Review: How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran

How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran
How to Be Famous
by Caitlin Moran

I absolutely loved How to Build a Girl so was very much looking forward to picking up How to Be Famous. Unfortunately however, while it has all of the things that made the first book so great I was a little disappointed. It’s still brutally honest, funny and main character Johanna is one of a kind but I just found my attention wandering at times.


I’m Johanna Morrigan, and I live in London in 1995, at the epicentre of Britpop. I might only be nineteen, but I’m wise enough to know that everyone around me is handling fame very, very badly.

My unrequited love, John Kite, has scored an unexpected Number One album, then exploded into a Booze And Drugs Hell ™ – as rockstars do. And my new best friend – the maverick feminist Suzanne Banks, of The Branks – has amazing hair, but writer’s block and a rampant pill problem. So I’ve decided I should become a Fame Doctor. I’m going to use my new monthly column for The Face to write about every ridiculous, surreal, amazing aspect of a million people knowing your name.

But when my two-night-stand with edgy comedian Jerry Sharp goes wrong, people start to know my name for all the wrong reasons. ‘He’s a vampire. He destroys bright young girls. Also, he’s a total dick’ Suzanne warned me. But by that point, I’d already had sex with him. Bad sex.
Now I’m one of the girls he’s trying to destroy.
He needs to be stopped.

But how can one woman stop a bad, famous, powerful man?


I’m a big fan of Caitlin Moran, following her on social media & reading her columns, and when I read How to Build a Girl a couple of years ago I really loved it. I’d had one of those days that left me exhausted and emotional and How to Build a Girl somehow put me back together again. It was funny, sad and just so brutally honest and relateable it really resonated with me.

Needless to say when I heard Moran had written a sequel, How to Be Famous, I knew I had to read it. I felt invested in main character Johanna/Dolly and needed to know what was next for her. Unfortunately however, while it has a lot of the same humor, honesty and refreshing uniqueness to it, for me it lost a little of the relateability. It seems to lose the story at times and turn into a series of essays on feminism. When it’s in the moment and Johanna is acting it’s wonderful but there just isn’t enough of this to make a cohesive whole.

The story picks up not long after the end of How to Build a Girl (if you haven’t read it I’m not sure it really matters) with Johanna aka Dolly Wilde living what should be her best life in London, writing for a top music magazine but despite getting to meet and interview the famouses, she still feels like she’s on the outside. Her best friend and long time crush John Kite has just hit the big time and is constantly on tour, she’s not taken seriously at work and her father is having a mid life crisis and using her to relive his youth. Basically she’s miserable but rather than moping about (although there is a bit of that) she decides to take action, to become noticed through her writing. Unfortunately though while her writing does start to garner her attention a past encounter with a certain comedian results in her name on everyone’s lips for the wrong reasons.

In a lot of ways I really love Johanna, she is one of a kind, incredibly self aware and either determined or deluded, I haven’t figured out which. When she decides to do something she commits fully. Who else would decide when the man of their dreams becomes famous that the only solution is to become famous themselves. I love how she fights for what she wants and believes that it will happen. She has no doubts that she’ll get a new, better job if she quits her current one or that the letter she writes will open everyone’s eyes. She challenges and she pushes and it’s brilliant and often hilarious.

On the other side though, she’s also only 19 and despite her intention to become a “sex adventurer” fairly inexperienced and very self conscious about her appearance. This leaves her open to manipulation, wary of confrontation and easy to pressure into doing things she doesn’t really want to do. There were definitely moments when I worried for her or wanted to shout at her to run or stand up for herself.

She does however develop quite nicely over the course of the story. If How To Build a Girl was the story of her growing up and becoming someone new then How to Be Famous is about her realizing and accepting who she is, what’s important and what she’s willing to do. She has to face her fears and deal with her issues.

So far so good, so where did it go wrong for me? I’m afraid to say it was the writing. As I said, I love Caitlin Moran and think she’s a powerful voice for feminism but at times this book wandered away from fiction and into some kind of manifesto. Johanna’s job as a journalist and the letters she writes to John create the opportunity for the inclusion of articles on feminism, fame and fangirls among other things. I probably wouldn’t have minded this but it felt more like Moran writing from her pov rather than Johanna. I also felt like they were a little long-winded and this combined with the other extensive reflections on the 90’s, life in London and the music scene had my attention wandering. I’m sure there must have been a more effective way for the author to get the message across.

There’s also something very odd going on with the tenses, particularly at the start (although I may just have gotten used to it and stopped noticing). I found myself becoming confused as to when the narration was coming from. At times it’s in the moment but at others it’s almost like future Johanna reflecting back. It’s not however consistent enough to really be either so is very jarring.

I feel like I should also add a warning that this is probably not a book for the easily offended as much like the first book there’s lots of swearing and some pretty graphic and realistic sex scenes.

When it is in the moment though it does have some truly magical moments. It is a little bit slow and wandering but I do love the character development and the story. There were moments that made me laugh out loud and others that made me cry.

Overall, it was a little disappointing but I am glad I read it and would recommend if you like unique characters, feminist reads and aren’t too easily offended.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

ARC Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

by Christina Dalcher

With an intriguing premise and clever writing I found this to be an incredibly engaging and addictive read.


Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial–this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end. 

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite being bombarded with promotion for this book all over social media it was only when I read the premise that I decided it was one I had to read. I was suspicious of all of the comparisons to the Handmaids Tale (I’m suspicious of all comparisons though) but there are actually a lot of similarities in the world the author creates. Due to a change in political power and the influence of religion, America is seeking a return to “traditional values” and family roles. The men are educated, given jobs, bring home money and make all of the decisions and the women are there to support them by keeping house.

Where it diverges however, and what fascinated me, is that this is enforced by limiting women’s access to words and language. Every woman/girl is given an allocation of 100 words a day and is fitted with a counter to ensure they stick to it. They are not permitted to read or write, have no access to computers, mobile phones or tablets and there are cameras set up to ensure they don’t communicate by any other means. It’s extreme but it really intrigued me. How would a loss of language affect your life, how would it affect your relationships and the dynamics within a family?

Through a number of situations and little nuggets of detail the author does an incredible job of portraying this world in a way which feels very real and easy to imagine. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into it in the way that the author answers almost all of the questions I had about what kind of impact this would have on the day to day life of different types of people. There are maybe a few too many coincidences and it lacks a little subtlety at times but it gets the message across.

I liked that the main character Jean (Gianna) was a former professor of neurolinguistics and the opportunities this gave for bringing a lot of the science into the story to give it a bit more depth and direction. Jean herself is a complicated character and I thought it was interesting how flawed the author made her. There was a lot I could relate to and empathise with but there were aspects of her behavior I just didn’t like or agree with. I also thought it was good the way the author brought in different and very diverse characters to illustrate the impact this society was having on them.

For a debut this is a pretty impressive book. I did have some minor quibbles with some of the writing, I found the alternate scenarios irritating and there were a couple of jumps which confused me but otherwise it was very readable. The pacing was pretty much spot on and I loved how the author managed to work in the events leading up to the current position without info dumping.

Overall this was a truly engaging read with a fascinating premise. One I’d definitely recommend.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this. As always all views are my own.

Review: Spare & Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin

Spare and Found PartsMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to confess it took me a little while to get into it but I ended up falling a little in love with this modern reworking of Frankenstein. It was a little different to what I was expecting but it’s one of those books that I think will buzz around in my head for a while which is always a good sign.

The story is set in the future some time after some terrible event has devastated civilization and left the survivors missing parts (an arm, a leg, an ear) and with an aversion to any kind of technology. For main character Nell Crane however the part she’s missing is a heart. Her father, the scientist famed for creating realistic artificial parts to fill the gaps, gives her a clockwork heart. Feeling like an outsider and under pressure to do something amazing as her “contribution” to society Nell is inspired by a mannequin’s hand she finds on the beach to create a companion for herself. To do so though she’s going to have to break a lot of rules and possibly lose the one friend she has.

There’s something a little uncomfortable about this story, which I think is why I initially found it a bit of a struggle. I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about Nell creating someone to understand and love her. I do have a lot of sympathy for her, she feels like an outsider, she’s ashamed of her clockwork heart, has an aversion to being touched and seems very alone but her solution of creating a person just feels selfish and reckless. I did love her determination and her passion but I found it frustrating how she separates herself from those around her and doesn’t really try.

I have to confess the relationships between Nell and those around her also confused me. I couldn’t quite figure out how I felt about them and possibly more importantly couldn’t work out how I was supposed to feel about them. Should I be rooting for a romance or upset at their lack of understanding? The characters are wonderfully complex and interesting and I suspect the author may have intentionally written it this way but I found myself moving from like to dislike and back again at a rapid pace.

Potential romantic interest (or sex pest) Oliver was particularly intriguing to me and I’m still not sure how I feel about him. He and Nell more or less grew up together and he’s actively pursuing her but it’s not clear what his motives are. Whether he’s truly interested in a romantic way or whether he’s more mercenary and simply looking for more access to her father. Certainly from her initial reactions Nell seems genuinely repulsed by him despite everyone trying to push them together. He comes on hard and refuses to take no for an answer. But, as the story progresses there’s something about him that grows on you (and Nell) and it seems like her feelings towards him may change.

Similarly best friend Ruby doesn’t always seem like much of a friend. She pushes Nell to do things that she doesn’t want to do, or that make her uncomfortable for selfish reasons. She keeps secrets, talks about her behind her back and is trying to force her into a relationship she doesn’t want. But, there are moments where you really see Ruby and she’s not a bad person, just not perfect, and a lot of the problems are due to Nell keeping her and everyone else at arms length.

It is great to watch how all of these relationships develop and shift over the course of the novel and my feelings did shift and change towards them. Something I’m not sure has ever happened quite so much with any other story.

The world building is also wonderfully done by the author. The aftermath and devastation of what seems to have been an apocalyptic event is all around them giving it a very sinister and gothic feel but the new society growing out of the ashes is also fascinating. There’s so much fear and control, but there’s also the suggestion of something better.

It really is a fascinating story that makes you question just what it means to be human and what it is that makes you a monster while also looking at the role of technology in society. I also have to praise the author for creating such a challenging and unique central character. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.


Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?

Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne : I Loved It

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
How Do You Like Me Now?
by Holly Bourne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow..this book!!! I read an ARC of this back in December and I am so happy I can finally start gushing over it.

Have you ever read a book that just speaks to you? This book was that for me. There is so much about it that is so real and so relevant and that I could really relate to. I wanted to just shout “YES!!!!”, it’s so completely and totally spot on. I like to highlight quotes as I read and can honestly say I’ve highlighted half of this book. It’s just so well written.


‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs. The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.’ 

Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?

There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. A straight-talking, bestselling author, she’s inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. And she has the perfect relationship to boot.

But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.

Her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about marriage, but everyone around her is getting engaged and having babies. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.

When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.

It’s time for Tori to practice what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?

The debut adult novel by bestselling author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving exploration of love, friendship and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of your thirties.


This was my first book from Holly Bourne (and the first adult book she’s written) but it won’t be my last. From the blurb I was expecting the standard chick lit or romcom type book that is all too common but this has so much more depth and realism to it than I ever could have anticipated.

As someone who is single and in their thirties (Edit: I was in my thirties when I read it so it still counts) I could relate to so much of this story. How it seems that at a certain age everyone suddenly starts getting married and having kids and how this creates a barrier between you. How scary the thought of being on your own, or never having children can be and how sometimes it feels like you’re losing at life if you’re not blissfully happy, married and popping out babies. How you can feel judged and inadequate for putting your career first, or for those with kids, for not being the right type of mother.

I don’t really like making comparisons but for me this had echoes of Bridget Jones Diary. It’s less of a romance but while Bridget was made to feel like there must be something wrong with her for being single by the smug marrieds, Tori is made to feel the same for not being a mother. Some of the things said to her are truly awful but I know from personal experience that it does happen. I could completely understand her jealousy and the feeling she had that she was trapped on the wrong side of a wall.

There are a number of other very relevant themes prevalent throughout this story. Our obsession with social media at the expense of enjoying the moment (if there’s no pictures on insta it didn’t happen), the endless quest for validation from a bunch of strangers on the internet, how success is determined by how many likes or comments something gets. It really made me question my own obsession with twitter and instagram. Tori may have driven me nuts with how obsessed she was with presenting the best image of herself, the idea that she has the perfect life and all the answers but really she was just an exaggerated version of a lot of us.

I did love the strong feminist vibe that runs through this book. I may not have loved Tori but I loved how she challenged those claiming to be feminists. One of my favorite moments was when she was on a panel with a man claiming to be a feminist, she may have been drunk but she was hilarious and absolutely spot on.

Her relationship with Tom made for some difficult reading and I absolutely hated it and kept praying she would end it but as the book points out starting over in anything is a much more daunting prospect in your 30s than in your 20s. There’s a definite feeling that you’re locked into the decisions and the path you’re on and just have to make the best of it.

If I had one minor qualm about this book and it is minor it’s that I just couldn’t understand Tom’s behaviour. He was just so horrible and manipulative. I can’t believe it was deliberate but I can’t accept that he didn’t know what he was doing.

I’ve probably made this sound like quite an intense read, dealing with heavy and depressing issues, but it’s not like that at all. There was the odd heartbreaking moment but there were more than a few that were hilariously funny, many of which involved best friend Dee (and often some kind of celebratory event). My personal favorite was a baby shower and some discussion over landing strips, I’m saying no more except that Tori is truly gifted at saying exactly what I would be thinking.

Thank you Holly Bourne for creating such a wonderful book and if you’re still reading after all of my waffling thank you too. If you can’t tell I absolutely loved it and would recommend everyone read this immediately. I kind of hope it’ll encourage women everywhere to maybe be a little less judgmental about how others choose to live their life.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

Review: The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
The Exact Opposite of Okay
by Laura Steven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Possibly one of the most open, frank and honest YA books I’ve come across. It’s not a perfect read but it’s one that challenges expectations and I’m sure will generate discussion around some very current and relevant issues.


Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…


Hmmm… I have to admit I’m finding this book rather hard to rate and review. I do think it’s an important read, and I’d certainly recommend for the very current and very real issues it highlights but I’m not sure I would say I really enjoyed it.

It’s probably one of the most frank, open and honest books I’ve come across which is fantastic but it didn’t make for a particularly comfortable read. This is most definitely a good thing as it brings a lot of issues out into the open and makes you question your own views and judgments but I do feel like things were a little over exaggerated and the story occasionally lacked balance.

It possibly didn’t help that Izzy is pretty much the exact opposite of me, extroverted, always wanting to be the center of attention, open about everything, tells a lot of crude jokes and thinks nothing of getting drunk and having sex with someone (or two someones) she barely knows at a party. I couldn’t relate at all especially in the first half of the book and honestly if I met her in real life I’d be terrified (and probably a bit in awe) of her.

She is however the perfect character for this story as she challenges expectations. She’s not afraid to admit to what she does and is very open about her attitudes to sex and her body. I will admit I found some of her attitudes kind of shocking but only because it’s so completely different from what I know and expect, but again, I think this is the point. It shouldn’t be shocking for her to have those types of attitudes and my reaction just proves how ingrained this double standard is in our society.

There have been quite a few books recently which have dealt with this double standard, how boys will be boys while girls are sluts if they do, prudes if they don’t but I think this is the first book I’ve come across with a female character who is so sexually experienced and open about her enjoyment of sex. More often than not in these types of stories someone is falsely accused or slut shamed for something relatively minor like the way they look or a one off event. This book proposes the wild and wacky notion that actually some girls enjoy sex and are not ashamed of it (and they shouldn’t feel like they should be).

I also love how it raises the lesser known issue of the nice guy and the friend zone. The guy who believes you should be grateful to them (aka sleep with them) just because they’re decent and if you don’t there’s something wrong with you.

There’s a lot to think about in this book and it is a fast paced and easy read. I found my attitude towards Izzy changing over the course of the story and I really liked how she developed. I also have to say how much I loved the strong female relationships in the book, Izzy and BFF Ajita, Izzy and her grandmother and even Izzy’s relationship with a teacher.

There were a few elements that stretched credibility, I can’t believe this would have blown into such a big story and I can’t believe a school would act the way they did and there would be so little consequences for the person responsible for what is essentially revenge porn.  I also found Izzy’s voice a little too extra at times but overall this is an excellent read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. All views are my own.

Book Review: Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett

Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist WorkplaceFeminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first rule of Feminist Fight Club is that you must talk about Feminist Fight Club. The second rule, you MUST talk about Feminist Fight Club. So I’m going to talk about Feminist Fight Club. To use the books own words to describe it:

It is an action, an attitude, a state of mind, a collective call to arms.

I have to admit that I very rarely read non fiction and more often than not when I do I struggle to make it to the end. There was something about this book though that really appealed when I spotted it on NetGalley. I suppose I’m just fascinated by different thoughts on equality in the workplace and it’s something I am very passionate about. I would never describe myself as a feminist (I don’t like the term for some reason) but I do believe that no one should be discriminated against because of sex, race, religion, orientation or any other factor. To be perfectly honest I don’t think any of those factors should even be a consideration (possibly why I don’t like the feminist term). What matters is can you do the job, the rest is irrelevant.

As the book points out however, sexism in today’s workplace is a much more subtle thing than it previously was. It’s much more difficult to spot and more importantly to combat. This book is fantastic in helping you to identify the obvious and less obvious forms of sexist behaviour in the office and provides lots of helpful fight moves that can be used to combat them while keeping your professionalism. It also outlines the ways that women often sabotage themselves in the office and provides tactics for avoiding the traps.

These were probably the parts of the book that I found the most interesting and they definitely got me thinking about the office where I work and also my behaviour. It weirdly turns out that I already do a lot of the things they suggest. For example, I never volunteer to make teas and coffees or take notes in a meeting by claiming that I’m terrible at it 🙂

I suppose what’s more important about it is that it sparked some discussion among my team in the office (there are five men and me, the sole female). What these discussions indicated was that I was probably the exception to a lot of the statements in the book. I’m by far the chattiest, I’m a womanterruptor (oops), I’m pretty quick to speak out and I don’t really do any mummy-ing. I should also point out that I am the holder of the controls for the air con so the office is always at a temperature to suit me 🙂

I think however that I’m pretty lucky in where I work. There’s a really high proportion of women, a lot of whom are in senior roles and we pride ourselves on being inclusive and encouraging everyone to speak up. This book would make more difference to others who are in a less tolerant environment. Where I think I got most value from the book therefore was in looking at my own behaviour. I have definitely been thinking more about the language I use, although to be honest I often use qualifiers and caveated language on purpose.

If I had any criticisms of this book it’s that I felt it was a little on the long side and became a little repetitive. I was beginning to struggle in places and while it is very humorous and has some fantastic real life examples there were bits which just weren’t that relevant to me. Although it does suggest that you don’t need to read straight through but rather jump to the sections that interest you.

It’s also loaded full of Americanisms which I don’t overly mind but I would imagine others might. In addition I don’t particularly agree with the suggestion made that you should seek to promote women in the workplace. I’m all for supporting them, making sure their voice is heard and they aren’t being discriminated against but I don’t agree with the suggestion that you should seek to load the office with as many women as possible by selective recruitment i.e. if you’re in position where you hire staff you should actively seek to hire a woman rather than a man. I’m afraid I’m back to the best person for the job argument but that may be because I’m fortunate in where I work.

Overall therefore a good read and definitely one I’d recommend as it sparked some interesting discussions and gave me a much better understanding of myself.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from GoodReads)

Part manual, part manifesto, a humorous yet incisive guide to navigating subtle sexism at work—a pocketbook Lean In for theBuzzfeed generation that provides real-life career advice and humorous reinforcement for a new generation of professional women.

It was a fight club—but without the fighting and without the men. Every month, the women would huddle in a friend’s apartment to share sexist job frustrations and trade tips for how best to tackle them. Once upon a time, you might have called them a consciousness-raising group. But the problems of today’s working world are more subtle, less pronounced, harder to identify—and, if Ellen Pao is any indication, harder to prove—than those of their foremothers. These women weren’t just there to vent. They needed battle tactics. And so the fight club was born.

Hard-hitting and entertaining, Feminist Fight Club blends personal stories with research, statistics, infographics, and no-bullsh*t expert advice. Bennett offers a new vocabulary for the sexist workplace archetypes women encounter everyday—such as the Manterrupter who talks over female colleagues in meetings or the Himitator who appropriates their ideas—and provides practical hacks for navigating other gender landmines in today’s working world. With original illustrations, Feminist Mad Libs, a Negotiation Cheat Sheet, as well as fascinating historical research and a kit for “How to Start Your Own Club,”Feminist Fight Club tackles both the external (sexist) and internal (self-sabotaging) behaviors that plague today’s women—as well as the system that perpetuates them