by M. A. Griffin

As a young man I was inspired and energised by the razor-sharp protest-politics of Public Enemy. (“I got a letter from the government the other day…” begins Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos; “They wanted me for the army or whatever / Picture me giving a damn. I said never.”) I still listen to a lot of rap music in the course of my day-to-day, and much of PAYBACK’s revolutionary zeal comes in spirit from the kind of purposeful anger that can be heard there. I was delighted to get the chance to name-check a list of superstar rappers in the acknowledgments to the book. 
Here’s a weird thing though – despite always writing to music, once I’m sitting down at the keyboard I can’t listen to anything with lyrics. So PAYBACK, a story about an anti-capitalist group of teenage Robin Hoods stealing from the corrupt and wealthy, then redistributing ill-gotten profits to those in need, was written to movie soundtracks.
Perhaps understandably the scores that work best for me are ones for films I’ve never seen. Which means I often find myself watching a film for the first time having listened to its music on twenty or thirty previous occasions. This happened most recently with Frank Darabont’s wonderful adaptation of The Green Mile. I knew Thomas Newman’s score backwards. To see it with images was a strangely moving experience.

So here are four instrumental/orchestral soundtracks to put in your ears next time you’re plugging away at that novel…

1.       I can’t vouch for the quality of Nicholas Jericki’s thriller Arbitrage, but I can tell you Cliff Martinez’s moody, electronic score is great for conjuring nocturnal cityscapes and nefarious plots. Which is rocket-fuel when you’re writing a series of break-neck heists executed by a gang of teen thieves.

2.       Niki Caro does a wonderful job directing The Zookeeper’s Wife. Apparently. I’ve never seen it. But Harry Gregson Williams’ orchestral score soars. Put it on if you want to write a scene in which two teen gang members find themselves alone for the first time, and one feels a growing attraction to the other he can’t bring himself to express…

3.       My dad’s a big fan of Scott Frank’s neo-noir A Walk Among the Tombstones. Never seen it personally so I couldn’t possibly comment. But props to Carlos Rafael Rivera for a soundtrack rich in eerie strings which suggest suspicion, guilt, fear. Great if your protagonist has a growing sense of impending doom as the cops close in and relationships strain under pressure.

4.       I never caught Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. It might be about badgers or bats? Probably not. Anyway, Abel Koreniowski’s highly-strung music is fragile and taut, borderline melodramatic. Great if you’re busy cornering your heroes in new and nasty ways. We readers know it’s a trap but they’re too blind to see it… 

PAYBACK by M. A. Griffin out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House)

Follow M.A. Griffin on twitter @fletchermoss and find out more at

REVIEW: The Island

by M.A. Bennett

Pages: 304
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: 9th August 2018 
Received From: Hot Key Books

Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad - however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others . . .

When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School - forever - if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes 'No man is an island' - but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone's true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence . . .

S.T.A.G.S. was one of the most talked about YA's of 2017 and when it was announced that M.A. Bennett was releasing another book I was beyond excited! So, when I got the chance to read The Island I jumped at the chance. The Island has the same flare and sense of danger that Bennett's first book had which instantly lets you know you're in for one hell of a ride. 

The Island is a story about a boy named Link and how he goes from bottom of the pack to king of the island. Its a twist on the coming of age story, where Link and a group of people from his elite school end up on a desert island and the only thing that stands in the way of their survival is themselves. Throughout the book the characters have to find a strength within themselves, break away from high school stereotypes and become adults in the most unexpected ways. The question is, when the rules they have lived by for so many years are taken away, can this group of teenagers discover a way to survive? 

The saying goes 'power corrupts all' and this book shows just how true that can be when this misfit group of teenagers are forced into situations they never imagined possible. The thing I loved about Bennett's first book was it tapped into this old fashioned idea of hierarchy that we like to believe has been/is being abolished and it invites the readers into worlds were it is still very much an issue. It looks at the complexity of human behaviour and show the reader the extents people will go to achieve (and then keep) power. 

The book itself is constantly twisting and turning, creating situations these young protagonists will have to fight to survive through. It is an exciting new book and even though the feminist in me found some moments hard to stomach, I know that that's the point! Bennett does not shy away from the darker parts of human behaviour and that just makes this book all the more exciting. 

Overall, this is a really exciting new book that I think any YA enthusiast will devour in a matter of days. It is fast paced, exciting and pushes the reader into a world that sits so close to ours it's hard not to imagine this happening somewhere. If you haven't pre-ordered this one yet then I highly recommend that you do. 

REVIEW: Carve The Mark

by Veronica Roth

Pages: 468
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication Date: 18th January 2017

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra's world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

You know that feeling when your favourite author announces a new series and you just cannot wait to read it? This is how I felt when Carve The Mark was announced, as I've read the Divergent books more times than I care to mention. However, when it came around to it I just couldn't pick it up. What if its not as good? What if I end up being let down? Well over a year after it was first published I FINALLY got around to reading Carve the Mark and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed!

Carve The Mark is a story of two halves, told from two points of view. The first is Akos, a boy torn away from his family, who has to learn to survive in enemy territory and serve a family that threaten everything he holds dear. Second is Cyra, a girl fated to bring pain to anyone who touches her. As the book unfolds these two characters’ lives become intertwined as their fates are destined to play out but the path they find themselves on was nothing like they imagined. For you see, Akos may be the only relief from Cyra's current gift, a moment in time where she is able to breathe. With hostile relations between two races reaching its apex and a rebellion on the horizon, can our two main characters out run their destinies or were the fates sealed long ago? 

I'll be honest, to begin with I wasn't convinced. I don't know if it was the fact it wasn’t Tris and Four or if my expectations were just to high but I honestly thought I wasn't going to like this book. However, after a couple of chapters I found that I couldn't put this book down. I needed to know what happened next. The story line was exciting and constantly moving from one thing to the next and it kept me on my toes throughout. One of my favourite things with books like this is seeing how the author uses contemporary human behaviour to create worlds that parallel our own and the universe Roth describes is both otherworldly and relatable (which is a hard mix to pull off). 

The characters themselves are all completely and utterly imperfect, they make mistakes and fall down throughout the book, but they also find the strength within themselves and each other to fight. The growth of Cyra's character was probably one of my favourites as it shows not just the harshness of growing up and finding yourself but also the struggles of doing what's right when it's so much easier to do what's being asked of you. 

Overall, I fell in love with this story and the main characters. It was fasted paced and exhilarating, with plot twists around every corner. It was one of those books that makes me wish I hadn't waited so long to read it and I'm not making the same mistake with book 2 as I can't wait to find out what is in store for these characters next.

REVIEW: The White Princess


by Philippa Gregory

Pages: 527
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 1st August 2013

The haunting story of the mother of the Tudors, Elizabeth of York, wife to Henry VII.

Beautiful eldest daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville - the White Queen - the young princess Elizabeth faces a conflict of loyalties between the red rose and the white. Forced into marriage with Henry VII, she must reconcile her slowly growing love for him with her loyalty to the House of York, and choose between her mother's rebellion and her husband's tyranny. Then she has to meet the Pretender, whose claim denies the House of Tudor itself.

I stated reading this when it first came out in 2013 however, at the time I just could not get on with it. But recently I've been on a bit of a reading slump (hence the lack of reviews - SORRY!) and I thought I would give it another go. I adored the other books in this series and I don't know why I didn't get along with The White Princess to begin with because this time around I devoured it and I'm not completely in love with this book!

The White Princess begins just after the battle of Bosworth, where Henry Tudor won the crown of England from Richard the 3rd. The story is told from the perspective of Elizabeth of York, lover to Richard and future wife of Henry as she has to adapt to a new way of life at court, under a new king who killed the man she loves. Like all of Philippa's books this is rife with drama and excitement, that keeps you entertained from the moment you open the book. Elizabeth was loved by a nation but with a mother-in-law you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, a king that finds it hard to trust and the legacy of her York name on the line, Elizabeth's journey to the throne is anything but easy.

I'm a big fan of Philippa's books as they paint a picture of the past with this magical flare that makes you feel like you are being transported back in time to the royal courts of centuries past. The character's in this instalment are engaging and draw you into the story within a couple of pages. I was obsessed with Richard III in the past books so I wasn't sure how I would feel about a post-Richard world but Elizabeth ad Henry's characters were intriguing and complex. Being able to read and see their relationship evolve from something quite toxic to where they are by the end was really interesting.

The story itself was exciting and follows a young girl as she has to learn to survive within a new royal family that doesn't trust her in a palace that used to be her home. It is full of betrayal and plots that will have you flipping through the pages to find out what happens next. I think the thing I like most about these books is that even if you know the history behind the stories, Philippa's rendition of them brings the characters to life - even if you do want to throttle some of them. 

Overall, this was an impressive extension to the Cousins War series by Philippa Gregory. It kept up with the other books and concluded this series with a story fit for a King. If you haven't read this series yet then I highly recommend it as it will send you back in time to a part of British history that I personally find truly magical. 

REVIEW: Things I'm Seeing Without You

by Peter Bognanni

Pages: 336
Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: 1st Febuary 2018
Received From: Chicken House

Seventeen-year-old Tess talks to Jonah every day; through texts, tweets and emails.

So when she discovers Jonah has committed suicide, her world implodes. Feeling heartbroken and traumatized Tess unexpectedly finds herself at her estranged father’s house, wondering how well she really knew Jonah. Now, having dropped out of high school, struggling with questions about life and loss, Tess and her father come together to try and find the answers.

First things first, can I just say that Chicken House are smashing it out of the park with their YA's this year!! I mean seriously, I've not read a book that I've not wanted to immediately re-read and Things I'm Seeing Without You is no exception. I'll be honest I thought this book was going to be a little bit depressing when I first started reading it but as the story unfolded you notice the humour in it, the notes that make you smile and the moments that catch your breath. It delves into a situation no one wants to find themselves in and resolves itself in the most peculiar of manners, and I wouldn't change a single second of it. 

Things I'm Seeing Without You is the story of Tess, a girl who's life gets flipped on its head when the boy she's fallen in love with commits suicide. He said he loved her, but now he's gone, and Tess has to find a way to come to terms with what she's lost. Tess’s life feels like it's stopped with the boy’s, she lost as she drops out of school and moves in with her estranged father (who by the way just happens to be running a funeral business - of sorts). But life hasn't stopped and from this point on everything is going to be different, things Tess thought she knew will come unravelled as she discovers the truth about the boy she's been talking to everyday for months. 

Finding a balance between writing a good story and being respectful to the difficult issues you're writing about is not an easy task. In Things I'm Seeing Without You Bognanni tackles some hard subjects, but he manages to find a way to mix the difficult with the storytelling to produce a book that hits right in the feels. 

It is no secret that the way to a good review from me is to write a load of messed up characters and show me that they can find redemption and this book does exactly that! Okay, well... maybe not messed up as such but the characters in this book are falling apart. Unsure how to get through the day after the worst thing they could ever imagine happening happens. But as the story continues you find yourself wishing the characters forward, and somehow... in a way I did not see coming... they find their way to the end of the book. 

At first this seems like a book about death but in reality, it’s about living, celebrating life and finding a way to go on in the most unexpected of ways. Things I'm Seeing Without You is a story that will have you grabbing for the tissues at times but at it is also filled with small smiles, great storytelling and characters you can't help but care about. If you haven't had the chance to read this book yet, then I cannot recommend it enough! 

REVIEW: We Are Young

by Cat Clarke

Pages: 384
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books
Publication Date: 3rd May 2018
Received From: Quercus Children's Books

On the same night Evan's mother marries local radio DJ 'Breakfast Tim', Evan's brand-new step-brother Lewis is found unconscious and terribly injured, the only survivor of a horrific car crash.

A media furore erupts, with the finger of blame pointed firmly at stoner, loner Lewis. Everyone else seems to think the crash was drugs-related, but Evan isn't buying it. With the help of her journalist father, Harry, she decides to find out what really happened that night.

As Evan delves deeper into the lives of the three teenagers who died in the crash, she uncovers some disturbing truths and a secret that threatens to tear her family - and the community - apart for ever...

It is no secret that I adore Cat Clarke's books and her honest approach to storytelling. However, this is something about this book that is truely special. The story itself is a raw and powerful one that will hit you right in the feels and once I opened that first page I could not put it down. I will say now that this is one of those reviews that isn't going to tell you much about the story but I hope it shows you WHY you need to read this book.

We Are Young is Evan's story after the night her mother marries local DJ Tim. It should have been a happy day but when they get the call Evan's new step-brother has been in an accident everything changes. This book follows Evan as she tries to uncover what really happened that night and why her step-brother, Lewis, was the only one to survive the crash. Although what she finds is more that she could have ever imagined. We Are Young is a gripping and gritty story that will have you flipping through the pages to find out the truth of what happened that night... question is, are you ready to know what really happened? 

We live in a time where women are finding their voice again and there is something about Evan that speaks to the girls of today and tells them that they should never be ashamed to speak up. There is a fearlessness to Cats story telling that leaves a lump in the back of your throat, as a writer she has never shyed away from writing the grit of a story and We Are Young is no exception. Evan is a YA protagonist to be proud of, she is a main character young girls can look up to. A voice that shows people make mistakes, they fuck up but you learn from your mistakes and they don't define you.

There is a huge emphasis on mental health in this book and I'll be honest it was not an easy book to read for me! There are moments that left me with tears in my eyes and my skin crawling but it felt honest and real. There was no sugar coating in this story and We Are Young is one of those books that makes me proud to be a supporter of YA fiction!

Overall I adored this book. It was hard and it was challenging but it has put across a voice that needed to be heard. Evan is by far my favourite main character of Cat's and the story was empowering, chilling, heartwarming and kick ass! I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did and I can't wait to see what awesomeness Cat has in store next. 

REVIEW: The Course of True Love

by Cassandra Clare

Pages: 96
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 1st February 2018 (first pub 1st Jan 2014)
Received From: Walker Books

Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood might fall in love—but first they have a first date. 

When Magnus Bane, warlock, meets Alec Lightwood, Shadowhunter, sparks fly. And what happens on their first date lights a flame...

A Magnus Bane story set in New York. Both new readers and those already familiar with the world of the Shadowhunters will enjoy this collectable hardback gift edition

This book was originally released as an eBook as the final installment of the Bane Chronicles but as of last month is now available as the perfect little gift edition from Walker Books. Now I don't know about you but I'm a huge Shadowhunter fan and when this arrived I did a little happy dance. 

The Course of True Love (and First Dates) is the story of Magnus and Alec's first date and as anything else I'm this universe it didn't quite go to plan. Magnus has been alive for centuries but this is the first time he's ever been on a date with a Shadowhunter. From magical cocktails to werewolf attacks this is a date neither of them are likely to forget. 

This short story is laugh out loud funny and unbelievably exciting. Most of us know how Magnus and Alec's story ends but reliving how it all began will leave you smiling from ear to ear. 

This is the perfect addition to any Shadowhunter collection and if you have not read it yet I nightly recommend it... Along with all the other Bane Chronicles of course. 

REVIEW: A Witch Alone

by James Nicol

Pages: 336
Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: 1st March 2018
Received From: Chicken House

Arianwyn is recruited for an important mission: to retrieve the Book of Quiet Glyphs from its hiding place in the Great Wood. But as feyling refugees gather outside the town walls and hex plagues the forest, tensions lead to fall-outs with her friends. Arianwyn soon realises that she alone can find the Book, and wield its secrets ...

The biggest problem with second books is that it needs to live up to the first, especially when the first was all kinds of awesome. A Witch Alone however, doesn't just live up to its predecessor but in my opinion completely outshines it! This book has all the epicness of The Apprentice Witch with more magic, more danger and plot twists that will leave your jaw on the floor. 

A Witch Alone follows our favourite witch, Wyn, as she undertakes her biggest adventure to date! For you see, since last time we saw her dark spirits have been terrorising the land and spirits that was been dormant for centuries are now threatening the peace. But Wyn and her team are in for more than they ever expected when they enter the Great Wood in search of The Book of Quiet Glyphs and everything Wyn thought she knew about her powers is about to be challenged. This installment is full of adventure, dark magic and the humour we've come to love but how will our favourite characters fare when darkness comes knocking at Lull's gates?

A Witch Alone smashed my expectations and I consumed this book in two sittings! Wyn is one of those characters that can never get it right the first time and it is her determination and hope that makes her relatable to me. The events of this books test the strongest of friendships, which will literally make you shout "no no no no no" as you're reading. It is  a story of uncertainty and magic, which went mixed together is the perfect combination for disaster and it is how the characters we have come to love deal with this that keeps you, as the reader, on your toes from start to finish.

The thing I loved most about the first book was that Wyn isn't perfect. Having literary characters that make mistakes are so important because it shows younger readers that just because it doesn't go right the first time it doesn't mean you've failed. And at the other end of the spectrum, even if you grow up with everything handed to you on a plate it doesn't mean you don't have to work hard to get what you want *cough* Glimmer *cough*. A Witch Alone continues to show this and for me that was the most important thing because it gives younger people a role model that isn't perfect and let's younger reads know the most important thing is to not give up. 

Plus Bobs back! That's also REALLY important. 

Overall I adored this book! It was fast paced and easy to read and I'm keeping this review minimal as not to risk spoilers! The story had me hooked from the very start and I can't wait to find out what happens next!! A Witch Alone is full of magic and moon hares and so much more, James smashed this one and I hope you love it as much as I did. 

REVIEW: The Apprentice Witch

by James Nicol

Pages: 324
Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: July 7th 2016

Arianwyn has fluffed her witch’s evaluation test.

Awarded the dull bronze disc and continuing as an apprentice – to the glee of her arch-rival, mean girl Gimma – she’s sent to protect the remote, dreary town of Lull. 

But her new life is far from boring. Turns out Gimma is the pompous mayor’s favourite niece – and worse, she opens a magical rift in the nearby Great Wood. As Arianwyn struggles with her spells, a mysterious darkness begins to haunt her – and it’s soon clear there’s much more than her pride at stake …

The Apprentice Witch is all kinds of amazing and no, my mum didn't just tell me to say that. I mean she did, but I wholeheartedly agree! I'm not normally a massive fan of middle grade books as I find it harder to connect with the main character, however, with The Apprentice Witch it only took a couple of chapters for me find common ground with our girl Arianwyn Gribble. The story is fast paced, full the brim of magical twists and dark turns that will leave you begging for more from the little town of Lull. 

The Apprentice Witch is the story of a young witch who's life never quite goes to plan and this is never more true than on the day of her evaluation when the mysterious glyph that she has seen all her life makes an unwelcome appearance. Due to the events of that day Arianwyn (Wyn) is sent to the town of Lull to finish off her Apprenticeship and become the town witch. Although Lull has been without a witch for some time and within a few days Wyn is up to her ears in witchly tasks and intriguing townspeople. It's not all work for Wyn though as she meets new friends, finds a place she can call hers and acquires a rather charming Moon Hare called Bob. But with dark spirits making more frequent appearances, a mysterious glyph following Wyn like a bad smell and the town of Lull sitting on the edge of the Great Wood it is only a matter of time before this Apprentice finds herself in more trouble that she could have ever imagined. 

I loved this book so much! I mean how could I not? James creates a world that is the literary equivalent to glitter and I couldn't put this book down. Every scene and setting was so well executed to the point that I felt like I was in the town of Lull right along side Wyn and the story itself didn't lull for one second - yes pun COMPLETELY intended. 

This book bought me back to my younger years and the days of The Worst Witch and our dear Mildred Hubble. The story is completely different but a young witch that can't quite get it right no matter her intentions? Arianwyn Gribble is this generations Mildred and I LOVE IT!!!

Overall this book is one of those I can't stop talking about. Yes its middle grade but there is something about it that I think appeals to a wider audience - after all Harry Potter is a MG book, just saying. The Apprentice Witch is fast paced, laugh out loud funny and full of little pockets of magic that will have you smiling from ear to ear.  If you haven't read this book yet I hope you do and for all of you who have... A Witch Alone is out this week! And guys... it's so good! 

REVIEW: Movie Night

by Lucy Courtenay

Pages: 314
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Publication Date: January 11th 2018
Received From: Hodder Children's Books

One: I am hopelessly in love with Hanna Bergdahl. Two: for the first time since our recent reunion Hanna Bergdahl appears to be single. And three: I am in stuck in that inescapable netherworld of demons and acne - the Friend Zone.

Two best friends. One crush.

Sol and Hanna were best friends at primary school and after reuniting at college, they spend approximately seventy per cent of daylight hours together.

When disaster strikes at a New Year's Eve party and Hannah sees new boyfriend Danny Dukas kissing Lizzie Banks, a New Year's Resolution is formed. Sol and Hanna will watch one film a month for twelve months until the next New Year. After all, films hold answers to life's hardest questions. Maybe they'll figure out why they are both members of the dumpee club.

Only Sol Adams has a new year's resolution of his own: to kiss Hanna Bergdahl before the year is over.
When I read The Kiss I was completely enamoured with the way in which Lucy Courtenay constructs a contemporary romance. There was this added element of movie magic and I'm so happy that has carried on to her new book Movie Night. This book is unbelievably cute, laugh out loud funny at times and the quintessential YA will they, wont they romance that will turn your insides gooey. 

Movie Night is told from the perspective for our two main protagonists. First you have Hanna, the sixth form girl who fits in with the popular kids, changes boys like they're shoes and gets along with mostly everyone. Then there is Sol, Sol grew up with Hanna but moved away when he was younger. Now Sol is back he and Hanna are inseparable but he likes to keep things to himself, like the fact he has been in love with his best friend Hanna for longer than he can remember. Then one New Years Eve Hanna sees her boyfriend kissing someone else and on that night while comforting her Sol and Hanna make a pact. For the next year they are going to watch one movie a month together, because movies always have happily ever afters and maybe together they will find the answers they are looking for.  But with Sol trying to hold Hanna at arms length and Hanna slowly realising just how much he keeps from her their friendship is pushed to breaking point. It is a story about friendship, first love and learning to be who you want to be, not just who you are told to be. 

Throughout this book Sol and Hanna grow so much as characters, both together and apart that its hard not to love them. Movie Night is one of those coming of age stories that suck you in because you as a reader feel like you can connect with the characters. The book is written over the space of a year, a year that has our main protagonists applying for university and making big decisions about who they want to be. 

The characters melt your heart and the story keeps up pace throughout. The family dynamics are intriguing and if your favourite thing in this book isn't Nigel then I don't know what's wrong with you. There are moments in this book that show how hard it can be at that age and the pressure of some of the choices that need making but there is also a humour to it as well. It is the mix of depth and light heartedness that really elevated this book for me. 

Overall, Movie Night was one of those books I could read over and over again. It hit me right in the feels and from the very first chapter I needed to know if Sol got the girl. It is hard enough being a teenager but when you're in love with your best friend? Well that's when it gets complicated. 

BLOG TOUR: Orphan Monster Spy

In Celebration 
Female Heroes

Diana Brackley from The Trouble with Lichen

Go back far enough and few fictional characters, especially those written by men, pass muster as truly feminist. Like the mainly white US suffragettes are tainted by the whiff of racism, most writers are products of their time and even the most benign intentions drag the patriarchy behind them like oversized luggage with broken wheels.
However, it is possible for a progressive reading of some of these texts to take place and for us to marvel at the insight of some of the minds behind them, long before they’d be reasonably expected to have got their sisterhood on.
One such work is John Wyndham’s The Trouble With Lichen. What he manages, in his own flawed and very 1950s manner, is to create a feminist character of quite remarkable fortitude, vision and single-mindedness.
Diana Brackley is not like her mother. She is unwilling to define herself solely as someone else’s wife or mother, or to remain in a state of perpetual dependence. But time, she is assured, is the enemy. Time ticks on for women. Their value, their attractiveness, their desirability and their fertility, all are falling away by the second. According to her mother, there isn’t time for a career, especially not for chemistry…whatever that is.
Diana knows that these things are a distraction at best. They’re something to relegate to the future, but she cannot quite shake the sense of the running clock. Men do not have these limitations, so why should she? If only there was more time…so when her diligence and scientific abilities uncover an anti-aging elixir – made from a rare lichen with a critically limited supply – she leaves her research lab and vague love interest, taking her discovery with her.

She creates a beauty clinic. While that appears literally superficial, it’s a wicked subversion of the concept, and since she’s treating these women without their specific consent, it’s a deeply transgressive act. Diana takes on the female condition – as seen through a 1950s filter – and disrupts it for her needs.
She has a vision, not just to extend lives, but to reshape the world. She uses the limited supply of lichen to create a long-lived group of female leaders, untouched by the rigours and judgements of age, who could exist on a level playing field with the men for whom the usual limitations do not apply. Such a cabal could change the world for women, forever.

In comparison, the love interest’s decision, to test it on his children, without their consent, seems small-minded, parochial and even cruel.  
Of course, all this is deeply flawed. The restrictions society placed, and still places on women are entirely artificial and don’t hold up to scrutiny. Even fertility can now be reasonably extended, if indeed the woman chooses that path. Game-changing women do not require eternal youth. Yet even this generation of women still can’t shake the patriarchal obsession with appearance.
But as a product of the late 1950s, with the Second Wave of Feminism in its infancy, Diana Brackley is a game-changer and a formidable warrior for equality.


by Matt Killeen

A Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school in this highly commercial, relentlessly nail-biting World War II drama!

After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah--blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish--finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He's a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can't attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she's ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she'd ever imagined.


Matt Killeen was born in Birmingham, in the UK, back when trousers were wide and everything was brown. Several careers beckoned, some involving laser guns and guitars, before he finally attempted to make a living as an advertising copywriter and a largely ignored music and sports journalist. He now writes for the world’s best loved toy company, as it wasn’t possible to be an X-wing pilot. Orphan Monster Spy is his first novel.