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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

Only Ever Yours By Louise O’Neill

Only Ever Yours‘Only Ever Yours’ is Irish author, Louise O’Neill’s debut book and recent winner of ‘The Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year’ at the 2014 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2014.

freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate. But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril. And then, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…

‘Only Ever Yours’ has got to be one of most messed up and soul destroying books, I’ve had the joy of reading in recent months and I say that with the highest respect to the author Louise, as it’s a book that has stayed in my thoughts, long after I closed the final page.

The story is set in a time where women are designed and men are naturally created. Girls are then sent to school for 16 years where they are trained to become the perfect woman in preparation for their future, in which they will overtake one of three roles. Companion, where they will become a wife and bear a son, a concubine, who is essentially a prostitute and finally a chastity who is a teacher, living a life of solitude preparing the girls for their future. The girls are ranked on their appearance with regular updates of popularity and a strong emphasis on weight gain, if a girl puts on weight then she is ridiculed and bullied by her fellow classmates.

The story is seen through the narrative of frieda, on the lead up to the ceremony in which their futures will be decided. frieda is an interesting character, once best friends with isobel who is number one in the rankings, she is quiet, blending into the background. But when isobel mysteriously becomes unwell, frieda finds herself in the cool gang, where the girls are bitchy, competitive and thrive on jealously as they all prepare for the roles and become ready for the boys who will choose them to become their companions.

When isobel returns, she is quieter and withdrawn but still competition for Megan, the leader of the group who is now ranked number one now taking isobel’s place. Even though frieda tries to help isobel, she is pushed away and soon find herself absorbed with the lead up to the ceremony as one of the boys, handsome and most sought after Darwin catches her attention.

This book makes for dark and extremely chilling reading. In a world where a woman is ranked solely on appearance, compete for a boys attention, only to be thrown away when they age or lose their looks. It’s like a throwback to the ‘The Stepford Wives’ meets ‘Mean Girls’ where the women are controlled, unable to voice their own opinion, only now with advanced technology and are far more bitchier towards each other.

Set in a clinical and minimalist dystopian world, where the men are king and women are only there to provide a service, I found myself gripped with this twisted story. It’s scary, how frenzied the world is at times, as the girls turn on each other when they are at their weakest, especially when they put on weight, they are chanted at and told to go to the Vomitorium (a place to go to be sick). They are constantly in competition with each other and no friendship is genuine, this is occasionally distressing reading as they all lead a very lonely and desolate lives.

One thing that caught me off guard with the story is that, all the names were written in lower case, I initially found this to be a bit disconcerting but then got quickly used to it.

Sharply and vividly written that flows at a fast pace, Louise is a bright new young voice from Ireland and most certainly deserving of her recent awards with this incredibly disturbing story. In a world where appearance and popularity are paramount, where gender and appearance dictate your future and girls are encouraged to develop eating disorders, ‘Only Ever Yours’ is a deeply unsettling and believable story that is worryingly set in world that doesn’t seem far from happening.

You can buy Only Ever Yours from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.