feminism

Review: Misogynation by Laura Bates

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I saw this book on Amazon a few months ago and pre-ordered it – I’ve loved Everyday Sexism and Girl Up from Laura Bates, and she’s one of my must-buy authors. The book arrived a day after release date (which was disappointing) but then I ripped through it in under 24 hours.

The first thing I should say is I didn’t really read what this book was going to be – I wasn’t aware it was going to be a series of Guardian articles, grouped into chapters. I ultimately enjoyed the format, but I expected this to be new content, and it wasn’t. Because this is a compilation of Laura’s articles, there are a lot of facts and figures that are constantly restated throughout the book, which can get a bit tiresome. Ultimately though, there is so much other thought-provoking and downright outrage-inducing content here that I can overlook the repetition, and I really did enjoy this book.

I enjoyed the short, snappy essays on a myriad of topics surrounding feminism – each essay is written well and is easy to read. Each essay could easily be read alone from the others – as they were originally articles – but together they complement each other and form a bigger picture of the day-to-day sexism that women endure.

Another thought-provoking read from Laura Bates – if you haven’t already, read her earlier work. Perfect for fans of Moranifesto (which is collated in a similar style).

annalsie

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart


I took part in a stunt at YALC for Hot Key Books where I dressed up as the main character in the novel and handed out samplers for this book! In return, Hot Key Books sent me a copy of this book – thank you so much to them!

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be confusing. It’s hard to talk too much about this book without spoiling anything, but it is a suspense novel about two friends, Jule and Immie, and it takes place in reverse chronological order, all over the world (London, San Francisco, Mexico, New York, Martha’s Vineyard…).

The reverse chronological order was new for me, and I liked the little reveals as you go through the book. However, I was confused, especially as Jule impersonates Imogen at times, and there wasn’t a big reveal at the end that made everything click into place. I also found some of the male characters (Forrest, Isaac, Paolo) to be a bit too similar, and so I was confused who was who…

I enjoyed E Lockhart’s usual themes and social commentary around women, privilege, education, etc., but there was a lack of wow factor with this book. That being said, I am looking forward to diving into some of her older work, especially The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which comes well recommended by Holly Bourne herself.

annalsie

MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!


I just loved this book…

I bought Moxie a few weeks ago, and after a Twitter poll earlier this week, my followers decided it should be my next read. This was a book I spotted in WH Smith a few weeks ago when the #Zoellabookclub was announced and had decided it wasn’t my cup of tea – but then I heard good things and picked it up along with After The Fire by Will Hill the week before YALC. Proof copies were available at YALC (for a book that is technically still not out yet but exclusive to WH Smith…

Then last week I caved and bought a Kindle (my old Kindle broke a few years ago!) and I saw that Moxie was 99p. To save myself carrying around Moxie, I bought the Kindle edition and let me tell you now… go buy it. It’s 99p. And this book is amazing.

Vivian Carter is fed up of her sexist high school – all the money being funnelled into the boys’ football team, the sexist dress codes, the ‘gross comments from guys during class’ being unpunished. Inspired by her mum, a former punk rock Riot Grrrl, Viv creates Moxie, a feminist zine, which she posts in girls’ bathrooms around her school. Soon, Moxie is taking off, and the girls at her school start to stand up and shout out the sexism around them.

I loved the portrayals of friendship and family in this story – I thought Viv’s mum’s new relationship and previous history as a Riot Grrrl were great and made you think, particularly about being in a relationship with someone with differing political views, and adjusting to life back in a small town after a wild and adventurous youth. I also loved how Viv was very similar to her mum and inspired by her – I thought this made the characters so much more realistic (and I always love present parents in YA!).

I was a little conflicted about the relationship in the book – I think it served a purpose of talking about how men can be feminists too, and nobody can be a perfect feminist, but I’m also tired of very heterosexual relationships being a mainstay of YA! This book could have easily stood up without the romance – and Seth was a little too classic swoony book boyfriend for me.

The feminism in this book was done well – I really related to the girls’ issues at school with sexist dress codes (having had one at school myself!) and nobody was a perfect feminist. Viv’s best friend also shunned feminism which I thought was a nice touch (and another example of characters with differing political views managing to get along and understand each other!).

I also loved the portrayal of American high schools in this novel – it was so enjoyable in addition to being a very important book.

The drawings inside (the Moxie Zines) added some more fun to this novel and they were perfect for this novel!

One gripe I do have is about the cover – I love the design but the finish of the UK cover (at least the Zoella edition) is matte and papery to make it more like a zine – but despite having not read the paperback, my book has started to look a bit tatty!

This book is so inspiring and thought-provoking (it handles a lot of interesting arguments about feminism today very well) that I must implore you to go out and read it. Now.

annalsie

Review: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

There have been a few books like this out recently, and I am a huge champion of celebrating women, especially when they’ve often been overlooked for their achievements. Wonder Women is one of the best books of this ilk that I’ve read this year, and there’s a few reasons why that is.

First, there’s great diversity in the women featured – so many different nationalities feature, whereas other books have been very US-centric.

Secondly, many of the women featured I haven’t heard too much about – it’s great to learn about new people who have been overlooked previously.

Thirdly, this book has a great voice – informative but also funny.

Finally, I love the focus on scientists and inventors, and the mini chapters about a career in the scientists.

Definitely one to check out!

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Spoiler-Free Review: …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

...And a Happy New Year?
…And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll hopefully write up about YA Shot in another post, but something really cool happened yesterday which was (kinda) unrelated…

I got my hands on a copy of …And A Happy New Year?, the Spinster Club novella by Holly Bourne. And I’m quoted in the back! And I got it signed!

Any of you loyal readers/twitter followers will probably know I’m a huge fan of these books. The Spinster Club Trilogy follows three girls (Evie, Amber and Lottie) on their separate journeys and experiences with feminism, mental health, and friendship. These books are hugely powerful with their introduction to these issues, and they’re so funny and relatable. These girls feel so real – they’re far from perfect, they struggle with their feminism and how they think they should feel or act, and it’s been so great to get to know these girls and their stories.

…And A Happy New Year? is the first time we have all three girls speaking in one book. Holly cleverly weaves a story where the girls react to each other in a realistic way, and their friendship in this book is far from perfect. This book is a little sad at times, because the reality is, their lives, and their friendship, is far from how they imagined.

I loved this as a story of the (often difficult) transition from sixth form to university, and how easy it is to drift away from old friends. I particularly enjoyed Lottie’s arc, and I think it’s important to show that things often turn out the way you don’t expect. Not to spoil anything, but Lottie is having a tough time with her new housemates, and I’ve personally experienced this – I think the risk is often higher in your first year of university when you’re living with complete strangers, but living with friends at university in my later years there was surprisingly tough. I also loved how the girls were all doing their own thing, and not all going to a top university.

This is the perfect book for Christmas, and the cover is incredibly beautiful – it’s a gorgeous hardback with a gold spine (and the book inside is blue!).

If you haven’t read the Spinster Club Series, get on it! I can’t wait for Holly Bourne’s next book (out 2017!) My reviews for the first two books are here – Am I Normal Yet? and How Hard Can Love Be?.
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annalsie

Review: Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessel

Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives
Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

** Disclaimer: Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Eat Sweat Play is the perfect clash of feminism and sport, and seeks to address why so many women are put off sport, whilst men revel in it, and the implications that has. As someone who unapologetically hated PE, and identifies as a woman, I found this book fascinating.

Anna guides us through sport during the milestones of a woman’s life – puberty, when many girls are put off sport and become self-conscious about their bodies, pregnancy, when women are seen as irresponsible to carry on with sport, and motherhood, when sport tends to get pushed aside due to other pressures, despite the pressure to bounce back to your pre-baby body. This book was really informative and I learnt a lot about women in sport, and the reasons many women are put off it.

As a feminist work, this book was really intersectional, with discussion of race, gender and sexuality, and did not shy away from the sometimes taboo topics of periods and miscarriage.

This book was incredibly thought-provoking and inspirational, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in feminism, sport or a mixture of the two. The book isn’t preachy or snobby, it’s written by a woman who also happened to have hated PE in school and who now works as a sports journalist.

Eat Sweat Play is full of interviews with experts and athletes and discusses a lot of recent events in the world of sport, which kept it current, although I worry that with time this book will become a little dated.

Overall, an inspirational feminist work that changed by perception of women and sport.

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Annalise x

Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

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The Girls by Emma Cline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.

**Disclaimer: Copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

The Girls is the story of Evie, a 14-year-old recovering from her parents’ divorce and falling out with her best friend, Connie. The year is 1969, and soon she is enthralled by Suzanne, an older girl who lives at a rundown ranch in poverty, with a few other girls, all of whom worship one man, Russell. Based on the story of Charles Manson and the Manson girls, this is a hard-hitting book of a childhood filled with sex, drugs, and cult worship, and ultimately, murder. This isn’t just a story though – it is also a social commentary on the role of girls and the expectations flung upon them.

Emma Cline’s writing is beautiful, full of metaphors and insights that make this world so clear. This book is a little intellectual (definitely not Young Adult though told through a teenager’s eyes), and takes place in two timestreams – present day, where Evie is ambling along, imposed upon by a teenage couple who are up to no good, and California, 1969, when Evie was enthralled by a cult. The events of 1969 still clearly haunt her to this day, and so this story is really the one of her making – how her actions as a girl have impacted on her entire life.

This is the second Manson-based book I’ve read this month(!) – the other being My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger (review here) which is a YA book of a similar dark tone, but this time about a teenager researching the Manson girls. This book is a lot grittier (it is an adult novel, after all), and gets a little more into the action of this story, told by someone who was actually there.

The Girls is a dark summer read, dancing with sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, and with flecks of a real-life horror that gripped America.

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Annalise x

Review: Rebel of the Sands

Rebel of the Sands
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first thing to say about Rebel of the Sands is that the cover is really, really beautiful. It’s eye-catching in blue and gold, and one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long time.

Rebel of the Sands follows Amani, a girl, dressed as a boy, trying to get out of her hometown, Dustwalk, to escape her uncle and travel to the city to live with her aunt (who she has never met). To leave, she needs money, and so she enters a shooting tournament. There she meets a foreigner, Jin, who will change her life forever…

Rebel of the Sands is unlike any other book I’ve read. It’s a Western, set in a desert, with mythical creatures and magic and the ilk. Each scene is so unbelievably clear, it’s like watching a film in book form. Amani is independent, rebellious, and determined to get what she wants, and that means going against what female characters often do, which is drop everything for the first attractive man they set eyes on. She’s decisive, self-preserving and a bit of a badass.

The setting is unusual for a YA novel, and as such is new and exciting, with different challenges than we normally see for fantasy characters and worlds. The characters are diverse, and, yet again unusual for a YA novel, I didn’t imagine these characters as white. The names and setting are like the Middle East on Earth, somewhere not very many novels are set. Hamilton thus brings a different dynamic to YA fantasy, one that I hope other authors will pick up on – not every fantasy needs to be set in a counterpart to the Western world.

I loved the feminist aspect, and the romance didn’t feel forced or unexpected. Action is definitely the forefront of this book, and Rebel shows that you don’t need a big dramatic romance in a good book – the other plot arcs can really carry a book. There were also some brilliant twists that I wasn’t expecting, but that made sense in hindsight – a sign of a good book.

Rebel has got a lot of brilliant reviews, but it fell a little short of 5 stars for me. I would have liked the characters to have been a little more developed (I think that perhaps too many characters are introduced too quickly). The book also felt like it dragged a little – although at 358 pages, this is more due to the style that to actual length. High octane action movies often have little plot spread over 2 hours – Rebel feels at times like a 4/5/6 hour action movie (depending on how long it takes you to read the book!). There are many more events in the novel than there would be in a film, and that takes some getting used to.

A promising and original YA debut, I’m hoping for many more beautiful covers (and stories) to come!

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Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet?
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I start, I just want to point out that this is my first 5-star review, and for that reason, you should definitely go out and buy this book, RIGHT NOW. I’m serious.

I admit that I probably wouldn’t have bought this book if it hadn’t been free on iBooks. Am I Normal Yet? was a book I heard a lot of praise for at YALC back in July, but I didn’t look too much into what the book was about, and I didn’t think it was for me. I was wrong.

Am I Normal Yet? is the story of Evie, a 16-year-old who is starting sixth form after three years of battling severe OCD and anxiety. After being the weird girl at her old school, she’s looking forward to making new friends, and she’s slowly but surely coming off her meds – trying to become ‘normal’ again. Despite her therapist’s advice, she’s also interested in boys – and one boy in particular.

The characters are well-developed and interesting, and they all feel like people you know – the girl obsessed with her first boyfriend, the sex-obsessed teenage boy… this book is a genuinely great UKYA novel. I’ve not read too many books concerning sixth form/FE colleges which is a shame, because they’re an ideal setting – lots of new characters and character development, but still in the mindset of a teenager (and a solidly YA environment).

I especially loved that the characters are flawed – there is no ‘dream hottie’ but there is sexual tension and obsession. This book is a great reflection of teenage life, rather than some soppy sixteen-year-old who drops everything for an eternity with their 117-year-old vampire lover.

The layout of the novel is also good – there are therapist pages dotted throughout the novel, and Evie’s ‘bad thoughts’ are highlighted. The layout really adds to the feel of the novel.

In the Q&A at the back of the book, Holly Bourne writes that she was inspired by the Georgia Nicholson novels – which are the books that I was reminded of throughout this book. It’s funny, yet tackling some serious issues. As well as being an insight into living with OCD, the book has a great feminist theme (in fact, the characters form a feminist club) and is informative, as well as fun to read. It’s refreshing to read a novel which discusses what it’s really like to be a teenage girl – menstruation, dickhead boyfriends, the whole bundle.

I read this thinking it would be a stand-alone novel, but, thankfully, it is actually the first of a series. The series will be called ‘The Spinster Club’, and the second novel, How Hard Can Love Be? will focus on Amber, with the third book focussing on Lottie. The next book is out February 2016 (and I will be pre-ordering!).

To summarise, this book is fantastic. It’s original, funny and realistic. It’s also incredibly cheap (it’s 59p on Kindle) so please please please go and read it.

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How did you find the novel? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought The Handmaid’s Tale months ago, and promptly left it unread for months before picking it up on the train home during Easter break. I then lost it. I spent a whole term wondering where i’d left it – on the train, at home, at university – before I found it underneath my bed (at home). Still, it went unread until I was compiling my reading list for my holiday, and so it finally got the love and attention it deserves, 4900ft up a mountain in the French Alps.

It was worth the wait.

Offred is a handmaid in the republic of Gilead. Her role is to go and buy groceries for the Commander’s household, and to bear his children. If she can’t bear children, she is worthless. She remembers the time before Gilead, when she had a husband, a daughter, a job, and knowledge, but that has all been taken away from her. The extreme Christian Right have taken over, and with it, Offred has lost her freedom, her name, and her family.

Apparently this book is like marmite – some people love it and some people hate it. I love it. It’s difficult to write a review about a book that you love.

First off, let me just mention that the writing style is a little different, and that initially put me off reading the book. It took a few chapters to get into the flow of the words, and into the world itself.

The novel is speculative fiction at its finest (that is, a situation that could theoretically happen on Earth in this day and age, rather than some crazy sci-fi alien war with zombies and dragons). There’s nothing in this novel which is completely unbelievable – which is what makes the story so compelling, the overall feeling that this could very well be reality.

Why should you read this book? If you, like me, love dystopian novels, or at least have read a few of the more popular ones, this is a good source of inspiration. It almost certainly has inspired and influenced some more modern dystopian novels. It’s one of the more classic dystopians, and that alone should push it onto your reading list. It’s also a great feminist novel, and really gets you thinking about the current state of society, and its treatment of women (which is more than relevant today).

After reading this novel, I think i’ll have a more informed view of today’s YA feminist literature, and i’ll be sure to add more Margaret Atwood novels to my TBR list.

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