When Imogen Tate returns to her job as Editor in Chief of Glossy magazine after a leave of absence she is bemused to find herself confronted by her former assistant, Eve Morton. Bemusement soon turns to concern when she discovers that Eve has the backing of the head honchos to turn Imogen’s beloved magazine into an app. Print is dead, long live the internet. The trouble for Imogen is that she is not completely up to date on the whole internet thing (asking assistant’s to print out her emails – what?) so she faces an uphill battle to remain relevant as Editor in Chief of this new look magazine. Coupled with this, Eve is not exactly supportive. The sweet assistant is nowhere to be found and in her place is a business school graduate from a new generation of success hungry entrepreneurs, power-mad, egotistical, and, to be frank, a total tech-bitch.
Techbitch takes the familiar formula of The Devil Wears Prada and flips it on it’s head. Unlike Miranda Priestly *cough – Anna Wintour – cough*, Imogen Tate has got ahead in the industry by being nice. She is well-connected and well-liked. The reader has immediate sympathy for her character – she is returning from work after a period of illness and is faced, unfairly one might say, with dealing with huge decisions made in her absence. And, instead of feeling sorry for herself she just gets on with it. Eve on the other hand, is very much the baddie. She is jealous, spiteful and mean to her staff. In fact, not mean, cruel.
Some of the situations in Techbitch initially seem quite humorous, until you realise that this is actually happening to people. The forced ‘bonding’ group activities, the working all hours, the sacking of people with no reason and no notice is something that seems to be on the rise in many industries. With the current employment climate still being a bit fraught, people are more willing to accept the unacceptable. For me, Techbitch was particularly nightmare-ish in describing the situation for young writers. Under Eve, Glossy employs an ever rotating roster of bloggers, all of whom are expected to work 24/7, anything less and they are out. This lack of work-life balance is a real problem for many who see no alternative if they want to stay employed.
Overall, Techbitch was an enjoyable read. I liked the main characters, even appreciating the at times, caricature villainry of Eve and it was well paced, if a little predictable. It’s an updated The Devil Wears Prada for the Instagram generation and well worth adding to your summer reading list.
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I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is very typical of the kind of book I’ve been reading a lot recently – a fairly classic psychological thriller – but this one brings it’s A-game, making it a must read if you are a fan of the genre.
It’s hard to sum up without spoilers, so I’m just going to let the blurb do it for me:
A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?
In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.
Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…
The book is split between two points of view – Jenna’s, a traumatised and grieving mother, and DI Ray Stevens, the lead investigator on the tragic hit and run that we see happening in the opening chapter. I really enjoyed this split perspective – you saw Jenna’s emotional journey trying to recover, while through Ray, simultaneously seeing the intricacies of disentangling the case. The author spent 12 years on the police force so this side of the book has an element of authenticity which is often lacking in these kinds of stories. Yes, there is a bit of a clichéd female rookie cop/male senior going on, but it’s not terrible.
If you pick up this book, you’ll see praise on the cover for the “big twist”. If you can resist trying to guess it, it is pretty good. It comes around half way through the narrative and prompts the plot to pick up pace massively. I really liked the twist and how it was handled. Despite what the cover suggests, it’s not the be-all and end-all of the novel – it still holds it’s own after the big reveal and keeps you hooked until the end.
Overall, I highly recommend I Let You Go if you enjoy thrillers, domestic dramas and crime books – it ticks all three boxes.
Occasionally I go a bit mad in Waterstones and end up buying all the books. Of every genre. I just love browsing, buying, reading. I’m a sucker for a nice cover and I will read anything. With an hour and a half on the train each day it’s no surprise really. This is what I picked up recently.
Maddaddam is the last book in the trilogy of the same name by Margaret Atwood. It’s a scarily plausible science fiction and I loved books one and two. Can’t wait to see where she takes it.
The Tell-Tale Heart is one of Penguin’s 80 classics for 80p each. I’ve never read it so going to give it a go. Might wait for a stormy night!
All the Light We Cannot See is an epic set during World War 2 and follows the converging stories of a young blind girl in France and a boy in the Hitler Youth. It’s just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction so I’m sure will be quite the read.
The Bees is literally about bees. It’s a dystopian vision… but with bees. Genius.
I’ve seen a lot mixed reviews about Elizabeth is Missing but I’m intrigued enough to try it for myself. Maud is convinced her friend is missing, but she is in a nursing home for dementia and no one will listen to her.
I Let You Go is a crime thriller following the hit and run of a five-year old boy. It promises a bit twist – will I see it coming?
The Axeman’s Jazz was something I definitely picked up for the cool cover! Set in New Orleans and about a terrifying serial killer, it sounds like a dark and thrilling ride.
Meanwhile Techbitch, is the polar opposite. Set in the catty world of magazines, apps and blogging, it sounds like a fun chick-lit, not a genre I usually go for, but hopefully will be good.
That’s my recent buys, but not gonna lie, got lots more on the Amazon wishlist. Let me know if you’ve read any of these (no spoilers please!), or any recommendations.
Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson
First published in 2001 Jon Ronson’s Them is a pre-9/11 snapshot of extremism across the globe. Ronson spent time with various extremist sects from the KKK to Islamic fundamentalists. Bizarrely, Ronson find that they all have something in common – the belief that the world is ruled by a single elite group who meet in secret, sinister gatherings. And even more bizarrely, Ronson thinks they might be on to something…
Jon Ronson is the original Louis Theroux and the theme of Them suits this faux-naif style of documentary perfectly. You can’t help to find the ridiculous humour in encounters with, for example, David Icke, the UFO conspiracy theorist who genuinely believes that a race of alien lizards run the world. Like, actual lizards. However, Them is raised above simple satire by Ronson’s willingness to put himself in the middle of the action. The scenes where he stakes out a hotel where the Bilderberg group are allegedly meeting are hilarious. He soaks up the paranoia of his (temporary) comrades and finds himself truly seeing things from their point of view.
Them is a really well paced, varied and funny book. It does read slightly outdated and I missed a few of the references but something about the passage of time allows the black humour to shine more. In a scary world, sometimes it good to laugh at those scary people.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
Choose a girl… to own forever.
In Only Ever Yours, Louise O’Neill creates a future where women are valueless. Baby girls are so unwanted that the body rejects female foetuses, and instead, girls are created in labs. New batches of baby ‘Eves’ are created each year, churned out, named after famous beauties (Cara, Naomi, Agyness) and carted into ‘school’ to learn all they must know. And what they must know is not a lot. How to choose an outfit, how to pose for a flattering picture, how to refuse fat-people food, how to suppress your emotions, how to be placid; these are the lessons taught to the girls. Their purpose is simply to please men.
Everything is building up towards their 16th year when they will finally learn their destiny. In O’Neill’s future, one of three futures lies in wait for the girls: to become a Companion, a coveted role in which you get to become a trophy wife, birthing sons until you hit the ripe age of 40, at which point you will be terminated lest wrinkles start to appear; a Concubine, which is exactly how it sounds; or a Chastity, the unfortunate group of women who are deemed to be undesirable to men so must spend their lives teaching the next generations of Eves to do better. The girls future is in the hands of 16-year-old boys who will judge them and decide their fate in a matter of weeks.
We follow one Eve, Freida as she struggles to cope with the pressure of this. Her best friend, Isobel has always been the highest ranking Eve, until suddenly she withdraws, loses interest in competing with the other Eves and leaves Freida rudderless. Without the support of Isobel she feels unable to cope with the frightening level of expectation and begins to lose her grip on her sanity.
In short, I loved this book. I would liken it to a cross between Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for Millennials. Alongside an engaging storyline, Only Ever Yours provides a cutting look at young women’s places in our current society by intensifying current norms. For example, the Eves are accepting of a reality TV show star beating his companion because she obviously stepped out of line, and besides, he’s hot (Chris Brown fans anyone?). The thought of being made to take a photo for their social media without a full face of make up induces panic and down-voting from the anonymous boys judging them. And the word “feminist” is literally the worst thing you can call someone.
I would really recommend this book to anyone. As it’s YA it’s easily digestible (even if some of the ideas explored in the book are very unpalatable) and is a good introduction to feminist dystopian novels.
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