book reviews, crone book club

The Exact Opposite of Okay

35817737The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Published: March 8th 2018 by Electronic Monkey

Rating: XXXXX

“Basically, if you’re a woman, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…
I had seen this book a few times and sadly did my usual, “oh its contemporary, I don’t know if I’m that interested” and passed it by. I need to stop doing this (that’s a whole other blog post) because I almost missed this AMAZING book. Thankfully Jenn from the #CroneBookClub picked this as our read for May and I managed to just squeeze it in after this months other reads and WOW. I’m so glad for it.
This book is something I would recommend every person on the planet read. Not just because it’s a great read but also because of the situations and messages portrayed within the story that are SO important and need to be understood by men, women, girls, boys and honestly any other gender on the spectrum because we live in a world where too many of us tear each other down, we emotionally manipulate those we supposedly care about and are emotionally manipulated by them and slut shaming is so rampant and practised by so many, not to mention the terrifying wave of revenge porn ushered in with the birth of camera phones and social media. Although stereotypically we find men behind revenge porn and spouting about the imaginary friend zone just as women tend to be some of the worst for slut shaming and I want to address first that I know this isn’t always the way. Any gender and sexuality is capable of these things but during this review I’ll be using the examples used within the book.
I managed to read The Exact Opposite of Okay in about three sittings and could not put it down. The story is written in a blog post format that I’m becoming increasingly fond of, it gives the narrative an extra twist of personality and is the perfect way of bringing Izzy’s particular brand of humour across, I especially liked the added closed captions often explaining or adding more information and comments from a later date as well. I think this easy to read format was one of the reasons it was such a quick read for me, possibly because I’m a blogger or a young(ish – haha) enough person that I’ve been around technology for a good deal of my life and therefore read a lot of information in this kind of format.
The personality of the characters in this feel done very well and I had no trouble remembering who was who and what they were like etc. I found myself very protective of Izzy and Ajita and I did have to have a brief break to rant and rave to my poor husband about how people need to mind their own business re: slut shaming etc and a long intense full on rant about how the friend zone is a stupid figment of imagination dreamed up by “butt hurt” men (again I know not always men but in this case it was relevant to the situation and my personal experience). This is a good thing, this book should make people angry at the injustices that the main character and others are subjected to because these things happen every single day to people around us and that is not okay. This book feels like it stoked a fire that had previously just been simmering embers inside me and it made me so mad for the people events like these affect.
I was extremely satisfied with the ending which is a rarity for me, I usually don’t like endings but this felt like it ended right and I was happy with it.
After Laura Steven herself joined the Crone Book Club for their monthly chat to discuss her book she revealed that there is in fact a sequel coming next year AND a spin-off about a murder podcast also set at Edgewood and I’m excited for both of these! If you haven’t checked out The Exact Opposite of Okay I highly recommend you do so! I feel like this is such an important book not to mention enjoyable, don’t let my ranting about the subject put you off because this book is genuinely so enjoyable and funny.
Thank you for checking out my review and I’ll catch you again soon.
Jemma.
jemma setterington
book reviews, spoiler free

The Fandom – Spoiler Free Review

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The Fandom by Anna Day.

Rating: XXXX

Published: January 4th 2018 by Chicken House. (I received an uncorrected proof copy at YALC ’17)

“We’re not in Cosplay anymore…”

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands …

I’m ashamed this took me so long to get around to reading, I think because there was a good while until it’s release date I put it in the “I’ll get to it later” pile and it kind of got buried.  Thankfully it was chosen as the first book for the #CroneBookClub so this seemed like a good time to crack it out and finally get stuck in.

The premise doesn’t feel especially new and feels quite like an updated Wizard of OZ but instead of this world our main character has never heard of or imagined, Violet is plunged right into the world of her favourite book. I love the idea even if it does feel like it’s been done I had trouble naming anything that was quite like this. That being said it didn’t entirely turn out how I thought it would and those twists and turns kept it feeling a bit fresher to me. One of the problems I feel is that we know how it has to end, right at the beginning, Violet gives a presentation on the book and explains the whole thing (erm…spoilers!) At first I thought this was a great, easy but natural way to get heavier chunks of world building set up for when we entered the world of “The Gallows Dance” (which I would totally have read and loved) but as it turned out their time in that world was just a replay of the story we just heard, whole chunks began to feel stale as we already knew what happened and I got pretty tired of hearing “the cannon” or anything relating to it after a while. It does however, really start to improve about two thirds of the way in when things began to deviate more and the bigger twists happen. If I could I would give those first two thirds a XXX rating and the last third a XXXX even if the ending felt a little twee.

I’m not sure if it’s the writing, the actions of the characters, the premise of the plot itself or because I’m at least ten years older than most of the characters but it felt decidedly middle grade to begin with, (which is fine, just not what I had expected and made it feel a little harder to get into for me personally.) That being said, it does have some much darker notes as the story progresses that place it very firmly in the YA genre and I’m glad I stuck with it after initially not being sure. There was a particular scene a little early on that I personally found to be absolutely terrifying and maybe even a little triggery, it might not affect everyone or even most people but I had to turn off my audio book and listen to something else for a bit. Just a warning as it was something I completely didn’t expect in a book that had felt middle grade up to that point. There aren’t any other scenes that I found affected me in quite the same way but when this book goes dark it really doesn’t pull it’s punches or it’s twists. I took a few breaks from this book due to being mad at characters, in shock or upset and it sounds masochistic but this is why I read. I love translating those written words into real emotions and if I don’t feel anything about a book then it has no lasting impact and I often forget it, this isn’t one of those books.

I always feel that the characters and tone in a lot of the contemporary stories feel much younger because the characters don’t seem as mature as the fantasy characters who have usually got some kind of hard or tragic backstory so they need to grow up and mature quicker so I often imagine them a lot older than they are where as these characters were almost impossible to dot that with and that works well here because “The Fandom” isn’t just contemporary or just Fantasy or Dystopia it’s a unique blend of both and I found it a little disorientating at first but the more I think about it and reflect I can see the writing style and the whole story organically interchanging between those genres.

I wasn’t sure about quite a few of the characters, not because they’re written badly or not developed etc I just didn’t like them as actual people. Violet does have a great character arc and I loved watching her grow into a good person that I enjoyed reading about, I thought the relationship between her and her brother Nate was extremely well done and I was pleased to see it included as the older or younger brothers I see in a lot of books just tend to be annoying background characters but he was a main character in his own right and he had a good relationship with his sister instead of the stereotypical bickering you often see between siblings. I was a little disappointed that we don’t get much story or development with many of the other characters, especially Katie, I felt like she had great potential that never came to fruition. (I spat my drink out when she called another character a “cock womble” it’s great to hear those good old British insults in books occasionally and it fitted her so well.) I felt like I was disinterested in many more characters than I was invested in (for good or bad) which feels a bit of a shame.

This kind of features a strange but obvious take on a love triangle and although my notes are mainly negative about most of it a lot of the things that annoyed me made much more sense as time went on and we got a bigger picture. One of the love interests is a total…(I’m honestly having trouble thinking of an appropriate or more eloquent description other than “a giant twat/bag of dicks/cock womble/insert genitalia related insult) he’s just not a nice guy and just thinking about his character right now to try and describe him makes my blood boil a little but that’s good! It’s good because this character isn’t honestly meant to be liked by the end, the romantic scenes with him are meant to feel horrible and “like kissing a stone” and my reaction to him just proves how well this was done. The other love interest was done well and his relationship with Violet actually felt very organic considering his obvious placement as a love interest. “Love doesn’t follow a script” is a great line used here because I feel often once characters get that label the author thrusts them at the reader/protagonist and demands you/they fall in love with them and I didn’t get that here which made for a really enjoyable romance that didn’t detract from the plot too much at all and didn’t make me want to skip their scenes.

The end was…mostly as expected. I think there was realistically only two ways it could have gone and part of me felt like I would have preferred the opposite direction to what we got but certain details in what I would class as the epilogue of sorts made it feel like the better option in the end even sneaking in some extra feels I didn’t see coming.

I found The Fandom difficult to rate. I kept skipping back between XXX and XXXX but decided to go with XXXX as the parts that I felt could have brought it down made more sense on reflection, there isn’t essentially very much wrong with this book to me other than a lot of the characters didn’t feel very memorable or interesting but it made up for that in a lot of other areas. It didn’t completely and utterly blow me away but I was never under the illusion that it would, I did however really enjoy the experience of reading a good, fun book with some tricks up its sleeve and I feel that this will still be a book I will love discussing and talking about (as seen by the sheer size of this review, I’m so sorry!!)  and I’m looking forward to discussing this with the other #CroneBloggers and the author herself in the upcoming twitter chat as well! Click on the picture below for more details about this awesome book club!

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“Today I will hang. I will hang for my family, my friends, and above all else love. But not for the love of one man. No, I will hang for the love of my people”

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Why I read YA at (almost) 30

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A topic that has come to light on on the bookish side of Twitter lately is that of the mystery of the “not so young adult” readers of Young Adult books. It seems there’s a surprising amount of people out there who think that YA books are for “Young Adults” only but you see, books have this magical property…they’re for everyone. Genre’s are not a limitation, at best they’re a guide line for what you can find inside. I don’t have to be an alien or star ship captain to be able to read science fiction, I don’t have to be a wizard or an elf to enjoy Fantasy (although it’s quite likely I’m probably  at least 1/3rd Hobbit let’s be honest) and I don’t have to be a detective or a serial killer to read murder mysteries. So why would I need to be classed as a “Young Adult” to read the YA genre?

Recently I discovered a group via Twitter created by Jenn over at her blog Jenniely called The Crone Book Club. A book club for the over 20’s who still enjoy reading YA books and it was a great feeling to see just how many other people around my age still read YA. This got me thinking about how many times I’ve felt embarrassed to talk to some people about what I’m reading. Don’t get me wrong, most of, if not all of my friends know I read YA and my book knowledge is kind of my special ability in the group (that and my ability to fall asleep doing pretty much anything.) but at work where they know I review books I’m often asked what I’m reading and there’s a brief flutter of embarrassment on occasion. From this day forth however I vow to be a proud YA reader! I enjoy what I enjoy and that shouldn’t be affected by anyone else’s narrow opinions and what an (almost) thirty year old should and should not read.

“Why would you read that? Isn’t it for kids?”

 I’ve found myself being asked in the past and with this discussion surfacing on social media again I decided I’d answer that. First of all, yes. Yes this book’s main target audience may be children or young adults but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for me, I just wanted to get that part out of the way first. To be honest, “Because I enjoy it” should be more than enough of an answer for the other half of the question and is all that really matters but I do enjoy YA specifically for a few reasons.

They’re good. 28308823_10155054230546581_1452145189_n
Most YA books are just generally good. The protagonist’s age doesn’t get in the way of compelling plots, original ideas and often swoon worthy romances (which for me can be hit and miss I’ll admit). YA books are more likely than not to be exciting and fast paced to keep young readers interested when they could at the touch of screen (or voice command!) watch a TV show, Film or their favorite Youtuber/Streamer. YA books needs to grab their attention and keep it. This makes for some great reads.

Feels.
I have never cried at a book aimed at adults but YA books make me cry and laugh out loud and feel things on a sometimes daily basis. The emotions conveyed in these books are usually intense and often familiar to older readers which adds a whole other level  of enjoyment (or pain!) to those moments. The best books and the ones that usually have the biggest impact and stay with me are the ones that can make me cry.

Length.
I’m not a huge reader of massive tomes. I find them uncomfortable to read and often I get bored. YA books however are usually much shorter and a perfect size for my busy life and short attention span. A lot of them are cheaper too! I picked up a book from the “Adult Fantasty” section last week and nearly had a heart attack.

Sex. 
This one probably sounds a bit weird but I enjoy the middle ground that a lot of romance in YA occupies. The romances are often just that…romantic. There’s flirting and teasing and almost kisses and everything feels just that little but more charged. As someone who used to read a fair bit of erotica I’m so bored of reading the same words and phrases over and over again to describe people having sex. I would much rather read about the little tense moments before two people kiss and then “fade to black” as it were. I don’t need an exact description of two people  having sex to further my enjoyment of the story, I’ve been married five years and have a three year old. I know what sex looks like, I just want to get on with the story! (Some “New adult” books are a little steamier but these are fewer and further between and although occasionally cringe worthy still often preferable to me.)

Film adaptions.
Now we all know that most of the time books are better than their adaptions but there are so many great books being made into not entirely terrible films right now. This is great because it can help bring more people into the wonderful world of books and because there’s just something about seeing characters you’ve read about and enjoyed (or loved to hate) on the big screen in the flesh. Yes these certainly aren’t always perfect and sometimes they do a disservice to the book but I sill get enjoyment out of them as an extension of whatever world they’re about. Also let’s be honest if film studios are thinking they’re good enough to be made into films there must be some adults enjoying YA right there!

My kind of interesting.
I couldn’t give a hoot who is sleeping with who on whatever soaps are popular at the moment or what this woman said about this other woman and how that guy is planning to leave his wife and blah blah blah. Tell me about the four teenagers who just saved the world from demons, the Siren Princess of an ancient bloodthirsty lineage who just wants peace, the reincarnated girl in love with an angel and a devil, give me fae, GIVE ME HUNGER GAMES, heck, even give me Twilight! I’m much more interested in Emett and Bella arm wrestling than I am in watching two grown women pathetically scrabbling in the street over anything less than a Kingdom or a bow and arrow that may or may not save their lives.

Obviously these points don’t apply to every YA book. I’m more drawn to the Fantasy and Science fiction inclined YA titles but they feel so different from their adult kin and just fit into the niche of what I enjoy much better. That being said READING IS FOR EVERYONE. If you’re an adult and you enjoy Adult books more than YA, THIS IS FINE!! Honestly I don’ care what you read as long as you’re reading because if you’re not reading you’re missing out (and probably lost…this is a blog about books!) I sat in Foyles the other day and read a children’s book about a dragon who owned a bookshop and it was brilliant. Don’t limit yourself! I still read, own and enjoy books aimed mainly at adults as well, I just find that YA stories are more interesting to me and it’s easier to find something I enjoy. So next time you feel like judging what someone is reading have a think about it and let people enjoy things without having to justify themselves to you.

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