Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford

Online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere, Clementine Ford is a beacon of hope and inspiration to thousands of Australian women and girls. Her incendiary debut Fight Like A Girl is an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Crucially, it is a call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat. Personal and fearless – a call to arms for feminists new, old and as yet unrealised by one of our most outspoken feminist writers.

This book is empowering, educational, inspiring, thought-provoking and a million other things.

I learnt a lot of things while reading this book, but perhaps the most impactful for me was that it is ok to be angry. Having been raised in a society where girls are told that being angry is not lady like, unbecoming and rude, it was empowering to be told it’s ok to be angry. As Clementine Ford outlines, how could we not be angry – if you’re not angry you’re not paying attention.

I encourage everyone to read this book. Learn more about the need for feminism. Get angry, start more discussions, fight for change. Raise voices, raise courage, raise the flag.
-Amanda

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A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can’t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck. The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them. Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything but she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares. On a random day, Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate and her first crush. It wasn’t enough Jonah pick pockets her, he also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love

This book was interesting. I feel the author has grown since her first novel as like everything else, practice and experience makes perfect. This was a great mix of serious and quirky! The author did very well in writing a novel that confused me in the beginning (lol but in a good way) as I wasn’t sure whether this was a Contemporary YA novel or a Fantasy YA novel but turns out it’s a funky, quirky, contemporary novel that has a uniquely clever way of telling an important story. At the end of reading this novel I read the reviews and it was it was interesting to see how one particular reader interpreted the ‘fantasy element’ as potentially the protagonist’s overactive imagination – I guess I will have to let you as the reader decide. The way the story was told made me feel the author had very important issues she really wanted to raise awareness about but through a story that did not making the reader feel so overwhelmed or heavy hearted in the end. The pace of this book was stable from beginning to end – it wasn’t full action packed or info dumped, it just travelled along nicely but as you continue reading the deep, important issues arise. Issues such as mental illness, facing your fears and even self-harm are covered in this book which, in this day in age I felt to be very important for teens to read. The author really did well in using metaphors to describe these facets which made it all so real, even gave me a better understanding as I know people who suffer anxiety and depression – it painted a clearer picture. I have to say I did enjoy this book, I found it to be a clever story with funny dialogue but a frightening storyline. I believe this is more suitable to older teens and adults.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Due for release: end of August 2017
-Annie

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

Insightful – Relevant – 4 stars

The synopsis of this book captivated me and this was one book I really could not put down!!!  This story is thought provoking as it deals with very real issues that we don’t seem to think about or even understand – unless it was to happen to us personally. “Something In Between” is told by protagonist Jasmine del los Santos  who migrated with her family from The Philippines to The United States of America. Her parents are highly qualified in The Philippines however in America, her mother is a hospital cleaner and her father is a bus driver – both trying to make it in America to give their children a better life and better opportunity.
Jasmine is a model student – captain of the cheer squad – no time for social life or parties as her parents push her to study and engage in extra curricular activities. Her grades and activities have ensured her a spot in a prestigious college only to have it all undone for her when she is selected for a National Scholarship that she is to turn down when she discovers her parents are actually “undocumented aliens” a.k.a: illegal immigrants and have been living under the radar all her life.

Although I had an idea from the start where this story would be going, I found I really felt the emotions Jasmine was feeling and I was just so wrapped in the story, I really wanted to know what happened next – does she get her green card? does she get deported? what about the guy she’s met? can Jasmine really forgive her parents for the major let down?  It was so interesting to read and I highly recommend this book to all YA contemporary fans – it’s interesting, insightful and relevant..

Many thanks to Harlequin Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

A heartbreaking and sobering read I rated 4.5 stars

Willa Parker was the least popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa and she is headed east to start a new life as per her famous genius mother’s wishes. Willa has no intention of fitting in at her new place, Pembroke as she does not plan to stay for long until she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft – the richest, most mysterious girl on campus and finds this may be a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit in after all.

A great story about farm girl Willa becoming friends with a rich teen Remy. The characters are so different and well defined and the story blossoms as it focuses on such an unlikely friendship and real youth issues. Narrated by Willa (the protagonist) it feels as though Willa is talking directly to you as the reader. I found Willa’s ability to remain calm and strong during some very crazy events with her newly best friend Remy (who is a teen spiraling out of control) radiated through the pages. When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything yet for Remy, everything comes at a price and she feels her life is spinning out of control. However, Remy is one of those girls who simply doesn’t want to be saved – she is “a person with wings”.

This heartfelt novel explores the meaning of friendship, new beginnings, and the joy and devastating pain of finding home in a new place. It also explores the effects of what elicit drugs can have on close friendships. It’s such a moving story and you find it to be a tear jerker but you draw strength from strong characters to get to the end of the story. This is truly a book you just have to read for yourself to understand the feels of this book.

Special thanks to Harper Collins Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Crystal

Small Things by Mel Tregonning

Thought Provoking – Touching – Confronting – Relevant
5 Stars

In 2008, the illustrator of this book, Mel Tregonning started illustrating a graphic novel about the universal feelings of loneliness and depression. In 2014, Mel took her own life.

After a long journey to compile Mel’s work with the help of illustrator Shaun Tan, Small Things is due for release this September. Such a beautifully illustrated book without words that intricately depicts the feelings of an ordinary boy living in an ordinary world who suffers from loneliness, depression and anxiety. It illustrates how this young boy deals with his life and how he learns to reach out for help from the very place he didn’t think to look – loved ones at home.

A very relevant and beautiful book.

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin publishers for sending me this advanced review copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934 by Anaïs Nin, Gunther Stuhlmann (editor)

“We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.” – Anaïs Nin

“I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing… The romantic submits to life, the classicist dominates it.” – Anaïs Nin

5 stars – A reflective, poignant journal of Anaïs Nin’s internal surreal world

Reading The Diary of Anaïs Nin is like diving into an ocean of poetic feelings and nuanced perspectives written with artistry, eloquence and surrealism. It makes you want to swim in her sea of words and discover who she really is (beyond the essayist and writer). The Diary volume 1 is a interesting (but expurgated) account of Anaïs Nin’s life aged 28-31 years old. Anaïs is a complex woman; she is unafraid to explore her psyche and desperate need for love. She writes about all the roles that she must play in life for others – the artist, writer, patient, lover, daughter and friend.

Anaïs is an eloquent writer and a progressive thinker of her time. Her intimate diary accounts self-reflections on her relationships, art, being a woman, life, love, passion, writing, surrealism, seduction, feminism & femininity, psychoanalysis, compassion, honesty and her relationship with her father. I enjoyed reading her unique view of the world, which is truthful, perceptive and deeply poignant. She writes thoughtful and observant points about life and people. Near the end, I was shocked by her experiences and touched by her revelations. It’s no small thing to be able to describe feelings so accurately like she did. In my view, her diary is about self-discovery and individualism; it’s about her coming to terms with her own choices and her relationships. It’s also an intriguing read about her neurotic, artistic friends and lovers. Anaïs’ diary however does contain [spoiler alert] undertones of her incestuous relationship with her estranged father (you have been warned), this in no way detracts from her potent and expressive sophisticated writing. Recommended for readers that enjoy reading different perspectives on life and self-reflection, and readers who like eloquent, poetic writing and a provocative read. I will be getting the internationally acclaimed volume 2 soon!

– NJ

Other interesting quotes from the book:

“For my life is slowed up by thought and the need to understand what I am living.”

“He overlooked the deeper cravings of an artist, for whom deep love is the only possible form, no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.”

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvellous.”

“I thought of my difficulties with writing, my struggles to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feelings, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless.”

“You cannot possess without loving.”

“As an ordinary woman I might have been serenely happy with such a miniature life, but I am not that woman.”

“I want the key, the key to the lies” [Henry] “Passion and violence never opened a human being.” [Anais] “What opens human beings?” “Compassion.”

“You have no gratitude because you have no love. To be grateful, one must first know how to love.”

“Proofs of love and friendship are what I give to others all the time. And everyone seems to need them.”

“I want to give him life and adventure, but I cannot convey to him that it is the mood, not the places, the relationships which can light up shabby hotel rooms, stained cafe tables, brimming  noisy streets, sour wine.”

“Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. Create. And then love will come to you.”

“I wondered whether he was right that it was the rituals we had lost, or whether it was that people had lost the power to feel, and that no ritual would give it to them.”

“For the absolute, one dies if one wants the absolute.” 

“The neurotic is the modern romantic who refuses to die because of his illusions and fantasies prevent him from living. He enters a combat to live. We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.”

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with. I was convinced of people’s need of illusion.”

“It is the woman who has to speak. And it is not only the woman Anais who has to speak, but I who have to speak for many women. As I discover myself, I feel I am merely one of many, a symbol. I begin to understand June, Jeanne, and many others…, women of yesterday and today. The mute ones of the past, the inarticulate, who took refuge behind wordless intuitions; and the women of today, all action, and copies of men. And I, in between… My life has been one long series of efforts, self-discipline, will. Here I can sketch, improvise, be free, and myself.”

“We love best those who are, or act for us, a self we do not wish to be or act out.”

“The struggle to live by my own truth is so difficult, so weary… I am like the adventurer who leaves all those he loves, and returns with his arms full of gold; and then they are happy and they forget how they tried to keep this adventurer from exploring, from his voyage and his search.”

“Poetic vision is not the outcome of blindness but of a force which can transcend the ugliest face of reality, swallow and dissolve it by its strength, not evasion.” 

Click here for the book blurb on Goodreads.

Be the Exception by Annie Meehan

“Gentleness is about knowing and naming the hurt in your soul, embracing it, and, in that same breath, removing the power it has over you.” – Annie Meehan

4 stars. Great for self reflection.

An authentic and empowering self-help read with useful and practical tips/exercises  to change life for the better. Annie Meehan (the author and motivational speaker) has written a perceptive and inspiring book on ways to put fear, anxiety and life’s traumas into perspective. She uses her own life experiences and trauma to convey a message of hope, faith and courage that enables the reader to feel empowered to live an exceptional life. Annie’s anecdotal accounts of her childhood and past traumas was shockingly sad and raw, I applaud her bravery and spirit in reconstructing her life, which is indeed exceptional. Recommended if you’re going through a tough time, over thinking issues, struggling with identity, relationships or simply after some tips to live a better life.

Other notable quotes:

“I was buried in sorrow not because of his absence, but because he had always been absent. I grieved for what wasn’t and what would never be.” – Annie Meehan

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” – Anaïs Nin

Click here to read the book blurb on Goodreads.

-NJ