Friday, 20 May 2016

THE GIRLS BY EMMA CLINE | SPOILER-FREE REVIEW


The Girls by Emma Cline
Published by Chatto & Windus.
Release date: June 16th 2016.
Source: Penguin Random House.
I received this book for free from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat. 

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever? [blurb from Goodreads]

As soon as I read the blurb for this book I knew that I wanted to pick it up. I've always been fascinated by the 1960s/70s era of American history and the California setting just drew me right in. The Girls is heavily inspired by the Charles Manson case and the Manson Family, and although it isn't a direct fictionalisation of the case, there are many parallels between the events of that summer and the plot within the novel. This aspect lends a certain reality to the atmosphere and the characters, making them all the more evocative.

The novel is set in dual timelines; it seamlessly flows between present-day narrator Evie and her account of the summer of 1969. I sometimes find dual timelines confusing or jarring but that wasn't an issue with this novel, it is largely set in 1969 but the present-day narrative adds a level of nuance as an older Evie reflects on the past.

One of the things I found most interesting about The Girls is its deconstruction of the dreamy, hippie, late 1960s version of the manic pixie dream girls. Even now, almost 50 years after the Manson girls were thrust into the public eye, society is still fascinated by them. They are iconic, held up as figures of mystery - there's a sort of dangerous attraction in the contrast between their girlish looks and the horrific acts they were involved in. Similarly, when we first encounter the 'girls' in the novel, Evie is drawn to how seemingly different they are from everyone else, their carefree laughter, unwashed hair and skimpy dresses. She is completely enthralled by them and immediately wants to find out more. She creates this mystery around them but as we get further into the book the reader, if not Evie herself, begins to see that these are just girls, who, in an attempt to escape from the roles assigned to them by traditional patriarchal society, have fallen into the false freedom and subservience of life at the ranch. They are flawed and real and frank and ultimately not mysterious at all.

The Girls is about women, and the roles they often play in the lives of men. They are wives and dutiful daughters and sexual objects and pawns in the schemes and manipulations of men, and in a way, our main character Evie rejects this mentality but is still a victim to it. Evie is not infatuated with the enigmatic cult leader Russell, as everyone else seems to be, but with Suzanne; one of the 'girls'. Evie does have sexual encounters with men but they are disconnected, unemotional and unsatisfying. In fact all the references to sexual interactions between men and women in the book are unromantic and they are portrayed as predatory and animalistic. Even in the present-day, the older Evie is often repulsed by men and is sometimes fearful of them. The Girls demonstrates the reality of systemic patriarchy and it's all-too-often destructive nature.

Even if you just read The Girls as a fictional memoir of a 1960s cult-esque lifestyle, it's excellently written, completely absorbing and the perfect atmospheric summer read. But if you look more closely, you'll also find a nuanced look at feminism, femininity, sexuality and the patriarchy.

Emma Cline is an author from California and The Girls is her debut novel.

I'm thinking about choosing The Girls for a Girl Gang Book Club pick this summer, so please do let me know if you'd be up for that!

Friday, 13 May 2016

LIBRARY HAUL | MAY


How great are libraries? If your answer to that wasn't 'OMG SO GREAT!' then you really need to check out your local library. After all, having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card!

Seriously though, I'm pretty in love with my local library and I'll be writing about that and the importance of libraries in local communities very soon, so look out for that!

Recently I've been getting a lot of books out of the library instead of getting through my own huge TBR because well, it kind of feels like I'm buying shiny new books, but it's free. So why not, right?

Now let's take a little look at my latest library haul, pretty much all of these are ones that I requested on my online library system and I didn't quite expect for them to all come in at once, but oh well!


Saga Volumes 3-5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Look at these beauties! Aren't they just gorgeous?! This graphic novel series gets so much hype but it's worth every bit because it really is excellent. The art is stunning, the plot is fast-paced, gripping and twisty and the characters, oh the characters, I love them so damn much. If you haven't already picked up this epic space opera then you have to immediately. Volume six comes out in July and I'm definitely going to be re-reading these at least once before then and hopefully getting my hands on copies of my own.


Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
After reading The Girls by Emma Cline last month I wanted to find out more about the case it was based on, the Manson family, so I requested this book which is a non-fiction account of the case by the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. I've always been into true crime documentaries and podcasts but I haven't read many true crime books so it'll be interesting to see how if I enjoy this format. It's a lot heftier than expected so I'm not sure how closely I'll actually read it but I think it'll make for some interesting further reading.

The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre
This is an adult thriller about a woman with murderous tendencies who has locked herself in her apartment for three years because of this. She makes money by being a cam girl, performing online for paying viewers. But a missing girl leads her to leave her apartment for the first time in years. I've heard quite a few people on booktube talking about this book and I've been getting quite into thrillers lately so I'm looking forward to seeing what it has in store.

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
Another pretty dark sounding book, Tricks is a YA contemporary following five interweaving stories about growing up, love, sex, family and abuse. I know that Lindsey Rey highly rates Ellen Hopkins books so I picked it up on that basis. The interesting thing about this book is that it is all told in verse, which I think is something that might take some getting used to but I'm looking forward to giving it a go.


Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
This is the sequel to the brilliant but disturbing You which I read last month and I'm equally excited and terrified to read this. Hidden Bodies follows charasmatic, disturbed-AF stalker-y Joe as he moves to Los Angeles to try and put his past behind him, but no matter how hard he tries, it can't stay hidden forever. Like I said, I want to read this, but I'm also kind of scared. Someone give me the courage?

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
I'm not actually sure where I heard about this but it's been on my Wordery wishlist for a while now and I thought I'd just get it out of the library. As far as I know it's a YA contemporary with LGBT themes and that's enough for me!

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park
I've been wanting to read this ever since it came out so I'm glad I've finally got my hands on it! In Order to Live is a memoir from human rights activist Yeonmi Park about fleeing from North Korea with her mother at age thirteen and the harrowing two years before eventually arriving in South Korea. I'm pretty sure this is going to be quite a stressful and difficult read but I've no doubt that it's going to be an important one.

So those are the books I'm going to be reading soon and hopefully I'll get through them before the library tempts me back again!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

BANK HOLIDAY BOOK HAUL

I'd been doing so well with my book buying ban this year, I hadn't really bought any at all...until I went to Norfolk for the bank holiday weekend. Oh North Norfolk, with it's plethora of charity shops and their excellent selection of books - it's always my downfall, I just can't resist.

I ended up coming home with five books, which is actually pretty restrained for me, and the book buying ban is now back on until I've whittled down my ever-growing TBR. So let's have a look at what I picked up...

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell.
This is a collection of short stories written by Karen Russell which I've heard a few people talking about on booktube lately so when I saw it I knew I had to have it. I don't think I've read any short story collections since I was younger and it's something I really want to try. I like the idea of being able to read one complete story each night before bed, I think that would be really satisfying. I'll let you know how it goes.

The Humans by Matt Haig.
I read Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig last year but I've never read any of his fiction. I honestly had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up, I just wanted to read more from Matt Haig. But according to the blurb it's about aliens, mathematics and what it means to be human. At under 300 pages it looks to be a fairly quick read and I'm looking forward to getting into it.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
This was another author buy as I'm a bit of a Kate Atkinson fangirl, even though Behind the Scenes at the Museum is the only book of hers I've read, it's one of my favourite books of all time and I now compulsively collect her books whilst also being too afraid to read them in case they don't match up. From what I can tell Life After Life seems to be a historical/speculative fiction/sci-fi novel and it just sounds kind of perfectly up my street, I really can't wait to read it.

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple.
Look at the photo above and I'll give you one guess as to why I bought this. You got it, it's a persephone book *sighs happily*. Persephone is an independent publisher which publishes previously neglected works by mid-twentieth century women writers. They all have the same grey cover but each has beautiful individually chosen patterned endpapers based on fabric designs. Someone at a Distance's design is that of a furnishing fabric from the 30s (fitting with the setting of the book) and it 'combines a menacing feel with a hint of the domestic' (according to Persephone). Basically these books are works of art and brilliance and everything I look for in life, and I found one in a charity shop for three pounds. I die.
It is about a deceived wife and a foolish husband but honestly it didn't matter what it was about, I had to have it, and I'm sure I'll love it for more than it's beauty.

In Real Life by Joey Graceffa.
I'm not actually sure why I bought this, apart from the fact that it jumped out at me from amongst all the discarded copies of Gone Girl and Fifty Shades of Grey that populated the charity shop. I used to watch Joey Graceffa's YouTube videos and whilst I don't anymore I still think he's an interesting person and I'm kind of fascinated by these 'YouTube memoirs'. So that's that.

And that's the handful of books that I picked up in my various charity shop jaunts over the bank holiday weekend. I also got that cute little chalkboard sign and a pretty sweet Zara jumper - kerching!

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought!

Friday, 6 May 2016

APRIL READING WRAP UP | PART TWO



Total number of books read: 12
Total number of pages read: 3767
Genres: 1 children's classic, 1 YA historical fiction, 2 non-fiction, 2 adult thrillers, 1 graphic novel, 3 YA contemporary, 1 YA thriller, 1 adult historical fiction.
Gender of author: 9 female, 3 male.
Nationality of author: 5 USA, 5 UK, 2 Canada.

Earlier last month I posted a mid-month reading wrap up and now I'm back for round two! I read a crazy-ass total of twelve books last month which I think is the most I've ever read in a month. I don't know what kind of reading-fuel I was on but it was clearly working - I didn't want to spend my time doing anything else! This is my wrap up of the final six books I read in April, so let's get down to my thoughts...


Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley | ☆☆☆
This is a magical realism adult graphic novel that focuses on the concept of fate and consequences. It's about Katie, a restaurant manager who discovers she can erase her mistakes and get a second chance, it all sort of snowballs from there and all of a sudden Katie is battling with multiple timelines and ancient house spirits. Seconds is a sweet and funny graphic novel but I felt that the plot was a little uneven and confusing and I think it could've been developed more.

Spot the Difference by Juno Dawson | ☆☆☆
Spot the Difference is a YA contemporary novella that was released for World Book Day. It follows Avery, who has been struggling with skin issues and bullies for the majority of her teenage years, as she undergoes a clinical trial for a new skin-clearing medicine and finds her life changing as a result. It's an engaging, thoughtful story with surprisingly well-developed characters for a novella and I really enjoyed it.

Under my Skin by Juno Dawson | ☆.5
I decided I was in the mood for more Juno Dawson so I picked up the YA thriller Under my Skin. Sally Feather has never put a toe out of line, but one day she is drawn to a mysterious tattoo parlour and walks out with a tattoo of pin-up girl Molly Sue, who, much to Sally's horror, begins talking in Sally's head. Before long, Sally realises she can no longer control Molly Sue and things begin to take a dark turn. I found Under My Skin enjoyable but the contemporary setting and characters mixed with the dark magical-horror aspect just felt a little jarring. For some reason I just didn't completely connect with it and I can't quite put my finger on why. I definitely want to read more from Juno Dawson though.

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch | ☆.5
If You Find Me is about Carey and her younger sister Jenessa who have lived in a trailer in the woods with their mentally ill mother for as long as they can remember. But months after their mother disappears, leaving them alone in the woods, two strangers arrive, changing their lives forever. I've seen this book being marketed as a mystery but I'd definitely say its more of a slow-paced and character-driven contemporary than a plot-driven mystery. I think if you went into this expecting a mystery you might be disappointed but I went in purely because I was intrigued by the concept and I absolutely fell in love with it. Emily Murdoch's writing is beautiful, atmospheric and completely absorbing. The characterisation is excellent and heartbreaking and it actually made me cry a couple of times, which is rare for me when reading.

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill | ☆.5
If you haven't heard of Louise O'Neill's Asking For It then I'm not sure what planet you've been living on. Since it's release last year I haven't stopped hearing about this brutally real and groundbreaking YA novel. It is about beautiful, popular eighteen year old Emma O'Donovan who wakes up one morning after a party on her front porch with no memory of the night before, that is until explicit photos begin to surface on social media of Emma and a group of boys. Asking For It deals with rape, abuse, consent, self-image and bullying. It is horrifying and bleak read but it's without a doubt an extremely important one. This book, alongside All the Rage by Courtney Summers, needs to be read by everyone. We need to be talking about consent and the reality of rape and books like this open up the conversation.

The Girls by Emma Cline | 
My final read of April was The Girls by Emma Cline. I was kindly sent an early review copy by Penguin Random House and although it's not out until June, I couldn't wait and started reading it immediately after it arrived at my door. Set in dual timelines between the present day and late-60s California, The Girls is narrator Evie's account of being caught up in a cult at age fourteen, of living on the cusp of society and of frenzied gatherings and sex and the horrific events she never saw coming. Based on the real life Manson 'family' case, this is an incredibly beautifully written debut which will have you gripped from start to finish. Evie's story is heady, exciting, sad and frustrating, I absolutely loved it. Look out for a full review coming soon.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Friday, 29 April 2016

2016 CLASSICS CHALLENGE: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES


Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: ☆☆☆☆.5

Anne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm and proceeds to make an indelible impression on everyone around her. [blurb from Goodreads]

When I discovered this classic:
Anne of Green Gables has always been on my radar, when I was little I used to confuse it with Little House on the Prairie for some reason but I know I've always wanted to read it. Part of me wishes that I'd read all these children's classics when I was actually a child because I know that I would have loved them in a way that's a little more difficult to capture as an older, more critical reader.

Why I chose to read it:
I've got to admit, this one was definitely down to the cover. I mean look at it. This is the Puffin in Bloom edition and it's absolutely beautiful. I also have A Little Princess in the same edition which I reviewed for last year's classic challenge. I'm determined to collect the whole Puffin in Bloom set and I received this one for my birthday last year.

What makes it a classic:
I honestly think what makes this book a classic is it's eponymous character, Anne. She is charming, playful, dreamy and just full of spirit. I think that Anne is what most young girls aspire to be like or wish to have as their best friend - you just can't help but love her. 

What I thought of this classic:
Anne of Green Gables is a fun and heartfelt rural idyll with a cast of unforgettable characters. I think it's the perfect children's classic in that, although relatively lengthy for it's demographic, the chapters are short and episodic - Anne is always up to some new adventure to keep the reader engaged. As an older reader I did find it dragged slightly as the plot was fairly predictable, but I can't really fault the book as I am not necessarily the intended audience. I absolutely loved L.M. Montgomery's writing in her more descriptive passages, the rural setting was dreamy, atmospheric and utterly absorbing. I also thought that the characterisation was excellent and I truly grew to love Anne and her new family and friends. Overall, this is a beautiful children's classic and I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the Anne series.

Will it stay a classic?
Absolutely. It has been a staple on many children's bookshelves for over a hundred years, selling over 50 million copies and translated into over 20 languages. With the continued release of new and enticing editions such as this one I hope that it will remain an important children's classic. 

Who I'd recommend it to:
Younger readers, perhaps aged eight and above (with appropriate guidance). Fans of the rural idyll. Anyone who is willing to fall for a plucky heroine with small town adventures and big dreams.

The 2016 Classics Challenge is hosted by the lovely Stacey of Pretty Books and you can find out more about it here.

Have you read Anne of Green Gables? What did you think?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

CURRENTLY #5


Reading: My tenth book of the month (I know, right?! Madness) which is If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. It's beautifully written and character driven - dreamy.

Watching: RuPaul's Drag Race returned for season 8 last month and my boyfriend and I have been LOVING it.

Planning: all kinds of trips which I'm determined to be healthy enough to enjoy.

Making: Not exactly making, but I've been enjoying spending time flexing my doodling muscles in my bullet journal so much (there might be a sneak peek up on here soon...ooooh...).

Stocking up on:
swimwear, or I've been attempting to. Why is every bikini and swimsuit out there so unflattering?! If you have any recommendations for swimwear for plus size/fuller busts then please let me know!

Wishing for: the opportunities I'm seeking to work out in my favour (ooh secrets).

Enjoying: the warmer weather. Sitting outside, reading and feeling the sun soak into my pale-hermit skin has been absolute bliss.

Trying: to get better at commenting on others' blogposts! I've been clearing my Bloglovin feed every day and commenting on every blogpost I read, feels good.

Eating: Well I finally finished up my Easter eggs *sadface* so now I'm attempting to eat a bit healthier. Smoked salmon is my jam right now.

Goal Setting: My goal is to be able to move out with my boyfriend in the coming months, it just really needs to happen and I'm determined to do everything I can to make it possible.

Learning: about SEO and DA and upping my blogging game, I want to know ALL THE THINGS because every time I learn something new it feels awesome. If you have any posts about these things then please send me links, I'd love to read them :).

What's been going on with you lately?

Friday, 22 April 2016

APRIL MID-MONTH READING WRAP UP



Surprise! I bet you weren't expecting a wrap up this early in the month, were you? Nope, didn't think so.

For some reason this month I've been an absolute reading machine; and I've already managed to read quite a few books so I thought instead of doing one giant wrap up at the end of the month I'd split it into two easily-digestible chunks.


Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery | ☆☆☆☆.5
First of all, will you just look at how beautiful this Puffin in Bloom edition is? I absolutely adore these little hardbacks and I want to collect the whole set. Anne of Green Gables is one of those classic children's books which you're just supposed to read and I admit that I was nervous to read this because it's so many people's favourite book. Well, I needn't have worried because I really loved it. It drew me in right from the beginning and it was just such a light and comforting read. L.M. Montgomery's writing is so lovely and it really immerses you in Anne's rural idyll. I can't wait to carry on and read the entire series!

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew | ☆☆☆☆
What if the Nazis had won WW2 and successfully invaded England? Julie Mayhew answers that with The Big Lie; an alternative YA historical fiction dystopian set in present-day Nazi England. Jessika Keller is a thoroughly-indoctrinated good girl with a bright future ahead of her of national ice-skating followed by being an upstanding, strong wife and mother to continue the 'Greater German Reich'. Her best friend and neighbour, Clementine, isn't so submissive. She is outspoken, radical and downright 'dangerous'. Will Jessika choose her beloved country or her best friend?

This premise had me hooked from the outset and Julie Mayhew's contemporary Nazi England was chilling, shocking and utterly compelling. I just couldn't put it down and it pretty much blew me away. The only thing that let it down slightly was that the final third was a little flat compared to the gripping and explosive first two thirds, but I still loved it. 

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert | ☆☆☆
I picked up Big Magic from the library after hearing quite a buzz around it both on book blogs and social media. I'm up for reading anything to do with living creatively so this seemed like the perfect book for me. When it comes to non-fiction, especially psuedo-self-help books, I'm pretty open minded, I've read enough books of this type to be prepared not to agree with everything the author says and to pick and choose what I take away from it. That's what it was like reading Big Magic. I really enjoyed the fact that Elizabeth Gilbert doesn't put too much emphasis on traditional forms of creativity (i.e. writing, painting etc.); she maintains that living a creative life means a lot of different things to different people and she offers anecdotal examples from people she has known as well as herself. The one thing that I did have an issue with, in that I just didn't quite get it, is that Gilbert proclaims creativity to be actual, literal magic. She approaches creativity in a very spiritual way that although I'm open to, just doesn't really work for me. Overall, I enjoyed reading Gilbert's thoughts on creativity but I just didn't get all that much out of it. But I wouldn't discourage anyone else from reading Big Magic, as I think everyone will interpret it differently.



Calm by Michael Acton Smith | ☆☆☆☆
A few weeks ago I was contacted by Penguin Random House and they asked me if I would like to take part in the re-promotion of Calm by Michael Acton Smith. Of course I said yes and you can read my post about Calm and practicing mindfulness here. It's a beautifully presented book with some really helpful ideas on how to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life and I really enjoyed poring over all the detail in every page. I think this book would be an extremely helpful introduction to someone who's never practiced mindfulness as it really makes you stop, think and take a breather.

Psycho: Sanitarium by Chet Williamson | ☆☆☆
Earlier this month I was kindly sent an early e-copy of Pyscho: Sanitarium by Chet Williamson before it's release on 12th April by Canelo books via ED pr.  This is the authorised sequel to Robert Bloch's original Psycho and follows Norman Bates during his time in a hospital for the criminally insane. It's a creepy, fast-paced murder-mystery thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. I seem to read ebooks quicker than physical books anyway but I just couldn't put this down and had it finished in a couple of sittings. It was slightly predictable but I enjoyed it nonetheless and it's made me really want to watch the tv series Bates Motel!

You by Caroline Kepnes | ☆☆☆☆
I was clearly still in a thriller mood so I picked up the much raved about You by Caroline Kepnes. I've heard so many people rave about this on booktube so I just had to read it. You is a stalker-thriller told from the point of view of the stalker, but the interesting thing about this book is that it's told in the second person:
"You walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn't slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige and it's impossible to know if you're wearing a bra but I don't think that you are."
- which is so creepy it's unreal.
This book freaked me the fuck out. It's so twisted and messed up but it's so incredibly written that at times Kepnes actually had me sympathising with the stalker - not okay! The plot was perfectly paced and it was so intensely gripping, when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about reading it, I literally couldn't get the story and the characters out of my head. This book was so brilliant that I probably would've given it five stars but I think it was just a bit too messed up even for me, the girl who watches murder documentaries back to back. That's how creepy it is. You should really read this if you haven't already.

So those are the books that I read in the first half of the month and I'll be back again with part two of my wrap up soon!

What are you reading right now?