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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding – is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?”.

REVIEW:

I was really looking forward to this book; I give myself a mission, every so often, of reading what sounds like the most interesting bestseller in a certain month. I’ve had ‘The Snow Child’ for well over a year now, and was expecting quite a lot from it due to its status as a famed bestseller. This is, perhaps, why I was slightly disappointed by what the book had to offer. I enjoyed the book – the writing is especially beautiful, with vivid descriptions of the snowy landscape and tough farmland that made me feel like I was really in the midst of icy cold 1920’s Alaska. Mabel and Jack’s relationship was also extremely realistically written, with Ivey unafraid to show the flaws of the characters and how these impact their relationships. The Benson family are a lively, likeable and sometimes comical addition to the novel, allowing for a brief respite from the heavy emotions the reader feels after reading about Jack and Mabel’s growing attachment to the snow child herself, Faina, a wildling who acts as their daughter in the winter months but heartbreakingly disappears each summertime. Faina herself remains a mystery even at the end of the novel – which gives the reader an extreme sense of unfulfillment. Throughout the book, I kept expecting something big to happen, some big secret of Faina’s to be revealed – even during her period of romantic, almost domestic life close to the end of the book, Faina never does anything to make the reader gasp in shock or excitement. The character I found most likeable, in fact, was Garrett Benson; although not one of the main characters, he brings a practical, strong dimension to the book that increased my enjoyment of the tale greatly.

Overall, though a much pleasanter retelling of the old Russian fable than some stories I have read *coughangelacartercough*, ‘The Snow Child’ is a somewhat anticlimatic novel. As an easy, relatively enjoyable read, however, I may recommend it again.

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Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Delilah knows it’s weird, but she can’t stop reading her favourite fairy tale. Other girls her age are dating and cheerleading. But then, other girls are popular.She loves the comfort of the happy ending, and knowing there will be no surprises.¬†Until she gets the biggest surprise of all, when Prince Oliver looks out from the page and speaks to her.
Now Delilah must decide: will she do as Oliver asks, and help him to break out of the book? Or is this her chance to escape into happily ever after?”

REVIEW:

Okay, so I haven’t read any YA fiction for a while, but I’m really glad I read this. The plotline may sound quite simple, even childish – which is understandable, considering the fact that the main character’s life revolves around a fairytale – but this book really spoke to me. It’s perfect for people like me – if you’ve ever wanted to escape into your favourite book, or fallen in love with a fictional character and desperately wished that he (or she) were real, then this book is perfect for you too. It’s pure escapism, and a quick, easy read. Delilah is a likeable, relatable character, especially to the target audience of the book – daydreamy, lonely, living in a fantasy world. Prince Oliver presents interesting questions for the reader about books and their characters, as does Delilah’s meeting with the author of Oliver’s story, Jessamyn Jacobs. The plot twist at the end was excellently done, as the reader spends the entire book hoping and praying for Delilah and Oliver to finally be allowed to meet and exist in the same world – and of course, with it’s fairytale structure, the book has to have a happy ending: but not in the way readers might expect.

I would definitely recommend this book to any young bookworm, dreamer or escapist, as the book deals with these themes and gives the sense that there are millions of other people out there who feel exactly the same.

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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RATING: 4.5 stars

BLURB: “Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.”

REVIEW:

This book. There are a lot of things I could say about this book, all of them brilliant things – but the most important thing, I think, is the fact that it really got to me. I had a basic knowledge of the story of Achilles, but knew absolutely nothing about Patroclus – making it even more impressive that Miller managed to make me care deeply about both characters, as well as several other more minor characters, such as the servant girl Briseis. There were twists and turns every other page that had me completely hooked, unable to tear my eyes from the page. Miller’s portrayal of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, friends-turned-lovers, is completely and utterly believable. Their hesitation and wariness in acting on their feelings is so typically real, making the story seem less like an Ancient Greek myth and more like a modern realism novel. Miller’s use of language is also absolutely beautiful – although written in a light, easy way that means it can be read at the fast pace it needs to be read at, there are lines here and there that literally caused me a stab of pain, they were so beautiful and heartbreaking – particularly when Patroclus begins to fear the death of Achilles. Every emotion felt by the characters in the novel was felt by me, because of Miller’s fantastic writing. And although the ending moved me deeply and really affected me, it was so beautifully done that I couldn’t stay in a melted puddle on the floor for very long. I would HIGHLY recommend this book even for those of you who aren’t history/mythology lovers.

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Three Maids for a Crown by Ella March Chase

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RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “In the second novel from Ella March Chase, we meet sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister, Katherine Grey, charms all the right people – until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine, wants simply to protect the people she loves – but at a terrible cost. In an age in which begetting sons was all that mattered, and queens rose and fell on the sex of their child, these three girls with royal Tudor blood lived at the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager : their daughters’ lives against rampant ambition.”

REVIEW:

I’m always on the lookout for new historical fiction books to read, especially those based in the Tudor era, my favourite period of British history. Having never read anything by Chase before, I was unsure of what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised by this book. Chase charts the rise and fall of the three Grey sisters – whose parents were not only rapacious but also extremely cruel – with close attention to detail, as well as vivid description and imagery that really captures the dangerously oppressive atmosphere of the courts of ¬†the Queens Mary 1st and Elizabeth 1st. It is interesting to see especially close attention being paid to Mary Grey, who, as a disabled woman, has been shamefully neglected and ignored by history. Chase turns Mary into a fascinating character, an intelligent and honest young woman with more power than her mother ever gave her credit for. Jane Grey, the famed nine-day Queen, is written with empathy and insight, reflecting clearly Jane’s well-documented intelligence and faithful religious zeal. Her mistreatment at the hands of her parents and, later, her husband, Guildford Dudley, is written in a heart-wrenching manner that only serves to make the reader all the more sorry upon reading of Jane’s botched execution. Finally, Katherine Grey, a beautiful woman who broke all the rules of Tudor England by marrying for love against the wishes of her Queen, is a romantic figure, longing for freedom and happiness – a character whose emotions many readers can identify to, including myself. Although I have always favoured Jane, in this novel each sister had admirable traits drawn from contemporary accounts that made each and every one of them, despite their flaws, extremely likeable. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction as a light and easy read.