Review

Trouble, Non Pratt

I’m going to start by saying I loved this book! I hadn’t read anything from Non Pratt before but I had heard about this book and the good reviews it was getting, so when I saw it in my local library I was excited to read it.

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Trouble is about a 15 year old girl called Hannah who finds out she’s pregnant but can’t tell anyone who the father of the baby is. The new boy at school, Aaron comes to her rescue by offering to pretend to be the father of the child. The question throughout the book is why did Aaron offer to do this when him and Hannah weren’t very close?

Both characters have secrets; secrets they hide from each other and the others around them. That gives the book all the right twists and turns which makes it an absolute page-turner.

I really enjoyed the plot twists and development as we, the readers, got more familiar with the characters. As it is dual narration from the points of view of Hannah and Aaron, it means that the opinions and emotions of each character is displayed very clearly. Some scenes are even repeated and then continued from both character perspectives which is fascinating to read. It allows the reader to understand how different people can react to one scenario in different ways.

The main theme of this book is teenage pregnancy, something that is widely gossiped about by teenage girls, discussed in sex education at school and highlighted in the media. However, Trouble portrays a new spin on this theme but not only highlighting the judgement and family pressures caused by teenage pregnancy, but also the health and personal changes that occur. Through Hannah, Pratt illustrates the everyday struggles of doctors appointments, morning sickness and mood swings all from a teenager’s perspective. There are also more humorous side effects of pregnancy explained like weird cravings and obsessing about sex. The light hearted but real things really made the plot and characters more believable.

This was a really great read and I highly recommend it.

Review

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte

I have wanted to read something by Anne Bronte since reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I chose this particular Anne Bronte novel after reading that after Anne’s death, Charlotte stopped the continuation of its publication because of the controversial themes it contains.  I was fascinated to read what Charlotte Bronte thought was too controversial to be published in her sister’s name.  I am going to touch on these themes which will therefore give the plot away for anyone planning to read it without any prior knowledge.  If this is the case, do not read past the photograph

I was certainly not disappointed.  I really enjoyed this book – in fact more than Wuthering Heights (I know!) – and would say it is one of the best classics I have read this year.  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a novel about a mysterious woman who moves to Wildfell Hall alone with her child and no explanation of where she came from or who she was before.  The narrator Gilbert Markham tells the story through a series of letters to his friend.  Midway through the book the narration flips to the woman in Wildfell Hall, Helen Graham, as Gilbert reads her diaries to discover the truth about her past.

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The strong themes in this books are marriage, alcoholism and motherhood.  These are not only seen from Helen but also her friends and husband’s friends.  Helen marries Arthur Huntingdon through young love despite being warned against it.  In those times, it was believed that a woman should marry a wealthy man to have a stable future.  Helen goes against this and soon her love for Arthur disappears when she learns of his true character.  Helen’s friends marry for money and status as they were taught to but they are unhappy in their marriages.  In fact, in this novel there is no mention of a happy marriage until the very end.  Arthur and his friends wish to continue their bachelor lives despite being married and expected their wives to agree with them.

The most controversial part of all is that Helen runs away from Arthur due to his alcoholism and affairs, and to provide a better life for her child.  As this was written before the Married Woman’s Property Act in 1870, women like Helen could not divorce their husbands or claim custody over their children.  This left Helen with the criminal act of running away.  Helen is a very religious character which means she has to justify this breaking of marriage vows to herself before conducting her escape.  All these themes definitely forced me to think and question all the events morally both from a historical perspective but also as if it were modern-day.

Review

Finding Audrey, Sophie Kinsella

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This is another book I read on holiday on my Kindle.  I had been looking at it for a while in bookshops and read reviews by other book bloggers and bookstagrammers and finally bought it in an Amazon Kindle book sale and boy, it was worth it!

I very recently read Under Rose Tainted Skies (a book I haven’t written a review for yet just because it was so beautiful I don’t even know what to say yet) and I found this book to be very similar which I liked.  Finding Audrey is about a girl called Audrey who has social anxiety and general anxiety.  She was admitted to hospital after a major incident of bullying at school.  The exact details of this incident are never explained by Audrey, the narrator, but it’s not hard to imagine the kind of bullying that takes place in a school.  Due to her mental illness, Audrey finds it very difficult to go outside and talk to/touch people she doesn’t know.  Audrey doesn’t like eye contact which is why she is always wearing dark glasses.  This all changes when she meets Linus, her brother’s friend, who starts to take an interest in getting to know her.

Remove all the layers of family relationships and mental health, and this is essentially a romance story.  It is both sad and funny at times due to Audrey’s honest narration of her life.  Throughout the book there are extracts of film scripts written about the video diaries Audrey makes as a therapy challenge.  These extracts enclose parts of family life that a single narrator would not usually share but help for the context of lots of events.

This book was incredibly short and I finished it in a couple of hours.  It was a very enjoyable read due to the short length and fast pace of events.  There was only one moment where I felt the pace was too fast for a particular event in the book.  I would strongly recommend this book as one to get you out of a reading slump because it is fast paced, funny and constantly interesting.

Review

The List, Siobhan Vivian

I’ve just come back from an amazing week-long holiday in Croatia.  While I was there I read three books on my Kindle Touch.  One of those books was this one.

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I had seen this book in Waterstones a couple of times and after reading the blurb I was instantly taken in.  Initially the plot line reminded me a lot of Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill which was why I wanted to read it so badly.  I’ve recently been trying to buy fewer books so I opted to buy this on my Kindle.  (I know it’s kind of cheating but I can’t stop buying books completely!)

The List tells the story of an American high school where, every year, a list comprising of the prettiest and ugliest girls in each year is published all over the school.  The list is hotly anticipated by the older girls and guys but completely unknown to the freshman girls.  The book follows each girl on the list from the day of the list becoming public to the night of the homecoming dance that same week.  I love that the narrative splits off into every girl but at first it was very hard to keep track of who is who.  As there are 4 school years in American high school, there were eight different versions of the same week.  As I used my Kindle, I was able to highlight and bookmark the page that contained a copy of the list which I used as a reference.  I strongly recommend doing the same (even for a paperback) so you don’t get confused about the characters.

As you can imagine, each of the girl’s lives changed dramatically due to the list.  At first it seemed that only the girls listed as ugly would do badly from being named and shamed but Siobhan Vivian quickly shows us that any superficial attention in a high school will lead to consequences, both good and bad.  The added mystery of the unknown author of the list each year creates a sense of loss and the idea that everyone and anyone can be judging these girls.

Although the plot is entirely fictional (or at least I strongly hope so) it carries real world messages that every school age girl knows and understands.  No matter how hard you try to avoid it, peer pressure and social norms force girls to care about the appearances of themselves and others.  The most interesting aspect of the book is that the list only concerns the girls despite the high school having male students as well.  It reflects on the everyday sexism encountered by girls at school and in general.  It is because of this that I appreciate that each of the stories inside are not dramatic.  They are realistic consequences of girls being judged on their appearances every day.

It is not a particularly long book – I finished it in a couple of days on my holiday – but it is a powerful one.  Nearly a week on and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Review

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness

I read this book last month but didn’t have time to do a review until now.

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a YA novel written by Patrick Ness. It tells the story of Mike, a regular guy with OCD, during his last summer before college. In a world where you aren’t the “chosen one” or even remotely special, what could possibly happen?

The format of each chapter is very unique. The chapters started with a brief summary of the events experienced by the indie kids, the chosen ones who have to save the world, before commencing the narration of Mike. Compared to the events of the indie kids, the events of Mike’s summer seems relatively boring. But that’s the point. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a story about the transition between school and university/adulthood that every teenager understands. Aside from the paranormal events that happen in the background, this story is very contemporary. It involves friendship, family, love and self discovery.

I loved Mike’s character. Ness’ narration of Mike is so honest of any teenage boy, whether they have OCD or not. The strong sibling bond between Mike and Mel is so refreshing to see as it is a relationship not often explored in YA fiction. Mel is older than her brother but due to illness and anorexia, she is brought back a year at school which brings her closer to Mike. The friendship between Mike and Jared is also mightily refreshing as male friends have never been portrayed as so emotionally connected in any book I have read before. Jared is the only person who truly understands Mike and the only person who has time to help in with his loops of OCD. I think it’s really important to show strong male friendship with all emotions included.

I really recommend this book as a refreshing new type of YA fiction. I hope to read more Patrick Ness in the future. If you have any recommendations for me please leave me a comment!

Review

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

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I absolutely love Jane Austen. Her characters and plot lines are beautiful and personal reflections of the society she lived in, in the early 19th century. The majority of her female characters are strong and outspoken, which differs from the expectations of female behaviour in that time period. I have really enjoyed previously reading Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion and wished to read more Austen in the future. That’s why when I saw a copy Mansfield Park in a second-hand bookshop, I just knew I had to buy it.

This book tells the story of a young working class girl called Fanny Price who is sent to live with her rich Aunt and Uncle, and their children, at Mansfield Park. Fanny experiences all the societal differences people expect of her because she is a working class person in a middle class way of life. This causes many problems in the way Fanny fits in and often leaves her feeling isolated and alone.

I was excited to read Mansfield Park because despite some of the other Austen novels I didn’t really know anything about this one. I quickly began to understand the differences between Fanny Price, the book’s protagonist, and other protagonists in the other novels. Fanny Price is timid and shy but so thoughtful and mature in her reflections of the events going on around her. Fanny Price really is the yin to Elizabeth Bennet’s yang.

Another difference to the other Jane Austen novels I have read is that the events of the story are not just told through the eyes of Fanny but from all the main characters. This allows the reader to view hidden conversations that Fanny either should not know about or is just oblivious to it entirely. It allows for some clever dramatic irony and gives the reader a variety of opinions on each particular event. This means the reader gets a less skewed view of the story than they would from Pride and Prejudice, caused by Elizabeth’s judgement and strong opinions.

The main themes explored in Mansfield Park are societal classes, love and marriage, and family relationships. Without giving any of the plot away, I will say that I was impressed with the way that Jane Austen includes events with these themes that would not have been seen in other books at that time period. Some are controversial even now, let alone in the early 19th century when reputation and the correct company meant everything.

It is these unique features that Mansfield Park present compared to other books by Austen or even in the 19th century in general that makes it such an interesting read.

 

After reading Mansfield Park, I watched the YouTube modern day adaptation called From Mansfield With Love. There are 100 episodes between 5 and 15 minutes long that create a modern day setting for the events of the book told by Frankie Price (a 21st century Fanny Price) through fictional vlogs on YouTube. I strongly recommend watching this series after reading the book. Or if you struggle with reading classics, even before. They stick very well with the book characters and the main plot lines however some details are changed to make it more appropriate to modern day England.

Mansfield Park is a good book to read if you fancy a change from the obvious headstrong character and prefer a quiet but strong minded protagonist.

Discussion

Why I think libraries are underrated

There’s nothing like a pretty book collection. That joy when you buy a new book from a bookshop and have to rearrange your bookshelves to put it in the perfect place. My bookshelves are the most noticeable thing about my bedroom. They’re like a centre piece really.

As a student, my money for buying new books is very limited. I’m lucky in the fact that my parents and grandparents support my hobby and often buy me books for birthdays and Christmas. That being said, I cannot buy all the books that I wish to read, and there are many people like me. That’s why libraries are so useful but we often don’t realise they are there because of our obsessions with new books and pretty shelves.

I used to go to my library all the time in the summers when I was growing up. When I was at secondary school, I used to use my school library very often as it was very big compared to others in the city. The librarian there was so lovely. She knew most people in the school (especially those who borrowed books a lot) and she was always on hand to recommended that book you didn’t realise you wanted to read. I then left that school and stopped using libraries. At 15 I started becoming more interested in buying books new and collecting them. I began to be very particular about the editions of books I owned and making sure the books I bought were in perfect condition. I’ve been like that ever since until now! Until this summer, I hadn’t stepped foot in my local library for over a year, maybe longer. It’s time for me to make a change and to encourage others to do the same.

Recently I became aware of just how much money I was spending on books that I often read only once. That’s why I have decided to start using my local library more often. I’ve started volunteering there to inspire more children to use the service too. Today was my first volunteering shift and I forgot how amazing my local library was! In fact I couldn’t leave the library without borrowing a book. I have wanted to read Trouble by Non Pratt for a while so I was glad it was right there on the shelf. I hope that won’t be the last book I borrow this month.

Libraries are always losing council funding because some people don’t use them as much anymore. Libraries are amazing places to browse books, DVDs and CDs to borrow and return for very little money or free. They also run events and activity days for adults and children which are also usually free to attend. Events like that can be a great way of making bookish friends which is always a bonus!

To summarise, reasons you should use your library more often:

  • The books there are free and can be borrowed for several weeks at a time.
  • It frees up your bookshelves for those books you really have to own not just the ones you’ll read once.
  • Libraries are a great way to make new friends and some host book clubs that you can join.
  • By going to your local library you’re supporting them. When no one goes to a library councils close them to save money. Go to your library and keep it open for everyone.

Save some money, cut back that new shiny book obsession and support a great service in your local community. Use your local library now!

Review

Asking For It, Louise O’Neill

Where can I even begin with this book…

Well actually, I’m going to begin with a trigger warning of rape, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual assault.  That is basically the plot of the book so it will definitely be discussed in this review.  I want to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible but I really really want to talk about the ending so if you don’t want to hear spoilers don’t read past the photo of the cover.

I wish to start by talking about the amazing event I went to on Tuesday at Waterstones featuring Louise O’Neill.  There, she discussed the rape victims that inspired her so much, the pressure she felt to write the book correctly for them and the importance of starting this conversation.  Louise was a truly inspirational but very down to earth person.  It was so nice to hear her explain how important it was for her that the book was so honest.  I really appreciated that she had the time to sign my copy of Asking For It and have a photo with me.  For that, I am forever grateful of her.

Now, to the book.  Asking For It tells the story of Emma O’Donovan, the most popular and prettiest girl in her small town in Ireland.  She finds that in a world of Facebook and Snapchat, there is nowhere to hide after photographs of her during a gang rape are viewed by everyone in her town.  After that, Emma’s world completely falls apart.  It reviews the aftermath of rape and how it truly affects a victim when no one believes her and everyone is questioning whether she was really ‘asking for it’.  The inclusion of alcohol and drug usage makes the people around Emma further question how solid her claim of rape really is.

From start to finish, Asking For It was a gruesome and heart wrenching read.  Even before the rape took place, the ignorance and sexism (even from Emma herself) is shocking and quite disturbing to read.  O’Neill perfectly summed up the very real attitude towards rape and its victims, and whether or not they were ‘asking for it’.  Some of the conversations the characters have or hear at school are ones I have also heard in everyday life.  That is what is so shocking about this book.  Emma’s story may be fictional but it happens to so many real people that it stops feeling like fiction and fantasy.  It makes you realise that the judgement and abuse Emma experiences after her rape is not exaggerated or sensationalised.  It may be a painful read but it is an important one.  There is so much to learn about society and the legal system in this book so I strongly believe it is worth the read.

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SPOILER ALERT!

Now for my thoughts on the ending.  The ending of this book took me by surprise because it was so sudden and was not drawn to any real conclusion.  Louise O’Neill explains in the afterword, and at the Waterstones talk, that this is because it was the most truthful ending for Emma’s story.  As much as it pained me, I agree with this.  The book just wouldn’t have been right if justice was served and Emma’s life was restored.  That just doesn’t have to real rape victims.  The truthful yet frustrating ending just adds to realism and importance of this book.  It shows us, as readers, that rape and sexual assault is a serious matter that happens to too many women and men around the world.  It is one of those topics that people (like Emma’s family) believe that if we all stop talking about it, it will stop happening.  That is obviously nonsense.  O’Neill has given teenagers and adults an opportunity to start a conversation about sexual assault, something that is our job as readers to continue.  I urge everyone to read this book and make victims of sexual assault and rape feel less ashamed and embarrassed about it.

 

Book Stack · Discussion

Holiday Reading

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I’m back!  I’ve been on a lovely holiday to Devon for these past two weeks.  That’s why this blog has been very quiet recently; I haven’t really had the best internet signal (and I also felt I needed a break from the non-stop social media intake we have these days).  Being away from my computer for two weeks meant I was unable to blog properly and despite being relatively new to blogging, I really enjoy it and find it hard to go a day without thinking about it.  I’ve really missed the process of drafting and publishing blog posts for you, my readers and followers.

The great thing about being on holiday without brilliant internet signal is the vast amount of time left for reading.  In these two weeks, I have read a total of four books.  Three of those books I took with me and one I bought when I was out there.  The books I took with me were:

  • Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

I really enjoyed reading these three books on the beach, out in the countryside and in cafes.  They may be very varied in genre and topic but I enjoyed each one quite equally.  I hope to write reviews on these three books soon on my blog.

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The fourth book I read whilst on holiday was Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.  One day in the two weeks, my family and I went to a lovely town called Bideford.  Whilst exploring the shops there, I stumbled upon a tiny second-hand bookshop so obviously I had to go in.  To my delight they had a beautiful collection of vintage Penguin books.  I wanted to buy them all!  Luckily I settled on two books, both by one of my favourite authors, Jane Austen.  I hadn’t read Mansfield Park but I had heard great things about it so I knew it was an obvious buy.  I have previously read Persuasion (the other book I bought) but I couldn’t help but think of a collection I could start so I bought it too.  It’ll mean more trips to second-hand bookshops to find all the Austen novels in this edition.  I thoroughly enjoyed Mansfield Park so I am sure I’ll be writing a review of that soon too.

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Now, I’m an absolute sucker for bookshops so the two Jane Austen novels were not the only books I bought when I was away.  I also bought The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being by Alice Roberts (my favourite scientist – if you haven’t heard of her and you like science, check her out now) and Asking For It by Louise O’Neill.  As I will be attending the event by O’Neill on Tuesday 2nd August I thought it was best to get a head start and read Asking For It.  It was a gripping and eye opening read and a book I started and finished at the weekend.  I’ll be writing a review of it as soon as I have attended the event and it will be on my blog on Thursday.

 

My normal blogging schedule has now returned!  I’ll be posting book related content every Monday and Thursday.  If you enjoy what I’m doing let me know.  If you have any suggestions of posts you would like to see me write also let me know.

Eloise