For review

I have compiled a list of books that I have received for review over the past few years to keep track of them all, although I don’t see myself getting through them all any time soon, if ever, it’s nice to have them all recorded in one place; books in bold are of the highest priority. I will remove books as they are read and reviewed, adding to the list as appropriate. Continue reading

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Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

Things a Bright Girl Can Do

Received from NetGalley for review. 

‘Rise up, women, for the fight is long and hard…’

Things a Bright Girl Can Do is an excellent historical romp through the Suffragette movement in England. It follows three girls with vastly different backgrounds – Evelyn, May, and Nell – between 1914 and 1918, as they navigate suffrage, love, and war. Much of the story can be found within history – most of us have at least a basic idea of the Suffragette movement and WWI, but I loved the way that Nicholls combined the two without causing one to overshadow the other. Although the novel is rooted more in the experiences of girls and women during the time, and the struggle for the vote, the impact of the war is also shown, with the devastation it caused to all.

The narrative is split between the three main characters – Evelyn, May, and Nell, three young women who all find themselves within the world of suffrage. Evelyn is rich and bright, and is expected to marry, have children, and keep house like her mother, but she wants more – she wants to be able to go to university like her brother, and finds herself drawn into the world of the Suffragettes by her longing for equal opportunities. I loved that even though Evelyn initially became more involved with the movement to rebel against her parents, she soon realises that the right to vote, to go to university, to be seen as an equal, is important for all and can be worth dying for.

Evelyn was aware of the two ideologies sitting alongside each other in her head; the nice young girl from Hampstead who wanted to be respected, and the rebel woman who wanted to bring down the pillars of the world.

May has grown up within the movement, her mother is a Quaker as well as a feminist, and has long campaigned for equality and peace. Although she is not as wealthy as Evelyn, May and her mother have never really struggled for money. May’s views are very black and white, and I enjoyed how she grew up within the novel, especially after she meets and falls for Nell; she begins to realise that things are not as simple as women being automatically treated the same as men, and conflict being resolved before a war happens, that there are many grey areas within the world that will take many years to change.

Nell, in complete contrast, has grown up in poverty and hardship. She has a loving family, but there are many mouths to feed and not always the resources to do so. She has grown up hard and strong in a world that tells women to be soft and gentle, to mind the children, to let others curse and fight. The relationship that develops between May and Nell was incredibly interesting as they have such different life experiences and viewpoints; they are very much a ‘chalk and cheese’ pairing, and I think Nicholls has done an incredible job of showing the impact of upbringing and how it can shape our world view.

The war had taken even that away, Nell’s glorious battle for freedom. What did women’s freedom matter now? What did anything matter?

As well as exploring the Suffrage movement, Nicholls shows the impact that WWI had – on women, men, children, the wealthy, the poor – on everyone, alongside the impact it had on suffragettes campaigning for the vote. So many different viewpoints are explored – pacifism, patriotism, racism, sexism, and how it all effected people for a vast array of different reasons, and they have all been explored with fairness and sensitivity. I don’t think I can really find fault with this book – highly recommended for anyone who wants a slightly fictional take on two very important moments in history, or who wants to read about a plethora of amazing feminist figures from the past.

I am a Suffragette because for the first time in my life, I feel as though I have a purpose, a goal. I feel as though I am useful. I am powerful. I am doing the job I was put on this earth to do.

Read: September 29th-October 15th 2017

4/5 stars

Little Bits

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

4.5 stars

Heartbreaking and hopeful, the best kind of book.

Read: August 1st 2017

4.5/5 stars

The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree by Tove Jansson

Two lovely stories showcasing themes of tolerance, respect, and kindness, with an extra bit of special added to them – at least £4 of every £4.99 sale goes to Oxfam projects that empower women and girls all over the world.

Read: October 2nd 2017

5/5 stars

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Once again John Green puts thoughts and feelings into words in a way that I could never manage. If nothing else this book is an outstanding take on mental health, life and death, and love (I personally think it was so much more than just that, though). Superb.

Read: October 11th-15th 2016

5/5 stars

Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan

Tangleweed and Brine

‘The future isn’t written, till you write it.’ – Riverbed

I’m not sure I can express how incredible a collection this is. Tangelweed and Brine is a feminist masterpiece, Sullivan has taken the fairy tales we know and love and turned them on their heads, subverting what we have always known to be the message of those tales and creating a rhetoric that screams empowerment. The stories within are powerful, magical, dark, poetic, and filled with strong female characters – there are no damsels in distress or princesses waiting for their princes who have no substance or humanity, instead we have women of all kinds, we have real people filled with love, lust, hate, and a great need for more from life, not objects or pieces of meat or pretty pieces of decoration.

I found myself filled overwhelmingly with anger and hope as I devoured these stories. Anger that women have been, and are still, treated like this – as commodities, pieces of meat, something to take and consume by men, people who had no agency, no rights, no vote. But hope as well. Hope, because women are and always have been powerful, even if we have been burned, and drowned, imprisoned, executed for it. Hope that the world is changing and people are too – that someday everyone will realise that people are people, no matter what they identify as, flesh and blood, worthy of equality and freedom and a life without fear.

TANGLEWEED

Slippershod – 5/5 stars. So powerful – love and kindness, freedom, breaking away, bravery.

‘People like their women lovely. Women are a lot of different things.’
‘…be ignored and still retain your value.’
‘What breaks a person builds another person.’
‘The night spreads wide and you have flown, you’ve flown.’

The Woodcutter’s Bride – 4/5 stars. Strange and unsettling.

Come Live Here and be Loved – 4/5 stars

You Shall Not Suffer… – 5/5 stars

‘The world’s not built for soft and sturdy things. It likes its soft things small and white, defenceless.’
‘Your body has become a cut of meat.’
‘You are a woman. Women must be trained.’

This story hit home hard – when you don’t conform to the traditional image of girl, growing up can still be difficult, being expected to be tough, to not hurt or feel, just because you’re so much taller and outwardly confident than others, than boys especially. And suddenly puberty hits and boys and men are told it’s acceptable to stare, to catcall, to harass – when did this become a norm? How did this even happen? The expectations that are placed on women and what we should be like – small, soft, delicate, weak – and how if you aren’t like that, you aren’t seen as womanly or feminine, it’s total rubbish, but it can still hurt and take a long time to come to terms with. I felt like I was coming home reading this story – the witch is beautiful and powerful, both sturdy and soft.

Meet the Nameless Thing and Call it Friend – 4/5 stars

Sister Fair – 4/5 stars

Ash Pale – 4.5/5 stars. Subverting the story of Snow White in spectacular fashion – Snow is the witch and the tale is powerful, dark, and magical. Whilst Snow seems deranged and evil in some of her methods, she’s free, she’s not being told what she can and cannot do by a man who wants to own everything about her.

‘Women aren’t allowed to do this here. To wield the power and to say the words.’
‘A soft life in a pretty cage with windows. A coffin for a woman when she lives.’

BRINE

Consume or be Consumed – 4/5 stars

‘You are not a gift. You’re not a thing. You slide the cold blade in.’

Doing Well – 4/5 stars

‘In every castle there are hidden rooms.
For hidden women.’

‘You need to hide to keep your body safe.’

The Tender Weight – 4/5 stars. Showing the ludicrous idea of a woman’s value being places on her virginity and then her ability to have children – commodities rather than people. The ending was wonderfully unexpected and a brilliant twist on the Bluebeard story.

Riverbed – 4.5/5 stars. Taking back power and control.

‘All witches burn.’
‘Witches can burn, and sometimes men can catch fire.’
‘They cannot bind my brain.’

The Little Gift – 4/5 stars. Odd, but powerful all the same.

‘I hold my head up high.
I am a person and I have value.’

Beauty and the Board – 5/5 stars

‘I am a woman grown. And I am angry.’
‘They venture out into the moonlit halls, walking naked through the dangerous places unafraid and wild with cold, bright beauty.’

Read: October 4th-5th 2017

5/5 stars

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

Hortense and the Shadow

Received from NetGalley for review. 

‘She reached for her shadow…and her shadow reached back.’

Hortense and the Shadow is a delightful new children’s book; the illustrations are lovely, evoking classic fairy tales and luscious Eastern European landscapes, and the narrative that the O’Hara sisters have created has surprising depth to it, exploring ideas of self-esteem, identity, and inner strength.

The story is about Hortense, a young girl who is afraid of her shadow. She longs for nothing more than to be rid of it, but she soon discovers that her shadow is as vital a part of her as everything else. It may sound simple but, as with most children’s books, Hortense and the Shadow has a very important message within it. Although she fears her shadow, Hortense is a brave and kind girl – she cares for those who are injured, and when bandits attack she rushes out in the dark forest to try and defend her own. She realises that even though her shadow may turn into strange, dark shapes, it’s still a part of her, and people can be just as strange and dark at times, too.

The illustrations are absolutely stunning, everything about them conjures up fairy tales told on a cold winter’s night, huddled up in front of a fire with mulled orange or hot chocolate. They compliment the story beautifully and I could happily spend my time just flicking through and enjoying the gentle watercolours; pastel blues and pinks intermingle with greys and navy blue to create a feast for the eyes and I wanted to dive right into the story and live within it (keeping my fingers crossed for a Hortense and the Shadow print collection).

Children and adults alike will love this story, and I can see it becoming a new classic with its message of bravery and kindness and beautiful illustrations. Whether you have children in your life or not, I would highly recommend bringing this enchanting book into your life.

Read: October 1st 2017

4/5 stars

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Daughter of the Burning City

Received from NetGalley for review. 

Daughter of the Burning City is a luscious, wicked romp through a festival of debauchery and sin – The Gomorrah Festival – a travelling city that boasts a multitude of sights and shows, full of mysterious jynx-workers, prettymen and women, The Menagerie, and Freak Show, to name but a few. Although the festival has always courted its fair share of controversy, especially amongst the religious Up-Mountainers, it finds itself in further scandal when Sorina, a rare illusion-worker, finds one of her illusions murdered. But how can someone be murdered if they aren’t fully alive? The novel follows Sorina as she delves into the seedier Downhill of the Festival to try and find out who murdered her family, and how it’s possible to murder an illusion.

At first I did wonder how I would get to know and forge a connection with all the characters. However, Sorina and her illusions – Tree, Gill, Venera, Nicoleta, Blister, Hawk, Unu and Du, and Crown – all have distinct personalities, and I found myself attached to them all, and devastated when one of them was killed. Sorina herself was an interesting protagonist – she has the power to transport a person entirely with her illusion work, and create images so vivid they could make adults run away screaming, yet she remains a realistic teenager, worried about how she looks and how others perceive her, although I imagine having flat skin where eyes usually are contributes to this. I’m glad she was unsure of herself and made mistakes, it only made her growth throughout the novel, as she tries to untangle everything that is happening in Gomorrah, more realistic. The other characters are equally as interesting – especially the mysterious and well-spoken Luca – and I love how there was always more beneath the surface, something else to them that wasn’t immediately obvious.

Daughter of the Burning City is a wonderfully twisty tale; with so many people who have unusual abilities how do you know who to trust? How do you know what is real and if your mind is truly your own? Sorina has to try and muddle through murky politics and allegiances – both within Gomorrah and the Up-Mountain cities they are touring – to try and discover who wants to murder her family and why, as well as dealing with unexpected emotions. The world of Gomorrah was amazing to discover, with a vastness that I couldn’t quite comprehend and a surprise around every corner. My only criticism is that writing sometimes felt convoluted, as if Foody was trying to use too many words to convey something. The writing was generally evocative, though, and the world of Gomorrah and its inhabitants came alive to me from the very first page. Highly recommended if you’re after a strange, murderous story where nothing is quite what it seems.

Read: September 3rd-16th 2017

4/5 stars

PSA: Sometimes I suck at reviewing

I’m not going to lie, going back to work after six glorious weeks off is hard. My reading and reviewing has gone completely out of the window as I’m just too tired and busy to properly dedicate myself to it – there always seems to be something else that I have to do in this silly adult world. Stay in school, kids, it’s so much easier.

I have quite a few September releases to read and review, and I’m hoping to get around to them by the end of this month (does anyone else feel weird if they don’t post reviews regularly?) but I don’t know when my next post will be. It’s taken me about eleven days to read half of Daughter of the Burning City because life keeps getting in the way, but I will be back and normal service will resume shortly.

I hope all you wonderful people are well and having more luck with reading than I am. Stay excellent xo

 

Bubbles

The Night Will Never Stay

The night will never stay,
The night will still go by,
Though with a million stars
You pin it to the sky,
Though you bind it with the blowing wind
And buckle it with the moon,
The night will slip away
Like sorrow or a tune.

– Eleanor Farjeon

The Chaos of Longing by K.Y. Robinson

Received from NetGalley for review. 

Poetry is so subjective that I always find it hard to review. Personally, I love this style of poetry – the stream-of-consciousness, open, raw, and vivid way that K.Y. Robinson and similar poets write just gets me, I feel it deep down and it never fails to move me. I find it so remarkable how people can use words to create images and feelings in this way, and although I know some readers find it overly simplistic, I personally find it magical.

one moment life
is more pigmented
than technicolor.
glitter flows
through my veins
and the stars
in my eyes dilate
and burst
into delusions.

K.Y. Robinson explores desire in all its forms and the need and want that we as humans have: to feel fulfilled emotionally, physically, and spiritually. A want that doesn’t always disappear if we are struggling with mental illness, if we’ve been abused or suffered trauma, if we’ve been told that we are too much, too loud, take up too much space. It’s personal and powerful and I adore the dedication – ‘to those who lie awake burning.’

when you look at me,
stars cluster in your eyes
but i often wonder if
my black holes
will swallow them whole
because deep down
i’m a connosieur
of sabotage.

If you’ve read and loved collections by writers like Amanda Lovelace, Rupi Kaur, or Lang Leav, you’ll probably love this too. It has the same power, the same rawness and pain, the same relatability that so many of us feel.

there is a universe
swirling inside you.

you have to learn to be
your own earth,
wind, fire
and water.

you are a natural
phenomenon-
not a natural disaster.

Read: August 17th 2017

4/5 stars