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The Diseased By S.M. Thomas

The Diseased‘The Diseased’ is the latest book in the ‘Paige Hanson’ series by S.M. Thomas.

Paige Hanson wakes up to a question that turns her stomach; “Where is your husband?” As she struggles to grasp the wisps of memory returning to her she begins to realise that there’s more at stake than Leo’s whereabouts. With no other leads in their investigation the State turns on Paige, painting her as the number one suspect in her husbands disappearance. She’s left with no choice but to turn towards the teachings of the one person she swore never to become in order to prove her innocence and, along the way, begins to realise that some questions are best left unanswered.

The story is seen primarily through the eyes of Paige, who’s husband has disappeared and she has no idea where is he or what has happened to him. Set in a dystopian time where where there is Earth 1 and Earth 2, there is little freedom and strict rules. Paige has to live under surveillance from the government as they believe she’s behind Leo’s disappearance but she’s also a key part in finding a cure for the virus that has the world in lockdown.

The story is a bleak and dismal one, that’s not far from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. In a world, where there’s little hope but is plagued by lies and betrayal. Paige is under extreme pressure, under the watchful eye of her mother-in-law Regina who never approved of her and her own vigilante mother who never lived by the new world rules, preferring to do her own thing.

The story flows in a fast pace and with it being the first book in a series, it really sets the scene and atmosphere of the story.

The characters are an interesting mix of personalities, from the loyal committed residents to those who live their lives in secret, hidden from laws and judgment.

An interesting story that unsettlingly isn’t too far from real life with viruses and lockdowns, ‘The Diseased’ is a tense story about trying to live freely in a controlled world.

You can buy ‘The Diseased’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Third Magpie By MS Clements

The Third Magpie‘The Third Magpie’is the latest book by MS Clements.

Caring teacher and loving husband, Finn tolerates daily humiliation to be with Sophie, the woman he loves. Fragile & naturally compliant he must summon all his courage to survive the system. Despite the injustice, they dream of a normal life, where liberty and identity are not subverted by ever tightening restrictions. When a powerful politician requests that Finn tutor his daughter, it seems like a change of fortune. Soon Finn’s new found optimism is crushed by manipulative abuse, and a flu-like epidemic that threatens his life. It is left to Sophie to pick up the pieces and save her husband. In New Albany, every opportunity comes at price.

If you’re a fan of dystopian stories, then this book is for you. A bleak story of forbidden love in a controlling world, this book made for a gripping story.

The story is seen through the narrative of husband and wife, Finn and Sophie, a couple who are madly in love but their lives are controlled by the government. Finn is a DIA and is seen as a lowly servant with no rights whereas Sophie’s father is a commander and she has a more privileged life. Finn is a teacher and one day, a teenage girl organises for him to be her tutor and exposes him to harsh ridicule and abuse. Sophie can see that Finn is unhappy and will try anything that she can, to make Finn happy and return to his family.

This story is an atmospheric story from the first page. Right from the beginning you can read the desperation and sadness that has consumed Finn preventing him from the life that he wants to lead. On a regular basis, he’s mistreated by guards, students and even Sophie’s family and it does make for sad reading as he battles with his mental health. The relationship between him and Sophie is a turbulent one, he tries to push her away but she’s constantly moving closer wanting to provide a better life for him.

The story is equally terrifying in how realistic it is and you could imagine somewhere in a not so distant future this happening for real. The treatment of people and classes was equally upsetting as people were killed and tortured for no good reasons and women were mainly seen as sexual objects and breeding machines.

Essentially a love story set in a controlled society, this book is a dark and gripping story that really hooked my attention but one thing that I would have liked included in the story, is how the world became that way. I believe it’s part of a series so I might look into the previous for an explanation.

A story of love, happiness and control, ‘The Third Magpie’ is an emotional rollercoaster that pulls the reader in with its multilayer and dysfunctional characters and a sublimely darkly written plot.

You can buy ‘The Third Magpie’ from Amazon.

The Choice By Claire Wade

The Choice‘The Choice’ is the latest book by Claire Wade.

Everything you ate was monitored by the government. Every step you took was counted. Your children were weighed every day at school. Neighbours reported on neighbours and no one was safe from judgement. Sugar was illegal, and baking was a crime.

A thrilling page turner from the first page, ‘The Choice’ is reminiscent of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ with its controlling dystopian world that makes for scary realistic reading.

The story is seen through the perspective of Olivia, mother to Matthew and Mia and wife to Danny and that’s all she’s feels is worthy off. Having to give to give up her dreams of her bakery when Mother Mason came into power, her life lacks drive and happiness and she finds herself under constant stress that she will do something wrong jeopardising her family.

They leave in a world, where every thing that we enjoy such as sugar, cakes, sweets and alcohol have been banned in a bid to rid people of illness, which in theory is good but in the controlling manner that it’s delivered does make for frustrated reading. In fact, they are not just banned but they are illegal and if they object to these laws, they end up in the Box of Shame, shaming them for the alleged crimes.

As a debut, ‘The Choice’ is a well crafted and interesting story, looking at a world in which the things that we enjoy most being taking away from us, to serve a greater goodness, but in doing has created a fearful and vulnerable society, who’s diet, shopping, social media and every single aspect is controlled and monitored.

To be honest, I found the story to be frightfully realistic and could actually see these changes coming into effect somewhere further down the line, now that menus want to contain calorie information.

I really enjoyed Olivia and really felt an empathy and connection as she struggled to find her way in the new world now that her passion was cruelly taken away from and her frustration was equally understandable. The character Mother Mason who was the Prime Minister was also interesting as the names evokes a kind and homely elderly lady but who is a controlling tyrant imposing strict regimes and laws

A gripping story that makes you take for granted the luxurious items that are part of everyday life, ‘The Choice’ is a dark and atmospheric story that really pulls the reader in, as we join a world who don’t have decisions to make when it comes to lifestyle choices.

You can buy ‘The Choice’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Asking For It By Louise O’Neill

Asking For ItAward winning Irish author Louise O’Neill is back with her second book called ‘Asking For It’.

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confidentOne night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes.

I first became aware of Louise when I read her award winning debut, ‘Only Ever Yours’ a book set in a dystopian world where women are artificially created and men are born naturally, the book was so gripping and depressing in equal measures that I was unable to put it down and this was also the case with her new book ‘Asking For It’.

Unlike ‘Only Ever Your’s’, ‘Asking For It’ is set in a small Irish town, where religion and good living is important and small mindedness is rife in the tight community.

The story concentrates on one very important subject and that is the issue of consent when it comes to sex and the power of social media and just how drastically, these once fun forums can change someones life for the absolute worst.

‘Asking For It’ is seen solely through the eyes of Emma, who unfortunately is not a nice girl. She’s bitchy, jealous and extremely manipulative. The leader of a group of popular girls, girls want to be her friend and boys want to with her and Emma uses this to her advantage as much as she can,. Until one night she gets completely drunk and ends up on her porch the following day, remembering nothing. But, as time goes by, pictures begin to appear on the internet of her with different boys and suddenly her life changes for the worst when she finds herself not only the victim of rape but online bullying as the community and her friends turn against her, purely because of her behaviour, how she was dressed and who her attackers were.

Like Louise, I am also from Ireland and I am fully aware of one of the stories that influenced her to write this type of story. A couple of years ago, a story appeared all over social media, about a 17 year old girl called ‘Slane Girl’ who was pictured at a concert in Slane with various boys in compromising positions, ‘Slane Girl’ became the target for trolling and was bullied all over the internet whilst the boys in the pictures were never mentioned.

The realism of this story, makes for incredibly bleak and raw reading, as it highlights just how times and attitudes have changed. It’s already hard enough for a person to deal with being raped, being violated but to then have the finger of blame pointed at them purely because of what a person is wearing is just utterly mind blowing. The book really points out just how messed up society is, how the victim is left to feel guilt even though they are already struggling with so many negative emotions.

As the story is seen solely through her eyes, it makes for unsettling reading, as she battles with her emotions and tries to appear stronger than she is, particularly when she has flashbacks which are pretty horrific. Even though Emma isn’t a nice person, it’s still heartbreaking to see this confident, bold character become a shadow of herself and try to carry on with life, even though the world is against her. The majority of the story makes for hard reading, as Emma battles with problems and lack of support around her whilst the finger the blame and doubt is regularly pointed at her.

With graphic content and a harrowing storyline, that sadly is probably an everyday occurrence, ‘Asking For It’ is a gripping, hard hitting story that highlights the incredible importance of consent, how warped society has become and just how powerful and destroying social media can be, a book that everyone shoud read.

You can buy Asking For It from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Louise O’Neill

Louise O'NeillLouise O’Neill is from Clonakilty, west Cork. Having spent a year in New York working for ELLE magazine, she returned home to Ireland to write her first novel, ‘Only Ever Yours’ which was recently awarded ‘The Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year’ at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2014.

  1. Can you describe what your debut ‘Only Ever Yours’ is about
    My debut novel “Only Ever Yours” is a feminist dystopian novel and has been described as “The Handmaid’s Tale” meets “Mean Girls”. Set in a world in which women are no longer to bear daughters naturally, the decision is made to set up Schools where female babies are bred for their beauty and then trained to be subservient to men. The story centres on freida, a sixteen girl in her final year at the School, and fight to secure her future.
  2. To the readers of the website, tell us about yourself and how you got into writing.
    After graduating from Trinity College Dublin with a BA in English Studies, I completed a post-graduate in fashion buying at DIT. I then moved to New York to work for the senior style director of ELLE magazine, Kate Lanphear. I returned to Ireland in September 2011 to begin work on my debut novel which was published in July 2014. I had wanted to write for quite some time but I could never seem to find enough time or energy, I always found something to distract me. There was an element of ‘now or never’ this time though. I became almost obsessive about it sequestering myself alone in my room for months on end until I had a first draft that I felt happy with.
  3. In ‘Only Ever Yours’ the girls have to undertake one of three roles. A companion, who is a wife, a concubine who is essentially a prostitute and a chasity who is a teacher. What made you decide to come up these three jobs and if you were frieda, what would you choose?
    The three categories that the girls are sorted in to was a play on the Madonna/Whore complex, that we are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ girls. I feel that women are so often placed in to these prescribed boxes, we are not given enough space to be fully formed human beings.

    That is the first time anyone has asked me that question. I definitely wouldn’t want to be a companion anyway, and as much as I love teenage girls, I don’t know if I could cope with living with chastity-ruth for more than five minutes . I’ll go with a concubine. I like the idea of living in a harem because I enjoy the company of other women.

  4. How would you describe your writing?
    John McGahern is one of my favourite authors and I would love to be able to write in the same pared back style that he does. I try to keep my own writing fairly clean, I feel that it becomes more powerful that way. My editor, Niamh Mulvey, has similar taste which helps.
  5. What authors do you admire?
    Besides McGahern, I love Emma Forrest, Donna Tartt, Sylvia Plath, Curtis Sittenfeld, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Margaret Atwood.
  6. What’s been the highlight of your writing experience?
    I have met some really interesting people through Twitter and at literary festivals and conferences. The Irish literary world, and the YA fiction community both here and in the UK, have been so welcoming and supportive.
  7. What was your favourite book of 2014?
    I’m a little bit in love with ‘Young Skins’ by Colin Barrett.
  8. Who is your favourite literary hero/heroine?
    Susan Pevensie. C.S Lewis really fucked her over, in my opinion.
  9. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Immerse yourself in art of all kind, from the theatre and literature to art galleries and independent movies. It fills up the well of your creativity, to use an incredibly cliched analogy.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which 3 books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    This is a difficult question as I rarely re-read books. “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray, “The Bell Jar”, by Sylvia Plath, “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt.
  11. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A cup of lemon and ginger tea.
  12. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon that you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    My second novel ‘Asking For It’ is due to be published by Quercus in August/September. It’s about an eighteen year old girl, Emma, living in a small town in west Cork. It deals with issues of rape culture, victim blaming, and consent.

Follow Louise O’Neill on Twitter Louise O’Neill for updates or check out her website at Louise O’Neill