Louise O’Neill’s writing definitely deals with extremes. As with Only Ever Yours, Asking For It is relentless in piling on the worst case scenarios, tLouise O’Neill’s writing definitely deals with extremes. As with Only Ever Yours, Asking For It is relentless in piling on the worst case scenarios, this time dealing with rape and the question of consent. Told in first person narrative from Emma’s perspective, the prose is full of guilt and despair and an inability to escape.
The reader isn’t inclined to sympathise with Emma because she’s a nice person; it’s a brave choice to build up a dislikable character in a story where she is the only one who deserves sympathy. As Emma is introduced, she displays all the characteristics that victim blamers will pounce on. To top that off she is self-obsessed, vain and really not very nice to her friends. Though to be fair no one in this town is nice with the exception of Connor. She measures her own self-worth in how attractive she is to the opposite sex. Maybe she was always a tragic figure...
I’m not all that familiar with Irish law, except that I know they are still a little backward when it comes to women’s sexual rights. Something that really struck me was if this happened in the UK in 2015 that the act of sharing explicit images (and video) without Emma’s permission would be a crime in itself. A crime much easier to prosecute for.
It’s not exactly an enjoyable book to read, and the fact that it’s a hugely popular book exploring an issue in need of exposure, means that it’s hard to be the one that goes, well I’m not sure I liked it that much. The constant bombardment of “she deserved it” messages, even from Emma herself at times, is rather challenging. Louise says in her author note that she didn’t want to be manipulative, but I think she is. She gives you every possible reason to blame the victim and you have to fight against it.
I wanted more compassion. I wanted someone in that town to maybe report the images in the first place – they do, without doubt, break Facebook terms of service. I wanted people to judge the boys as much as Emma; should the priest not have condemned their sexual acts outside of marriage too? How on earth can people carry on thinking they are “good boys” when they are creating and sharing porn on social media is beyond me.
Yes, these are all examples of injustice in the real world, but the amalgamation of so many into one little town was too much. And her parents, they were perhaps the worst. Should they not want to protect their daughter, even if she made mistakes? Even if it wasn’t rape? With the media attention and the horrible townspeople, I was begging them to move away. Yet her father can’t even look at her and her mother is more concerned about keeping up appearances.
The mob mentality on social media, and what is effectively online bullying, was the most destructive force in this town. Not the rape accusation by itself. And from Emma’s narrative, for right or wrong, I don’t think she would have been as hugely affected if it hadn’t been recorded and shared. She has to relive her violation again and again, when otherwise she may not have remembered it. She was the one at the start who dismissed her friend’s rape as something you just have to let go. I wonder what her reaction would be if the tables were turned and hers hadn’t been so public.
I think Emma’s decision at the end is entirely understandable and as a reader I shared a sense of relief. On one hand, the book does exactly what it sets out to do, but on the other, it overloaded me so much that I wanted it over....more
I really feel a bit cheated by Everything, Everything. I thought it would be a fascinating exploration of what it’s like to lead such a restricted lifI really feel a bit cheated by Everything, Everything. I thought it would be a fascinating exploration of what it’s like to lead such a restricted lifestyle, where going outside might very well kill you. As I was reading there were so many things that didn’t seem quite right and I got to a point and then there’s this thing, which pretty much exonerates the author from all of what felt like poor research.
Maddy supposedly has SCID, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, which I looked up after reading the book. She says she is allergic to everything but the disorder is actually a severely compromised immune system which means she would be very susceptible to picking up bacteria, viruses and fungal infections and be unlikely to fight them off by herself. That’s not an allergy (in which the immune system over-responds to mostly harmless substances).
The SCID would have made more sense at some points. Like she is allowed paper books as long as they have been through a sterilising process. I would have thought an ereader would be a much more sensible option for keeping allergens out, yet brand new books are not likely to contain pathogens. Still, there are comments that are clearly referring to not knowing what kind of things could kill her, going back to her being highly allergic.
Maybe it started out as a story about a girl with allergies but it got lost along the way, along with a misdiagnosis. Plus it’s very short and doesn’t give much time over to the other characters, who really do have their own problems that deserved more development. I liked Maddy’s voice so it was a bit frustrating that the rest of it felt rushed. More like a first draft than a finished piece of work.
I can understand Maddy’s recklessness though. A desire to lead a life that seems effortless to others. What is life if you are restricted to viewing it through other people? If you can never go out and experience it yourself? Is it worth the risk of death?...more
Aelin, formerly Celaena Sardothien, has come a long way since we first met her in the mines of Endovier. She has unleashed her magic in the lands beyoAelin, formerly Celaena Sardothien, has come a long way since we first met her in the mines of Endovier. She has unleashed her magic in the lands beyond the King’s reach but must return to Rifthold where magic is still trapped. There is one man who claims to know how to free it, the downside that it is Chaol, once her love but an irreparable chasm now exists between them. If he thinks her a monster without her powers, what could she be capable of with them?
I liked the darker side of this instalment. Previously left with a cliffhanger ending, we know that Dorian is suffering a fate worth than death, trapped in his own body. The Valg are a sinister enemy, and those who invite them into their hosts are despicable. Not to mention some of the horrors that occur in the depths of Morath.
I managed to read Heir of Fire without quite grasping that the Ironteeth witches are the enemy. I was so caught up in Manon and Abraxos’ personal story arc, I never placed them in the world as a whole. So the witches are working for Duke Perrington, who is up to some dark and evil plans with the Valg. Manon is only following orders but she is starting to question some of the things they do. Manon is such a strong and complex character, I hope she plays a big part in the future to come.
I wasn’t so keen on the romance aspect this time. The storyline has rather burnt bridges with Chaol, which is disappointing but I accept that characters don’t always end up with the ones we want them to. Given their hostility to each other, romantic reconciliation will be a bit of a stretch. There was an excessive amount of territorial posturing from Rowan and Aedion, which bored me a little. Aelin doesn’t need possessive men to look after her and it made her seem like an object to be fought over.
There’s no cliffhanger this time. It felt like a conclusion of sorts, but there’s plenty left to explore in this world, and certainly more challenges to come.
The Machinery is a strange book that left me with more questions than answers. It focuses on the politicians of the world that the Machinery inhabits,The Machinery is a strange book that left me with more questions than answers. It focuses on the politicians of the world that the Machinery inhabits, giving a rather insular feeling. The use of the Machinery was meant to have created a great empire, thriving with science and arts but not much of this is covered. You don’t get to see what going on in the normal citizens’ lives and whether or not they really care what’s going on behind closed doors.
At the start of the book I was quite intrigued that the Machinery was sentient and was aware of its decline. It speaks to Alexander Paprissi, before he is swiftly carried away by the Operator. However that appears to be the end of that and I was disappointed that the Machinery ended up being a background plot device.
Whilst I would have liked to have known about the impact beyond the world of the Tacticians and Watchers, I became quite fond of this bunch of odd characters. They are obsessed with keeping their head in the sand, avoiding the fact that the end of the Machinery is even possible. Doubters of the system are caught and punished by the Watchers.
I liked that the Machinery could select anyone from any background to be in charge. Did it choose good people or those right for the time? I wonder if power warps them all in the end. One Tactician hides in her books, another schemes to keep the status quo. The Watchers end up being strangely likable for enforcers and torturers…
I basically wasn’t paying attention that this was the first in a trilogy when I picked it up. I’m not sure it works as a standalone at all, so be prepared to read more if you’re interested. I’d like to know what happens next but I’d like some reassurance that things will be answered and the world will make a bit more sense.
I love the mythology of the Cainsville universe. Olivia’s visions are getting more frequent, and possibly more dangerous, which fill in gaps in the faI love the mythology of the Cainsville universe. Olivia’s visions are getting more frequent, and possibly more dangerous, which fill in gaps in the fae’s history. As one elder tells her, she can’t rely on the fae to tell her what’s what, they’re all a bunch of liars looking out for their best interest.
I missed the Matilda of the Night significance until I read the short stories in Led Astray, so I’m not sure if that was just me or if it won’t be so obvious going in. It’s a pretty important part of this third book but the myth is recapped a bit if you’re still clueless.
I was reading quite happily thinking isn’t it nice for a woman with a boyfriend to have such a close male friend with no weird love-triangle going on, but then this Matilda business throws a spanner in the works. The fact that they are reliving an ancient cycle of events suddenly brings into question whether Gabriel is something more to Olivia. The elders have explained that the same decisions aren’t made each cycle, so fate isn’t controlling them, but she doesn’t dismiss it outright.
I’m not quite sure why they’re marketing these as crime, other than that may be a more buoyant market at the moment. If you’re expecting a thrilling mystery escapade, you might be disappointed. It’s more about exploring Olivia, Gabriel and Ricky’s links to the mythology they are wrapped up in, whether they like it or not.
There’s a portion that seems very much a repetition of something that happened in Visions, even so that Olivia actually comments as such. It feels like Kelley is running out of plots which would be a shame as the universe is promising. I did enjoy Deceptions, but it’s not as strong as the first two books in the series, which I loved....more
If I had been relying on reading a sample, in all honesty I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. The faux-Regency style of writing is a little hard toIf I had been relying on reading a sample, in all honesty I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. The faux-Regency style of writing is a little hard to get into if you’re not used to it and the initial characters come across as rather stuffy. Yet if you read on, you see that it is just setting up the world that the brilliant Prunella must endure.
The story really starts to come into its element with the introduction of Mrs. Daubeney's School for Gentlewitches. It is forbidden for women to practice magic, the excuse being that their bodies are too frail to handle its power. Yet there are doubles standards and the working classes household spells are overlooked. Yet those born of status must have the magic sternly taught out of them.
The inmates of every good girls' school are perpetually on the brink of expiring from boredom, and you would stir them up nicely.
Prunella is an orphan brought up by Mrs Daubeney and has taught herself plenty of magic whilst also teaching the opposite at the school. Yet when a potential diplomatic incident breaks out, Prunella grabs her chance to escape to London and make something of her life.
Zacharias comes across a lot older than he is, although maybe this is just the period, where youngsters were considered grown up at a much younger age than they are now. He is also quite formal and hard to warm to, but I could certainly sympathise with his situation. He is fighting against the establishment and their prejudice just as much as Prunella. He just wasn't that great a character and could have done with more development and emotion.
A mix of adventure, pompous society and a splash of humour; it’s a solid debut, with some room for improvement.
I have mixed feelings about this book. For the first half, it felt like the worst season of Next Top Model ever. The girls, and women, are their own wI have mixed feelings about this book. For the first half, it felt like the worst season of Next Top Model ever. The girls, and women, are their own worst enemies in this world. For 17 years, they live in a female only environment, facing the inevitable future of being controlled by men. Why do they not spend that time supporting each other? Instead they undermine each other at every turn.
The pressures that young women put themselves under is very real, and take away the bizarre breeding program, their tale is playing out across many high schools even today. The media and our peers have as much to blame for the pressures as men, many of which probably don’t have any idea what a thigh gap is, let alone why it would make a difference. And these girls have only ever been told second hand what men want, never given the chance to get to know them as individuals, never given the chance to realise they might want something different too. There is a glimpse that the boys are being manipulated too, although this is not their story.
Pitting the girls against each other, stops any real friendships forming. They manipulate each other, trust no one and see their only salvation as a life of slavery to men. They never stop to wonder if they are wrong.
I found the institutionalised bullying very uncomfortable reading. It is one thing for the girls to do it, but not even having a fair authority figure in the chastities is horrible. There is anonymous cyberbullying, peer pressure and awful, shaming and exploitative media.
I cannot quite understand why all the girls weren’t severely underweight. They pride themselves on their self-restraint by not eating and many of their meals are “0 kcal”. Bulimia is encouraged; a vomitorium is even provided for the act. Yet they all have a target weight they have to maintain, not going over, or under and too skinny is also pointed out as unattractive.
I’m not convinced that I believed in this world. It is a cautionary tale where everything is exaggerated. If women are designed and conditioned to be perfect for men, why do they spend so much time obsessing over fashion? Are these soulless, cruel women really going to make the best mothers? And why on earth were the worst kind of men left to keep the world going? It suffers a little from the YA dystopian tendency to have an idea to explore without developing the world to support it.
I’d advise that you feel in a good mental state when you read this. It’s not a fun read and there’s plenty that could trigger negative feelings. I’m not sure it challenges the behaviour enough. The negative behaviour is rewarded in the plot; those that don’t toe the line, get punished. Yes, the message is clear for my (mostly) grown-up brain but I can see how it could be taken the wrong way....more
On the Beach is one of the saddest things I have ever read. The fact that everyone is so jolly and getting on with their lives, for however long thatOn the Beach is one of the saddest things I have ever read. The fact that everyone is so jolly and getting on with their lives, for however long that may be, makes it even more tragic. Not a single character is a villain, no one deserves to die, certainly not a horrible prolonged death. Radiation poisoning is one of the scariest things out there; with very little anyone can do to help.
It all starts off quite chipper. The short third war has destroyed the northern hemisphere but down in Australia, no one quite believes it will affect them, not yet. They are having to make do without petrol and aeroplanes, but life is continuing. Mary plans and plants her garden for next year. Inviting the American captain down and keeping him entertained so he doesn’t stop to think about his family; doesn’t see the baby and cry. Creating make-shift vehicles driven by cattle and pedal power.
They would much rather have another drink, than worry about it; Moira has decided to switch to brandy as gin rots the insides. There’s even rumours that getting pickled will increase resistance to radiation. It gives the whole thing a cosy catastrophe vibe.
Whilst the state of the world is without hope, there is optimism in human nature. These people don’t turn against each other or exploit the situation, instead they are helpful and kind. It is the kind of community we would all like to be part of if the end was nigh, not having to struggle in our final days, but just pottering along.
A sole American submarine is still in operation, stationed in Melbourne. A small crew take it out to take readings and study the movement of the radiation across the globe. At first I wasn’t that interested in the goings on of the Navy, however it provides a useful tool to relay information about the rest of the world. They are living in isolation, no news can come from lands where no one lives and the submarine is the only thing equipped to go close to radioactive areas.
All world leaders should be made to read this book. It humanises the horror of nuclear war more-so than any graphic telling of destruction. It’s the slow, inevitable wait for the extinction of the human race....more
James Dawson is back on form with All of the Above. Warm, real and funny characters you can’t help but love. Poking fun at high school drama tropes, cJames Dawson is back on form with All of the Above. Warm, real and funny characters you can’t help but love. Poking fun at high school drama tropes, check. A diverse cast of realistic characters, check. Parents that seem like real people, check. Laughter, check. Tears, check.
You’re still learning about who you are as a teen, and that means you don’t have to stick with the first label someone assigns you, or any label at all. You don’t need to know who you are or who you want to be. First loves don’t have to be forever-loves. It’s a lovely positive message to a book that covers plenty of issues.
Without ruining the anti-labelling vibe of the novel, I’d like to at least point out how well it portrays bisexuality. It shows clearly how you can fall in love with the person on the inside and it’s nothing to do with gender. A kiss with a same sex friend isn’t made into a huge deal, it doesn’t define you unless you want it to.
Toria has an online presence as well as her real life friends. It’s probably the first time I’ve seen this acknowledged in YA where it wasn’t an integral part of the plot. It all just helps with making these characters seem like real, well-rounded people.
I liked the seaside town setting; I thought it hit the nail on the head with the fact that so many teens just don’t have anywhere they are welcome or stuff to do outside of school. And every seaside town has a dubious crazy golf. If it wasn’t tourist season here right now, I’d be down there in tribute of the group.
I get the wanting to escape a dead-end town, but do we need to keep holding London up as the Promised Land? It’s becoming more and more inaccessible for the average person to live there, without resorting to living in an actual cupboard. There are plenty of other vibrant, diverse towns and cities you can go to, honest.
An excellent portrayal of a girl fighting against OCD, a much misunderstood mental illness. I liked the fact that it used Evie’s Bad Thoughts throughoAn excellent portrayal of a girl fighting against OCD, a much misunderstood mental illness. I liked the fact that it used Evie’s Bad Thoughts throughout the text, and how they escalated was representative of how the illness strikes. At the beginning she is much better at counteracting her bad thoughts with good thoughts. Her ritual behaviour is linked closely to her bad thoughts, the kind of behaviour that defines OCD.
Evie sees normal as having a boyfriend, so this becomes her top priority. She even starts to believe she is cured when she’s around someone special, despite the warnings from her therapist. It’s such a normal thing to want when you’re a teenager; to be just like everyone else. It’s only when you’re older and wiser (or Evie’s fab little sister Rose) that you realise there’s no such thing as normal.
The stigma of mental illness causes Evie to be scared to open up to her friends. In her eyes it makes her less normal and she just wanted to be accepted. She doesn’t want pity and she doesn’t want to be seen as a freak. It also shows how being stuck inside your head with your thoughts can make you act selfish, even if you’re not a selfish person. There’s too much else going on to stop and think that other people might be struggling too. That’s an important lesson to anyone who wants to help their friends in similar circumstances; give them time and they’ll be thankful for your patience. It highlights the importance of family and friends in recovery, about being open and not keeping secrets.
I liked Sarah. I thought she was a down to earth therapist, where so many mental health professionals are portrayed in a stereotypical manner. She was firm but kind and had some great “homework” for Evie.
Whilst educating teens on the subject of feminism is an applaudable thing to do through fiction, there were times I thought the lessons were a bit of an info dump. I loved the scene when they realise their conversations aren’t going to pass the Bechdel test and there are other lessons learned which do fit with the narrative, even if a little bit forced.
As for Evie’s presentation at the end, I think it’s a little unfair to blame women’s mental illnesses on men. There’s a tiny concession to the fact that men with depression are more likely to commit suicide, often attributed to gender stereotyping. The fact that men don’t seek help might actually mean the records showing more women suffer from mental illness are skewed. Victorian asylums were not just where women got sent for being hysterical but they were also a great way for a woman to get rid of her husband without a divorce (hard for the average person to do at the time)....more
At the heart of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a crew of the most lovely, amazing characters ever to set foot on a spaceship. Rosemary mightAt the heart of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a crew of the most lovely, amazing characters ever to set foot on a spaceship. Rosemary might set off on the wrong foot, being given the tour by the grumpiest member, and worrying that her past will catch up with her, but this isn’t setting the scene for strife. This is a ship of good people.
In the future, the human race isn’t at the top of the hierarchy. Quite the opposite, they were only just allowed to be let into the GC, what with many other species looking down on them. As Wayfarer travels towards Hedra Ka, the readers learns about different cultures and quite how absurd some of the things we take for granted might seem to another sentient species.
Why would social structures be the same as 20th century Earth’s in cultures that have evolved independently to ours? Of course they wouldn’t, and we see a variety of different identities and ways of living. The key thing to note about this story is the overarching acceptance of differences. It’s just lovely. The writing uses a variety of pronouns, for those species that are genderless, or to be polite when you don’t know what gender someone identifies as. There is also the use of they for Ohan.
Oh Ohan. I cried over pretty much every part of their story. For some reason I had them pictured as a sort of blue orang-utan though, anyone else? How hard to watch friends waste away, but knowing it’s their own choice, their own beliefs sending them to their grave.
Lovey has got to be the best AI ever. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried over a fictional computer before. Whilst the universe seems so liberal in many ways, there are still prejudices. What about life artificially created, does that not deserve the same rights as anyone else? It’s not just AIs that have this problem, as little glimpses into the characters’ lives will tell.
This book is as far from angry as you can get. It is full of love and emotion, and an endearing loyalty. More please!
Loved the first half but went on a bit too long and the connection seemed a bit ridiculous. Would be interested in reading some of the non-fiction "fuLoved the first half but went on a bit too long and the connection seemed a bit ridiculous. Would be interested in reading some of the non-fiction "further reading" about Soviet Russia. Full review to follow....more