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Jo (London, England)

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Winter (The Lunar Chronicles Book 4)
Winter (The Lunar Chronicles Book 4)
by Marissa Meyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars An epic conclusion to an incredible series!, 22 May 2016
What can I say? Winter by Marissa Meyer brought The Lunar Chronicles to a conclusion. A series and characters I have grown to love over the last few months. I put off reading Winter for as long as I could, not wanting to say goodbye, yet picked it up after not long at all, desperate to know how the story would end. And Winter was absolutely incredible.

After stalling the wedding between Emperor Kai and Queen Levana by kidnapping Kai, Cinder and her friends start finalising their plans. Kai is now on board, and will do all he can to help. He must go back and persuade Levana that the wedding should take place on Luna. When the Earthens travel to Luna, Cinder, Cress, Thorne, Wolf and Iko will be smuggled in. Cinder will then announce her true identity to the citizens of Luna and start a revolution to get Levana off the throne. Meanwhile, Levana has started to become jealous of the love and adoration her step-daughter Winter inspires in the people of Luna. Not being of royal blood, there's no way that Winter can ever become Queen, but Levana is anxious enough as it is with Cinder still out there somewhere. Levana will not leave any threat to her throne, and Winter must escape if she wants to keep on living. Being reunited with her long lost cousin and joining their revolution to overthrow Levana is the only way she can remain safe. But having refused to use her Lunar gift for years, her mind is fraying. She is constantly bombarded with hallucinations and sometimes barely holds it together. Will Winter really be able to help when she can't trust her own mind?

Oh, how I loved this book! I've been saying it in each of my reviews of this series as they've gone on, but Winter was so epic! Although there are the sci-fi roots with cyborgs, androids and space travel, Winter felt a lot more like a high fantasy meets dystopia, and I absolutely loved it! The revolution, the plans and strategy, the various people coming together to fight against an evil entity felt so familiar, it was like coming home, but to a more contemporary/futuristic high fantasy, but high fantasy nonetheless. There were twists and turns the whole way through. Things didn't always go to plan, the group was separated, and no-one knew what was happening to them, if they were still alive. Plans had to be adapted when pivotal people went missing, and you were constantly left dying to know more, desperate to know how things would play out, how these amazing characters were going to get out of that. It was just bloody brilliant! So epic and fast paced, and things really get moving very early on, and it's almost non-stop from the get-go. Winter is a book where you're constantly on the edge of your seat, and it was just incredible!

Of course, I need to talk about the title character. Being the final book in the series, in comparison to the other books, we're with the other characters more than we are with Winter - or rather, it's pretty equal. Everyone gets their own third person narrations at different parts of the story. But at the same time, Winter had to deal with the revolution but also Winter's story, that of Snow White. I have to say I was really impressed with Winter in this regard; it can't have been easy to finish off this series, tie up loose ends and bring the story to a fantastic conclusion, but also introduce a new character and tell her story too. The fairy tale elements of Snow White were there, given a twist and updated like we're used to, but with this story, they were wonderfully interwoven with the larger plot. I think it would have been very easy for it to feel like to separate stories - the story of the revolution and the story of Winter - but Meyer shows just what an expert storyteller she is in creating one whole story; the revolution wouldn't have been what it was without Winter, and Winter's story wouldn't have played out the way it did if the revolution wasn't happening. They were integral to each other, rather than separates. And it was just wonderful!

I found Winter to be a fantastic character. She is so kind and selfless, to the point that she is putting her life at risk. She swore long ago never to lie or manipulate others with her gift, and the effects of not using it have led to her suffering from what is called the Lunar sickness. She's become mentally ill, and her hallucinations seem so very real, and they absolutely terrify her. Can you imagine? These visions are horrific - the walls bleed, or a harness starts to suffocate you, or your body slowly starts turning to ice - and you know it's not real, it's not really happening, but that doesn't stop you from panicking. And there's a way you could make this all stop, but making it stop would mean going against your morals, so you continue to suffer, and get worse. And it's not just the hallucinations, the Lunar sickness effects how she thinks, too. So she makes decisions that aren't necessarily wise, and puts herself in dangerous situations simply because she doesn't think rationally, at least not all the time. I'd like to say Winter isn't romanticising mental illness in the slightest, it doesn't give the idea of Winter heroically suffering for the sake of others, that's not what it's about. There's nothing heroic or beautiful about what Winter is going through. It's traumatic. And I think the subject of mental illness is dealt with so brilliantly in this novel. It's fantastic.

I absolutely loved the climax of the story. It was unbelievable! It's full of jaw-dropping "OH MY GOD!" moments, and you have no idea who's going to get out of it alive. Seriously, the stakes are so high, lives are at considerable risk. It's terrifying. The ending of the book, and the series, was just fantastic and so satisfying - though there were moments I wish we'd got to see or got to see more of. I felt those moments were pretty important, and we should have got to see them. But overall, Winter is an amazing story and an epic conclusion, and has firmly put Meyer up there with my favourites. I'm so happy there's still Stars Above, the short story collection, so I don't have to say a complete goodbye to these characters just yet. I will read anything Meyer writes in the future with complete relish. Meyer is definitely an auto-buy author.

Everyday Sexism
Everyday Sexism
by Laura Bates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book that shows just how rife sexism really is., 15 May 2016
This review is from: Everyday Sexism (Paperback)
I've been wanting to read Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates for a long time. When I heard she was going to be doing an event at Foyles with Hibo Wardere on 31st May, I nabbed a ticket and bought both her books - this one and her latest, Girl Up. Everyday Sexism was just as incredible as I thought it would be!

Everyday Sexism made me angry. It upset me and terrified me. Because not only does Bates talk about various elements of sexism - such as rape and sexual assault, the sexism towards young girls, those in university, and in the workplace, sexism around mothers or becoming a mother, and so on - but each chapter includes actual tweets and entries to the Everyday Sexism project from real women. Bates perfectly uses these tweets and entries to highlight her points, to give further evidence that what she's talking about actually does happen. That might sound ridiculous, maybe even unnecessary - of course this happens! But there are those who believe sexism no longer exists, that we've already reached gender equality. And that's exactly why Bates created the project and wrote this book, to show everyone that we are far from erradicating sexism.

Each chapter starts with a list of statistics about the things covered in that chapter. You're forced to face this information about just how rife sexism is right from the get go. These statistics are really quite schocking, but statistics on their own don't have nearly as much impact as one might like - numbers are difficult to equate into real people. But Bates has set out this book so brilliantly: statistics first, followed by tweets to the Everyday Sexism project, then a closer look at these elements of sexism, highlighted with interviews and other real life accounts. This balance of evidence in regards to statistics and other information along with real women's stories makes for a hard-hitting and emotional read. There were moments when I was so upset that tears came to my eyes, and moments of exclaiming "Jesus Christ!" out loud in horror. But also moments when I could absolutely, completely relate to what I was reading, and they were the most difficult to deal with. There was a sense of not feeling so alone when I could relate to someone, but I would also feel so sad that others had experienced what I had.

Most of all, I was angry and impassioned. It opened my eyes to various elements of sexism that I never thought of as sexism before - a point Bates comes back to time and again, how sexism is so ingrained in our society, that we come to accept it as the norm. She made me realise that every single act of sexism, no matter how small, must be challenged and rejected. Bates makes the point that all acts of sexism, even the small ones, create a society that normalises sexism, makes it something we're told we shouldn't make a fuss about, silencing us, and allows for bigger, worse acts of sexism, like sexual assault and violence, to take place. Everyday Sexism has made me think about myself and my life, and where I might slip up and let sexist remarks go by without a word. It's made me more aware, and really think about how I react.

Everyday Sexism is an absolutely incredible book, and I am in so much awe of Bates and the incredible work she's done with the Everyday Sexism Project. I am so looking forward to reading Bates' second book, Girl Up.

Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story
Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story
by Marissa Meyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful insight into how Queen Levana became the woman she is, 2 May 2016
I have been such a huge fan of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, I was so excited while reading the first three, knowing I had Fairest, a prequel to the series from Queen Levana's point of view, to read! I was so looking forward to see why Levana is who she is, and what her motivations are. Fairest wasn't the story I expected, but it was wonderful!

I was completely surprised by Levana's story. We get her backstory, right from when she was 15 until just over a decade later. I was expecting to see a cruel young girl who enjoys others' pain, but what I found was a girl who is so unbelievably insecure. Something unimaginable happened in her past that left her terribly scarred. Levana is mocked and ridiculed by her malicious older sister Channery, everyone at the palace looks down on her and laughs at her, and her parents never seemed to care.

She has a crush on one of the guards, Evret, and when he shows some kindness, it's the first time anyone has been nice to her for so long. Her crush becomes a desperate infatuation, and with her innocence and naivety, she reads far more into his words than there is to read, and makes herself believe he is in love with her, too - despite the fact he is married to a woman he quite obviously adores with all of his being. Their story is such a tragic one, and I can't help but feel so deeply sorry for Levana. She just wants to be loved, and she makes herself believe it so fully, she won't accept any denial on his part. She does some terrible, disgusting things, but they are born of desperation. She is so alone, and so unbelievably lonely. She just wants to be happy, and believes Evret is the only person who can bring her happiness.

Queen Channery dies while her daughter, Selene, is just a baby, and so Levana becomes Queen Regent. Under the reign of her parents and Channary, Lunar hasn't faired as well as it could, in the hands of those who cared more about their own interests than that of their home and people. Levana, however, has always taken a keen interest in politics and how Lunar is run, and discovers she's actually very good at making decisionsand coming up with ideas for the betterment of her planet. Lunar thrives, and so does she. But it's here that we start to see the Queen she will become. The people of Lunar would be more productive if they had compulsory breaks, as she has seen works well on Earth. This works well, but she is advised that revolt is likely if the people of Lunar have too much time to socialise with each other, and so she decides there should be a curfew after the work day, which will be enforced by more guards. She starts small, but the dictatorial and manipulative rule that we know her for has it's roots here, taking away this freedom from her people. She doesn't even blink at the idea, but this is probably links to how she feels about how she's treated Evret, and she does genuinely believe that she's doing what's right for Lunar, and has her people's best interests at heart.

We get more of a history on leutomosis, the disease that ravages Earth in the first three books of the series. Dr. Erland touched on how he believes that Leutomosis is a biological weapon from Lunar, but in Fairest, we're told exactly how this came about. I expected to read about a cold-hearted Queen, who revels in the thought of the pain and death she is the cause of, taking sadistic joy from it all. But that's not the Levana we see. She's a politican and a strategist. What befalls earth is terrible, but Levana isn't enjoying it. She might enjoy how her plans are working, but it's a means to an end, the end being an alliance with Earth - that will be made by offering the antidote - so Lunar can have access to resources the planet is running out of.

They don't have huge parts, but we get backstory on Cinder as Selene and Cress in Fairest, and are introduced to Winter. We get her backstory as well as Levana's, as they are so intertwined, Winter being Evret's daughter. Although Fairest is a prequel, it works to read it after Cress but before Winter, as it was written, because of what we already know of Cinder and Cress. Some parts might not make as much sense, or the import will be lost, if Fairest was read before any of the other books in the series. I've been told you don't need to read Fairest before Winter, but having the insight on Levana when reading Winter can help you understand the woman and her motivations as you read Winter.

Fairest was a much more emotional read than I was expected. Levana is cruel, manipulative, and vicious, but she's also a woman who had a terrible childhood, who has only wants to be loved and liked, and do the best for her planet. She wants to be happy, but her unhappiness can't be cured with power, but she doesn't seem to understand this. So she's always striving for more, the next thing, and the then the next thing, and so on, desperate. Levana is a woman to be feared, but she's also a woman to be pitied.

Fairest was a wonderful novella, and I'm really keen to see how my view of Levana might change as I read Winter. This series is just incredible!

[(Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies)] [Author: Hadley Freeman] published on (January, 2014)
[(Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies)] [Author: Hadley Freeman] published on (January, 2014)
by Hadley Freeman
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars Offensive, and the humour didn't work for me, 28 April 2016
When I reached out on Twitter last year, asking for recommendations of feminist non-fiction, Be Awesome by Hadley Freeman was one of the books recommended. It sounded as awesome as it was telling us ladies to be, and so I bought it, excited to be educated while laughing. Unfortunately, I really didn't like this book.

The major problem I had with Be Awesome is the offensive language and jokes Freeman makes. She uses the word "lame" several times (p3 for example), she makes a joke about how little people who sit at their computers all day move, describing them as "'paraplegic'" (p10), she makes a joke involving depression (p54), and jokes about women's magazines making women want to get sex changes (p171). None of this sat right with me at all; it's out of order, and I think it's appalling that these jokes got past editing. It was first published four years ago, but I don't think that excuses it.

The whole book is written with sarcasm, snark, and with Freeman's sense of humour, but I just didn't find it funny at all. I started off rolling my eyes at some of the jokes, but the more I read the more it grated on me. I started getting really annoyed, wishing she would just be serious, please! The book is written with the intent of being humourous, but in my opinion, it just isn't funny. You know how on TV they show show comedians tellings jokes, and the audience simply doesn't laugh? That was my relationship with this book. That's likely down to my sense of humour and what I find funny rather than an unfunny author, considering all the praise printed in the book, but Freeman's voice just didn't work for me. Which led to me leaving it at home when I didn't have far to go; I knew I would finish it before my work day was over and would have nothing else to read, so I took another book with me. Over a week went by before I picked it up again, and even then I only picked it up so I could write this review.

Despite how much I didn't enjoy Freeman's voice or humour, she does make a lot of sense in various chapters - to the point that I know I would have enjoyed this book if it was written seriously. I loved what she had to say in the chapters 'Talking about eating disorders without using a single photo of Kate Moss', 'You're never too old for Topshop', 'How to cheer up your friend who is depressed about being single without lying to them, patronising them or making them feel even worse', 'There will always be something wrong with your body, which means nothing is wrong with your body', and 'Beyond the armpit: a ten-point (plus three addenda and some posh little footnotes) guide to being a modern-day feminist'. I was educated, I was made to think and alter my viewpoint, so I guess Be Awesome did what I wanted to. I just wish it wasn't so difficult to read.

Even though I was educated and Freeman made some good points, I really didn't like this book. I wouldn't recommend it, because I'm sure similar ideas are discussed by other writers who aren't so offensive and who can write seriously. I won't be reading anything by Freeman again.

The List
The List
by Siobhan Vivian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully feminist novel - a reflection of how society judges women., 26 April 2016
This review is from: The List (Paperback)
Having loved the Burn for Burn trilogy Siobhan Vivian co-authored with Jenny Han, I was really excited to read Vivian's novel The List when I heard it was being published in the UK. Covering the topics of beauty and body image, The List sounded right up my street, and it was such a wonderful, thought-provoking novel.

Every September at Mount Washing, a list is released that will affect the lives of eight female students. The list announces the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade, and how they are seen by their fellow students and themselves is altered. This year, the prettiest girls are Abby, Lauren, Bridget and Margo, and the ugliest girls are Danielle, Candace, Sarah and Jennifer. New found confidence, insecurity, taunts and mocking, sympathy, a new perspective, the suspicion of others, family issues and rebellion are experienced by the eight girls in the week leading up to the Homecoming Dance. Surprises - some good and some bad - come their way, as the girls discover that the list can only hurt.

This is such a brilliant book! The title of ugliest and prettiest affects each girl in such different ways, both in how they see themselves, and how others treat them. Abby, a popular and pleasant freshman, is flattered to be named the prettiest freshman, and likes how the boys in the grade above now know who she is, but she wishes she got on better with her super smart, geeky older sister. Danielle is announced ugliest freshman, the list insinuating that she looks like a boy. She's upset by being on the list, and by boys in the grade above hurling abuse at her, but at least her boyfriend doesn't care - right? Lauren has just moved to Mount Washington, and is going to public school for the first time since being home schooled. Being named prettiest sophomore, she's suddenly making friends with girls who weren't interested before. Candace, however, was named the ugliest sophomore, the list commenting on how mean she can be, and her friends ditch her for Lauren now the truth is out. Bridget is the prettiest junior, the list acknowledging the weight she lost over Summer. But she's starting to put it back on, and she feels she's unworthy of the title, the list exacerbating her insecurities and her issues with food, leading to her starving herself - again. Bolshie and angry Sarah, the ugliest junior, is sick of the school's obsession with all things shallow, like the list and being crowned Homecoming Queen. They think she's ugly? She'll show them ugly! As prettiest senior, people are starting to be suspicious that Margo wrote the list. Although she tries to pretend it doesn't matter, she wants to be seen as perfect, maybe then Matthew will notice her. Jennifer is the ugliest senior, making it four years on the trot she's been on the ugly list. But some think things have gone too far, and she's shocked to find the popular girls extending a hand of friendship.

I don't want to say too much more about the story as we follow each girl over the course of six days, and so events happen quite quickly. What I really loved about The List is how it doesn't focus very much on how these girls actually look. We know Lauren has waist-length blonde hair, that Sarah's hair is dark, and Jennifer is overweight, but otherwise, there's very little description, if any, on how the girls look. The List isn't about how the girls look, but how they are seen - by themselves and others. It's with this lack of physical description that Vivian plays with society's idea of beauty: we are told what's beautiful and what's unattractive, and we believe and act on what we're told. The List is a reflection of society; it takes place in a high school setting with teenagers, but the list could be magazines and the media, and the school students all of us, judging people - famous or otherwise - and ourselves on what we're told is and isn't attractive about the female form. The subject is dealt with deftly but subtly within the narrative, with us readers getting emotionally involved in the individual stories. We can see ourselves in the eight girls, as they struggle with their self-esteem and insecurities, and with how their peers now treat them, whether throwing slurs their way, or suddenly wanting to be their friends.

The List is a fantastic feminist novel, and one that really made me think. It's such an incredible book, and one I'll definitely be recommending to every teen girl I meet!

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3)
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3)
by Marissa Meyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely epic addition to The Lunar Chronicles!, 19 April 2016
I can't really begin to express how much I love The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. With each book, it just gets better; the world, the originality, the effortless weaving of fairytales we know into a completely unrecognisable story that I just can't get enough of. Cress is no exception; the stakes are raised, the clock is ticking, and things get even more epic.

I don't want to give too much away because so much happens, so I'm not writing a description this time round. But oooh, this story is just SO good! I don't know the original story of Rapunzel very well; I know she's locked in a tower, has very long hair, which is used to help a prince climb the tower. Otherwise, I'm in the dark, so I didn't have the same experience of recognition as certain parts of the story reflected the original. Even so, it was still bloody brilliant.

As I said, things get epic in this story, and this is due to them being split up. Everyone is in danger, but no-one knows how the others are doing, if they're even alive. Cress and Thorne end up on Earth in the middle of a desert, with no life to be seen in any direction for miles. Because of the events of the botched yet partially successful rescue attempt, Thorne is injured, and Cress is struggling with being out of her satellite, with all the space and all the sky. Cress needs Thorne to keep her from drowning in anxiety, and Thorne needs Cress because he's injured. They both need the other's help, and it's difficult. Thorne needs to do some fast talking to keep Cress calm, and needs to really think in order to keep them alive, and Cress needs to keep a lid on her anxiety to help Thorne get about and follow his instructions. And this is all so, so wonderful! Seriously! Thorne is still Thorne; still arrogrant and funny and making a joke out of everything, but in Cress, he shows he's also very smart. Not only that, but he's great under pressure. He is so compassionate and kind and gentle with Cress, despite the fact he's struggling with his injury himself. He can't afford to freak out and worry about what's happened to him, because he's the only one who can keep them alive, because not only does Cress not know much about Earth at all, she hasn't been out of her satellite for seven years. She has no idea what to do. Thorne really steps up, and my admiration for him really grows. He's definitely the comic relief of the series, but he's also a fantastic character in his own right. There's a conversation he and Cress have; Cress talks about how she's always thought of him as a hero, because of the research she's done on him - there's always been some kind of altruistic motive behind his wrong doings. Thorne tells her she's got him all wrong, and those altruistic motives were made up to get him out of trouble - he's no hero. Except in this story, that's exactly what he is. And he's wonderful!

I didn't warm to Cress as much as I hoped. I didn't hate her, I actually liked her, but I didn't warm to her as much as I warmed to Cinder and Scarlet. That might just be because she spent a lot of time with Thorne, who I completely adore, so my attention was more on him. Saying that, she's still a fantastic character. She's scared, she's really terrified - of defying her queen, of what will happen to Earth if Levana marries Kai, what will happen to her if she's ever caught, what will happen to her and Thorne in this desert, of the world itself - but she is brilliant. She's super intelligent, and all the time in the satellite has taught her to be an exceptional hacker. She's resourceful and smart, even when she's scared, and she's so brave. Courageous. She is scared all the time, but she still defies Queen Levana and Mistress Sybil. She takes action and works against them, despite being terrified, and you can only admire her for it. I have so much respect for her, and am in such awe.

Which made me really just how wonderful the female characters in this series are. They're all based on fairy tale damsels in distress, but they're all so resourceful and smart and strong! When it comes down to the crunch, Cinder, Scarlet and Cress will always do the thing they believe is right, and show such bravery. Cinder tries to warn Kai at the ball that Levana will kill him; Scarlet goes off to find her grandmother once she's found out that she's been kidnapped; Cress goes against those who have only kept her alive for how useful she is. And not only that, but look at the jobs these ladies have; Cinder is a mechanic, Scarlet practically runs the business of her grandmother's farm, Cress is a computer hacker - all jobs that are stereotypically thought of as jobs for - and given to - men. These ladies are the kind of role models we need in fiction these days. They're not your typical damsels in distress - they may get into scrapes they need help getting out of, but they also do some rescuing of their own. These characters are women to look up to.

This book is action packed, and packs one hell of a punch! Just as you think things are starting to look good, there's another obstacle, and another, and another. Characters are mourning those they believe dead, and trying to carry on without them, despite their grief. There's the huge, unbelievable build up to the end, and then that ending! Oh my god! I am so excited to pick up Winter, the fourth and final book in The Lunar Chronicles, but I'm waiting. I'm waiting to read Fairest, which I believe is a prequel to the series, from Levana's point of view. Apparently it's not crucial to read before Winter, but it gives an insight into the queen and can help, I've heard. So I've ordered it online, and I'm going to read that first. I am SO excited! And it also means the end of the series is put off a little longer.

This series is absolutely incredible, and I really, really don't want it to end! I'm so glad I have two more full length books, and a short story collection, Stars Above, to read before leaving this world. I simply cannot get enough!

Drown: A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale
Drown: A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale
by Esther Dalseno
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The retelling of The Little Mermaid I've been waiting for., 10 April 2016
Ever since learning of YA fairy tale retellings, I've been longing for a a retelling of The Little Mermaid, so when I found a review of Drown by Esther Dalseno from Tara of Cattitude & Co, I couldn't stop longing for it until it was in my hands. As I have loved The Little Mermaid in both it's forms for so many years, I was a little wary when first reading - I would have been devastated if it completely butchered a story a loved so much, and so disappointed. However, I needn't have feared; not only is Drown a wonderful retelling, it's also a beautiful story in it's own right.

Normally I give my own summary of the books I review, but Drown stays so close to the original Hans Christian Anderson story, I don't think it's necessary, especially with the description from Goodreads above. Drown feels like a love letter from Dalseno to the great Hans Christian Anderson, so well and respectfully does it stick to the original story. These days, retellings tend to take a fairy tale, keep all the significant and important elements, and change everything else so it's almost unrecognisable and completely original. This isn't a bad thing, I have completely loved pretty much all the fairy tale retellings I've read, and you're always left guessing as to what would happen because it's so unlike the original. However, with Drown, Dalseno has pretty much taken the whole of the original story, and lovingly moulded and shaped it, expanding it to a full-length novel. Drown is the story we know, but there's more backstory and world building. We learn about how the merfolk came to be, why the witch is so cruel and evil, and so much more. So beautifully crafted is this story, it's impossible not to feel how much Dalseno loves the original story, and so as I was reading, I felt Dalseno understood me. "She gets it!" I would think, and would feel such a rush of affection for the author who not only shared my love for this story, but also used that love to write such an achingly gorgeous retelling.

Enough of my gushing, and more about the story. As I mentioned, Dalseno gives The Little Mermaid world building that the original doesn't have. Merfolk have very little humanity, and because of this, they are all but emotionless. More animal than human, their faces always remain expressionless. They have no interest in anything other than eating, buying trinkets and ornaments, and looking at themselves and their beauty in the mirror. They are unintelligent and shallow, and do not like questions. The Little Mermaid is different. She's inquisitive, so full of questions she annoys her older sisters and her nanny, and knows that her facial movements tend to scare those around her. So she limits her facial expressions, and learns not to outwardly express her joy or excitement. There's a reason she's different, which becomes apparent as you read on.

What's especially wonderful about Drown is that although it would have been a fantasy story anyway, it's a magic realism story. It has the trademark wonderful, lyrical writing, and has the ordinary become something extraordinary, like a crying lighthouse - you will see. I always find magic realism to be completely enchanting, and Drown is no different. The thing with magic realism is it can take something dark and make it seem at the very least something that you accept, if not something that seems beautiful. The currency of the merfolk world is beauty. Not beautiful things, but your own beauty. The more beautiful you are, the more you can buy - food for example - but the thing with beauty being the currency is that the more you buy, the more you become unattractive. Because to give beauty, it must be cut off. Hair, for example, or maybe a finger or a limb. The merfolk need to butcher themselves in order to survive. Let that sink in. It's horrific, but it's written in such a way that you barely even register it as being as shocking as it is. But merfolk put a lot of status on beauty, too, so if you're ugly, not only are you poor, you're also shunned. The disabled are treated as repulsive, frightening, and not worthy of anyone's time. They are left to starve, because prices go up to prevent them from buying, as their custom isn't wanted. Although extreme, if you think about it, it's not too different to how our society treats disabled people; ignored, left out, or without access to what non-disabled people take for granted.

Disability is not the only thing Dalseno subtly comments on. She also looks into depression and self-harming. The Prince (who is also a person of colour, though his race/ethnicity isn't given) isn't happy with his life. He doesn't want to be a Prince, to become a King, to rule, but he can see no-way of escaping. He tries to relieve his pain by cutting into his skin, and so his body is a lattice of criss-cross scars. We actually see the Prince self-harm, and you're almost numb to it. It's written to shock without seeming shocking. Do not misunderstand; Dalseno isn't romanticising self-harm, she's shining a light on it and making the reader aware through the style of writing.

Drown is beautiful and enchanting, dark and tragic. It's the The Little Mermaid retelling I have been waiting all this time for, and I can't thank Dalseno enough for writing it.

I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty
I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty
by Victoria Pepe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book of feminist essays!, 3 April 2016
I Call Myself a Feminist is an incredible book! Twenty-five personal essays from women under the age of thirty discussing why they're feminists, and what feminism means to them, with quotes, speeches, and extracts from books throughout from public figures, celebrities and authors.

I was expecting I Call Myself a Feminist to be an educational book, another book that would help me as a newbie feminist figure things out, and open my eyes to the injustices women face. It does do that on occasion, but the essays the beliefs, opinions and views on feminism, their experiences of sexism, and their reasons for identifying as feminists. Although not as educational as I first thought, it was unbelievably powerful to read of these women - some of whom are teenagers, so clued up and aware and with their eyes wide open - claiming and owning the feminist label, and what feminism means to them. In reading this book, I felt a strong sense of solidarity, and a passionate feeling of "YES!"

This might not be so surprising for those who have been calling themselves a feminist for a long while, and have been aware of the issues we face, but this book really opened my eyes to how there are so many different kinds of feminist. I don't mean that in regards to who these feminists are, but in what they think and believe. There is the common belief in equality, and how it would benefit all genders, and they all agree on the issues we face, but at the same time, they're not all talking about exactly the same thing. Their reasons for being feminists are their own, focusing on various feminist issues, and their ideas are all different. This was surprisingly liberating; we all have a common goal in mind, but there are different aspects of feminism that will speak to us.

There are a few essays I'm going to talk about in more detail, because they spoke to me. In her essay This is NOT a Feminist Rant: The Language of Silencing Women (p73), Alice Stride talks about how sexist language that undermines of puts women down - even small comments or jokes - is dangerous. It might not seem much in the great scheme of things, but sexist language can snowball into something much bigger; domestic violence. Stride discusses how Women's Aid, who she works for, has noticed a common thread in the experiences of domestic violence survivors: it started slow, with sexist language.

'Of course, I am not claiming that every sexist remark comes from the mouth of an abusive man. That is ridiculous. But we must take a stand against sexist language, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem at the time.
Why? Because words are the fabric of everything. [...] Words are a comfort and words are a weapon. Words are the heart of life.
We must be empowered to call out the sexist whispers that make us lose our rhythm - even when it's coming from the mouths of our brothers, our friends, our partners, our fathers. And this problem goes all the way to the top - so we need to start at the bottom. If we do not address sexist language, we will not drive the change we need to stop women being viewed as second-class citizens.' (p78-79)

Amy Annette talks about how a woman's body and body language can be used as a feminist statement in her essay I Call Myself a Feminist With My Elbows (p115). This essay is absolutely wonderful, and really made me look at how I act and behave - or how I'm treated - in public. How I hunch my shoulders and bring my head down when I walk past a group of men. How I am given very little space on the tube, whether on a crowded tube and standing, or in my seat. Even on the bus, sitting on the edge of my seat, because the man next to me has his legs spread wide open, encroaching on my space. This essay covers so much more; it really got me thinking, and I am so much more aware.

In Are You a Stripper or a Shaver? (p176), Bertie Brandes brilliantly discusses how even young girls are encouraged to look and dress a certain way, and it all boils down to looking good for men. The essay starts off by talking about a Reddit forum where women were discussing when they were first looked at sexually by men, and the ages are around 11 and 12. Yes, that is horrific, but equally horrific are denim hot-pants on sale for children - which I have seen with my own eyes.

These are just a few of the essays that spoke to me, but really, all the essays are completely wonderful. They made me angry, but a passionate anger that strengthens my conviction and my desire to help bring about change. Having read this book, I'm even more proud that I call myself a feminist.

The Night That Changed Everything
The Night That Changed Everything
by Laura Tait
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poignant story, but an uplifting one., 30 Mar. 2016
Having absolutely adored The Best Thing That Never Happened to Me by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice, when I heard about their second book, The Night that Changed Everything, reading it was a no-brainer. Although I enjoyed their debut more, this is still a very enjoyable read!

Rebecca and Ben have been together for a year, and they're perfect for each other. They're chalk and cheese, but they balance each other out, and they have never been in a relationship that felt more right. This is it for them; they're completely in love, and can't envision ever splitting up. Well, that is until someone makes a comment, one that reveals something from the past, and everything changes. A spanner has been thrown into the works of their relationship, and they've been rocked to the core. Everything they knew has been torn out from under them; can they get past this shocking revelation, or will things never be the same again?

This is a very different book compared to their debut, and I was a little disappointed that it didn't include the same awkward humour, but I think it was a disservice to The Night That Changed Everything and Tait and Rice to expect the same thing. So from this point on, I'm going to write this review without comparing the two.

It's a little difficult to discuss The Night that Changed Everything without spoiling the revelation, which has an affect on the whole story. It's not your average romance, with obstacles getting in the way of a wonderful relationship. This was a wonderful relationship that has suddenly been shaken. What happens when you discover something that you're not sure you can get past? Can a relationship survive that, when everything you thought you knew has been turned on it's head, and maybe the person you know and the person they actually are don't necessarily match up? It's a brilliant look at a relationship when your Happily Ever After isn't what you thought it was. The Night that Changed Everything is dual narration from the perspectives of both Rebecca and Ben, and because we can get inside their heads, we know they have huge communication problems. Assumptions are made based on glimmers of each others' lives, and as they're not currently talking because of all the hurt, no-one is able to set the other straight. The assumptions just add more hurt, and it all piles up. It's frustrating, but it's also just really sad. If they would only talk to each other...

This isn't a book that is just about a romantic relationship, but also a story about friendship, and figuring out who you are and what you want from life. The title of the book refers to the night of the revelation, but really it could be referring to a number of nights for various different reasons. Thinking about the story arc in terms of the title, there are a number of points in the book where decisions are made by both Rebecca and Ben that affect the direction their lives go in.

It was really interesting to read about their lives as a whole, not just about their relationship and how it develops. Rebecca is an architect, and has her very first big project. As the story progresses, we see the progress of the cinema she's renovating, and how her life affects her work. It's a big deal for Rebecca, and something she's passionate about. Ben works in HR, but it's a job for the time being, while he works out exactly what it is he wants to do with his life. He hates his job in HR, but doesn't really do anything about trying to find something he himself is passionate about. He's always flitted from thing to thing - job or otherwise - without really finding something he loves or can stick to.

There's a large cast of characters who influence the two main characters lives. There's Danielle, one of Rebecca's friends, and Jamie, best friend to both Rebecca and Ben, and through whom they met. There's Russ and Tom, colleagues, ex-flatmates and friends of Ben's, and there's Jemma, the new receptionist at Rebecca's company. We also have Avril, who is Tom's girlfriend, who is one of the most annoying characters I have ever met. Each and everyone of these people has an affect on Rebecca and Ben's lives, and their individual stories. I have to say Jemma and Russ were my two favourites. I love how Rebecca judged her at first of being not her kind of person, but how the two actually form a close friendship with Jemma offering a lot of support for Rebecca. She's also incredibly funny, as is Russ, and they both provided most of the humour for the book. Jamie is also incredibly lovely, and in the awful position of being friends with both Rebecca and Ben, and is kind of stuck in the middle. There's no more hanging with everyone together while the two work things out, he has to spend time with them separately. Jamie is the one who has the most influence with the two throughout the story, and seeing how what he says alters how the two think and the choices they make was really wonderful.

The Night that Changed Everything has a really poignant and bittersweet ending, with a twist I didn't see coming. The story is wrapped up and concluded with a satisfying end, but it's just so, so sad that it took what it did to get there. What I love about this story is how realistic it is; life is messy, Happily Ever Afters don't actually exist, and relationships can hit roadblocks. This isn't going to be the story you expect, but that doesn't mean it's not an enjoyable and satisfying read. The Night that Changed Everything is ultimately an uplifting story, and one that makes you think about what's important in life. I loved it!

Me Before You
Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hard but beautiful, thoughtprovoking and inspiring read, and I absolutely cannot recommend it enough., 21 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Me Before You (Paperback)
My Mum has been trying to persuade me to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes for years, but it's been years since I read an adult romance, thinking I preferred YA. I did promise her I would read it - my Mum isn't a massive reader, nor does she cry at books, so the fact that she was imploring me to read this book that made her cry, well. I knew I had to read it. But I always had my own books to read, so years went by without picking it up. I recently saw the trailer for the movie of Me Before You, and it looked brilliant, and knew I had to read the book before I saw it, and picked it up as soon as I was able - to Mum's exasperation. Now, I wish I had listed to Mum all those years ago. Me Before You is an absolutely incredible and moving novel.

After losing her job at The Buttered Bun cafe, Lou Clark is struggling to find a job she can stick at - she just isn't cut out for working at the chicken factory. Her adviser at the Job Centre suggests she become a carer for a quadriplegic. Lou is unsure, but there are very few options she's willing to try. And so she meets Will Traynor, who was injured in a motorbike accident two years ago. Will used to have a go-getter lifestyle; he climbed mountains, he bungee jumped, he lived life to the full. Now, he's paralysed from the neck down, apart from some movement in one of his hands, and requires help for everything, and he hates it. He has Nathan, his nurse, to see to his medical needs, but Camilla Traynor, his mother, has hired Lou to be Will's companion, to prepare his meals and feed him. The next six months will see Will and Lou change each other in ways neither of them expected.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I adored this book! I absolutely loved Lou. Despite wanting to read the book before seeing the movie, I was still a little unsure as to whether I would enjoy it. As I said, I thought I preferred YA. But as soon as Lou started narrating, I knew I was going to love this book, even if just for her. She's kind of zany, wearing strange, bright coloured clothing and shoes. She lives in her small little town, still at home with her family despite being 26, and was quite content with her little life working in the cafe. She's been with her boyfriend Patrick for seven years, and is happily breezing through life. She's not ambitious in the sense that she doesn't feel her life is wanting. She's perfectly happy with the life she has, and was such a breath of fresh air! She's optimistic and positive, and the kind of person who finds something wonderful in the ordinary, always cheerful and chatty, and in that sense I found myself really relating to her. We're not exactly alike, but I could see parts of myself in Lou.

Will is such a fantastic character. At first, he has a serious attitude problem - but it's understandable. He is rude to Lou, acting superior and making her feel stupid. He quite obviously does not want her around. He doesn't expect her to stick up for herself though, and is surprised by her calling him out on his crap, and begins to thaw a little. As he warms to Lou, I warmed to him. He's not a happy guy, he doesn't like the way his life has panned out, and he's so angry and so miserable. But he still has a sense of humour, and maybe because of his circumstances, or just because of who Lou is, he encourages and pushes her to want more from her life, to experience more. Although Lou is quite happy with her life, Will shows her how there is so much more to the world than just their little town. And Lou tries so hard to bring a smile to his face. She organises so many outings and things she thinks he'll enjoy, rather than him staying stuck in his annexe, seeing nothing more than the four walls. She shows him that he can find some happiness again.

I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to spoil the story (though is there anyone who doesn't know the general gist of the story?), but I absolutely loved this book. It's incredible. It's as inspiring as it is completely heartbreaking. I simultaneously wanted to curl into a ball and cry until there were no tears left, and also go out and see the world and experience life. I was completely swept away by Will and Lou's story, by how their relationship develops, and I was completely hooked, desperate to know exactly how it would end. I finished Me Before You feeling depleted. My heart was hurting, and I was all out of emotion. But I also finished with so many thoughts, just wanting to talk about it, the subject matter, how this specific story ended. Me Before You is a hard but beautiful, thoughtprovoking and inspiring read, and I absolutely cannot recommend it enough. And I will most definitely be picking up more adult romance from now on.

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