Diary of a Confused Feminist – Kate Weston

51015103._SY475_15-year-old Kat wants to be a good feminist. But she also worries about not having a boyfriend, being left out by her friends, not being popular or pretty enough – does this make her a bad feminist? When all these pressures pile on and everything starts to get too much, sometimes the only way forward is to ask for help.

Diary of a Confused Feminist is a lot like a new Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (the top teen drama series from when I was at school, to those who aren’t aware). It was a very similar witty and lovable-but-embarrassing main character, the same friendship dramas and boyfriend angst, and the same embarrassing-but-caring family dynamic. With all these key features, it’s funny and relatable, but just not as good.

The author has done a very good job of outlining the way people think about feminism vs what it’s really about, and also (I think) in dealing with issues of mental health and its perception. However, the feminism aspect in particular was very repetitive, with whole sections of Kat stressing about the same points over and over rather than the plot progressing forward.

This was a highly entertaining and cringe-worthy book, with sweet friendships and important life lessons. It’s definitely the kind of book I would recommend to teenagers, but certainly not above Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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A Window Breaks – C.M. Ewan

50230789._SY475_Tom, Rachel, and their daughter Holly have been through some tough times. First, their son, Michael, was killed in a joyriding accident, then they were attacked and mugged leaving Holly badly scarred. Seeking an opportunity to reconnect and attempt to put their family back together, they go to stay in a secluded lodge in Scotland. But, once they’re all settled in bed, they hear the sound of glass breaking and are launched into a night of absolute terror.

This book was full of tension and excitement, in the perfect remote setting for a truly terrifying plot to unfold. It’s a gripping read, which I would not recommend reading at bedtime.

I loved the concept of a novel following a home invasion. It was exciting, scary and really gets you thinking: What would you do? However, I personally think this book would have been much better if it was based on a random break-in. Instead, there’s a whole load of background and sub-plot which I found a little bit ridiculous and didn’t really care about.

A Window Breaks was mostly a very good, exciting book, but was let down by the over complicated and far-fetched subplot.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Space Between Time – Charlie Laidlaw

46194330._SY475_Emma Maria Rossini is the daughter of a famous actor and the granddaughter of a renowned astrophysicist, living in a huge house with her beautiful and loving mother. But life isn’t as perfect as it seems, and Emma has to combat a very difficult relationship with her father, as well as coping with some seriously tragic events.

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. It was surprising and moving, well-written and with a complex lead character. Despite her unusual upbringing, Emma goes through some relatable experiences, and her narrative voice injects a level of wit to quite a dark plot for some much needed light and humour.

I was also quite impressed that the author managed to write so well from a female perspective. It is difficult to write effectively from the point of view of the opposite gender, but Laidlaw really pulled it off. I loved Emma’s voice and the way she told her story. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Rossini Theorem, and the way it was incorporated into Emma’s narrative to show the influence it had on her life, even if I didn’t understand all of it.

It’s a slow burner, but one with a fantastic character journey which really does tug at the heart-strings.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Magic For Liars – Sarah Gailey

34594037._SY475_When Ivy Gamble is hired to investigate a suspicious death at the magic school her sister teaches at, she gets drawn in by much more than the case. The longer she spends at the academy, the more she begins to lose herself in a life she’d convinced herself she never wanted. All the while, a killer is on campus and it’s up to her to find out who it is.

Magic for Liars is a good book, but a teeny bit too “YA” for me. The detective aspect of the novel felt really unrealistic (yes, I realise this is a fantasy novel and therefore not super realistic generally, but the crime/detective element could definitely have been based more on reality). It seemed very unlikely that a real detective would have gone about the investigation the way that Ivy did, and it felt like a very “teen” mystery, despite the main character being a grown woman and the murder itself being pretty grisly.

That being said, I did find Ivy kind of juvenile (so maybe it made sense for her to carry out her investigation in the way that she did) and irritating. She was there to investigate a serious crime, but spent most of her time over-analysing her relationship with her sister, starting up a romance with a teacher at the academy (also, a potential suspect) and carrying around a massive chip on her shoulder re not having magical abilities. She was unprofessional and kind of tedious.

Other than that, I actually really enjoyed the story and the way it was written. The writing style was very easy to follow and the plot wasn’t particularly complex, but was quite gripping nonetheless.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Unspoken Name – A.K. Larkwood

48336125._SY475_On Csorwe’s fourteenth birthday, she is due to be sacrificed to her god – a destiny chosen for her at birth. But when Belthandros Sethennai shows up and offers her an alternative, she escapes death by running away and becoming his personal assassin. So begins an adventure in two parts: firstly infiltrating Belthandros’ home city and helping him to reclaim power, then going in search of the Reliquary of Pentravesse. Csorwe has to go through a lot to complete her mission, facing her past and making unexpected decisions about her future.

The plot of The Unspoken Name is quite ambitious, mixing high fantasy with a kind of science-fiction and a heck of a lot of action. There are gods, gore, magic and a decent amount of banter, but also some more meaningful elements regarding the choices we make and living with the consequences of our actions.

There was some excellent world-building, with the scene being set without too much time spent of descriptions, as well as some great character development. The story spans over 8-9 years, giving a lot of time for characters to grow and change in quite realistic ways. Csorwe was a good heroine, but I especially loved Oranna, Shuthmili and Tal when we got to know them better. Tal and Oranna in particular bought the majority of the humour to the book, and stopped what was quite a dark story from becoming unbearable.

One of the other great things about this book was the queer romance. Csorwe is 100% queer and faces absolutely no discrimination for this. The romance is relevant to the plot, but the fact that it’s a queer relationship isn’t mentioned or pointed out at all because, well, why should it be?

The Unspoken Name is a very exciting and well-written novel, remarkable for a debut. I would definitely recommend to fantasy fans.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales – Hans Christian Andersen & MinaLima

35397031._SY475_This is a collection of thirteen classic fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen almost two hundred years after their original publication, accompanied by specially commissioned illustrations and interactive elements by MinaLima.

As The Little Mermaid isn’t actually a very long story, this book is padded out with some of Hans Christian Andersen’s other classic fairy tales which all have their own stunning, unique illustrations to go with them. Quite a few stories are crammed in, so there’s a good amount of variety. My favourites (besides The Little Mermaid) were The Princess and the Pea and The Emperor’s New Clothes.

As mentioned, these are the classic versions of the fairy tales written by Hans Christian Andersen, not the Disney versions, so they aren’t all magic and sparkles and they don’t all have a happy ending. The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl both end in death, while The Red Shoes and The Tinder Box are surprisingly violent, so I would bear that in mind before giving this book to a small child. There’s also an unpleasant emphasis on pretty things being good and ugly things being bad, as well as some general sexism which shows the age of these stories. Unfortunately, there’s an obvious reason why these stories have undergone multiple adaptations over time.

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Starve Acre – Andrew Michael Hurley

51121450._SX318_SY475_After their son, Ewan, died suddenly at the age of five, Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s home is a sad, haunted place. Juliette is convinced that her son is still present in some form, while Richard distracts himself by digging for a legendary oak tree which used to stand in the field opposite the house.

Starve Acre is a very atmospheric, menacing book. Hurley sets the scene very well and the general vagueness and consistent sense of intrigue throughout the story was very effective… for the first quarter. Every time a mysterious reference was dropped, it was explored and explained a few pages later, just before the next one was mentioned. This systematic style of storytelling really detracted from the mystery after a while, because it became very plain that any questions were going to be answered as soon as you had them.

That being said, the overarching mystery of the field and what happened to Ewan took forever to be answered, with all the minor developments taking priority and slowing the plot right down. I got bored before the halfway point, and this isn’t even a long book.

Also, although I was pretty happy that the book wasn’t very long, the ending was way too abrupt for me. I’m sure the intention was for the ending to be the kind that keeps you thinking, because everything couldn’t be fully explained, but to me it just felt like the book wasn’t finished.

Starve Acre has a lot of potential, but fell a bit flat for me.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Are You Watching? – Vincent Ralph

49756844._SY475_*Teeny tiny spoiler alert*

Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man. She was his first victim, with many more to follow and he still hasn’t been caught. Determined to get justice for her mother and catch the killer, Jess enters a YouTube reality series in an attempt to draw him out. Is he watching?

I didn’t find the premise of this book very believable. Social media and vlogging is a huge part of everyday life nowadays, so it makes sense to incorporate this into the story, but I honestly don’t know anyone who watches YouTube TV like the kind featured in this book. So, I chose to just accept and embrace this element of the story, but still came up with significant flaws to the plot. Firstly, it’s incredibly convenient that the Magpie Man was indeed watching Jess’s show, despite the fact that it wasn’t in the news or anything to begin with. And maybe it’s not all that surprising that he was, but Jess’s confidence that he would was kind of weird. Secondly (sorry, small spoiler here), the killer could have been literally anyone. He murdered women in different locations and was never caught by the police. What are the chances that he turns out to be someone Jess knows? I mean, COME ON.

Anyway, if you can get past these frankly lazy plot features, Are You Watching? is a decent murder mystery for the modern era. It’s fast-paced and thrilling, while also managing to deal quite effectively with grief and internet fame.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood

39837245In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus’ wife Penelope is portrayed as unwaveringly faithful and loyal, pining for her husband throughout his 20-year absence and using her wiles to trick the suitors competing to take his place. On Odysseus’ return, after killing monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he slays all the treacherous suitors, and Penelope’s twelve favourite maids who had been forced to serve the suitors in his absence. Curiously, no explanation was ever provided for the brutal murder of the maids, beyond their being bedded by the suitors without their master’s permission – which they would have had no choice about. In this contemporary addition to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood imagines events from Penelope’s point of view, as well as that of the twelve hanged maids.

Atwood has managed to pull off an outstanding retelling, keeping all the familiar details of The Odyssey but twisting them into a new, modern perspective. I really liked the way Penelope tells the story from the underworld is present day. She refers to the way the world has moved on since the time of Odysseus and his contemporaries, and is able to bring a really fresh, modern voice to the story despite being one of the original characters.

The other characters we meet in Penelope’s underworld (Helen, Amphinomus, the maids) bring a level of real comic value to what is otherwise actually quite a dark tale. These details, along with the Greek, tragicomedy-style songs and ‘performances’ by the chorus line of maids, really push The Penelopiad over the line of ‘very good’ to ‘genius’.

I would 100% recommend this book to anyone with even a remote interest in mythology, but I would say that it would help to be at least vaguely familiar with The Odyssey.

I received a complementary copy of this book from the publisher.

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The Ninth Sorceress – Bonnie Wynne

48481720._SY475_Gwyn knows nothing about her family or where she came from. So, she cannot fathom why she’s now being hunted by the goddess Beheret and tracked by wizards. Even more shocking is the discovery that she herself is a wizard. Now, in order to protect herself, she must learn how to use the magic that terrifies her and embrace a destiny she could never have imagined.

The writing style is very suited to the fantasy genre, with detailed descriptions and solid world-building.

I enjoyed the characters. Gwyn is a very strong heroine; not an automatic figurehead of a revolution or anything like that, but a scared teenager forced into a situation where she’s out of her depth but chooses to fight anyway. This is a much more believable scenario than what we’re usually given in YA fantasy novels with a female lead. The other characters were also very good. My favourites were Faolan and Lucian, who are very different but contribute a lot to Gwyn’s adventure.

I was totally immersed in this story. The plot is imaginative and intriguing, and I was particularly interested in the interlude chapters set in the ‘present’. I can’t wait for the next book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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