Wednesday, 29 July 2015

‘The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks’ by E. Lockhart

Book details

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: Hot Key Books
ISBN: 9781471404405


Frankie Landau-Banks attends one of the most privileged schools in the country.

She is popular, cute and funny.

Her main preoccupation is the gorgeous Matthew Livingston.

But that’s not all there is to Frankie.

She’s also smart.

Then Frankie discovers Matthew has been keeping secrets from her.

What will she do to get even? How far will she go?

It’s up to Frankie…


I started reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks with relatively low expectations. I’d been looking for a lighthearted, mildly entertaining novel to help my brain recover from PESD (Post Exam Stress Disorder) and stumbled across the paperback on my sister’s bookshelf. Funnily enough, I didn’t even register that it was by E. Lockhart until I was about ten pages in, and by then I’d already kissed the rest of my plans for the day goodbye.

I should’ve learned from We Were Liars that one should never underestimate E. Lockhart’s ability to turn a seemingly ordinary teen love story into a novel that can practically rip the entire world to shreds.

There’s so much I want to say, but I’ll try and limit it to two main points:

1. The story, in isolation, is brilliant.

At first glance, Lockhart’s novel seems like yet another story about a teenage girl’s jealousy-driven revenge rampage on her lying boyfriend, in which she cuts holes in his favourite T-shirts and basically acts like Taylor Swift in her Blank Space music video.

Yeah, it has absolutely nothing to do with that. Replace the emotional wreck of a teenage drama queen with an ambitious mastermind, and then throw in some genius pranks, infiltration and a secret society of pompous teenage boys. Then wrap it all up in a beautiful little package of expert plotting and an inimitable narrative style, and you get a breathtaking novel that deserves every award it’s won.

2. Lockhart’s subtle social commentaries made my life.

The dark little commentaries in this novel are pure perfection. And if there’s one thing I absolutely love in a YA novel directed at middle to upper class teenage girls, it’s a social commentary that will make them think.

In this case, Lockhart deals with feminism and patriarchy in a predominantly white upper-class setting, but she writes about it in such a way that younger girls might finally be able to understand the reasoning behind feminist attitudes. Frankie, at fifteen, questions the sexist attitudes and double standards at her school. For her, it’s not enough to combat male power (like the all-boys secret society) with attempts to establish all-female power – she wants to infiltrate sexist institutions and demolish them from within. She questions and challenges the way in which boys see her, because she doesn’t want to have to pretend to be an air-headed piece of arm-candy just because she’s a woman. But then Frankie begins to act, and the results are as inspiring as they are destructive.

E. Lockhart is steadily emerging as a prominent YA author, and rightfully so. Evidently, she has something to say through her novels (which are essentially some of the most well-written YA books on the shelves right now) and I, for one, am beyond prepared to listen.

Rating: 5/5
Recommended to: All teenage girls and boys everywhere.

The Last Word

This quote is probably going to become my new mantra:

“It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people. She will not be simple and sweet. She will not be who people tell her she should be. That Bunny Rabbit is dead.”

'Uprooted' by Naomi Novik

Book details

Genre: YA Fiction
Publisher: PAN Macmillan
ISBN: 9781447298304


Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard known only as the Dragon to keep the Wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.


I love fairy tales. I love the timeless magic that seems to flow through every word, right from the fateful ‘Once upon a time’. I love the originals, with their gruesome, tragic endings, and the way the old words sound when they’re read aloud. I love the Disney remakes, and the dumbed-down, less explicit versions for children that focus on the beauty of magic rather than the darkness behind it. But I suppose my greatest downfall is that, above all else, I am addicted to modern retellings of the classics.

I’m serious. I’ll see a new novel in the bookstore with anything resembling a tower or a dragon on it and I’ll probably buy it without even looking at the blurb. And more often than not, it turns out to be yet another Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Snow White retelling that’s about as original and unique as a cheap souvenir from a gift shop in Disney World. (Cinder by Marissa Meyer is one of the few exceptions.)

But then there’s Uprooted.

Nothing I’ve ever read before could’ve prepared me for the magic that seemed to seep out of Uprooted every time I opened it. It would take no more than a couple of sentences to entirely sweep me out of my own world into Agnieszka’s small village – at times I could feel the threatening corruption of the Wood, or the cold grasp of the Dragon on my arms. Novik’s story in not merely about magic, it fashions a magic of its own that grows through your mind like climbing green vines.

I think what makes Agnieszka’s story so refreshing is that it isn’t based on any one of the typical (almost stereotypical) fairy tales. In fact, it isn’t based on a Western story at all. Novik weaves in characters and symbols from the Polish tales her mother told her as a child, but they never take center stage in the novel – Agnieszka’s story is entirely unique, which is startling because it seems so ancient and timeless in its dark, detailed magic and monsters.

 Then there are the characters. Gone are the heroic, spotless princes, the beautiful young maidens and the all-knowing wizards who typically steal the spotlight in all tales, both old and new. I think that’s awesome. I think it’s really, really wonderful that Novik’s protagonist is covered in dirt and dust half the time, and that her love interest isn’t typically handsome. I love that the princes shatter the stereotype of heroic valiance, and are rather portrayed as cruel, self-serving and ultimately quite stupid. Oh, and back to Agnieszka: I think it’s epic that she doesn’t rely on beauty or wit or grace to save herself. She manages to remain a smart village girl, in appearance and otherwise, throughout the novel, and she still kicks ass. That’s the type of message I like to see in fairy tales – it doesn’t always have to be the perfect, beautiful village girl that becomes the heroine of the story.

There’s still so much more I’d love to praise about Uprooted, but I think you get the picture. It’s a stunning novel, and wildly underrated at that. It’ll probably ruin your life for the few days you spend with your nose stuck in its pages, but it’s totally worth it.

Rating: 5/5 stars
Recommended to: Fans of Cinder, Mercy, Entwined, The Jewel, and even The Mortal Instruments and Harry Potter.

The Last Word

But even if you don’t like fairy tales look at this stunning cover! (It even matches my scarf #winning.)

Saturday, 25 July 2015

'The Jewel' by Amy Ewing

Date finished: 1 December 2014

Rating: 4/5

Enchanting and enthralling, The Jewel is a perfect fit for fans of DeStephano’s Chemical Garden series. Ewing brings a fresh twist to the world of Young Adult fiction with elements of fantasy, scandal, love and glamorous politics. The Jewel holds a haunting story that will remain in the back of its readers’ minds for years, or at least until the sequel is published.

In the Jewel, the center of society reserved for the elite, royal bloodlines are preserved by chemical conception. Stripped of her identity and auctioned off as a surrogate to the Duchess of the Lake, Violet Lasting is destined to carry the child of a woman she despises. Increased exposure to the scandal and politics of the Jewel shows Violet that she’s simply a pawn in the Duchess’s scheme to secure the throne. But with her sanity threatening to evaporate completely, Violet finds salvation in another captive, who might also be her demise.

Whilst captivating and heartbreaking, Violet’s story also explores several important issues emerging in today’s society. A wonderful read.

This review was also posted on The Bluestocking Review.

(So I've done three reviews - with three more to come - for The Bluestocking Review now, and I just realised that I completely forgot to post them here! That's why they're all dated half a year ago... Totally moronic move, I know. But I have at least three more reviews on hold that I'll be posting in the next few weeks, so stay posted.)

'Trigger Warning' by Neil Gaiman

Date finished: 19 April 2015

Rating: 5/5

It cannot be disputed that Neil Gaiman is among the finest fantasy writers of this generation. His latest compilation of short stories is evidence enough of his skill in weaving wonderfully weird and disturbing fairy-tales for adults that will remain embedded in the back of his readers’ minds forever.

Trigger Warning is not for the lighthearted. Its strange and often wildly unnerving contents are intended to provoke feelings in the reader that trigger strong emotional responses. We are continuously confronted with stories that contain death, tears, pain and helplessness – even the occasional happy ending. We are invited to explore the deepest contents of our imaginations, awaken the monsters of the past and face them courageously.

The craft of writing short stories is not an easy one. To write short stories that leave such a lasting impact on readers, and then to succeed in selling them despite this, should be close to impossible. Trigger Warning exceeds all expectations, and provides an intriguing and terrifying glimpse into the mind of a fantasy genius. I highly recommend reading Gaiman’s works.

This review was also posted on The Bluestocking Review.

'The Last Leaves Falling' by Sarah Benwell

Date finished: 19 April 2015

Rating: 1/5

The Last Leaves Falling is a striking novel that demands careful consideration of serious issues by its reader. Sora, a Japanese teenager with huge dreams, struggles to find friendship and courage in his struggle with ALS. Unfortunately, there are elements that did not sit well with me, and I constantly found myself questioning what exactly the author was trying to convey to her readers.

Although Benwell’s writing style and simplistic plot are far more suited to readers in their early teens, Sora’s opinions on death, suicide and his struggle against ALS are not entirely appropriate for younger readers. Overall, there is a dark underlying tone of helplessness and tragedy that, instead of challenging its readers, seems to advertise suicide as a courageous and noble death. Teenagers would be safer reading novels with darker content that present a more stable view on life, especially when suicide and self-harm are becoming increasingly prominent among adolescents.

This incompatibility of the storyline, teenage characters and main themes resulted in a confusing and overwhelming story that left me feeling ill at ease. This book is not worth the wasted time or emotional energy it demands.

This review was also posted on The Bluestocking Review.