Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: three star review

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down. Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart […]

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that […]

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see.

While the other students embark on a slut-shaming mission against her, Anna has a project of her own to focus upon. She’s investigating the possibility that there may have been witches living in the little village she’s moved to, and that she may have found a necklace belonging to one of them hidden up in her attic.

As someone who has read and loved most of Laura Bates’ releases – particularly Everyday Sexism, which I would recommend everyone grab a copy of – I thought The Burning was bound to get five stars from me, but that wasn’t the case.

One of the first issues I had with the book was how unoriginal Anna’s story was. With the blurb and the cover nodding towards some kind of deep, dark secret, I was expecting something other than leaked nudes to be plaguing her. I’m not negating the seriousness of the events that Anna has to cope with, but I am criticising the way that the book was marketed. Knowing that Anna is investigating a girl from centuries ago who was accused of witchcraft, I was holding out hope that Anna’s secret might be more magical.

The pacing of the book was also very odd. When Anna is first settling into the school the pace is very fast even though it’s only focusing on everyday occurrences, but when her intimate images hit Facebook and the main story kicks off it all starts moving very slowly. In my school experience, if anything like this happened the school staff members would find out and get involved very quickly. Anna’s plight remaining undiscovered for weeks didn’t seem true to life.

I also felt as though the climax of the novel wasn’t realistic in the slightest. I’m not going to reveal what happens at the end of the book, but Anna’s actions didn’t feel authentic. Again, this issue could be chalked up to me setting my expectations too high: due to Bates’ history – tackling sexism by creating the Everyday Sexism project – I was hoping Anna would do something just as proactive as a response to her own troubles.

When I was a teenager I wasn’t interested in feminism at all, and I can’t think of a single one of my friends who identified themselves as a feminist. My interest in feminism didn’t develop until I was 18 and one of my colleagues introduced me to Laura Bates’ work. The Burning had the potential to be an accessible way to introduce young adults to feminism and its continued relevance, but the language used and the internal monologues showing the reader how Anna’s feeling just aren’t as engaging as they could have been.

I’m a fan of Bates’ and even I found my attention wandering, so it’ll be interesting to hear the thoughts of some younger reviewers as to whether this book had the intended impact upon them.

However, I did enjoy the way Bates’ linked the need for feminism in the modern era with the way that it was absolutely vital back in the 17th Century. Maggie’s story is harrowing and emotional, and I found myself wishing that she’d decided to focus on that story and tell it in its entirety, rather than just splashing it through in irregular flashbacks.

If you’re a young person who is interested in feminism but aren’t sure where to start, I would highly recommend trying Everyday Sexism or Girl Up! before you give The Burning a go. Despite the fact that they’re both non-fiction books, they’re a lot less dense and far more engaging than The Burning, so they should make it very interesting for you to learn more about feminism. It’s a good idea to get to grips with the basis of feminism before you read this book to see instances of everyday sexism and misogyny in action, because that’ll make The Burning far more influential upon you.

Alyce

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Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

Jon Keller never though he’d be at a conference in a hotel in Switzerland when the world ended, but that’s exactly how it happens. One moment, he’s having a hotel breakfast, the next there’s a woman screaming at her phone, devastated to learn that there’s […]

Blog tour: Before I Find You by Ali Knight

Blog tour: Before I Find You by Ali Knight

Hello there, and welcome to my stop on the Before I Find You blog tour. Sorry for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks: we’ve moved home and trying to get WiFi installed has been a nightmare, so it’s been a blogless fortnight for me. […]

Blogtober Day 13: Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

Blogtober Day 13: Review: The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

“Why would they be afraid of us? We have no powers.”
“Of course we don’t,” she says, looking away from me. “But the humans do not understand that. They fear that their men will be overcome with madness and dive into the depths of the water to make a bride of one of us, finding only death instead. And then they blame us, as men have always blamed women, for prompting their lust, for fuelling their insatiable greed for something they cannot have.”

I found myself surprisingly underwhelmed by Louise O’Neill’s feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid.

You already know the story: a mermaid is so desperate to be a human that they give up their voice in return for legs. When Gaia goes to the Sea Witch for help, she brutally chops out Gaia’s tongue and makes her into a human female, warning her that – as well as being in excruciating pain with every step she takes – if she can’t make Oliver fall in love with her within a month, she’ll be reclaimed by the sea.

I’d seen rave reviews about this retelling, and because I already loved O’Neill’s Asking For It (even though it did emotionally destroy me) I was expecting this to be one of the best retellings I’d ever read. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, because the pace moves painfully slowly. There’s a huge focus on the way that the mermaids are treated by the mermen, demonstrating how sexist the society is and why Gaia is so desperate to escape. It isn’t integrated well, though, and it feels like preaching.

On the other hand, the last quarter of the story happens at a breakneck speed. It’s so fast that it’s hard to absorb it all, and compared to the dull and dreary dragging of the majority of the book it’s ridiculously difficult to keep up with everything that’s happening.

I really struggled to motivate myself to pick this up, and it’s been hard to motivate myself to review it, because I don’t have much to say about it. There’s no redemption: Oliver is a dick and doesn’t improve much by the end of the story, and Gaia doesn’t undergo much character development either.

I can’t remember the ending of the original tale of The Little Mermaid (my memory has been warped too much by the saccharine sweetness of the Disney version) so I’m not sure how unique the ending is compared to Hans Christian Andersen’s version, but it felt predictable. I know retellings are supposed to be predictable, but only to a degree – there should be something which makes them memorable and gives them their own personality, but I didn’t find that in this instance. O’Neill definitely makes her point about the mistreatment of women, but it’s delivered in a heavy-handed way which doesn’t make for great storytelling or interesting characters.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about The Surface Breaks, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 4: Blog tour: Beardies’ World by Joyce Ives

Blogtober Day 4: Blog tour: Beardies’ World by Joyce Ives

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Beardies’ World blog tour. First off I’d like to say a huge thank you to Faye, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, and to Joyce Ives, author of Beardies’ World, who has written a lovely guest […]

Blog tour: The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Blog tour: The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon. A debut novel widely agreed to be one of the most anticipated novels of 2018, it’s an honour to have been invited to participate – a huge thank you to Grace […]

Review: SLAY by Kim Curran

Review: SLAY by Kim Curran

‘Slay did two things, and they did them well. Play killer music and kick demon butt. Music done. It was butt-kicking time.’ 

If you love One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer and McFly, you’ll love Slay. JD, Tom, Connor, Niv and Zek are the next big thing, and fans all over the world are eager to get a piece of them. They never stop touring, for one reason and one reason only.

Yep, you guessed it: so they have an excuse – and the money – to fly all over the world defeating demons and keeping humankind safe.

Milly discovers Slay’s secret when her mother gets possessed by a demon. Unfortunately the boys are too late to save Milly’s mother, but they manage to save her and she’s quickly swept up in a demon slaying adventure.

The demon possessing Milly’s mother, Zyanya, is desperate to resurrect Tezcatlipoca – the god of all demons – and she needs the Blade of Shadows to do it. The only way to destroy the Blade of Shadows is to take it to the Aztec temple where the ritual to bring Tezcatlipoca back must be performed. Risky? Yes. But there’s no other way to get rid of the blade, and if they don’t demolish it they risk the demons successfully managing to bring back the biggest bad the world has ever seen.

SLAY is basically an episode of Scooby-Doo. There are bad guys running around all over the place, slipping through the net and causing all kind of havoc, but you never really think they’re going to get away with it because of the meddling kids in Slay (and Milly, of course). It’s been compared to Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer too, and these are both good comparisons. This isn’t the kind of story you normally see on the page, and that’s both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a good thing, because it means that SLAY is a unique book, and you probably haven’t read anything like it before (even if you’ve definitely seen stuff like it). However, some of the scenes blur in an incoherent fashion – it’s written rather cinematically, but there’s not much description which makes it hard to follow exactly what’s happening at points. I certainly found this when the band are initially introduced: there’s a brief montage of descriptions about each boy, but they unfold so rapidly that it’s hard to differentiate them (except for Niv, who has been mute since the death of his and Zek’s mother).

This book is definitely aimed at a younger audience, sure to appeal to early teens who are just starting to get properly obsessed with boy bands for the first time. I know this would have been one of my favourite books if I’d read it when I was a bit younger!

I was torn between giving SLAY three or four stars, but decided to drop it down because the ending is a bit too quick compared to the rest of the story, which takes a while to develop. With the sequel, Slay on Tour, coming towards the end of the year, it feels as though the plot goes off the rails in the attempt to ensure the reader will return. I’m certainly going to, because the book ends on a little bit of a cliffhanger which has captured my attention, but if you’re looking for a fun standalone you don’t have to continue on with the series if you don’t feel so inclined.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about SLAY, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Alyce

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Blog tour: Love the Stationery in Your Classroom by Rebecca Palliser

Blog tour: Love the Stationery in Your Classroom by Rebecca Palliser

Welcome to the first of two blog tours which I’m taking part in today. The two titles couldn’t be much further apart – this is a book aimed at young school children, while I’m also on the blog tour for C.J. Skuse’s second adult crime […]