Girls Will Be Girls – Emer O’Toole

“As feminists, we shouldn’t judge other women’s choices. But we should very certainly try to understand women’s choices.”

77e0c5bf2337daffe41c03c09eddd4b6

Blurb: “Being a woman is, largely, about performance – how we dress and modify our bodies, what we say, the roles we play, and how we conform to expectations. Gender stereotypes are still deeply embedded in our society, but Emer O’Toole is on a mission to rewrite the old script and bend the rules of gender – and she shows how and why we should all be joining in.”

This year I started getting into feminism literature. I was a feminist before I really knew there was a word to assign to it. The main thing I’ve noticed on this adventure so far is that nothing is talked about theoretically: there is no “this is what sexism means now let’s move on” every point about inequality is backed up by the author’s own experiences. Girls Will Be Girls is no difference.

In this book, Emer tackles the idea of gender conformity being a performance. Women are expected to dress and act a certain way, take on certain roles in order to please the “audience.” She lays on the table how restrictive growing up as a woman in Ireland was and unfortunately, still remains to be this day as abortion is currently illegal. She goes into detail about a time when she was thirteen and she wore a particular outfit that everyone complimented her for, a year later and wearing the same outfit suddenly she was sexualised, having suggestions made to her that maybe she shouldn’t wear a mini skirt.

A large part of the book is taken up by her stories about the “performance.” She recalls tales of times she spent exploring her gender and sexuality in public and not conforming to what’s expected of her. Whether it be the clothes she wore, what bathroom she used or not shaving her armpits. It was staggering to see how different she was treated when in stereotypically male attire compared to “traditional” female attire and entering the more androgynous side altogether.

As with a lot of feminist literature this is a western woman telling her stories and experiences of sexism. This is obviously very important as we need people like Emer to use their platforms to express how far we still have to go as a society. However, it’s exclusionary only focusing on feminist issues in Ireland and the UK.

Another thing that actually offended me was when Emer goes into detail about sexuality and what it means to her, including relationships and flings in the past. She decided to drop the bombshell line “I don’t believe in bisexual.” As a bisexual woman who found so much solace in a term after years of confusion I was really hurt for Emer to essentially discredit a sexuality that is already prone to judgment and dismissal. She went on to talk about how she never saw herself as straight/lesbian/bisexual etc but she didn’t explain her reasons for attacking the idea of being bisexual. Something which given the quote I’ve used at the start of this post, contradicts the point she made here. It let me down a lot.

Putting that aside (while difficult to do) she does an important thing of talking about a time when she was incredibly sexist and even played on it to get laughs from people she worked with or other non-feminist folks. She addressed this to show that not everybody is perfect and there’s a time when we were younger where we bashed other girls or called them “sluts” for how many people they dated etc.

This book leaves a lot of food for thought.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

“I walk up to the tall iron gate – THE WATFORD SCHOOL – is spelled out on the top – and rest my hand on the bars to let them feel my magic. That used to be all it took. The gates would swing open for anyone who was a magician.”

Rainbow-Rowell-Book-Cover-GalleyCat

Blurb: “Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right. Half the time Simon can’t even makes his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke-up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here – it’s their last year at the Watford school of Magiks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t bother to show up.”

Carry On is a companion novel to Rainbow’s full length book Fangirl. This book is the fanfiction referred to in Fangirl that Cath write throughout the book. Having said that, there is no need to read that book before reading this one. This is Rainbow’s first fantasy novel and is told through multiple perspectives.

It’s hard to give a synopsis for this book since the blurb has pretty much done the job for me and giving anything outside of that would be spoilers. But I digress. The story is centred around Simon Snow who is in his last year of magic school, battling with being the chosen one, having a villain running around looking like an exact copy of him and having to deal with all the typical teenage drama.

The best description I’ve seen of Carry On is that it’s “fantasy that reads like contemporary” and I completely agree with this statement. Rainbow gives you this amazing world with a whole host of fantasy elements but it doesn’t have that heavyweight feeling that fantasies normally do. You can just tell by reading it that the writing style is the product of Rainbow Rowell. However, when reading it I experienced something unexpected: a connection to Cath. While absorbing the words it felt like I was reading what Cath had written – this fantastic story she works tirelessly on in Fangirl. I just felt so close to her while reading it which was an unusual but incredible feeling.

Penelope was by far by favourite character as she was just that kind of person you’d want to have on your side. She was a pleasure to share this adventure with.

There’s a lot of expectation in place when a writer decides to produce something in a different genre and I will admit that I was anxious about how good this would be. Rainbow did not let me down and proves just how much of an outstanding writer she is. Rowell is just an auto buy writer for me now.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

A Seven Letter Word – Kim Slater

“There’s no chit-chat or messing about, we just get on with playing the game. The other players don’t know anything about me at all. They haven’t got a clue that I can’t even say my own name or string a sentence together. I’d like to be that boy in real life.”

Front-cover-300x447

Blurb: “Finlay’s mother vanished two year ago. And ever since then his stutter has become almost unbearable. Bullied at school and ignored by his father, the only way to get out the words which are bouncing around in his head is by writing long letters to his ma which he knows she will never read, and by playing Scrabble online. But when Finlay is befriended by an online Scrabble player called Alex, everything changes. Could it be his mother secretly trying to contact him? Or is there something more sinister going on?”

This story follows a teenage boy names Finlay who has a really bad stutter. When his mum left one day without a single word, let alone a reason why, that stutter gets worse.  Finlay seeks solace in the word board game Scrabble which he used to play with his mother, but also acts as a way for him to understand the importance and value of words. He frequently plays the game online where one day he meets a boy called Alex but this new person doesn’t just want someone to play the game, this person wants to get to know him. At school, Finlay is roped into the school’s scrabble club which leads to him being put forward for a championship and this kind of competition means newspaper reports. It’s the kind of coverage Finlay believes will bring his mother back.

There are so many things I loved about this book. For a start, it tackles a common issue that I haven’t seen really represented in books which is having a stutter. The book features a lot of scenes where adults allow Finlay a moment to get his words out but then cut him off and finish his sentences for him which I found very frustrating and gave me an insight into what it felt like to be in that position. The narrative switches between prose explaining the events of the story and letters Finlay writes to his mother but never sends.

Through the school’s Scrabble club, Finlay meets a muslin girl called Maryam who quickly became my favourite character. She faces a lot of prejudice within the story because of her religion which brings attention to a horrible problem that exists in society but also while facing a different kind of prejudice, Finlay and Maryam were able to connect with each other on some sort of level because of that.

Another thing that’s great about Kim’s books is you can never take things at face value. There is always an entirely different storyline under the surface that you just never see coming and that is the art of a fantastic writer.

The only thing I really found fault with is that the conversations between Alex and Finlay are bold text in the same font and at times it was hard to tell which characters were speaking.

Other than that, another brilliant book from Kim Slater.
For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

“You’ll be a rumour. A whisper. The thought that wakes the bastards of this world sweating in the night. The last thing you will ever be in this world, girl, is someone’s hero.”

nevernight_full_hires

Blurb: “In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledging killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Nevernight is the first book in a new adult fantasy series by Jay Kristoff who many of you will recognise as the co-author of YA sci-fi novel Illuminae.

In a world where three suns never set, in a city built from the bones of dead god, lives a girl called Mia who has outlived her family. She is seeking vengeance on the people who executed her father and labelled him a traitor, and so she begins learning how to kill, taught by a man named Mercurio who sends her on the path to The Church of the Red which is a school for assassins. But Mia has the upper hand: she has the ability to control shadows and her shadow companion Mister Kindly goes everywhere with her. However, Mia finds that she isn’t the only person seeking training from the Church of the Red and only 4 people will receive it.

This book switches from past to present frequently throughout which adds so much to Mia’s character as it gives an insight into the parts of her life that shaped her and just makes her  more believable, well-written character.

I found the story quite slow and hard to get into/follow what was happening at first but once the plot picked up momentum there was no stopping it.

With the popularity of schools/training elements in many fantasy books, it’s difficult to find something slightly new but Kristoff managed to achieve that with the Church of the Red. I was completely hooked on how it was run and what the different candidates had to do in order to gain a place in one of those top 4 spots.

This book has one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read and to find out what it is, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the book!

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

“Hogwarts will be the making of you, Albus. I promise you, there is nothing to be frightened of there.”

harry-potter-cursed-child-final-cover

Blurb: “It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the ministry of magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.”

When it was first announced that there was going to be, in essence, another Harry Potter book, naturally I experienced mixed emotions. Harry Potter remains to be my all-time favourite series to the point where I feel like it’s a part of me. Alongside that the ending was so perfect that I was faced with the reality of what may happen if this extension was sub-par in comparison. After all, you can’t unread a book. I was happy to get an opportunity to experience this new story in some form as tickets to the West End shows are so limited that even if I managed to get my hands on them, I wouldn’t be able to afford travel costs to London.

The story takes place right where Deathly Hallows leaves off: on platform 9 ¾ with Harry sending his son Albus off to Hogwarts for the first time. I expected Albus to be the primary focus on this adventure and while he is in a lot of ways, we get to see into the lives of our favourite golden trio and what became of them nineteen years after the battle of Hogwarts.

The first thing I will say about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that you can’t really give it a rave review or a terrible rating because this is a script and plays are meant to be seen not read. It took a while to get used to the format but once getting over that hurdle it’s easy to follow what’s happening. A lot is left to your own imagination as you’re just reading stage directions and dialogue rather than getting the pages of description that you would if it was a novel. I really enjoyed the path this story took and it’s easy to see why Scorpius Malfoy is becoming a favourite. I feel like the right parts of the adventures were depicted through the scenes and I just felt like I was home. There are a few things I found issues with and sometimes I felt the turn of events were too convenient but overall, as an addition to the Harry Potter timeline, I am very happy with it.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying that Cursed Child reads like fan fiction because the characters don’t “read” authentically and while I understand why readers think that, it’s important to remember that these characters fought in a war and they are all in their late 30’s so Harry is bound to not be like he was when he was 11.

Personally I found the first part much better than the second part which I think could have done with more work.

I came out of this experience sad that it’s over, relieved that it lives up to my expectations, but also happy getting to see how everyone was doing nineteen years later.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

The Neverland Wars – Audrey Greathouse

“There is envy in the sky, Peter, and when the heavens are jealous, no good can come of it.”

27396942

Blurb: “Magic can do a lot – give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home. However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though – and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Everyone knows that I adore Peter Pan. It is my all-time favourite story and I will eat up any adaptation or spin off to do with it. So when I was sent a copy of this book, it was safe to say I had some expectations in place.

The story follows Gwen, an American teenager whose only cares in life are getting through her life and what she’s going to wear to homecoming. That is until Peter Pan takes her sister. Gwen’s world changes as she learns that her father works for a company that deals with magic and there are many cases of the children from those involved in the industry being taken to the magical Neverland she thought only existed in the book. Matters are made worse when Peter Pan returns to claim another victim and this time, he has chosen Gwen and war is looming – a war between Neverland and reality.

What I really liked about this book was that Gwen’s reason for going to Neverland was so her sister wouldn’t be alone. However I was disappointed when the characters get there and the little sister is absent for most of the book. It seemed to make Gwen’s reasoning for going there in the first place just totally redundant. Another thing I liked was the Once Upon A Time TV show style of having fairy-tale characters but their stories exist in books and films in the real world rather than it being something completely new to Gwen. There didn’t seem to be much explanation about the war or much build up to it: the groundwork was laid as to why but the war itself just happened out of nowhere as if they hadn’t planned for it.

The aspect that kept me reading quite a confusing book was the mermaid scenes. They’re my favourite part of the Neverland universe and were so creepy and unnerving.

Overall, it was an okay read but not something I think I’ll return to in the future.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings