Cinders Magazine

Your one stop shop for fandom, feminism and pop culture


Recommended reads

What we’re reading: Stephanie Garber, Sara Pascoe, Jane Austen, and Jo Baker

Caraval by Stephanie Garber


Caraval is a book that has been all over my ‘recommended reads’ lists for months now. I finally picked up a copy to see what all of the hype was about. Billed as being similar to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus Caraval tells the story of two sisters who are invited to a mysterious island, where they can participate in a carnival to achieve their ‘heart’s desire. Think a cross between The Hunger Games and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it as nuanced as either one of those.

Caraval is compelling certainly- I read the book over two days-  but it falls into a few too many familiar tropes. The love interest is introduced within the first few pages. Although he and our lead character patently do not get along it remains obvious throughout that he’s who she is meant to end up with. And that’s the largest criticism of the story: it spends far too long on the couple’s will-they-won’t-they romance and not enough on her relationship with her sister. She is largely absent for most of the story. All in all I felt Caraval ended abruptly. I would have loved to know more about the magical world of the island rather than the characters romantic histories. Fans of The Night Circus may enjoy it however the world wasn’t quite rich enough for me.

Animal by Sara Pascoe


Sara Pascoe’s Animal is the book you didn’t know you needed in your life. Subtitled ‘The Autobiography of a Female Body’ the book hilariously examines the way we grow and develop as women in today’s society- mostly focussing on our bodies. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable about their body and sexuality to read because it gives such wonderful advice told in such an approachable way. Pascoe examines the way that we talk about female sexuality and how that can be traced back to Darwin and his contemporaries. She gives us a window into her own experiences growing up and tells them in a honest and very, very funny way. Have you ever wanted to know exactly why it is that we obsess over why someone who we didn’t really like hasn’t called us back? Or the scientific reason we fall in love? Animal answers both of those questions and many more, in a way that doesn’t feel overly complex and will have you laughing far too loud. Definitely pick up your copy today.

The works of Jane Austen


2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and – although we’ve held back on our fangirling for five issues – both editors of Cinders are gigantic Austen fans. Not just for her romances, but for her characters, her sense of humour and her general understanding of human nature, Jane Austen we love you.

If you too are interested in Austen or maybe in seeing why everyone thinks so highly of a woman who wrote less books than are in the Harry Potter series you should absolutely check out a YouTube channel called Pemberly Digital – you won’t be sorry. It has two fabulous vlog-style adaptations of Austen’s best loved novels that have won many awards (including two Emmys!). Many people have been participating in a year long re-watch of their most famous outing – the Lizzie Bennet Diaries in honour of Austen’s 200th anniversary. I [Méabh] have been celebrating Austen by reading Persuasion – the Austen novel I know the least about.

I’ve also been reading Longbourn by Jo Baker. Longbourn is an excellent retelling of Pride and Prejudice but from the perspective of the servants who work in the Bennet household! It’s sharp and entertaining and I really do think Austen would have liked it. Tweet us @cindersmag and tell us how you’re celebrating Jane Austen’s 200th anniversary!

Unusual Beauties and their Beasts continued

First published in Cinders issue three

What with the new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast hitting our screens earlier in the year it got us here in Cinders thinking about some of our favourite unconventional interpretations of the classic fairytale. Méabh McDonnell looks at the ways the tale as old as time can be interpreted.

Continue reading “Unusual Beauties and their Beasts continued”

Beauties and their Beasts

First published in Cinders issue three

What with the new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast hitting our screens earlier in the year it got us here in Cinders thinking about some of our favourite unconventional interpretations of the classic fairytale. Méabh McDonnell looks at the ways the tale as old as time can be interpreted.

A tiny ladybird edition of Beauty and the Beast was my favourite book as a child. The Disney animated movie also held a special place in my heart – still does in fact. Beauty and the Beast is a complex story. On the one hand it’s the magical tale about how love is all you need . It’s the concept that rings true with most people in love – it doesn’t matter what the person looks like – if you love them, you love them. That being said… on the other hand it’s a story where a young woman’s freedom is claimed by a vicious domineering beast who then proceeds to win her over by granting her ‘freedoms’ within what is a very well furnished prison. It’s hard to reconcile that with the happy story of love conquering all. Some people find that too much of a turn off – others might point out that fairytales were written in a time where they were meant to be more gothic than sweet. Regardless of which side of the fence you fall upon Beauty and the Beast’s enduring nature as a story is undeniable.

This is why I decided to compile some of my favourite interpretations of this classic story that I feel really capture the best Beauties and even better Beasts. Some are closer to the original tale than others but all have a special allure.

Continue reading “Beauties and their Beasts”

Recommended Reads: Lauren Nicolle Taylor, Moira Fowley Doyle, Renée Ahdieh

First published in issue four of Cinders

Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor


Nora and Kettle is a novel I stumbled upon while reading recommendations for fairytale fantasy online. After purchasing the book, I binged the whole story in one morning. The compelling little novel is a re-telling of Peter Pan but from a very different perspective. Set in 1950s New York in the aftermath of WWII  our ‘Peter’ is a Japanese-American runaway, nicknamed Kettle who is terrified of having his band of lost children (other Japanese runaways) discovered and re-homed.

Continue reading “Recommended Reads: Lauren Nicolle Taylor, Moira Fowley Doyle, Renée Ahdieh”

Recommended reads: Laini Taylor, Sarah J. Maas and Meg Grehan

First published in Volume One Issue Three

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer is pure magic. that’s no surprise because it’s written by Laini Taylor, who writes only beautiful things. Her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is a thing of pure beauty and her Dreamdark series are the badass fairytales that you wish your twelve year old self had. Strange the Dreamer is no different. She invents a completely new world for this series full of gods and lost cities and magic and dreams. I’m not going to tell you anything else but that Lazlo Strange is a librarian with a singular dream – to find the lost city of Weep. I guarantee if you read it you will.

Continue reading “Recommended reads: Laini Taylor, Sarah J. Maas and Meg Grehan”

Recommended Reads: Garth Nix, Leigh Bardugo and Truman Capote

First published in issue one of Cinders magazine.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix


Most of you will probably be too young to remember Sabriel and Lireal by Garth Nix but there are few more kickass, capable heroines around. Sabriel and Lireal are necromancers but instead of raising the dead, they send them back to die proper deaths. The pair return to their adventures after more than ten years in Goldenhand and are all well worth a read. You’ll be battling undead zombies in your head for the rest of the month!

Continue reading “Recommended Reads: Garth Nix, Leigh Bardugo and Truman Capote”

Book Review Corner: Fathers Come First By Rosita Sweetman


First published in Cinders Volume One: Issue Two

It’s been a long time since I read a book that felt so much like the memoir of a very old friend. But that’s how Rosita Sweetman’s voice come across on the pag


es of Fathers Come First. First printed in 1974, Lilliput Press have re-released the classic Dublin coming of age novel and its easy to see why. The novel follows Liz, a young woman in 1970s Dublin, who is so brilliantly drawn by Sweetman that she leaps up off of the page. After just reading a few pages of the book, I felt like I knew Liz.

The novel tells the story of a young girl trying to figure out her place in the world, living in an Ireland that is on the cusp of change but apparently hadn’t changed enough for women.

Liz is constantly trying to figure out the kind of person she should be and the people she should surround herself with, something I think most girls can identify with.  Continue reading “Book Review Corner: Fathers Come First By Rosita Sweetman”

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