although Fairest is a prequel, it works to read it after Cress but before Winter, as it was written, because of what we already know of Cinder and Cress. Some parts might not make as much sense, or the import will be lost, if Fairest was read before any of the other books in the series. I've been told you don't need to read Fairest before Winter, but having the insight on Levana when reading Winter can help you understand the woman and her motivations as you read Winter.
Fairest was a much more emotional read than I was expected. Levana is cruel, manipulative, and vicious, but she's also a woman who had a terrible childhood, who has only wants to be loved and liked, and do the best for her planet. She wants to be happy, but her unhappiness can't be cured with power, but she doesn't seem to understand this. So she's always striving for more, the next thing, and the then the next thing, and so on, desperate. Levana is a woman to be feared, but she's also a woman to be pitied.
Fairest was a wonderful novella, and I'm really keen to see how my view of Levana might change as I read Winter. This series is just incredible!...more
Having loved the Burn for Burn trilogy Siobhan Vivian co-authored with Jenny Han, I was really excited to read Vivian's novel The List when I heard it was being published in the UK. Covering the topics of beauty and body image, The List sounded right up my street, and it was such a wonderful, thought-provoking novel.
Every September at Mount Washing, a list is released that will affect the lives of eight female students. The list announces the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade, and how they are seen by their fellow students and themselves is altered. This year, the prettiest girls are Abby, Lauren, Bridget and Margo, and the ugliest girls are Danielle, Candace, Sarah and Jennifer. New found confidence, insecurity, taunts and mocking, sympathy, a new perspective, the suspicion of others, family issues and rebellion are experienced by the eight girls in the week leading up to the Homecoming Dance. Surprises - some good and some bad - come their way, as the girls discover that the list can only hurt.
This is such a brilliant book! The title of ugliest and prettiest affects each girl in such different ways, both in how they see themselves, and how others treat them. Abby, a popular and pleasant freshman, is flattered to be named the prettiest freshman, and likes how the boys in the grade above now know who she is, but she wishes she got on better with her super smart, geeky older sister. Danielle is announced ugliest freshman, the list insinuating that she looks like a boy. She's upset by being on the list, and by boys in the grade above hurling abuse at her, but at least her boyfriend doesn't care - right? Lauren has just moved to Mount Washington, and is going to public school for the first time since being home schooled. Being named prettiest sophomore, she's suddenly making friends with girls who weren't interested before. Candace, however, was named the ugliest sophomore, the list commenting on how mean she can be, and her friends ditch her for Lauren now the truth is out. Bridget is the prettiest junior, the list acknowledging the weight she lost over Summer. But she's starting to put it back on, and she feels she's unworthy of the title, the list exacerbating her insecurities and her issues with food, leading to her starving herself - again. Bolshie and angry Sarah, the ugliest junior, is sick of the school's obsession with all things shallow, like the list and being crowned Homecoming Queen. They think she's ugly? She'll show them ugly! As prettiest senior, people are starting to be suspicious that Margo wrote the list. Although she tries to pretend it doesn't matter, she wants to be seen as perfect, maybe then Matthew will notice her. Jennifer is the ugliest senior, making it four years on the trot she's been on the ugly list. But some think things have gone too far, and she's shocked to find the popular girls extending a hand of friendship.
I don't want to say too much more about the story as we follow each girl over the course of six days, and so events happen quite quickly. What I really loved about The List is how it doesn't focus very much on how these girls actually look. We know Lauren has waist-length blonde hair, that Sarah's hair is dark, and Jennifer is overweight, but otherwise, there's very little description, if any, on how the girls look. The List isn't about how the girls look, but how they are seen - by themselves and others. It's with this lack of physical description that Vivian plays with society's idea of beauty: we are told what's beautiful and what's unattractive, and we believe and act on what we're told. The List is a reflection of society; it takes place in a high school setting with teenagers, but the list could be magazines and the media, and the school students all of us, judging people - famous or otherwise - and ourselves on what we're told is and isn't attractive about the female form. The subject is dealt with deftly but subtly within the narrative, with us readers getting emotionally involved in the individual stories. We can see ourselves in the eight girls, as they struggle with their self-esteem and insecurities, and with how their peers now treat them, whether throwing slurs their way, or suddenly wanting to be their friends.
The List is a fantastic feminist novel, and one that made me think so much, it led to me I writing about how beauty simply doesn't matter. It's such an incredible book, and one I'll definitely be recommending to every teen girl I meet!
Thank you to Mira Ink for the review copy. ...more
I can't really begin to express how much I love The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. With each book, it juOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I can't really begin to express how much I love The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. With each book, it just gets better; the world, the originality, the effortless weaving of fairytales we know into a completely unrecognisable story that I just can't get enough of. Cress is no exception; the stakes are raised, the clock is ticking, and things get even more epic.
I don't want to give too much away because so much happens, so I'm not writing a description this time round, as I think the Goodreads description is good enough. But oooh, this story is just so good! I don't know the original story of Rapunzel very well; I know she's locked in a tower, has very long hair, which is used to help a prince climb the tower. Otherwise, I'm in the dark, so I didn't have the same experience of recognition as certain parts of the story reflected the original. Even so, it was still bloody brilliant.
As I said, things get epic in this story, and this is due to them being split up. Everyone is in danger, but no-one knows how the others are doing, if they're even alive. Cress and Thorne end up on Earth in the middle of a desert, with no life to be seen in any direction for miles. Because of the events of the botched yet partially successful rescue attempt, Thorne is injured, and Cress is struggling with being out of her satellite, with all the space and all the sky. Cress needs Thorne to keep her from drowning in anxiety, and Thorne needs Cress because he's injured. They both need the other's help, and it's difficult. Thorne needs to do some fast talking to keep Cress calm, and needs to really think in order to keep them alive, and Cress needs to keep a lid on her anxiety to help Thorne get about and follow his instructions. And this is all so, so wonderful! Seriously! Thorne is still Thorne; still arrogrant and funny and making a joke out of everything, but in Cress, he shows he's also very smart. Not only that, but he's great under pressure. He is so compassionate and kind and gentle with Cress, despite the fact he's struggling with his injury himself. He can't afford to freak out and worry about what's happened to him, because he's the only one who can keep them alive, because not only does Cress not know much about Earth at all, she hasn't been out of her satellite for seven years. She has no idea what to do. Thorne really steps up, and my admiration for him really grows. He's definitely the comic relief of the series, but he's also a fantastic character in his own right. There's a conversation he and Cress have; Cress talks about how she's always thought of him as a hero, because of the research she's done on him - there's always been some kind of altruistic motive behind his wrong doings. Thorne tells her she's got him all wrong, and those altruistic motives were made up to get him out of trouble - he's no hero. Except in this story, that's exactly what he is. And he's wonderful!
I didn't warm to Cress as much as I hoped. I didn't hate her, I actually liked her, but I didn't warm to her as much as I warmed to Cinder and Scarlet. That might just be because she spent a lot of time with Thorne, who I completely adore, so my attention was more on him. Saying that, she's still a fantastic character. She's scared, she's really terrified - of defying her queen, of what will happen to Earth if Levana marries Kai, what will happen to her if she's ever caught, what will happen to her and Thorne in this desert, of the world itself - but she is brilliant. She's super intelligent, and all the time in the satellite has taught her to be an exceptional hacker. She's resourceful and smart, even when she's scared, and she's so brave. Courageous. She is scared all the time, but she still defies Queen Levana and Mistress Sybil. She takes action and works against them, despite being terrified, and you can only admire her for it. I have so much respect for her, and am in such awe.
Which made me really just how wonderful the female characters in this series are. They're all based on fairy tale damsels in distress, but they're all so resourceful and smart and strong! When it comes down to the crunch, Cinder, Scarlet and Cress will always do the thing they believe is right, and show such bravery. Cinder tries to warn Kai at the ball that Levana will kill him; Scarlet goes off to find her grandmother once she's found out that she's been kidnapped; Cress goes against those who have only kept her alive for how useful she is. And not only that, but look at the jobs these ladies have; Cinder is a mechanic, Scarlet practically runs the business of her grandmother's farm, Cress is a computer hacker - all jobs that are stereotypically thought of as jobs for - and given to - men. These ladies are the kind of role models we need in fiction these days. They're not your typical damsels in distress - they may get into scrapes they need help getting out of, but they also do some rescuing of their own. These characters are women to look up to.
This book is action packed, and packs one hell of a punch! Just as you think things are starting to look good, there's another obstacle, and another, and another. Characters are mourning those they believe dead, and trying to carry on without them, despite their grief. There's the huge, unbelievable build up to the end, and then that ending! Oh my god! I am so excited to pick up Winter, the fourth and final book in The Lunar Chronicles, but I'm waiting. I'm waiting to read Fairest, which I believe is a prequel to the series, from Levana's point of view. Apparently it's not crucial to read before Winter, but it gives an insight into the queen and can help, I've heard. So I've ordered it online, and I'm going to read that first. I am SO excited! And it also means the end of the series is put off a little longer.
This series is absolutely incredible, and I really, really don't want it to end! I'm so glad I have two more full length books, and a short story collection, Stars Above, to read before leaving this world. I simply cannot get enough!...more
I Call Myself a Feminist is an incredible book! Twenty-five personal essays from women under the age of thirOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I Call Myself a Feminist is an incredible book! Twenty-five personal essays from women under the age of thirty discussing why they're feminists, and what feminism means to them, with quotes, speeches, and extracts from books throughout from public figures, celebrities and authors.
I was expecting I Call Myself a Feminist to be an educational book, another book that would help me as a newbie feminist figure things out, and open my eyes to the injustices women face. It does do that on occasion, but the essays the beliefs, opinions and views on feminism, their experiences of sexism, and their reasons for identifying as feminists. Although not as educational as I first thought, it was unbelievably powerful to read of these women - some of whom are teenagers, so clued up and aware and with their eyes wide open - claiming and owning the feminist label, and what feminism means to them. In reading this book, I felt a strong sense of solidarity, and a passionate feeling of "YES!"
This might not be so surprising for those who have been calling themselves a feminist for a long while, and have been aware of the issues we face, but this book really opened my eyes to how there are so many different kinds of feminist. I don't mean that in regards to who these feminists are, but in what they think and believe. There is the common belief in equality, and how it would benefit all genders, and they all agree on the issues we face, but at the same time, they're not all talking about exactly the same thing. Their reasons for being feminists are their own, focusing on various feminist issues, and their ideas are all different. This was surprisingly liberating; we all have a common goal in mind, but there are different aspects of feminism that will speak to us.
There are a few essays I'm going to talk about in more detail, because they spoke to me. In her essay This is NOT a Feminist Rant: The Language of Silencing Women (p73), Alice Stride talks about how sexist language that undermines of puts women down - even small comments or jokes - is dangerous. It might not seem much in the great scheme of things, but sexist language can snowball into something much bigger; domestic violence. Stride discusses how Women's Aid, who she works for, has noticed a common thread in the experiences of domestic violence survivors: it started slow, with sexist language.
'Of course, I am not claiming that every sexist remark comes from the mouth of an abusive man. That is ridiculous. But we must take a stand against sexist language, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem at the time. Why? Because words are the fabric of everything. [...] Words are a comfort and words are a weapon. Words are the heart of life. We must be empowered to call out the sexist whispers that make us lose our rhythm - even when it's coming from the mouths of our brothers, our friends, our partners, our fathers. And this problem goes all the way to the top - so we need to start at the bottom. If we do not address sexist language, we will not drive the change we need to stop women being viewed as second-class citizens.' (p78-79)
Amy Annette talks about how a woman's body and body language can be used as a feminist statement in her essay I Call Myself a Feminist With My Elbows (p115). This essay is absolutely wonderful, and really made me look at how I act and behave - or how I'm treated - in public. How I hunch my shoulders and bring my head down when I walk past a group of men. How I am given very little space on the tube, whether on a crowded tube and standing, or in my seat. Even on the bus, sitting on the edge of my seat, because the man next to me has his legs spread wide open, encroaching on my space. This essay covers so much more; it really got me thinking, and I am so much more aware.
In Are You a Stripper or a Shaver? (p176), Bertie Brandes brilliantly discusses how even young girls are encouraged to look and dress a certain way, and it all boils down to looking good for men. The essay starts off by talking about a Reddit forum where women were discussing when they were first looked at sexually by men, and the ages are around 11 and 12. Yes, that is horrific, but equally horrific are denim hot-pants on sale for children - which I have seen with my own eyes.
These are just a few of the essays that spoke to me, but really, all the essays are completely wonderful. They made me angry, but a passionate anger that strengthens my conviction and my desire to help bring about change. Having read this book, I'm even more proud that I call myself a feminist.
Thank you to Virago Books for the review copy....more
The Little Mermaid has been my favourite Disney movie for as along as I can remember. As a child, I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up. At the timeThe Little Mermaid has been my favourite Disney movie for as along as I can remember. As a child, I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up. At the time, Ariel was the only character in an animated movie who had red hair, like me, and so I was drawn to her. But on top of that, she could sing, and she lived in the sea with all the pretty fishes! I have also always loved fish. I was a teenager when I finally read the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, and I fell in love with The Little Mermaid even more! I loved how dark it was, but also how beautifully tragic. Ever since learning of YA fairy tale retellings, I've been longing for a a retelling of The Little Mermaid, so when I found a review of Drown by Esther Dalseno from Tara of Cattitude & Co, I couldn't stop longing for it until it was in my hands. As I have loved The Little Mermaid in both it's forms for so many years, I was a little wary when first reading - I would have been devastated if it completely butchered a story a loved so much, and so disappointed. However, I needn't have feared; not only is Drown a wonderful retelling, it's also a beautiful story in it's own right.
Normally I give my own summary of the books I review, but Drown stays so close to the original Hans Christian Anderson story, I don't think it's necessary, especially with the description from Goodreads above. Drown feels like a love letter from Dalseno to the great Hans Christian Anderson, so well and respectfully does it stick to the original story. These days, retellings tend to take a fairy tale, keep all the significant and important elements, and change everything else so it's almost unrecognisable and completely original. This isn't a bad thing, I have completely loved pretty much all the fairy tale retellings I've read, and you're always left guessing as to what would happen because it's so unlike the original. However, with Drown, Dalseno has pretty much taken the whole of the original story, and lovingly moulded and shaped it, expanding it to a full-length novel. Drown is the story we know, but there's more backstory and world building. We learn about how the merfolk came to be, why the witch is so cruel and evil, and so much more. So beautifully crafted is this story, it's impossible not to feel how much Dalseno loves the original story, and so as I was reading, I felt Dalseno understood me. "She gets it!" I would think, and would feel such a rush of affection for the author who not only shared my love for this story, but also used that love to write such an achingly gorgeous retelling.
Enough of my gushing, and more about the story. As I mentioned, Dalseno gives The Little Mermaid world building that the original doesn't have. Merfolk have very little humanity, and because of this, they are all but emotionless. More animal than human, their faces always remain expressionless. They have no interest in anything other than eating, buying trinkets and ornaments, and looking at themselves and their beauty in the mirror. They are unintelligent and shallow, and do not like questions. The Little Mermaid is different. She's inquisitive, so full of questions she annoys her older sisters and her nanny, and knows that her facial movements tend to scare those around her. So she limits her facial expressions, and learns not to outwardly express her joy or excitement. There's a reason she's different, which becomes apparent as you read on.
What's especially wonderful about Drown is that although it would have been a fantasy story anyway, it's a magic realism story. It has the trademark wonderful, lyrical writing, and has the ordinary become something extraordinary, like a crying lighthouse - you will see. I always find magic realism to be completely enchanting, and Drown is no different. The thing with magic realism is it can take something dark and make it seem at the very least something that you accept, if not something that seems beautiful. The currency of the merfolk world is beauty. Not beautiful things, but your own beauty. The more beautiful you are, the more you can buy - food for example - but the thing with beauty being the currency is that the more you buy, the more you become unattractive. Because to give beauty, it must be cut off. Hair, for example, or maybe a finger or a limb. The merfolk need to butcher themselves in order to survive. Let that sink in. It's horrific, but it's written in such a way that you barely even register it as being as shocking as it is. But merfolk put a lot of status on beauty, too, so if you're ugly, not only are you poor, you're also shunned. The disabled are treated as repulsive, frightening, and not worthy of anyone's time. They are left to starve, because prices go up to prevent them from buying, as their custom isn't wanted. Although extreme, if you think about it, it's not too different to how our society treats disabled people; ignored, left out, or without access to what non-disabled people take for granted.
Disability is not the only thing Dalseno subtly comments on. She also looks into depression and self-harming. The Prince (who is also a person of colour, though his race/ethnicity isn't given) isn't happy with his life. He doesn't want to be a Prince, to become a King, to rule, but he can see no-way of escaping. He tries to relieve his pain by cutting into his skin, and so his body is a lattice of criss-cross scars. We actually see the Prince self-harm, and you're almost numb to it. It's written to shock without seeming shocking. Do not misunderstand; Dalseno isn't romanticising self-harm, she's shining a light on it and making the reader aware through the style of writing.
Drown is beautiful and enchanting, dark and tragic. It's the The Little Mermaid retelling I have been waiting all this time for, and I can't thank Dalseno enough for writing it....more
I absolutely loved the book Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, so I had to read her second book, Girl Up. It's just bOriginally posted on Jo's Scribbles.
I absolutely loved the book Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, so I had to read her second book, Girl Up. It's just brilliant!
I was really surprised to discover Girl Up is actually aimed at teenage girls, young women - with young women being those of university age - and people with a vagina. Girl Up is pretty much a guide book and introduction to to sexism and feminism, full of advice and blasting misconceptions on numerous topics.
It talks about body image and self-love, but also how the media fills our heads with impossible beauty standards. It talks about sex and sexuality, talks in depth about the vulva and vagina and praises masturbation, with images, and discusses how porn has led to confusion and sometimes fear for young people about what sex is (Bates tells us that at one school she visted, she was told how when a eacher asked a boy who raped a 14-year-old girl why he didn't stop when she started crying, he replied, "Because it's normal for girls to cry during sex."). It covers social media - the good, the bad and the ugly. Bates goes into detail about what feminism is any why so many people have issues with it. And the book talks about many other things in between.
There was a lot discussed in Girl Up that readers of feminist non-fic would have come across before, but what's different about this book is it's aimed at young people. Bates had teenagers as well as young people in mind when she wrote this book, and it shows. She hasn't dumbed anything down for her audience, but she has written with humour and to the interests of young people these days, to apply what she's discussing to their everyday life. Although the focus is on sexism and feminism, Girl Up really is a guide book on how to navigate those years when you're working out who you are, and you're facing all sorts of pressure from every direction. Pressure with exams, pressure from boys, pressure to look a certain way, and so on. It was an eye-opener to me that a lot (though not all) of the angst teenagers who identify as female/who have a vagina face is rooted in sexism. While reading, I would think back over my own teenage years and all I went through, and realised how so much of it would have been easier to deal with if I'd just known more about feminism and sexism. I would have had some idea what to do about it all; I would have learned to love myself and my body sooner, and stopped reading magazines; I would have understood the bullying I faced had sexism at it's heart and have a language to try and combat it; I would have learnt so much more about sex and my body, and that it was perfectly fine, and not weird, that I didn't want to have sex then. If I had known about feminism and sexism, if I had had Girl Up, the whole of my teenage years could have been so different.
And so now I believe that Girl Up is an absolute must read for teenagers of all genders - boys can learn so much from this book, too - but especially for those who identify as female/have vaginas. This book could make those turbulent years all the much easier to bear. This book should be in school libraries, though because of the content and the language, I'm not entirely sure it would make it there. So buy a copy, read it, then buy another for your daughter, your little sister, your younger cousin, your niece, your friend's daughter. Let's open the eyes of young people, and help bring about a more confident, clued in generation who won't stand for sexist crap. This book has the potential to change everything - or at least get the ball rolling....more
Rebecca and Ben have been together for a year, and they're perfect for each other. They're chalk and cheese, but they balance each other out, and they have never been in a relationship that felt more right. This is it for them; they're completely in love, and can't envision ever splitting up. Well, that is until someone makes a comment, one that reveals something from the past, and everything changes. A spanner has been thrown into the works of their relationship, and they've been rocked to the core. Everything they knew has been torn out from under them; can they get past this shocking revelation, or will things never be the same again?
This is a very different book compared to their debut, and I was a little disappointed at first that it didn't include the same awkward humour, but I think it was a disservice to The Night That Changed Everything and Tait and Rice to expect the same thing. It's a completely different story, and a wonderful one!
It's a little difficult to discuss The Night that Changed Everything without spoiling the revelation, which has an affect on the whole story. It's not your average romance, with obstacles getting in the way of a wonderful relationship. This was a wonderful relationship that has suddenly been shaken. What happens when you discover something that you're not sure you can get past? Can a relationship survive that, when everything you thought you knew has been turned on it's head, and maybe the person you know and the person they actually are don't necessarily match up? It's a brilliant look at a relationship when your Happily Ever After isn't what you thought it was. The Night that Changed Everything is dual narration from the perspectives of both Rebecca and Ben, and because we can get inside their heads, we know they have huge communication problems. Assumptions are made based on glimmers of each others' lives, and as they're not currently talking because of all the hurt, no-one is able to set the other straight. The assumptions just add more hurt, and it all piles up. It's frustrating, but it's also just really sad. If they would only talk to each other...
This isn't a book that is just about a romantic relationship, but also a story about friendship, and figuring out who you are and what you want from life. The title of the book refers to the night of the revelation, but really it could be referring to a number of nights for various different reasons. Thinking about the story arc in terms of the title, there are a number of points in the book where decisions are made by both Rebecca and Ben that affect the direction their lives go in.
It was really interesting to read about their lives as a whole, not just about their relationship and how it develops. Rebecca is an architect, and has her very first big project. As the story progresses, we see the progress of the cinema she's renovating, and how her life affects her work. It's a big deal for Rebecca, and something she's passionate about. Ben works in HR, but it's a job for the time being, while he works out exactly what it is he wants to do with his life. He hates his job in HR, but doesn't really do anything about trying to find something he himself is passionate about. He's always flitted from thing to thing - job or otherwise - without really finding something he loves or can stick to.
There's a large cast of characters who influence the two main characters lives. There's Danielle, one of Rebecca's friends, and Jamie, best friend to both Rebecca and Ben, and through whom they met. There's Russ and Tom, colleagues, ex-flatmates and friends of Ben's, and there's Jemma, the new receptionist at Rebecca's company. We also have Avril, who is Tom's girlfriend, who is one of the most annoying characters I have ever met. Each and everyone of these people has an affect on Rebecca and Ben's lives, and their individual stories. I have to say Jemma and Russ were my two favourites. I love how Rebecca judged her at first of being not her kind of person, but how the two actually form a close friendship with Jemma offering a lot of support for Rebecca. She's also incredibly funny, as is Russ, and they both provided most of the humour for the book. Jamie is also incredibly lovely, and in the awful position of being friends with both Rebecca and Ben, and is kind of stuck in the middle. There's no more hanging with everyone together while the two work things out, he has to spend time with them separately. Jamie is the one who has the most influence with the two throughout the story, and seeing how what he says alters how the two think and the choices they make was really wonderful.
The Night that Changed Everything has a really poignant and bittersweet ending, with a twist I didn't see coming. The story is wrapped up and concluded with a satisfying end, but it's just so, so sad that it took what it did to get there. What I love about this story is how realistic it is; life is messy, Happily Ever Afters don't actually exist, and relationships can hit roadblocks. This isn't going to be the story you expect, but that doesn't mean it's not an enjoyable and satisfying read. The Night that Changed Everything is ultimately an uplifting story, and one that makes you think about what's important in life. I loved it!
My Mum has been trying to persuade me to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes for years, but it's been years sinOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
My Mum has been trying to persuade me to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes for years, but it's been years since I read an adult romance, thinking I preferred YA. I did promise her I would read it - my Mum isn't a massive reader, nor does she cry at books, so the fact that she was imploring me to read this book that made her cry, well. I knew I had to read it. But I always had my own books to read, so years went by without picking it up. I recently saw the trailer for the movie of Me Before You, and it looked brilliant, and knew I had to read the book before I saw it, and picked it up as soon as I was able - to Mum's exasperation. Now, I wish I had listed to Mum all those years ago. Me Before You is an absolutely incredible and moving novel.
After losing her job at The Buttered Bun cafe, Lou Clark is struggling to find a job she can stick at - she just isn't cut out for working at the chicken factory. Her adviser at the Job Centre suggests she become a carer for a quadriplegic. Lou is unsure, but there are very few options she's willing to try. And so she meets Will Traynor, who was injured in a motorbike accident two years ago. Will used to have a go-getter lifestyle; he climbed mountains, he bungee jumped, he lived life to the full. Now, he's paralysed from the neck down, apart from some movement in one of his hands, and requires help for everything, and he hates it. He has Nathan, his nurse, to see to his medical needs, but Camilla Traynor, his mother, has hired Lou to be Will's companion, to prepare his meals and feed him. The next six months will see Will and Lou change each other in ways neither of them expected.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much I adored this book! I absolutely loved Lou. Despite wanting to read the book before seeing the movie, I was still a little unsure as to whether I would enjoy it. As I said, I thought I preferred YA. But as soon as Lou started narrating, I knew I was going to love this book, even if just for her. She's kind of zany, wearing strange, bright coloured clothing and shoes. She lives in her small little town, still at home with her family despite being 26, and was quite content with her little life working in the cafe. She's been with her boyfriend Patrick for seven years, and is happily breezing through life. She's not ambitious in the sense that she doesn't feel her life is wanting. She's perfectly happy with the life she has, and was such a breath of fresh air! She's optimistic and positive, and the kind of person who finds something wonderful in the ordinary, always cheerful and chatty, and in that sense I found myself really relating to her. We're not exactly alike, but I could see parts of myself in Lou.
Will is such a fantastic character. At first, he has a serious attitude problem - but it's understandable. He is rude to Lou, acting superior and making her feel stupid. He quite obviously does not want her around. He doesn't expect her to stick up for herself though, and is surprised by her calling him out on his crap, and begins to thaw a little. As he warms to Lou, I warmed to him. He's not a happy guy, he doesn't like the way his life has panned out, and he's so angry and so miserable. But he still has a sense of humour, and maybe because of his circumstances, or just because of who Lou is, he encourages and pushes her to want more from her life, to experience more. Although Lou is quite happy with her life, Will shows her how there is so much more to the world than just their little town. And Lou tries so hard to bring a smile to his face. She organises so many outings and things she thinks he'll enjoy, rather than him staying stuck in his annexe, seeing nothing more than the four walls. She shows him that he can find some happiness again.
I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to spoil the story (though is there anyone who doesn't know the general gist of the story?), but I absolutely loved this book. It's incredible. It's as inspiring as it is completely heartbreaking. I simultaneously wanted to curl into a ball and cry until there were no tears left, and also go out and see the world and experience life. I was completely swept away by Will and Lou's story, by how their relationship develops, and I was completely hooked, desperate to know exactly how it would end. I finished Me Before You feeling depleted. My heart was hurting, and I was all out of emotion. But I also finished with so many thoughts, just wanting to talk about it, the subject matter, how this specific story ended. Me Before You is a hard but beautiful, thoughtprovoking and inspiring read, and I absolutely cannot recommend it enough. And I will most definitely be picking up more adult romance from now on....more
Having loved Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, I was so excited to read the sequel, How Hard Can Love Be? whOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Having loved Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, I was so excited to read the sequel, How Hard Can Love Be? which follows another member of the Spinster Club, Amber. Although I loved this book, it wasn't quite on par with Am I Normal Yet?
Amber hasn't seen her mum in two years. Not since she went to America to with Kevin, her once counsellor for her alcoholism, then her boyfriend. So Amber is super excited to be spending this summer with her mum, looking forward to spending time with her now she's well - even though she ran off to America and got married without inviting her, and hasn't really taken any interest in her since. Things will be different now. She's better, and will surely have missed Amber as much as she has missed her. Except... her mum isn't the person she remembers. She's now a vegetarian, spends a lot of time volunteering or looking adoringly at Kevin - and has hardly any time for Amber. She and Kevin now run a summer camp for 11-year-olds, and the only reason Kevin accepted her coming to visit is if she works at the camp too - all day, almost every day. While working, she makes a number of friends with some of the other camp counsellors; Russ, Whinnie, and Kyle. Especially Kyle, who is so good looking and tanned, and the all-American dream boy. Amber soon finds herself crushing on him quite hard, but she knows Kyle would never see her that same way... would he? As the summer goes on, Amber struggles with trying to forge a new relationship with her mum, who continuously avoids all Amber's questions around her leaving, and her growing feelings for Kyle, who is always so, so nice. What she really needs are her two best friends, Evie and Lottie, but Skype catch ups and Spinster Club meetings are few and far between.
I loved how like it's predecessor, How Hard Can Love Be? tackled a serious subject along feminism. This time, it was alcoholism and coping with an absent parent. I really, really felt for Amber when she would have flashbacks to times when her mum was too drunk to get out of bed to take her to school, or would suggest super crazy and fun things to do while drunk, that would only get them in trouble with her dad. There were arguments, and there was a lot of neglect. That's a lot to deal with when you're young. But then, once she's better, her mum runs off to America with her new boyfriend, leaving Amber behind. Amber struggles so much with how her mum has treated her in the past, and is struggling now when they're finally together after two years, and she barely seems interested. I really didn't like the way her mum treated her. She was so selfish! Amber did have penchant for being kind of immature, and you could say she mostly thought about the situation from her perspective alone without trying to see it from her mum's point of view, but even so, I was completely on Amber's side. She's holding on to so much hurt and so many questions, and her mum seems to be this totally different person who doesn't care, and it just builds and builds. This conflict is resolved by the end of the book, and for this particular story, for these particular characters it works and makes sense, and I can understanding, but that doesn't make it ok. I would not have been as ok with things as Amber with how this was resolved. I just wouldn't. And I guess I'm a little disappointed in Amber. Not in the story, but in Amber and how she chooses to deal with things.
I found I related to Amber quite a lot. I am also ginger with pale skin (though not particularly tall) and also a huge Harry Potter fan. I wouldn't say I was as obsessed with Harry Potter as Amber is, but I, like her, feel Harry Potter is sacred. I did have a long-ish rant here about my problems with how Harry Potter is treated by certain characters in this book, but I guess it's not really important, and I completely agree with Amber anyway, so you can just read the book and see for yourself.
I related so strongly with how Amber felt about how she looks; she doesn't believe she's very pretty, and that's not just down to her being quite tall, but also because of her colouring, and there are a lot of people, especially young people, who just don't think ginger people are attractive. So I could completely understand where she was coming from when she couldn't believe Kyle was interested in her. It might not sound like anything new, but Bourne writes with such stark honesty, and all of Amber's negatives thoughts are laid bare. I think most girls, ginger or not, could probably really identify with Amber in this point, because she speaks to all the insecurities we have when we're young, and how we compare ourselves to others and find ourselves wanting. I completely got where she was coming from, but also felt unbelievably sad for her, for my teenage self, for all teens who feel this way. It's just so awful, and I just wanted to give her a huge hug.
I loved how things went with Kyle, though I didn't particularly warm to him. He's not a bad guy by any stretch of the imagination, he just seemed a little 2D to me. Flat, not really real. I guess part of that could be down to use not really getting to know him, because he doesn't really know himself. But he just seemed a little too perfect and not very realistic to me. However, I loved his interest in Amber's feminist views, and how he not only got it, but could add his own opinions, too, especially about how sexism had a negative affect on guys, too. I loved those conversations! Because yesss! And I was doing a little dance in my head at the thought of the teens who were reading this book and having their eyes opened as to how sexism affects everyone, and how feminism is good for all.
Speaking of which, there were the Spinster Club Skype meetings, and they were SO awesome! There were fewer that there were in Am I Normal Yet?, but that's understandable because of Amber being so busy and the time difference, but Lottie had so much to say, especially about female chauvinist pigs and raunch culture - how women are now very sexual because we feel we need to be to get approval (but it's really so much more than that. Read the book, then read the book I believe Lottie is referring to!), and I was nodding along to it all! And it was so clever how Bourne got this piece of feminist chat into the story through what Amber was experiencing at camp. Oh my god, I just loved all of it. And I am so, so hoping we get even more in Lottie's book, as she tends to be the one doing the most educating.
But now on to what kind of disappointed me. Amber can be pretty immature to the point of being irritating. At first, it was amusing when Amber referred to Kevin as "Bumchin Kevin", but I lost count of the amount of times she did, and it just got so annoying. "Bumchin Keving and his bumchininess." Amber, I know you don't like him, but please do us all a favour and act your age. You're 17, not 12. She also had some quite spiteful thoughts about Melody, one of the camp counsellors who was beautiful and sexual and not the brightest, and I get that she was kind of jealous, but her thoughts were so mean! And I know that can be realistic, but it didn't seem realistic to the character of Amber. She would even talk about how she would have unfeminist thoughts about her. You can be jealous, but there's no need to be vile. So there were quite a few times in the book when she really wound me up, and I just wanted to tell her to grow up. I know she was having a tough time, but it just really grated on my nerves.
But overall, I loved this book, and I am so incredibly excited for Lottie's book later in the year (I believe?)! I love what this trilogy is doing to nurture feminism in teens, and I love Bourne for being awesome enough to do this! I'm pretty much just a huge fan of hers. If you loved Am I Normal Yet? you're going to love How Hard Can Love Be? too!
This is the gorgeous story of how parents will stand by their child no matter what. It's a story that wilOriginally published on Once Upon a Bookcase.
This is the gorgeous story of how parents will stand by their child no matter what. It's a story that will show the child how much they're loved, and assure them that their parents will love them and be there for them always; there when they're scared, there when they're happy, and encouraging them to be brave. It's just the sweetest story, and with illustrations where the children picture themselves doing the same as the characters, relate, and remember when their parents were there for them. Simply beautiful....more
A story about how there are kisses for all occassions; when you're hurt or when you're sick, or when you'reOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
A story about how there are kisses for all occassions; when you're hurt or when you're sick, or when you're scared or trying to say sorry. It's a story of how affection and love can fix most problems when you're young, and encourages a child to be tactile. Lovely illustrations of the teddy bear family sharing kisses for every possible situation are shown throughout. A really charming story perfect to be read to a child who's a little upset and in need of a kiss themselves!...more