Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon

Pages: 452
Published: August 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury


The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people's minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.


I have a mixed relationship with this book. I’m not usually into high fantasy, but this was described to me as the next Harry Potter, so I couldn’t turn it down. I had to force myself to read the first three quarters of the book, but once I hit the final hundred pages I couldn’t put it down.

You can’t really talk about The Bone Season without talking about Paige. She is a perfect protagonist for this book and a worthy addition to the strong female protagonist troupe. The Daily Telegraph is right ( quoted on the back of my book), Paige is ‘reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games’. In fact, maybe super reminiscent of Katniss, but I love Katniss so I’ve no problem with that. Paige is strong, brave and selfless, and the narrative wouldn’t make sense with any other character.

Paige is from the Emerald Isle, and as someone from the Isle itself I found the portrayal of Ireland in this book quite interesting and very amusing. Paige is from Clonmel in Tipperary, the dairy farming, cattle-rearing land, nestled in the golden and green vales of the south of Ireland. Everything about the Ireland in this book is vaguely magical, free and untamable place, which I always find kind of hilarious. The riots that take place in Dublin as Scion tries to take over are called ‘The Molly Riots’, probably because the rebels stand their ground beside the Molly Malone statue. Which is a terrible location, strategically speaking. While it was really nice and entertaining to have a shout out to the motherland in such a popular novel, I’m still waiting for the day that Ireland is portrayed as more than a hoshposh of magic, wistful red haired maidens and badly organised and under equipped rebels( to be fair we do have a reputation for being fairly shite at rebellions, so I might give her that one).

The Bone Season is definitely high fantasy, so I was pretty overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information thrown at me in the first few chapters. Shannon dives straight into her world building, and doesn’t leave much time for newbies like me to catch up. If you’re well seasoned in high fantasy you’ll probably be fine, but if you’re unfamiliar with the genre I’m not sure I would recommend this as the best place to start. I spent the whole book misunderstanding the whole clairvoyance thing, and I had absolutely no clue what the Emim and the Rephaim were supposed to be. My copy had a handy glossary of new terms which I referenced far more than is respectable, but had to in order to survive .I'm not even going to bother trying to explain it’s so complicated. I would also recommend reading it in one go. It’s fairly plot intensive, and when I came back to it after putting it down for a few weeks I hadn't a clue what was going on and had to retrace my steps.  

Of course their is an inappropriate romantic relationship.Of course their is an inappropriately timed make-out session. But personally, I’d be pissed off if their wasn't, so I'm not complaining. Anyway It’s such a tiny part of the book, if it’s not your cup of tea you can just pretend it never happened.

It took me a while to get through but it was so worth it in the end. I’m definitely looking forward to starting The Mime Order  sometime soon. When it comes out in paperback, because I’m poor….

Four Stars ****

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Trouble - Non Pratt

Pages: 384
Published: March 2014
Publisher: Walker Books


In this dazzling debut novel, a pregnant teen learns the meaning of friendship—from the boy who pretends to be her baby’s father.

When the entire high school finds out that Hannah Shepard is pregnant via her ex-best friend, she has a full-on meltdown in her backyard. The one witness (besides the rest of the world): Aaron Tyler, a transfer student and the only boy who doesn’t seem to want to get into Hannah’s pants. Confused and scared, Hannah needs someone to be on her side. Wishing to make up for his own past mistakes, Aaron does the unthinkable and offers to pretend to be the father of Hannah’s unborn baby. Even more unbelievable, Hannah hears herself saying “yes.”

Told in alternating perspectives between Hannah and Aaron, Trouble is the story of two teenagers helping each other to move forward in the wake of tragedy and devastating choices. As you read about their year of loss, regret, and hope, you’ll remember your first, real best friend—and how they were like a first love.


Trouble is the best teen-pregnancy (I’m pretty sure that is a genre at this point) I’ve ever read. Going even further than that, this is probably one of the best contemporary novels I’ve read in the way it captured teenagers and their lives. I found myself reading this in only a few days, and I didn’t want to put it down. It’s been quite a while since I read this book, and I never took any notes, so this will be brief.

My favourite aspect of this book is definitely the characters. Hannah and Aaron are two of the best drawn teenagers in any contemporary. If you’re the sort of person who finds John Green’s teenagers a bit unbelievable, you will love the characters in this. Some of Pratt’s characters are complex and multidimensional, and some of them, like real people are just plain awful and stupid.

Hannah and her best friend Katie embody the cliché of the ‘teenage slut’, looked down upon by their peers, the authority figures in their lives, and even the guys they sleep with. The girls really highlight the double standard amongst teenagers and the prevalent idea that some girls are for sex, and other girls are for dating, and there can be no overlap. Through Katie and Hannah, Pratt explores the idea that teenage girls feel that their self worth is based on their social standing and how desired they are by their male peers. Pratt eventually shows us that this is not true, both of these aspects bring neither of the girls any happiness. Hannah is the first female protagonist I’ve ever read about that has a sex-drive. She talks openly about her desires and isn’t embarrassed by them. It makes a big change from nearly every other YA heroine.

The boys aren’t portrayed very well either. While Aaron is generally a good guy, most of the others aren’t good friends to each other and really disrespectful to their female peers. Pratt illustrates that awkward period of adolescence quite well. Both the boys and girls are unnecessarily mean and bitchy to each other for no there reason then increasing their social standing and appearing cooler or more popular. I think everyone who has ever been a teenager will recognise this stage, and cringe at the memories of all they got up to between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.

Despite the fact that Hannah decides to keep her baby, which could be seen as a Pro-Life agenda, I felt that this book was quite pro-choice. Hannah considers her options and figures out what is her best option, Hannah chooses to keep her baby because she feels that is what’s best for her. Pratt never gets preachy or evangelical about any particular agenda, and she stresses that every situation and every pregnant woman is different.

Guilt is a huge theme in this book. Aaron’s guilt is what drives him to volunteer to be Hannah’s fake ‘baby daddy’. His desire to atone for his mistakes is a huge driving factor for his behaviour and leads him to do some questionable things.

I would definitely recommend this book, and if I reread the book I would update this review to make it more comprehensive because there is so much more to talk about. This is a fantastic contemporary novel that can be enjoyed by adults and teenagers alike.

Five Stars *****

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

How to Be a Women - Caitlin Moran

Published: June 2011
Publisher: Ebury
Pages: 312

Blurb: Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself. 


I presumed that this book would be a sort of feminist text, it was being compared to the Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (which I haven’t read yet, but is currently sitting in my to-be-read pile), but it is more of a memoir written under the influence of feminism.

Taking that into account this is an excellent memoir. Moran invites us unflinchingly into her life with what seems to be a no-holds-barred honesty. This was definitely a laugh-out-loud book, as I found myself chortling to myself on the train. Moran really embraces the idea ( which is my personal philosophy) that ‘It may be shit now, but some day it will make a great story’. And there are some absolutely wonderful stories woven into this novel. I left this novel wishing that Caitlin and I could be best friends, and wanting to read everything else she has ever written. The writing is humorous yet touching and serious and Moran really has the gift of storytelling. As a memoir, this is definitely one of the best.

However, as a feminist text, this book has some failings. Moran deals with personal feminism, ie all the times she has personally experienced sexism, been treated differently or unfairly because she was a woman, the effect her female anatomy has had on her, and when societies views and expectations of women have affected her. It’s definitely a personal  account of feminism. There are very little facts, figures and research (and go as far as to say none, but ‘m not completely sure and I don’t have the book anymore to check), and Moran gives her opinion on a lot of feminist issues, some of which I wouldn’t agree with. Although this is a personal text, I found myself relating to an awful lot of the experiences that Moran had, and I’m sure that most women will relate to at least one or two of them. This book deals with what I call ‘first world feminism’. Thankfully women are now able to divorce their husbands, get an education, have their own job and support themselves financially, have access to contraception and all the big advancements that feminism in the past has worked to give us now, but there are still a few inequalities between the sexes that need to be fixed. These are the issues that Moran deals with in this book.

This book isn’t for the feminist scholars, but it is an excellent introduction to modern feminism and every twenty-first century woman who doesn’t call themselves a feminist, or anyone who feels the feminist movement is redundant should read it. If you’re looking for a good memoir this is also a must. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a fan of ‘oversharing’ , because it’ll probably gross you out. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Four Stars ****

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Girl Online - Zoe Sugg and Siobhan Curham

Published: November 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 352


I have this dream that, secretly, all teenage girls feel exactly like me. And maybe one day, when we realize that we all feel the same, we can all stop pretending we’re something we’re not. That would be awesome. But until that day, I’m going to keep it real on this blog and keep it unreal in “real” life.

Penny has a secret. 
Under the alias GirlOnline, Penny blogs her hidden feelings about friendship, boys, high school drama, her quirky family, and the panic attacks that have begun to take over her life. When things go from bad to worse at school, her parents accept an opportunity to whisk the family away for Christmas at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. There, she meets Noah, a gorgeous, guitar-strumming American. Suddenly Penny is falling in love—and capturing every moment she spends with “Brooklyn Boy” on her blog.
But Noah has a secret, too, one that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover—and her closest friendship—forever.

Let’s be honest, I only picked this book up because of the controversy surrounding Sugg and (her once ghost writer, now co-writer), and the fact that this is that this book broke the record for highest first week sales for a debut author since records began (according to wikipedia, don’t shoot me if that’s wrong). I feel like I only picked this up because I found it in the library, (I wasn’t going to fork out sixteen euro for a hardback I might hate), I’m really glad I did. This book is not high literature, but it is absolutely adorable. It’s the sort of book I would have loved when I was eleven or twelve, and still quite enjoyed it at age nineteen. It’s a wonderfully cute story, if a little clichéd.

The relationships are probably one of the most important aspects of the book. Penny and Elliott’s relationship is definitely my favourite. It’s a proper friendship, Elliott and Penny stand by one another, bar a few minor mishaps. There’s no hidden ssexual tension between them, and they don’t end up together in the end(This is not a spoiler, we find out that Elliott is gay pretty early on). It was nice to see a platonic male-female friendship for once, but I feel it was implied that their friendship only exists because Elliott is gay, and there is no potential for romance between them. Or maybe I’m reading too far into it. Penny and Noah are adorable. He is the perfect fictional boyfriend cliché and they fall madly in love though they no nothing about each other. It’s a completely unrealistic, frosted cupcake of a relationship that made me cringe and coo in equal measure. Penny and Megan's relationship is probably the most interesting. Penny and Megan were once very close and happy being nest friends, but they have recently begun to grow apart. The interesting thing about this relationship is that most of the problems and conflict between them are caused by the fact they don't realise they should probably just let one another go. This is a really important idea to point out to young teenagers who often feel that the friends they have now are the friends we will have for life. Sugg and Curham gently point out that this is not often the case, and that it's not the end of the world if you're not best friends forever.

The most important lesson to be learned from this book is that the internet is a scary place and should be treated with care. This is a really good point to drive home, particularly because of the fanbase that follows Suggs YouTube channel and the audience of this book, who probably live lives online in tandem with their real offline lives. Penny gets publicly shamed on Facebook when someone posts a video of her flashing her knickers at a school play. This is a realistic fear, if this happened to me at fifteen I would have also fled the country, maybe not now but definitely then. The video spreads like wildfire, and it’s embarrassing for a while, but it all blows over pretty quickly. Sugg teaches us that it’s not the end of the world if you go viral, which is an important lesson. Obviously Penny keeps a blog, it’s the premise of the book, and this causes her a lot of problems. Through Penny’s blog we learn that nothing on the internet is completely anonymous, and she shouldn’t post anything you wouldn’t say in front of a crowd because someone WILL find it. Sugg also deals with the idea of online hate, something she probably has experience with so I trust her on this topic. We see Penny deal with complete strangers criticising her for something that is none of their business and that they don’t even really know the full story about. I think it’s really important for young people who are just dipping their toes into the online world to see the other side of this online hate and how it can affect people.

Overall this book is adorable and perfect for the target audience. The writing is sweet and simple, and I would recommend this book for young teenagers or anyone who likes sweet, fluffy YA contemporary romance.

Three Stars