Tag Archives: book review

All the Beautiful Girls – Elizabeth J. Church

I ended up quite enjoying this book about a girl with a horrendous childhood making her way in the world of 1960s Las Vegas show girls. Although I nearly ditched it when I had to read so much about the horrendous childhood. Just not the sort of thing I like reading at all.


I realise for the story to do its thing, we needed to have Lily come from a place of horror. Her parents and sister die in a car crash when she is eight years old. She is sent to live with her stern aunt, and paedophile, rapist uncle. He abuses her until she starts her period at twelve years old. It’s so horrible. I was just at the point of giving it one more page, and if there was any more rape descriptions I was giving up. Thank you menstruation!

Lily is a dancer, but of course what she ends up doing is being a showgirl. She’s beautiful, you see! Now here’s where I really quite enjoyed the book. Glamour, booze, gifts, growing up.

I also haven’t yet mentioned one of my favourite aspects of the book, Lily’s friendship with the man who crashed into her family’s car, killing them: the Aviator. It’s a weird, sweet, strange relationship.

If you can stomach the section where her horrible childhood is set up, then want a lovely growing up girls adventure in 1960s showgirl Las Vegas, then this might just be for you!


Frankenstein in Baghdad – Ahmed Saadawi

Set in US-occupied, war torn Baghdad, bombings are a daily event, and bodies are commonplace. This is the setting for a Frankenstein inspired take on life in Baghdad. I really enjoyed reading Frankenstein in Baghdad, and would encourage you to read it too! It’s not a retelling of Mary Shelley’sĀ Frankenstein, it’s about life in US occupied Baghdad for the ordinary citizens.


Hadi, a junk collector pieces together a full body from pieces of bodies he has found in the street. This corpse gets reanimated by the soul of a car park attendant, killed in a car bomb attack.

The monster wants to get revenge on all the people who wronged the people he is made up from. He spends a lot of time exacting revenge and contemplating his motivations and methods.

But the monster isn’t really the main thing that goes on in Frankenstein in Baghdad. The real story, is about a community that tries to go about it’s day to day business, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.



We meet various people in the neighbourhood. We learn who their local friends and enemies are. We learn about their histories, their triumphs and their tragedies. We find out about family members and friends who have already abandoned Baghdad, and wrestle themselves with if and when to take refuge somewhere else. I’m not going to delve into all the individual stories here, because I don’t want to reveal any plot spoilers, but one of the characters is an old woman desperately hoping for the return of her son, missing for many years. Her story really touched me the most.

Frankenstein in Baghdad won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and Saadawi lives and works in Baghdad. I don’t read many books in translation, and want to read more. This insight into the daily life of Iraqi civilians living in, what for most of us are, unimaginable conditions. It’s grim in parts (obviously!), it’s darkly funny, and it’s satirical. A great read!

P.S. I was given this copy of the ebook in return for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!


The Book of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch

A post-apocalyptic, feminist sci-fi adventure. Sounds awesome! and it is šŸ™‚

Earth is dead after a series of environmental disasters, and seemingly endless wars. The Earth population is barely clinging to life and humanity is just about surviving on a system of space stations, populated by Earths elite, goverened by the Trumplike Jean de Man. The station robs Earth of its very last resources.


The space station population have developed porcelain skin, they get elaborate skin grafts that make them look like eighteenth century French nobility, with billowing skin that trails upwards and behind them from all limbs, oh and everyone’s reproductive systems have shrivelled up and become useless. Also, everyone has to die when they reach fifty years old, so as not to be a drain on resources.

That’s what happens when geocatastrophe is amplified by radiation. Put simply, we devolved. Our sexualities mutated and devolved faster than you can say fuck.

On the stations is Christine. She is unsatisfied with how life on the station has turned out, and is strongly drawn to the story of Joan, the girl warrior who lead the opposition to Jean de Man, who seemed to have a link with the Earth itself. She was executed by burning as one last destroying of the opposition before the space stations were populated, martyring her. But is she really dead? and can she offer any hope for the future of humanity?

I want her story back. The one that was taken from her and replaced with heretic. Eco-terrorist, Murderous maiden who made the Earth scream.

The Book of Joan is a really enjoyable sci-fi adventure. It is delightfully sweary and gets into quite a lot of gender politics – especially considering gender has become irrelevant in the current society.

Men are among the loneliest creatures. They lose their mothers and cannot carry children, and have nothing to comfort themselves with but their vestigial cockular appendages. This is perhaps the reason they move ever warward when they are not moving fuckward. Now that the penis is defunct, a curling-up little insect, well, who can blame them for their behaviour?

Joan is a great character. She’s savage and animalisitic, yet she’s a teenager (for part of the story anyway!). Her connection to the Earth is mysterious and clearly (if it isn’t obvious enough already!) she is a Joan of Arc character.


I think feminist sci-fi might be my favourite sub-genre. I must read some more of it!


P.s I was provided with a free copy of The Book of Joan in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

I was very excited to be reading Little Fires Everywhere after absolutely falling in love with Ng’s first novel: Everything I Never Told You.Ā Happily, Little Fires is also a great read. I didn’t love it quite as much as Everything (though this would have been difficult – I loved the first one so, so much).


Little Fires Everywhere is about the meeting of two very different families in a nice suburban, American town. There are the Richardsons. A family who play by all the rules of society and are rewarded for it. Then there are the Warrens, a mother and daughter who defy convention.

Mia Warren is an artist who moves her and her daughter, Pearl, to a new town every six months or so. They take what they can fit in their car and leave the rest.

Pearl befriends the Richardson children. She is drawn to their nice, stable, family life. Whereas the misfit Richardson daughter, Izzy, is drawn to artist Mia and her unconventional approach.

There’s a fairly huge cast of characters and, brilliantly, they are all fleshed out and completely believable. I always come away from a Celeste Ng novel feeling all the feelings. I feel like I was 100% with the emotions of the characters and like I completely understand their motivation and the reasons for their decisions. I love this about her books.

I also love that Little Fires Everywhere isn’t solely focussed on the teenage characters. As events progress we learn a lot about the history of both mothers, and understand how this influences decisions they make. We learn about the circumstances of Pearl’s birth, and the kind actions of a fairly grumpy neighbour nearly broke me! That’s probably due to the very clear memories I have of just how difficult those early baby days were.

The first night back in the rented room, Pearl had cried and cried until Mia herself had begun to cry… Then there was a soft knock at the door, and stern Mrs. Delaney appeared and held out her arms. “Give her here,” she said, with such authority that Mia handed the soft bundle over without thinking. “Now you lie down and get some rest,” Mrs. Delaney said, shutting the door behind her, and in the abrupt silence Mia flopped down on the bed and fell instantly asleep.

God bless stern Mrs. Delaney!

I haven’t really mentioned the plot at all, and I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s probably important to note that the book starts with the Richardson house burning to the ground, and their daughter Izzy missing and the chief suspect.

There’s a situation with an abandoned baby which forms the main part of the plot and both families are intricately linked with the scandal.

Little Fires Everywhere is a great book. šŸ™‚


P.s. I was provided with a free copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!


Slayers and Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorised Oral History of Buffy and Angel – Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

This book will be interesting to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Angel. Though even as a huge Buffy fan, I found it a little too long and repetitive, and a bit too much of a love fest! I enjoyed it, but would have welcomed a bit more criticism. This is probably unfair of me though, because this book is an oral history and isn’t set up as being critical essays. Maybe I just wish that was what I was reading instead!


For those that don’t know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best TV series ever. Fact. If you’ve never watched it, then you probably should get on it soon. It’s generally lauded as a groundbreaking, feminist television series with a god-like genius creator, Joss Whedon.

This is definitely the take of the book, and I love Buffy, I love it so much, but wow, I can love it and see its faults and the problems with Whedon.

Firstly, Buffy and Angel generally have a problem with characters of colour. There are hardly any of them, and the ones that do exist generally have unhappy endings. See this article for more detail. The book details things like the network not wanting a black character in the Scooby Gang because they didn’t want to potentially show any interracial relationships. WTF?

Also, Whedon comes in for virtually no criticism at all – despite a completely horrendous account of how Charisma Carpenter was treated after she told them she was pregnant. The quotes with regard to this are awful. She was chastised and basically written off the show. How dare she get pregnant without thinking about the show. Seriously disturbing.

Look, there was a lot of anger about Charisma. I think probably mainly from Joss. It felt a little bit like we were all working our asses off to keep these people employed and it’s, like, you have to take that into consideration before you make any life choices. You just do.

David Fury


A lot of his terrible behaviour is written off with a ‘oh, but he’s a genius, so it’s ok’. It’s not.

I find these anecdotes really terrible:

He loves to make jokes that make actors insecure; he thinks it’s really funny. He loves to say, “By the way, you’re fired,” and then he gets a chuckle out of it. Then he says, “Every time I say that to an actor, they never laugh.” That’s because it’s really not funny Joss.

What a dick!

Still, I really love Buffy (Angel is alright too šŸ™‚ ) and it’s a worth a read if you are a bit of a die hard fan, and there is loads of interesting stories about making the show. You hear from lots of the main characters, the behind the scenes people, and minor characters. It gives a nice insight into the writing and production process.

There’s a truly cringe worthy description of Joss Whedon’s Shakespeare recital parties. It’s presented as a fun thing, but oh god, it sounds so bad!



But back to the brilliance of Buffy:

As Buffy proves time and time again, patriarchy is ever present, but it cannot prevail. The seven seasons of the show depict a world in which institutional, familial, and individual-level patriarchy oppresses and disadvantages women, but it is something that can always be overcome. The fight to end this domination is no easy feat, as there is always a struggle to gain equality and independence. Buffy shows a realistic version of an ideal world: man may try to control women, but their efforts can and will be beaten.

Which is all great, but contrasted with the experiences of some of the actresses on the show, is majorly disappointing.


Slay all day


On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder

This short, powerful book should be read by everyone. Immediately! It is 20 lessons from the twentieth century about tyranny and has been written as a direct response to the Trump presidency. Chilling. More importantly, each lesson tells you what you can be doing to combat this. It’s so good, and only takes an hour (or maybe a little more) to read (128 pages).


I loved that the lessons each give you a practical thing you can do to protect democracy, and combat the rise of tyranny and fascism. These range from supporting institutions to making eye contact and small talk with your neighbours. I loved so many of the lessons but it’s such a short book I don’t want to tell you too many in this review. It is a practical list of 20 things you and I should be doing. Each lesson is backed up with a twentieth century example of where failing to do this particular thing lead directly to the rise of a tyrannical regime.

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

It’s super short, super smart snippets of analysis and advice and best of all it’s totally accessible.Ā  Read it, read it, read it!

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

*this review contains some discussion of the whole plot of the novel. They aren’t really spoilers though because it’s not that sort of book. But you may want to avoid reading my review until you’ve read it*

Remains of the Day is a quiet, subtle novel about dedicating your life to a profession and the realisation that this might not have been the best way to live your life. At least that’s what I took away from it after finishing the book. It’s a very gentle rad, but I really enjoyed the journey.


Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, is going on his first short driving holiday, to the West Country. While he’s there he is going to visit Miss Kenton, an old housekeeper of Darlington Hall. He’s hoping she will come back to work with him. It is 1956 and he’s been the butler at Darlington Hall for 30 years.

While he travels he reminisces about the glory days of Darlington Hall, and when he considers he was at the peak of his profession. This was between the world wars when the Lord of the house was involved in international politics and therefore the house was often busy, and visited by important people.Ā  It transpires that Lord Darlington’s efforts became an embarrassment in later years, due to his sympathetic attitude to Germany and his association with right wing extremists. Stevens is unwaveringly loyal to Lord Darlington and sees this as a measure of his professionalism.

So much of this novel is gained from what is not said. Stevens reminisces touch on his definition of dignity and how this has shaped his behaviour in life. He never allowed himself to be ‘off-duty’ unless he was alone. This affected his relationships, or rather lack of them, throughout his life.

The discoveries he makes about himself, as he reminisces on his driving holiday, are completely heartbreaking. I really enjoyed this novel and it’s very quiet style and would quietly recommend it.