Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Book Review: Under My Skin by James Dawson

Title:   Under My Skin
Author:  James Dawson
Series:    N/A
Published:    March 2015 by Hot Key Books
Length:  302 pages
Source: bought
Other info: James Dawson has also written Hollow Pike, Cruel Summer, This Book is Gay, Say Her Name, and Being a Boy
Summary : Meet Molly Sue. Once she's under your skin there's no getting rid of her...
Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally's about as shy and retiring as they come - but all that's about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour - and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back - hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.
But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head - or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue's. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl - in fact, she's mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue... and before long she's going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody 'under your skin.

Review: Sally Feather, Satanville fan, understudy to the main part in Little Shop of Horrors, otherwise shy and quiet girl, is heading home when she sees a creepy homeless guy screaming to get "it" out of him. Another day, she ends up in a tattoo parlour, where she is talked by mysterious owner Rosita into getting one. She chooses pinup girl Molly Sue. And then starts hearing her voice. And then starts losing time. Molly Sue seems to enjoy not being only a drawing any more, and, in the words of Rosita, "she's trouble."
I wanted to read this because I love James Dawson's work, especially Cruel Summer and Hollow Pike, and tattoos and possession and a TV show called Satanville, which is totally something I'd watch, make for something I was very excited to read.  Then I started reading. The opening scene is an audition for Little Shop of Horrors. I love that show. I could tell this was going to be good.
James' style is very similar to the one used in Say Her Name, full of little funny comment and  references. I liked it more in Under My Skin. I don't know why
My favourite character is Molly Sue. Yeah, she's the villain. But ohmygosh she's the best. Her first interactions with Sally is laughoutloud funny, I love her voice, and I love her feminism. Not an exact quote from page 160, but "Women aren't men without dicks. We're not missing anything. We're not holes to fill." and other parts of that speech. OK, maybe the situation that speech comes from and the methods she uses really aren't the best, but hey. The words are excellent. She also helps Sally stand up for herself, and for Jenny, which I'll get to later
'The other characters, I liked too. Sally develops a lot, with the help of Molly Sue but also with the help of her own experiences, such as with Todd(? Sorry, I've forgotten his name) and I love the final message she embodies of learning to live with herself and love herself and be independent.  Stan and Jennie are wonderful friends and the three of them are definitely friendship goals. Also, Jennie’s relationship? I think that was handled well-from what I’ve read, there isn’t much out there about abusive teen relationships (correct me if I’m wrong) and it is a real thing that can happen and I’m glad it’s a  thing that got brought up.
I think, like Say Her Name, Under My Skin would play out perfectly  as a film. That’s nothing against the book, it’s just the events, tropes, pacing and such fits well as a fun film with a serious undertone.   
On a final note, the aesthetics of this book are gorgeous! The tattoo style! The illustrations inside! The finish of the cover (stroke it!)! And the sprayed edges! Thank you very much, design team!
Overall:  Strength  4  tea to another story from one of my favourite authors –good plot, characters, and fun, and then extra love for  Molly Sue style feminism.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Giveaway Winners!

Sorry for taking so long to get round to this. Schoolwork and stress. Ugh. 

Anyway, giveaway winners! Thank you very much to everyone who entered and spread the word.
Winner time! It's Suzanne Smith and Liz R!

Also, you may remember I had a The Darkest Part of the Forest giveaway going. The winner for that was Rhoda!

Congratulations, guys. I'm emailing If you don't reply within two weeks, I'll pick another. Thank you for entering!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Book Review: Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind

 Title:  Spring Awakening (Original German title: Frühlings Erwache)
Author:  Frank Wedekind, translated by Francis J. Ziegler
Series:   N/A
Published:    Feb 2012 by Methuen Drama. Written 1890-1. First performed 1906.
Length:  192 pages
Warnings: rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion
Source: Project Gutenberg
Summary from Student edition:  Wedekind's notorious play Spring Awakening influenced a whole trend of modern drama and remains relevant to today's society, exploring the oppression and rebellion of adolescents among draconian parents and morals. This seminal work looks at the conflict between repressive adulthood and teenage sexual longings in a provincial German town. Highly controversial and with themes of sexuality, social attitudes and adolescence, the play is a popular and provocative text for study, especially at undergraduate level. 

Review: Late 1800s Germany.  Schoolboys and girls discover sexuality. It really does not go well. Among other things, Wedla Bergmann does not understand how babies are made, Moritz Stiefl is tormented by erotic dreams, and Melchior Gabor, having read about sex, now believes in nothing. In a series of scenes, we follow the teens as they try to navigate growing up.
You may have heard of the rock musical that got adapted from this play. It’s the controversial one that deals with rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion.  When the play first came out in 1906, it was criticised for sexuality, puberty, and homosexuality as well, but to be honest, that’s the least of everyone’s problems. As someone who quite enjoyed the musical and enjoys reading/seeing source material, I knew I’d have to read it someday.
I felt that some characters were quite underdeveloped. Martha’s story is only mentioned in passing, most girls don’t get any characterisation beyond fancying Melchior, and I didn’t really care for what happened to the boys other than Melchior and Moritz. We do get good characterisation for the three main characters, and we did get to know what some people were thinking in detail (see next paragraph). It could have been better though.
Giant monologues. Ugh.  I know monologues are a standard part of drama, and I don’t mind a couple. But they seem to drag on and on and on, Hanschen’s “have you prayed tonight, Desdemona” one in particular, and if I were seeing this live, I would probably want the actors to just be quiet.
The plot is mostly driven by subtle indications of what’s happening. There are not that many stage directions, and if I didn’t know the story from the musical, I’d have had to reread quite a few scenes to make sure I understood what was going on.
What I really like about this play is that while it was written to criticise the repression of the 1800s, despite 120 years passing, it’s still relevant today:  the young people are unprepared for life due to the inadequacy of adults. There’s a scene after Moritz dies in which the teachers are going to start discussing what to do about his death, but then they spend ages arguing over what window should be opened, which is the clearest example of adults failing to care for young people, a theme also seen when Wedla’s mother does not tell her about conception until it’s too late.  The young people are victims of the society that forces academic knowledge on them (if they’re boys), does not tell them about life (for almost everyone) and leaves them to discover it on their own, which leads to tragedy.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a tragedy that showcases perfectly what happens when sex-ed fails.
Links: Amazon Goodreads 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Guest Post: My Favourite Sherlock Holmes Adaptations by Adam Christopher

Today, I have Adam Christopher talking about his favourite adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. This is because his Elementary tie in novel Ghost Line is published today. As a fan of Conan Doyle's novels, the BBC adaptation (to a point) and Elementary (nearly to infinity), I'm definitely looking forwards to reading this one.

Since A Study in Scarlet first appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887, there have been innumerable adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes canon—the first, a stage play, coming as soon as 1894. Holmes and Watson are easily two of the most famous literary creations in modern history, and nearly 130 years after their first appearance, there is no sign of their popularity declining. I don’t remember when I first read the original Conan-Doyle stories, but I must have been about seven or eight, and the Holmes canon has remained a part of my life ever since.

I have two favourite adaptations of the stories—they are nearly polar opposites, but I think that shows the strength and flexibility of both the characters and the stories.

For literary and historical accuracy, the Granada Television series starring Jeremy Brett as the great detective is, I think, the definitive adaptation. Running from 1984 to 1994, they managed to film all but eighteen of the original stories, and the 41 episodes stick more or less to the source material. Brett is a pitch-perfect Holmes—eccentric, terrifyingly intelligent, more than a little unpredictable (even dangerous). His Holmes is an aloof genius, a loner who sometimes views the rest of humanity with an intelligence that is cold and indifferent. Watson was played by two different actors over the decade—David Burke and Edward Hardwicke—both of whom likewise took the role perfectly.

What I love about the Jeremy Brett series is the attention to detail and the historical accuracy. The deerstalker? Banished! Holmes wears a top hat in the city (as any Victorian gentleman would). The superb location filming and high production values make the show a visual feast.

My other Holmes adaptation I adore—for completely different reasons—is Elementary. Here, Holmes is transported from 19th Century London to 21st Century New York. A recovering drug addict, he is aided by his former sober companion, Joan Watson.

What makes Elementary so good is that it doesn’t attempt to simply translate the original Conan-Doyle stories to a modern setting. The show dips in and out of the canon as required, borrowing plot elements and characters, but within the context of what is a highly original and offbeat detective show.

The other reason for Elementary’s success is the casting. Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes owes a lot to Jeremy Brett, and his performance is truly extraordinary: this Holmes, like Brett’s, is eccentric, unpredictable, and a little dangerous. He is The Other, a person completely unlike the rest of us, who we can only try to understand through the point of view of his companion, Watson. Lucy Liu’s take on Watson is perfectly balanced against Miller’s Holmes—she is calm and logical, a guiding force for Holmes’s rather more chaotic persona.

But those are just my two favourites. We’re lucky, because such is the range of Sherlock Holmes adaptations that there is truly something for every type of fan.

Agreed with the last line- there's so many adaptations and spinoffs-canon era, modern era, mice, robots- of Sherlock, everyone can find something for them,

Elementary: Ghost Line can be bought off Amazon here and found on Goodreads here. Adam Christopher can be found on his website.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Book Review-The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

Title:  The Bunker Diary
Author:  Kevin Brooks
Series:   N/A
Published:  7 March 2013 by Penguin
Length: 268 pages
Warnings:  many things. Highlight [start] suicide, murder, quite extreme cruelty [/end]
Source: library
Other info: The Bunker Diary won the Carnegie Medal in 2014.
Summary : Room meets Lord of the Flies, The Bunker Diary is award-winning, young adult writer Kevin Brooks's pulse-pounding exploration of what happens when your worst nightmare comes true - and how will you survive?
I can't believe I fell for it. It was still dark when I woke up this morning. As soon as my eyes opened I knew where I was. A low-ceilinged rectangular building made entirely of whitewashed concrete. There are six little rooms along the main corridor. There are no windows. No doors. The lift is the only way in or out. What's he going to do to me? What am I going to do? If I'm right, the lift will come down in five minutes.  It did. Only this time it wasn't empty . .

Review: Linus has been abducted and is now in a bunker. He doesn’t know why. More and more people come into the bunker. They have to try and survive.
It is a terrifying idea. Everyone’s scared of random abduction, of not knowing what’s going to happen to you. Also, another thing to be scared of is humanity (I’ve learnt my lesson from that Doctor Who episode-Midnight). What people will do to eachother. What people will really think of eachother.
I liked the narration. It is, as the title suggests, the diary that Linus keeps while he’s kept in the bunker.  But we don’t know everything that Linus does-it states he doesn’t write everything in case The Man Upstairs comes and finds it. I really liked that idea-knowing even less than the character we see the story through. I also liked seeing the different ways people reacted, even if I kenw it wouldn't be that good for some people.
It’s one of the books for me where the literary criticism and reader criticism collide. From a literary point of view, I understand that we don’t get much development of Bird and Anja-Linus spends less time with them, reader spends less time with them. From a reader point of view, I want to know what they’re all thinking. Even more of a clash is the ending. From a literary point of view, I understand why Brooks would have ended it there. Linus doesn’t know, so we don’t know. From a reader point of view, it’s very unsatisfying. There’s no closure. We don’t get ANY of our questions answered.
It does keep you hooked from the start- not knowing anything, only finding things out in bits, the new things that The Man Upstairs puts in their way. Also, the tension, as well as the sittuation of being trapped, is heightened by the fact that these people are going to be unpredictable, and there isn’t a sense of cohesion, and ugh human relationships.  The feelings of panic, of claustrophobia, of uncertainness are brilliantly conveyed.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a book that’s gripping throughout most of it, but is let down by the end.
Links: Amazon Goodreads 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Fourth Blogoversary! And International Giveaway!

It's my fourth blogoversary. Wow.

I honestly never thought I'd still be blogging in the sixth form. I thought I'd have given up some time around my GCSEs.
And I did think about it. Many times. But I also thought I couldn't leave the community of the many friends I have gained through starting blogging, all the people I've met, all the things I wouldn't have done.

I've been to publisher launches (Love you, Hot Key Books. RIP, Strange Chemistry!). I've hosted semi-successful events (Rainbow Reads, The Month Before Halloween). I've written for The Guardian and been featured on it too. I've read much more widely than I would have done. I've met too many people to list, and been in contact with so many more.

I haven't been brilliant at it. Output has drastically fallen and attempts to increase it must be delayed until after coursework.

But this blog is still alive, and that calls for celebration.

So, international giveaway time!

TWO winners will each get to pick books that I have featured on the blog, to a value of up to £10 from The Book Depository. They could have been my wishlist, books I recieved, books I reviewed, anything. Just have a browse. If I convinced you to try a book, please say!
The rafflecopter below lets you enter, and you can earn extra by sharing the word.
The giveaway ends at the end of Sunday 15 March 2015. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway