Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

My friends bought Vox for me as part of my birthday present – they know that the way to my heart is books. I don’t normally write reviews for specific books but I think Vox is a very important read, particularly because of the current political and social climate, and I really want to draw as many people’s attention to it (and the problems it discusses) as possible.

*Whilst I want to review Vox, I’m also very conscious of how annoying spoilers are – so if you are yet to read this masterpiece (and I really recommend you do!) I won’t be giving any hints of what happens.*

ELLE’s quote on the cover – “a petrifying reimagining of The Handmaid’s Tale” – perfectly encapsulates the essence of Vox, and I thought it was similar in parts to Alderman’s The Power too. There are many parallels, most notably the subjugation of women, although the methods of subversion differ – in The Handmaid’s Tale, women are oppressed through sexuality, split from their families and placed into a warped theocracy; in Vox, women are essentially absent from all roles in life, as their speech is limited to 100 words per day. As I was reading, I felt as though I was reading The Handmaid’s Tale set nowadays – and it’s scary that the research used to control people in Vox is well-understood by scientists today, meaning theoretically the events aren’t that far outside the realm of possibility. Whilst it may seem somewhat unlikely, the thing is: it’s possible. Science has become so advanced that whole populations can be controlled by it.

The President in Vox is comparable to Trump, in my opinion – manipulative, selfish and interested merely in acting for his own gain. Further, like The Handmaid’s Tale, Vox is set in the USA, a supposedly democratic, equal society – the main events are in Washington DC, showing how corrupt our authoritative institutions are perhaps. I’m afraid to say it, but such an outcome really isn’t that implausible – look at Trump’s segregation and his fear-mongering, and how his (and other Republicans’) ideologies have shattered the relative peace and stability of America. Dystopian novels might not be dystopian for that much longer – before long, it could be reality.

The aspect of Vox I liked the most was that despite its warning, Dalcher also implores us to act against these evil leaders and influences. By literally taking away women’s voices, she highlights the importance of speaking up before it’s too late. Of course, maybe Vox is an extreme situation – in reality, our voices might never be literally taken away – but equally, we should speak up against oppression before our voices mean nothing.

I think everyone needs to read Vox. It’s such an important book, so so resonant in our society, and whilst it is a dystopian novel it’s also not too far from reality. Whilst direct action is sometimes tricky, Dalcher warns us about simply letting things slide. Even those who aren’t affected firsthand by the loss of voice in Vox should be protesting, acting against the President, instead of just succumbing – and that’s the same with our society. Even when something isn’t having a direct impact on you, stand up for what is right.

The book club

peep the exam timetable…bleurrghh

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now, but school is so busy and the very little free time I have at the mo is spent trying to relax, not focusing on blogging/social media. Yesterday though I decided enough was enough – I can only abandon my blog for so long without beginning to feel guilty about the lack of content haha, so here we are.

I’m going to be discussing a few of the books I’ve read recently so I think I’ll start off with my least favourite – although when I say least favourite, I don’t mean that I disliked it. Call Me By Your Name has such a hype around it, but honestly…I was disappointed?? I know I’ve said this before, but I think because everybody seemed to fall head over heels for it (and Timothee Chalamet) I also expected to fall completely in love with it. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it and I’m going to watch the film soon, plus it’s inspired me to go and live in Italy for a summer in the hope of meeting someone like Oliver but…out of everything I’ve read recently, it would probably be at the bottom of my to-read-again pile.

Moving from left to right, I read A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde because I went to see a screening of it at the cinema with my friends (although long story short I never actually got the see it because the file corrupted). I loved the sense of glamour and mystery throughout (typical Wilde, am I right) and I’m really excited to read some more of his plays – I bought the collection of his plays in Oxfam for £2, winner!! And speaking of Oscar Wilde, I’ve also been reading more of his short stories although I’m sort of struggling with them. They’re like nursery rhymes in book form, so there’s no real plot to a lot of them which makes them quite relaxing to read, but also (dare I say it?!) kind of boring in parts. Uh huh. Yep. I just called classic literature boring. I’m ashamed of myself too, dw. I’m going to start Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime soon though, which I’m hoping will have more of a plotline to it, so I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

For my English Lit A Level I Study A Streetcar Named Desire so, since exams are looming upon us, I thought I should probably reread it. I know I’ve spoken about if before on my blog so I’m not going to go into masses of detail, but even though I’ve read it 3 or 4 times now, I still truly love it and on each reread I find something new/interesting to consider.

On the American Lit theme, I recently read Breakfast at Tiffany’s which I honestly read in about 2 hours: it just gripped me (and I’ll take any excuse not to revise). It reminded me a lot of The Great Gatsby with its materialistic society and flawed/false identities and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it – although I really want to know the cat’s name haha.

And finally… White Teeth. Eleanor and Lucy both suggested I read it and I saw that it’s on one of the modules I’ll be taking at uni so I thought I’d give it a go. I loved it!! I found the concept of trying to uphold your roots really interesting, maybe because it’s something that I’m unfamiliar with (SPOILERS AHEAD: what I mean here is, I was born in England to an English family and apart from holidays abroad and travelling, I’ve only really been exposed to one culture, whereas White Teeth follows the journey of migrants settling into England whilst trying to uphold the beliefs/ideals of their old country which starkly contrast to English ideals.) I think I read White Teeth at the perfect time really; what with the “migrant crisis” (crisis yikes I hate that phrase so much) and increasing numbers of wars and conflicts and terrorist attacks, it felt very poignant and applicable throughout.

In terms of what I’m reading now, I currently have 2 books on the go – One Day by David Nicholls and Cherry Crush by Cathy Cassidy. Yep, you read that right, a (hopefully) soon-to-be English Lit uni student is reading a 9 year old’s book. I’m having another declutter and Cherry Crush is on the ‘donate to charity’ pile, but when I was younger it was my favourite book so I didn’t want to get rid of it without reading it again.

I’m also supposedly on a book ban, however in the last month or so I may or may not have bought 6 books. I have mixed feelings because I know that I will read them and I’ll enjoy reading them, but at the moment I just don’t have time and it’s frustrating to see so many unread books on my shelves. Plus, I’m meant to be saving money for uni and summer but… oh well! I’m obsessed.

What are you currently reading? And what are you planning to read next? I hope everybody’s well, and have a lovely week xx

The Book Club

Since the start of term, I seem to have been busy non-stop – although I couldn’t actually tell you what I’ve been busy with to be honest, because I don’t seem to have done much of the pile of schoolwork that I need to do. Which is slightly worrying, to say the least.

In terms of what I’ve been reading lately, I was given a few books for Christmas so I’ve started them. First of all I read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. As I was reading it I was trying to figure out what it reminded me of, and I think I’ve decided it’s a mixture of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Groundhog Day and Cluedo. There’s just one narrator who’s trying to solve the mystery of who killed Evelyn, but he inhabits several different bodies of guests at a party and although he becomes different people, he lives out the same day, over and over again, in these different bodies. It’s really quite confusing and there were a few points where I just had to stop and think for a sec because I couldn’t quite figure out how he knew what he did. If you’ve read Seven Deaths, let me know what you thought of it – I really couldn’t shake off the Harry Potter Time-Turner vibes, and being set at a party in a huge old mansion made it feel like a big game of Cluedo.

I bought The Perks of Being a Wallflower in my post-Christmas book frenzy (I bought 16 books in 2 weeks #obsessed). Have you ever had that thing where a memory suddenly comes to you, completely out of the blue? I had that. I realised that for my 10th or 11th birthday, I’d received the film of The Perks of Being a Wallflower because I’d just discovered Harry Potter and fallen in love with Emma Watson. I remembered watching the first couple of minutes and then having my parents abruptly switch the TV off because apparently at the time I was ‘too young’ to watch it. Anyway, this all really randomly just popped into my head, so I decided to buy the book and at some point I’ll try and root out the DVD from somewhere in my family’s collection, and (finally) watch it.

I really enjoyed reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Even though some parts were dark and the themes throughout are hard-hitting, I loved the narration and it reminded me a lot of Catcher in the Rye which is one of my favourite books. I wish I’d been introduced to it earlier, but hey 😂

My friends and I booked tickets to see A Woman of No Importance, so I read the play beforehand to get to grips with the plot. I’m writing this on the night I was meant to see the play, but unfortunately it was cancelled which I’m actually really sad about. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the play and, as my introduction to Wilde’s plays, I’m excited to read more.

I was also bought the collective book of Oscar Wilde’s short fiction for Christmas (a fab present) which I’ve been reading before I go to sleep. A lot of the stories are fairy tales so they’re really quite relaxing to read after a long, hard day at school lol. I admire Wilde’s talent of summing up humanity and our characteristics so succinctly into one sentence, and there are many such quotes peppered through the stories I’ve read so far. I particularly liked The Portrait of Mr W.H. because 1) there were several quotes that I recognised from The Picture of Dorian Gray, 2) it taught me a lot about Shakespeare’s sonnets and 3) the plot within the plot was a v intriguing technique. 10/10 would recommend any of Wilde’s work.

Book Gift Guide

If you’re starting to panic about Christmas presents – or, more accurately, lack of – don’t worry! I’ve compiled a few of my personal recommendations for some of the people in your life…

For the amateur detective:

A classic, but definitely worth the read! Every page brings a new turn to the story and the ending is still unexpected. This is the sort of book that you could easily tear through if you had a few (blissful) hours to yourself. And, maybe this is superficial but I still think it’s important 😉, you can get copies with beautiful covers!

For the feminist/dystopian fan:

If you (or someone you know) enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll love this. The world has been flipped upside down; women discover they have the ultimate power and are able to hurt, even kill, men with a flick of the fingers. A fast-paced, gripping novel, this is sure to go down well as a Christmas present.

For the “I-don’t-read-fiction” friend:

I’m going to be studying English literature and linguistics at uni hopefully, so this was a really interesting read for me. Even if you have no knowledge of linguistics or no plans to study it in future, you’ll enjoy this. Linguistics probably isn’t the first choice of non-fiction for many readers but as language is crucial to everyday life, the topic is intriguing and I guarantee readers will be hooked.

For the young adult:

This is probably in the top 10 books I’ve read in 2018. Being set in a high school makes it all the more appealing; McManus so accurately depicts the different cliques in high schools. It genuinely feels like you could be living in the story. I love how the narration is from different viewpoints as well – you truly get to know the characters (and yet, you also don’t know who to believe!)

For the traveller:

“Us” follows the holiday of a scientist, an artist and their son, an attempt to save their failing family. If you love travel and art, you’ll enjoy this. Several famous galleries and landmarks feature, along with the adventures of each character – for a lighthearted read for anyone, I’d recommend.

For the teenage comedian:

An oldie but a goldie. Need I say more? Everyone loves Adrian Mole and his teenage struggles – a fabuloso Christmas gift, if you ask me 😉

Thanks to my friend for the inspo to write this post 😉 if you buy any of the books I’ve recommended (for yourself or for someone else) let me know what you think!

September + October book club

Since going back to school in September, reading (unfortunately) has taken a step back – as much as I love it I just find it hard sometimes to sit down and read because I’m always thinking of school! Over the course of the next few months, my book club posts are going to become much more sporadic: instead of posting a bimonthly round-up of everything I’ve read, I’ll probably wait until I have 5 or 6 books to talk about which, judging by how little I’ve read recently, will be around every 3 to 4 months.

I was talking to my English Language teacher about dystopian fiction and how much I love it and she recommended me a book called Station Eleven which I hadn’t heard of. I told her I’d look into it because her summary of it sounded really interesting. I forgot to look actually, but I’m glad about that because in my next lesson with her she’d bought it for me! *cue heart melting* I really really enjoyed reading Station Eleven; there are several different viewpoints and settings which the narrative flicks between, and you’re left trying to figure out how all of the characters interconnect which I love! I won’t give away many spoilers, but around the time that I started reading it a plane was put into quarantine, and I was genuinely so immersed in the story that I thought it had started to come to life (a scary thought, huh).

Talking of scary, I also read We Need to Talk About Kevin. I never usually say this about books, but I hated it. I really and truly hated it. I didn’t connect to any of the characters – not even cute lil Cecelia – and I disliked the whole plot line; you know from the outset that something awful is going to happen, but you have to read alllll the way to the end to find out what it is. Parts made me feel physically sick, such as when Kevin is in the bathroom with the door deliberately left open and his mother can see everything – I won’t go into much more detail, reader, but if you fancy a disturbing read, I recommend. Personally though, I won’t be returning in a hurry 😅

After my draining experience with We Need to Talk About Kevin I decided to relieve my brain a little, so I started Bridget Jones’s Diary. Again, this is unusual, but I preferred the film to the book! Maybe it was the winning combo of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth…who knows? 😉

Finally, I’ve read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, because I again just wanted something lighthearted. I hadn’t actually read the cover before I started but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it – I’d bought it spontaneously after seeing it for £1 in a charity shop, I hadn’t been specifically looking to buy and read it. That said, I’ve read one of Nelson’s other books and enjoyed that, so I don’t know why I had low expectations – overall though, it was a cute story (if a little weird in parts haha, I’m looking at you Lennie + Toby!)

Currently I’m reading Jane Eyre which I love: I remember, when I was 7 or 8, my mum read it aloud to me because I loved everything about learning and education and Jane is a governess, but I haven’t read it since then and suddenly got the urge.

Have a lovely rest of the week x

(PS – unusually, there are no photos for this post: my apologies!! I’m at school for most of the day everyday and before I leave for school, it’s too dark to take photos. When I come back, the light isn’t great – so enjoy an unrelated photo, plonked in the middle of his post! #makingthebestofthings)

(PPS – I’ve been put through to the second round of the UK Blog Awards, which is SO exciting!! I’ll leave links on all my social media accounts so that you can vote for me if you’d like to – if you do, I’ll be forever grateful! Although I don’t expect to win anything, even to have gone to the second round is such a privilege ❤️❤️)

Reasons to buy second-hand books

My love for buying books second-hand has been reignited recently – I watched lots of thrifting hauls over summer and I realised that there are literally only benefits from buying used items! Today, I wanted to share the love –

  • As a student this is very important to me – it’s cheap!!
  • It’s good for the environment – less paper and production energy is being used, less transportation and delivery costs and waste, so what’s not to love? I’ve recently been making an effort to reduce my waste (especially plastic, but paper as well), and this is a fab, easy place to start.
  • You never know what you’re going to find – it’s rarely what you want but there’s always something good. It’s the thrill of the chase! The other day I felt this really intense draw to Oxfam and I just knew that in there would be a book that I’d really like and, sitting there on the shelf waiting to be picked up by moi, was a collected works of Oscar Wilde. I loved The Picture of Dorian Gray and I’ve been meaning to buy some more of his work, so I was ecstatic to find this!!
  • Generally the books are in great condition – I’ve bought a few that look like they’ve never even been opened.
  • There are always hundreds of classics: I swear, every single charity shop stocks One Day by David Nicholls. Every. Single. One.
  • This is a whimsical reason to be honest, but I’ve seen on Instagram a few times that people put cute notes into books – I definitely want to find one!
  • You’re getting cheap books and helping charity too.

If you don’t buy from charity shops, have a go! On books, they excel – honestly, you’ll struggle to limit yourself to just one or two!

June, July and August book club

I’ve sorta maybe kinda missed out on a month of book club posts because in June I only read about half a book, which wouldn’t have made a very interesting post. Over summer though i’ve read a lot so I’m just going to share my thoughts on a few books!

I watched the film of Paper Towns not long ago when it was on TV one night and seeing that inspired me to read the book again. I love rereading my old favourite books; it gives me such a sense of nostalgia and I just get so engrossed in the characters and their lives like I used to when I was younger. I think I’ve only read Paper Towns out of all of John Green’s books but I recently also bought Looking for Alaska, and so rereading and loving Paper Towns has made me excited to start that too.

Next up, another old favourite: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It’s just a YA modern classic, I love it, and there’s not much more to say really – if you want a slightly cliche romance with an unusual context, this is the one for you.

You might have seen if you followed my old Instagram account that I became slightly obsessed with book thrifting over the summer holiday – I used to get so many books from charity shops, but then for some reason I just stopped? Anyway, I bought 8 books for £8 (!!) from the British Heart Foundation I think, 3 for £1 at Cancer Research (winner!), one for £1.45 and another for £1.99. I definitely don’t need to buy any more books for a while, haha.

David Nicholls’s “Us” was one of the 8 for £8 books and quite honestly, if I’d paid £8 for that book alone I would have been happy. It’s so good! It’s about 2 of the things I love most – travelling and art – Douglas, a scientist, is trying to win his wife back, and so he takes her and their son on a huge, slightly disastrous interrailing trip around Europe, stopping off at galleries and sightseeing. It was so cool reading about art galleries I’ve been to before and places I want to visit – ahhh, I recommend!!

I’m writing my personal statement at the moment, so I decided to reread some classics: Pride and Prejudice was my first. I read it whilst I was sitting my mock exams and I think in some of the wordier parts where there’s not a lot happening in the plot I got a little bit distracted lol, but saying that I already knew the story and overall I enjoyed it regardless!

I think I mentioned it in a book club post a few months ago but I’m going to use The Picture of Dorian Gray as my English lit coursework so this summer I reread it; tbh, I killed two birds with one stone there as I’m using it for English and I can write about it on my personal statement! (We love life hacks!!!) Again, I love the plot, I love the way the book’s written, I love the philosophical monologues; I love everything about this book. Just read it. Please.

Another book for school – we’re starting Hamlet in English lit so over summer I read the play. I find Shakespeare so interesting but I really struggle understanding what’s actually being said when I just read it to myself, so I listened to the audiobook as I read which helped so much. I’ve never read Hamlet before, I started it once and then gave up pretty quickly because I wanted to read something more lighthearted but it was more enjoyable than I thought. The plot really gripped me actually and I’m excited to study it more in depth in class.

Ok, down to the last two; Huxley’s Brave New World was SO good and I think I’m going to reread it again quite soon tbh. I was reading this as I was reading Hamlet and there are hundreds of references to Shakespeare in the characters’ speech and let me tell you, my mind was blown on several occasions – I read one line in hamlet, it goes something like “treacherous, lecherous, mindless villain” (although I may have got the order wrong there) and then a few minutes later when I picked up Brave New World, I read that exact line! Crazy. I love references in books to other books because when I recognise them, I feel really smart haha 😉 if you’re a fan of dystopian novels and haven’t read this, give it a go – as a quick summary, the world runs on drugs, recreational sex and everything you learn is taught to you in your sleep.

It’s not shown in the photo above but today I finished Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall which I enjoyed but I feel like I was reading it for weeks and didn’t really do it justice. In a few months I’m going to give it another read since I think I had forgotten parts that happened in the beginning, but, when I got into it, the plot was quite intriguing and satirical (which my dry sense of humour appreciates) and yeah, I definitely just need to reread it.

That’s all for this month’s post – I feel like I’ve actually read and written about a substantial amount of books for once!