alternative title: Think Before You Speak... That Goes for Everyone

alternative alternative title: Blimey BookTube, Calm Your Tits

Here in the Book Blogging Community we're a fairly chill bunch, so when drama happens over on BookTube, it's usually a good opportunity for us to sit back and enjoy the shit storm from a place of relative safety, maybe rolling out a sarcastic tweet with that gif of Sarah Michelle Gellar eating popcorn. 

However the most recent clusterfuck actually touched on something worth talking about, and something I have a lot of experience with; That is young women having the validity of their interests questioned... again.

Personally I think that the incident that sparked this discussion was RIDICULOUS. For those who aren't aware a Booktuber made a video in which he derided Bookcon and similar events as shallow and facile, and the (mostly young and female) attendees as stupid for giving time to authors who don't appreciate them. When commenters expressed their disagreement with the things he said he posted the following reply.

and holy balls did all hell break loose.

Now I'd like to state here that I watch Steve's videos and I really like him. He's got good opinions on the books he reads and he acts as excellent writing inspiration, with his unapologetic irritation with people who call themselves writers... who then don't write. So I'm coming from a place of actually being familiar with this guy as opposed to just jumping on the indignation train.

I'm in the position of having an understanding with both parties. I, like Steve, hold reading and books very dear to my heart and I can totally empathise with feeling frustrated if you see something you love being used or experienced in a way that you perceive as being shallow. I think we all can, especially as readers with favourite stories/characters.

I love DC comic books and batman, and always get frustrated with people who say they love Batman... who have only ever seen the Nolan films. I don't think they're stupid or wrong, but it upsets me that they believe that Christian Bale talking like he's on his deathbed encompasses the enormous, complex rich world of Batman and his surrounding characters that you experience in the comics, or the pure joy that is The Animated Series, and that they think they have an understanding of that world when there's so much missing. I can totally see that Steve might feel that there is a gap between 'real readership' and what he saw on the BEA videos.

However, we are not gatekeepers of our interests. We don't get to tell others that they aren't qualified to share them. Some people only read YA, there are others who only read non fiction, or books considered 'classics', how does anybody have the right to separate out who is a 'real reader' and who isn't? if you belong to the latter two groups you may be told that you're missing out, or are limiting yourself, but nobody is questioning your readership.Yet there is this constant reinforcement that if you read YA, which is the major focus of BEA and Bookcon, you are not a real reader. I firmly believe that reason people dismiss this area of reading culture is because the majority of people engaging with it are young women. And that's just not on. This is coming from someone who does not read YA, who has nigh on zero interest in it. I don't get to tell someone that they are less of a reader because their tastes differ from mine.

The reaction following this comment was melodramatic, silly and poorly thought out, but I think it was one borne of frustration. Young women get very sick of having their interests invalidated because of who they are. It happens all the time: We like bands that are just corporate machines built to take our money, we like fashion and beauty but that's shallow and frivolous. We like video games and sports but we're just doing it for male attention, and we have interest in politics and social issues but of course we don't really understand them so we just get an 'aww bless' and a head pat. The outrage sparked by this situation is because books are one thing we just get to have, more or less, without that judgement and dismissal.

Having said that, the booktube community did itself a great disservice with it's behavior. I am willing to give Steve space for the benefit of the doubt, and consider that his reference to 'blush', which many took to mean women wearing makeup, was meant to mean 'stage makeup', in that many Booktubers care more about the aesthetic of their channel (though how putting effort into your videos diminishes your validity as a reader I'm not sure) but a whole lot of people flung themselves into a twitter based witch hunt and crucified this guy for a single, poorly worded comment. I followed one twitter conversation as it took place and it went from justified indignation to personal insults, and questions amounting to "why is he even watching all these videos with teenage girls in anyway?". That sort of thing is just utterly unacceptable and, in my mind, made the whole conversation redundant.

If we're calling for one person to be more considered in the way they speak, we MUST exercise that ourselves. To be so immature and vindictive does nothing to resolve the issue, or further the conversation. I am very glad that some major Booktubers have spoken out against this mob mentality, and that some who contributed have since admitted their fault. What should have occurred were polite comments disagreeing with his opinion and explaining the issue with his choice of words, which I imagine would have led to an apology, perhaps some further discussion into the topic and us all getting on with our lives. Instead we got a very angry circle jerk and increasingly ridiculous accusations and anger which, of course, resulted in defensiveness and dismissal. I'm glad that this topic of discussion has been put on the table because one thing Booktube does right is it's ability to address it's own issues, but I wish we had done it without deciding that one man's ambiguous word choices made him the next Daniel Tosh. We're better than that chaps.

Well that's my two cents. It's coherent if you squint. Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,


Young Women and Reading | #fakereadergirls


That was our mistake, I think. One of many mistakes. To believe that boys were acting with a logic that we could someday understand To believe that their actions had any meaning beyond thoughtless impulse. We were like conspiracy theorists, seeing portent and intention in every detail, wishing desperately that we mattered enough to be the object of planning and speculation. But they were just boys. Silly and young and straightforward. They weren't hiding anything. 

Oh God. This fucking book.

Cline's debt novel follows a teenage girl named Evie, living in the summer of 1969 in California, she sees a group of dirty, tough but strangely enigmatic girls in the park, stealing food from bins and learns that they are part of a group following Russell, the charming musician, living on a ranch together getting high and practicing 'free love' while he vies for a record deal from his famous friend Mitch.

If you feel like this rings any bells that sound like 'Charles Manson', you'd be right. This is essentially a fictionalised retelling of the the events surrounding the Manson 'Family' who formed an infamous cult-like group in the late 1960's. When I learned this I was worried this would read like a strange 60's style Phillipa Gregory novel*, but I needn't have feared. Cline simply uses the events of the time as a tool through which to explore a multitude of issues and ideas and it works beautifully. The Girls is an incredibly compelling novel and would make an excellent summer read for people looking for something with more substance and power than the usual Marian Keyes.

I also worried that the book would entail me watching a young girl fall for and fawn over the Manson stand-in Russell, and that the novel would be a 'love story', but it isn't. Well it is, but Russell isn't in it. This is a love story between the girls, and then mostly between Evie and Suzanne, one of Russell's major followers. The energy between them crackles and burns throughout the novel, they get jealous of each other, they pine for each other's company and sleep in the same bed together. Russell is barely in this, the overarching cause and effect of the plot but in no way the story's focus. I love that in some ways Cline shines a light on the lives of the woman who became lumped as 'Manson's girls', but were never given attention as humans with stories beyond brainless followers and I loved that.

Evie is an excellent protagonist. Both unlikeable and incredibly relatable, she is that sullen shrugging teenage girl who can;t stand in a way that she feels she looks natural and searches desperately for any glimmer of what might look like affection from the boys around her. Cline does an unbelievable job of capturing the depth and complexity of the inner lives of teenage girls, which are often dismissed as shallow and shrill. For me personally it actually became uncomfortable to read in parts, just because the exploration of the ways in which teenage girls, just like me and my friends were, allow themselves to be manipulated and used and treated like shit, because finding a boy who looks like he loves you is the absolute priority.

I have become so tired of teenage girls reduced to the lyrics of '#Selfie' when in fact the every day of a girl that age is so much more raw and fraught than that. I have only seen this reviewed by other women, and I would be absolutely intrigued to know how this felt to male readers, whether it gave a different perspective on the girls they knew in their teens.

Evie exists in two times, as a middle aged woman in the books 'present', and as the young girl she looks back on. Both feel very tangible and real and although some reviews I read argue that present day Evie intruded on the main story, I found that narrative to be a wonderful contrast of the impetuous teen, with her older and wiser self. The present day story also acts as a horribly accurate commentary on how teenage girls haven't changed, and how they still allow themselves to be humiliated and mistreated in the name of male validation. Some of the scenes in the present narrative were truly upsetting, because they take place in modern times and ring so much closer to home.

The writing in this is sublime. Emma Cline knows just how to turn a phrase without sounding smug. The writing doesn't sound like it was written, which is the ultimate compliment to an author. The entire book is written with confidence and skill without ever feeling that the 'crafting' of the words impeded the flow of the storytelling... looking at you Anthony Doerr. I truly felt the starchy heat of 1969 California, and the crippling embarrassment of being caught in a lie as a teenager. Cline really is a fantastic writer... bitch.

I mean it's not perfect... I'm sure it isn't, but I really can't think of anything I didn't enjoy about this book. If you do have a sensitive disposition, particularly regarding younger teenagers and sex then maybe approach with caution but I feel that even that aspect was handled beautifully.

So yeah... Maybe read this one. I was tempted to just reread this the other day, but I have far too many unread books on my shelf to do that just yet. It comes out 16th of June in hardback and I think I may even purchase it, just so I can actually give Emma Cline some money, for this I think she deserves it.

If you made it this far, well done! My next review might be less gushy... maybe.

Thanks for reading


*No shade to Phillipa Gregory or her readers, I just don't think the Manson murders would be a suitable historical topic to turn into that kind of book. Jesus can you imagine....

This review copy was kindly sent by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

Review | The Girls by Emma Cline


I recently came across a duo on YouTube called Stripped Cover Lit, two guys from Kansas City who smoke cigars, fawn over Dickinson and Chuck Palahniuk (or however the fuck you spell it) and argue about the merits of Harry Potter. Essentially my dream content. Recently they announced that they were going to be hosting a summer writing challenge, something like NaNoWriMo but considerably more chill, and far less terrifying, and I decided I needed to join in.

The #HotandSticky challenge sounds like a great way to cultivate a writing lifestyle. Rather than the month long hysteria of NaNoWriMo, the plan for #HotandSticky is to write 488 words a day over June, July, August and September. At the end you will have a slightly longer word count and will have spent a longer amount of time with your novel in your head and will have a worked on a writing practice that is actually far more sustainable in the long run, which are all excellent things!

I've spoken about my ambitions to write a couple of times but never really elaborated. To be a published author is all I actually want to do with my life. I can stand not being able to make a living off it forever, but I would like to get to a stage, supporting myself for a significant period of time, comfortably, entirely with my writing. I have had hundreds of ideas for stories throughout my life, all of which go no further than a stack of pages of planning and maybe four or five scenes written up in word... and that's it. I lose interest or lose confidence or just have other things on and forget about it.

Basically I love imagining and playing out scenes, creating worlds and characters and finding story lines that perfectly express some big world changing truth I've apparently decided needs to be shared. I love the planning, the character maps and scratching out phrases in freshly bought moleskines, as they come organically from mind to paper, beautifully formed and perfect just as they are.

And then I remember that writing is hard. Most of the time the words come out ugly and clunky first time, there are huge great gaps between the scenes you've already thought up that you have to try and fill with something interesting and anything, everything seems to get in the way of getting words down.

I have been struggling with motivation to write since I graduated in July last year, having left University and my English Literature with Creative Writing degree. I was used to being in a community of people who loved and appreciated literature and spending hours at a time having my writer's ego stroked by tutors and students in my creative writing seminars, now I work a full time job and have limited access to 'writer friends' or people whom I can bounce ideas off, and have generally found myself stagnating creatively. I have been slowly coming back round to writing, in a sort of grouchy, resigned acknowledgment that if this is what I want to do with the rest of my life the I should probably start doing it the fuck now.

So to recap: Over the summer, June, July, August and September (and one day of October because that'll get a nice neat word count at the end) I'll be writing 488 words a day, or more realistically writing double that sometimes because I was too lazy to do my words the previous day. If you'd like to get involved, go watch the video and get stuck into the Twitter conversation where I think most of this will be happening over at #hotandsticky.

I'm currently in the process of recruiting Kieran and Holly in joining me so I will hopefully have real life buddies to write with too... and will be able to indulge that fantasy of a 'Moveable Feast' style writer's friendship group I've always wanted.

I have rambled for a long time and let's face it, after a while all this just becomes me distracting myself from actually writing. I'm hoping to post some weekly updates and  progress reports, as well as any advice I formulate along the way. If you fancy giving this a go please do! It'll be so much fun!

Thank you for reading,



#HotAndSticky Summer Writing Challenge


Tampa is a book I was surprised I had not heard more about. It is described as a modern day Lolita, and follows our protagonist Celeste Price, a beautiful, cunning young woman with a near manic lust for fourteen year old boys.

The novel is incredibly compelling. Horrible yes, but compelling. I read this in two sittings, unable to really get it out of my head until I was done with it and even then it hung around in my brain, gnawing away at me. Nutting pulls no punches with her story and the reader gets every grisly detail of a very unapologetic plot. To say the story is enjoyable might be pushing it, but it was certainly 'entertainment'. The story moves surprisingly quickly and it's hard to put the book down when you are being pulled into this hideous but fascinating character study. There are incredibly graphic scenes involving teenage boys, and the ways in which Celeste's narration describes people around her, particularly those she considers ugly are pretty gruesome and unsavoury. The novel is excellent at really confronting the reader. The scenes that we would rather look away from are written so well we can't help but keep going and there are certainly moments where the reader is challenged in their own fascination. All of this is awful, all of this is terrible, and yet we keep reading, we sit and watch these events unfold, out of the sick fascination we all have when it comes to 'taboo' sex.

My major qualm was how incredibly simple the character of Celeste Price is. She is very interesting and you watch her with this sort of horrible fascination, but ultimately as a 'realistic' character she lacks any depth. She is not just a pedophile (hebephile technically), she is also a nymphomaniacal sociopath. Her entire brain is filled, all the time, with wanting to bang teenage boys and how much she hates literally everybody else... and that's it. There's no hint of moral dilemma, no attempts to understand herself or appreciate her husband for what he does for her. She is a one track mind the entire time and undergoes zero character development from the first page to the last. Even at the moment in which she is faced with what she has done, and the consequences for those around her, all she can do is shrug and say 'It's just what I like.'

In some ways I can see Nutting's intentions with this. Celeste is incredibly beautiful and as such gets away with everything she does. I think partially this book serves as a critique on how we treat beauty as somehow equating to morality, and Nutting shows that even the prettiest face can often belong to a thoroughly nasty piece of work. On the other hand it does nothing to add to the current discussion about sexual attraction to children and sex abuse. In fact it takes a step backwards and reduces the idea of 'the pedophile' to this mindless, abusive animal with no other aspect of their life, as opposed to what they are: People, some of whom do terrible things, and some of whom resist their feelings, never acting upon them at all. Casting a pedophile in the light of sprouting out of the ground and prowling off to find victims does nobody any good at all, and I may have preferred a more nuanced portrayal, whereas Celeste is nothing but a caricature.

I feel Nutting had clear objectives when setting out to write this book, and managed to achieve what she wanted and create a really good book while she was at it, however I wish she had made things more complex, more nuanced, and not resorted to shock factor to propel the book forward. I would certainly recommend it, and did really enjoy the experience of reading it, but I feel any book that tackles a topic of this magnitude socially, it must be done cleverly, and with care, and I feel in some ways Nutting blundered into this without crafting the novel that her ideas and intentions deserved.

If you've read this let me know what you thought! I imagine there are some pretty strong opinions out there.

Thank you for reading.

Review | Tampa by Alissa Nutting


So obviously now that we've had like two and a half days of really nice weather, it's officially summer in England and we must now adopt the traditions of impractical footwear named after the sound they make, incessant barbecues regardless of the weather and, of course, 'summer reads'. which are apparently different to 'reads' at any other time of the year because they tend to describe in more detail how sexy the ill-advised romantic interests are.

Me being a dick aside, I do actually love me a little bit of the light fluffy summer reading that comes out this time of year, and I'd heard that this was an example of how 'summer reads' could have some substance to them. Plus Paperback Castles really liked it and I worship the ground she walks on, so I decided to pick it up.

My favourite thing about this book is it's protagonist. A lot of 'romcom' books have main characters with all the charisma of potted plants, who just watch the events of the book unfold and cry at the appropriate moments. Delia is awesome. Very likable but far from perfect, she is complex and interesting and grows throughout the plot. She also wears adorable clothes and exercises a level of authority over her own story which I loved. Although she finds herself in situations completely out of her depth and as a result makes very naive decisions, she is mature and smart, and doesn't flap around waiting to be saved.

My least favourite thing however, was the love interest. UGH. Identifiable straight away as the handsome douchebag with a secret heart of gold, he came into the plot, make Delia's life very difficult for about 400 pages, then suddenly did a full U-turn with a pretty feeble explanation to wave away his previous shitty behaviour. It's not really spoilers to talk about him this way, you can tell who he is and that he and Delia are going to get together by the end pretty much straight away, and the fact that I hated him from the start and could see where it was going all the way up to the end really got on my tits.

There are a few other flaws, a frankly ridiculous sleazy pantomime baddy as the antagonist, and a few other pretty caricature characters, but that aside the story is really entertaining. I especially love a section in which two women meet, one of whom was being cheated on by her boyfriend with the other, and after some awkwardness they are able to have a frank conversation without any animosity.

The writing was pretty sound. Nothing that's going to be quoted in years to come but the writing was smooth and nice and never jarring or clunky, which I appreciate from a genre of book that doesn't necessarily need to be well written to do well. There are moments that are pretty funny and the tone is witty and sassy, but I have to admit I didn't find it as pant-wettingly laugh-out-loud as some other reviewers I've found. Nevertheless I was entertained the whole way through.

There are also a few pages written in comic strip form, as Delia dabbles in writing her own graphic novel, and I really really loved these, but they're few and far between and I would have loved to have seen more of that.

Overall I would say this book is worth a go. Definitely something nice and chill to read on holiday or bring on a long journey. I gave it a solid three stars and am planning to read McFarlane's next book 'Who's That Girl' when it comes out in paperback towards the end of this year.

Let me know if you've read this, and what your thoughts were.

Thanks for reading!

Review | It's Not Me it's You by Mhairi McFarlane


Part spoof, part pep talk, part genuine reflection on the every day ways we waste our time, energy and money on things that just don't matter. I absolutely loved this book, and have every intention of reading it again in the next few days just to really let things sink in.

The basic premise of Sarah Knight's book is that in our everyday lives so much time, energy and money gets wasted on things that just don't matter to us, because we feel some sort of obligation, or because we're so worried about what people think of us. Knight argues that we only have limited resources of said time, energy and money to give and she calls these 'fucks'. When we use up all our fucks on things we don't truly care about we're left without enough time/energy/money to actually use living a life that makes us happy.  Much of the book is spent helping you figure out where you are giving these fucks, and which ones matter and which you can let go. The rest involves navigating the tricky worlds of family ties, friendships and work obligations, and working to set your boundaries,  using honestly, politeness and a sprinkle of sass to remove the unnecessary fucks from your life, leaving you plenty to be used on things you actually give a shit about.

Sarah Knight writes the whole book in a very pally, dont-give-a-fuck-big-sister way. The book is liberally sprinkled with swear words so if that bothers you, either get over yourself or give it a miss. Knight does a great job of avoiding the preachy rhetoric that a lot of self help books have. It's your mate giving you a pep talk, not a guru helping you improve your pathetic existence.

 I think a lot of people feel like something like this encourages an attitude that is mean and apathetic. It couldn't be further from the truth. Sarah actively encourages you to conserve your 'fucks' without being an asshole and has a lot of tips on getting out of seemingly obligatory fuck-giving without hurting feelings in the process. There is also a lot of emphasis on the transferring of fucks from stuff that's making you annoyed or angsty to things that give you joy. The money you save not going to that second cousin's wedding in Vietnam? That can go into the fund for the kid's trip to Disneyland! Time saved no longer going to the gym means time used going to a book group instead, and energy saved trying to keep that toxic friendship going can now be spent doing good for that charity you feel strongly about. The book is ultimately is about putting your life in perspective, and realising that there might be some fucks you HAVE to give no mater how much you don't want to, but there are plenty that you can work out of your life to make room for things that make you happy.

There is a lot in this book that is hyperbolic and facetious and silly, and I did feel that maybe that was paper wasted on spoofing rather than actually being helpful, but the moments of humour do make the book more engaging and enjoyable so I should probably just shut up.

I would definitely recommend this little delight, it's not going to change your life, but it might make you see just how much of it you're wasting on bollocks you don't care about and how you can change that and live a life that is more free, more healthy and more satisfying.

Review | The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck



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