The New Moon’s Arms

The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson was the most unique book I had read in a while. We were approaching the mid-point in my first semester of second year and I was told that next book I would have to read was fantasy. Perfect! Finally I get to study a book from my favourite genre! Yet, I quickly realised this book was very different from the usual ‘Lord of the Rings’-style fantasy I have grown to love.

To put it simply, this book is about the magic of menopause, oh and mermaids too. Our main character Calamity, formally known as Chastity, is getting old, and she’s having none of it. It’s bad enough that the menopause is striking hard and fast, but then she finds a strange boy washed up on the shore.

Fellow classmates in my seminars had mixed feelings about this book, and in particular our protagonist Calamity. There are several scenes in the novel where she expresses some pretty homophobic and downright offence opinions. The thing that started to frustrate me though, is that some took this as meaning that Hopkinson aligned herself with these views.

In my opinion, I think the author wanted us to dislike Calamity, to feel uneasy with her thoughts and actions. There are plenty of other moments (which I won’t spoil) that certainly don’t paint our Calamity is a good light. If anything, I think the complex construction of Calamity shows that Hopkinson isn’t afraid to shy away from these issues.

The story itself captivated me. The way Hopkinson seamlessly blended fantasy with reality was so powerful I was starting to believe the mermaids could actually exist. Now I say that lightly. I don’t think Hopkinson conjured this narrative to get us to believe that there are merpeople in our oceans or that the menopause makes you find lost things. Instead, I believe her story become a commentary on both technology and ideas on colonialism.

Technology is heavily featured in the novel in the form of Evelyn, Calamity’s school bully turned doctor. Evelyn and the other doctors are constantly looking to correct the sea boy Agway, to remove the markings on his legs that help him swim and so on. It turns out this doesn’t fair out for Agway in the long run, but let’s just say he ends up where he belongs.

The colonial narrative runs pretty clear through the novel. Calamity and the other humans see Agway as something to be tamed and transformed to look and behave more human. What I found most significant, something which Calamity’s grandson Stanley of all people points out, is that at no moment does Calamity go to great efforts to learn Agway’s language. Instead, she perseveres to teach him English language and culture, much to her eventual failure. This may be reflective of the dominance of the Western culture and how assertive the West are in imposing their culture onto the rest of the world.

All in all, I am certainly considering giving this book a second read. I am pretty sure there were a million and one things I missed the first time round, purely from the richness of Hopkinson’s writing and ability to craft a truly compelling story. 4/5 stars.



Rapid Reading

As someone who currently studies English Literature with Creative Writing at university, you could say I know something about reading under pressure. Now I’m moving into my second year, I’m pretty much required to read about 4 books a week. I know other English students, and avid readers alike, would find that easy, but for someone who can famously be a slow reader at times, this is a challenge. To make matters worse, not only do I have to read these books, but read them actively, which for me translates into having a pencil ready to underline anything and everything.

I’d like to think, from my experience in my first year, that I can still mildly cope with reading at this speed, partly because I know I have to, otherwise I’d be spending 9 hours a week in lectures with constantly glazed eyes. However, what this past long summer has taught be is that it’s okay to slow down when you’re reading for pleasure. Even now I have to remind myself when I’m reading my ‘pleasure book’ to put down the pencil and just read. I don’t have to start thinking of themes that I could use to connect this book with another, or consider the symbolism the author uses to foreshadow a big moment or revelation. I can simply snuggle up in my bed, light my trusty scented candle, and read.

Therefore, going into my second year, I’d like to set myself a goal: to take time to read a ‘pleasure book’. By this I mean taking a break from reading a book for my course and, even if it’s only for 30 minutes, read a book I’ve actually been excited to pick up!

Wolf by Wolf

I picked this book up after a I spent a good few months not reading at all. I had entered a reading slump and my typical contemporary young adult books just didn’t seem to tick all the boxes for me anymore. I came across Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin when it was recommended by a you-tuber I watched and for a while it was simply gathering dust on my bookshelf. Historical fiction, like crime, is a genre I had never really delved into, with the exception of The Book Thief.

Like many books I have read, what drew me into picking up this book were two things: a kick-ass female protagonist and a resistance. As a huge fan of franchises like Star Wars, the idea of the novels story being surrounded by the hope of a resistance was exciting to me. Having the limited education of the Second World War of a few lessons in secondary school, Wolf by Wolf delved into a different area that I knew little about: the experiments that German doctors would perform on the prisoners. I felt like Wolf by Wolf was a natural transition into the historical fiction for me because Yael, the protagonist, was a shape-shifter, bringing in that beloved fantasy element into the story.

Wolf by Wolf was utterly and indubitably engaging. For a novel where the protagonist spends the majority of the time driving, Graudin was completely successful in sustaining my interest in Yael’s fate and if she actually manages to kill Hitler! Another thing that impressed me about this book was how the romantic subplot was not overpowering, something that other young adult books – for me – have fallen victim too. This does not mean there was no romance in the novel (the rocky relationship between Yael and fellow rider Luka was curious as well as stimulating), but Yael’s impulsive attraction towards the boy did not cause her to deviate from her original mission. Hooray for strong women! 🙂

Without spoiling too much, when I finished this book I was initially disappointed. It ended on those kind of cliff-hangers where the goal was achieved, but not in the way that it was planned… Then I thankfully discovered that there is a sequel!! I have many other books that have been sitting on my shelf for too long, but I will definitely be revisiting Graudin’s work again!

I give Wolf by Wolf a solid 5/5 stars!!


I’m a firm believer that if you’re not interested in the book you’re reading anymore, then it doesn’t seem much use in finishing it. This is exactly what I found with Plague by Michael Grant, the 4th installment in his Gone series.

The previous book, Lies, was mediocre for me, but I finished it, and therefore felt obliged to continue with the series. I had got to about halfway through Plague when I started asking myself if I really cared enough about these characters and story-lines to finish the book. Obviously, the answer was no.

I began to find Grant’s writing in this series a bit basic, losing my engagement several times. It was still as action packed as the other books, but there as just something about reading this one that was enough for me. Maybe it’s because recently I’ve been buying quite a few books that I’m excited about, diminishing the excitement about Plague. I began to fall out of love with the story and the characters. The protagonist I once found endearing, I now just found irritating and brooding and the supposed villain was so far away from the main conflict of the plot it made me question if he was much of a threat in the first place.

Overall, it’s very likely I may never return to this series again. But I’m feeling optimistic and maybe I won’t give away those books just yet…

You Know Me Well

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan is a novel about love, friendship and finding yourself. Kate and Mark had been in the same class for years, but on the night where Kate found the boy dancing on a bar, everything changed.

This book was inspiring. I had read a few LGBT novels in my time and most seem to have the cliché of a boy/girl falling in love with their same sex best friend, the end of the book resulting in the two being a couple. However, whilst this was party true for ‘You Know Me Well’, there were definitely some fresh perspectives.

Mark has been in love with his best friend Ryan for years and, having read books with this similar premise, I imagined a scene where Mark would realise Ryan had the exact same repressed feelings and that they were going to live happily ever after would happen. But this was not the case. Instead, the authors focused more on Mark coming to grips with his confidence, but not the type when a gay man struggles to come out; Mark was already openly gay from the get go. Mark goes through a journey in this novel of accepting that life isn’t going to be perfect and that’s okay. The fairy-tale scenario where Ryan loves him back doesn’t happen (in fact, Ryan ends up with another boy in the end) and at first this is the main turmoil in Mark’s story and, as readers we are yelling at the pages asking why the hell Ryan doesn’t love him back. However, the main theme of this novel is friendship and I think no reader could deny that Mark and Ryan’s friendship is invincible. Despite initially being heartbroken by rejection, Mark realises there is light at the other end of the tunnel and it seems that the light bulb is Kate.

Kate falls in love with Violet, a girl her best friend Lenha has talked to her about for years. But when the two lovebirds finally meet, Kate is terrified. At first, I didn’t understand her anxiety: Kate was about to meet the girl of her dreams, and she likes her back, but she runs away? Then, like a light bulb switched on above my head, it was obvious that Kate too struggled with confidence and identity. Her fear about starting college is something that strays from the typical teenager who can’t wait to leave home. For me, the authors created one of the most realistic teenagers I’ve seen. Someone who’s not so certain on who she is yet or what the future holds, but she is willing to find out.

One of my favourite quotes from this book is from Mark. When asked who he is, he replies “I am becoming” and I think that rings true for a lot of people, especially teenagers. This book showed me the importance and value of friendship and hpw it can really change people’s lives. Unlike most YA novels, love was a subplot and the spotlight shone on the ever-strengthening friendship between two people. Two people who help each other and therefore send the message of how important it is to have someone beside you, to have a “partner in crime”.

I will happily give this book a 5/5 stars for it’s refreshing themes and relatable characters. The writing was comical, but also had that sophistication of a published novel, something that is usually difficult to find.


After reading the third installment of the Gone series by Michael Grant, I started to feel slightly confused about the direction of the series…

Lies was an average book for me. Judging by the title, you could probably guess that everyone went wrong in this plot because of people not telling the truth. One thing that I have realised reading this book is how many characters are actually involved in this series. It seems that Grant keeps adding new charaters, instead of perhaps building and expanding upon the ones he has already established. However, most of the main cast (excluding our protagonist Sam) have been explored to an extent, but the focus does still seem to be on adding more characters.

In particular, I wasn’t overly excited about the introduction of the kids from the island: Sanjit, Virtue, Peace, Bowie and Pixie. To be honest, what Grant achieved with this story line could have probably had the same effect if it were just Sanjit and Virtue. Perhaps it was to make it seem that Sanjit had more responsibility, but on the other hand, I saw it as more empty space been filled up with names. However, once Sanjit’s situation was given more background, I did start to find the character interesting, especially since they have been completely oblivious to what has been going on on the mainland.

Another aspect of the book I would like to focus on is Sam and Astrid’s relationship, which seemed to be all over the place. I understand that for a fictional relationship to be interesting to readers it can’t be a walk in the sun all the time, but it seems that through the entirety of the book Sam and Astrid were arguing in some form or another. This therefore started to make me care less and less whether they actually worked things out in the end, but maybe that is what Grant was after…

Perhaps Grant drove this wedge between Sam and Astrid to explore Sam’s own mental issues, something about the book which I did find quite enlightening. Grant gave us the reality (well as much reality as you can in fiction) about being a hero and how isn’t always fun being in charge. It offered a fresh perspective and made Sam a much more realistic and relatable character which is something I can get behind.

Overall, I would give Lies by Michael Grant a 3/5 stars. Whilst some fight scenes and new character stories were entertaining, there were point whether I felt over loaded with character names that seem to not serve a significant purpose.

Ode To Writing

As an exercise to help us understand analysing poetry better, my English Literature class was set the task of writing a sonnet in iambic pentameter. Even though this isn’t a book review, I thought I’d share what I wrote for my sonnet:



Ode to Writing
Shuffling scribbled papers as the hands
Tick closer to midnight, scolding drink
Warming my mind, my words. Perfecting plans
Until sound. Love is being on the brink

Of an idea, realising tales can be
Your own. When their craft becomes your own craft
It’s magic. A special power to see
That a word can change into first draft.

I am a sorcerer, my love’s magic
To turn this novel into a classic.


So I’m finally getting around to writing my review on Hunger by Michael Grant, the second installment of the Gone series! There is the common misconception (usually made in trilogies) that most sequels suffer the ‘second book blues’, but I can certainly say Hunger was an exception.

At first, Hunger seemed a non-starter. Yes, the introduction of hunger being an important issue in apocalypse situations was different, but it seemed that in the first few chapters not much was going to change. It was only when Grant integrated ‘The Darkness’ into more scenes that things got interesting. Reading a scene about a bunch of kids whining about being hungry can take its toll after a while, but an ominous and dangerous entity being hungry? Now that makes things interesting. The way Grant writes the Darkness or the ‘gaiaphage’ almost gives a sense of inevitability: surely a bunch of kids with some weird mutations can’t stop this destructive force?

When the Darkness was written into more scenes, I began to question how Grant was actually going to connect this monster with the characters. Queue Lana Lazar! I would definitely say that Lana is one of the most strongest and complex characters in the series so far. Despite being a healer, her mind is far from undamaged. The Darkness begins to latch onto her and distort her mind, making her story arc much more compelling compared to the other characters.

Without giving away too much, there are definitely enough questions left unanswered in Hunger to compel me to carry on with the series, but not too many to make me feel like I learnt nothing in the book I read. I rate this book a solid 4/5 stars!

A review for Lies (the third books in the series) will be up soon!)

Discovering Crime Fiction

It was just recently that I finished reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, the first crime fiction book that I have read. Previously, I have never thought about picking up any crime fiction novels and only started reading Brown’s novel because it was recommended to me by a friend.

Since finishing The Da Vinci Code, I have started to reflect on my choices when I choose a novel to read,and perhaps why crime fiction has never appealed to me in the past. One way to back track my choices is by looking at my past attempts to immerse myself into the genre by reading A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Cohan Doyle, one of the authors many famous Sherlock Holmes tales. Even at this stage, I didn’t pick up the book because I was particularly fascinated with the crime genre, but instead it was because of the growing popularly of the Sherlock Holmes character, especially in the recent television adaptations. To be truthful, I expected this book to be a very quick and easy read, the novel being just over 150 pages. However, my younger self was left disappointed when a week later I hadn’t even reached the 100th page. As someone who is now older and therefore more well read, I often think about whether my opinion of A Study in Scarlet would be any different to how it was before. I remember finding the book very slow paced and rather actual than creative, perhaps because I was expecting the same excitement from the television show to shine through in the novel.

It had been several years before I even thought about picking up another crime novel and I am very glad that the one that got me properly into the genre was The Da Vinci Code. For me, it seemed to serve the purpose of being fast-paced with multiple plot twists and secrets that made sure I never put it down. The scenes were energetic in the way Brown wrote them, almost as if you are discovering the secrets at the same time as Robert Landon. I think the main reason as to why I haven’t read any crime fiction is because I was already too immersed in the fantasy genre. I poured over the works of Tolkein and Rowling and, quite naively, only saw myself enjoying novels written about another world. I still enjoyed contemporary, but I have always associated my true love for reading in fantasy books.

The real world seemed boring to me and I wanted to read whatever I could that would mean I could escape it. As a more mature reader (who still adores the fantasy genre), I have began to appreciate the works of crime fiction and how the authors can warp our own reality, showing the reader how exciting and action packed the real world can be.

The Connotations of Marriage and Propriety

The following blog post is notes and my thoughts upon reading a critical essay about The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper.

Both Chopin and Gilman have established a new era for literature in their works, their ideals that were presented in their texts now firmly planted in history. They were representing the “new feminine presence.” A literary convention is something that brings a set of inferences with it to influence the reader and shaped the appearance of the novel authors were trying to form. In Chopin and Gilman’s case, they look at the conventions of marriage and propriety (meaning to conform to the accepted standards of behaviour). However, as readers we could still question whether reader of the time when these books were released into the literary world were recognised for the message they were sending across. Chopin and Gilman tackle this difficulty by presenting their protagonists cry out for help in the form of rebellion. In their novels, these women “give birth” to new female conventions that are based upon the words they have chosen.

The “mother-woman” (Chopin, 8) is a role that is identified with the convention of propriety. “It is a behavioral code which bases a woman’s identity on her capacity to bear children, look after them and worship the patriarch.” As a modern reader, we can clearly see how skewed this view is of the responsibilities of women and how they should act. This is particularly prominent when the narrator in Gilman’s piece writes “There comes John’s sister. She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession.” This already degrades the ambitions of a women, society seeing them as limited and always within the house. We see that this has been rooted so much in society that even the women themselves can’t seem them striving for anything better. The Latin root of the word propriety is propietas, which means ownership, linking to how society saw women as objects or property to men. Chopin uses this in her novel, it being reflected as the norm in society as Leonce says to Edna that ” You are burnt beyond recognition,’ he added, looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of property which has suffered some damage.” We can see immediately how degrading this is of Edna as she is compared to a piece of property of her husband.

It can be argued in both novels they the topic of marriage being “the ultimate indemnification of patriarchy” is presented and criticised. It is not presented as a partnership, but more of a man and property relationship, designed to see ridiculing women as the social norm. Gilman addresses this when the she writes “John laughs at me, but one expects that in marriage.” Chopin equally critcises this skewed view of marriage when Edna takes out her anger on that “small gold ring”. Chopin writes that “Once she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring flung it upon the carpet. When she saw it lying there, she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it”. Edna’s rebellion is apparent here and precise. “Her frustration is emphasized by the fact that her attempts are met with absolute resilience.”

Reference: Michael James Mahin. Women Writers, Online. Internet. 12/09/16