0

Wise Children by Angela Carter

411VILIYJyL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “A richly comic tale of the tangled fortunes of two theatrical families, the Hazards and the Chances, Angela Carter’s witty and bawdy novel is populated with as many sets of twins and mistaken identities as any Shakespeare comedy, and celebrates the magic of over a century of show business.”

REVIEW: I studied Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories’ during my English Literature A-level, and it has become a favourite book that I often return to. I was recommended ‘Wise Children’ very recently by my A-Level Literature teacher, and was looking forward to reading more of Carter’s work. ‘Wise Children’ tells the story of twin sisters Dora and Nora Chance through the eyes of Dora, as she looks back on their lives and the chaotic liasons that have shaped and changed their sprawling Shakespearean family. As the illegitimate daughters of famed thespian actor Melchoir Hazard, Dora and Nora were cared for by their grandmother upon the death of their mother and found themselves using their beauty, charm and hidden family connections to rise up the glittering social ladder and form careers for themselves as minor Hollywood starlets, and later on as a singing and dancing double act. As we learn more about their lives and the affairs that have made their family into a melodrama, we can’t help warming to Dora and Nora and cetting caught up in their glamorous and dramatic lives. The events culminate at Melchoir’s hundredth birthday party at the end of the novel, where revelations galore plunge events into mirth and chaos. This book is fast-paced and witty, often comical and somehow extraordinarily Shakespearean, and Carter’s style is easy to distinguish. Although it took a chapter or so to get into, once I did so I really enjoyed this book and found it both fun and easy to read, and would highly recommend it.

0

Splintered by A.G.Howard

Splintered

RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “Alyssa Gardner hears the thoughts of plants and animals. She hides her delusions for now, but she knows her fate: she will end up like her mother, in an institution. Madness has run in her family ever since her great-great-great grandmother Alice Liddell told Lewis Carroll her strange dreams, inspiring his classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

But perhaps she’s not mad. And perhaps Carroll’s stories aren’t as whimsical as they first seem.

To break the curse of insanity, Alyssa must go down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs of Wonderland, a place full of strange beings with dark agendas. Alyssa brings her real-world crush – the protective Jeb – with her, but once her journey begins, she’s torn between his solidity and the enchanting, dangerous magic of Morpheus, her guide to Wonderland.

But no-one in Wonderland is who they seem to be – not even Alyssa herself…”

REVIEW: I’m sure frequent readers of this blog have gathered by now that I enjoy retellings of classic stories and fairytales, and I have a large stack of Alice in Wonderland retellings ready to get through on my bookshelf. Splintered was one of these books. It tells the story of Alyssa Gardner, a bold young woman who finds herself isolated from most of her peers due to her ability to hear the words spoken by insects and plants. The only people she lets herself be close to are her father, who is still devoted to her mad mother, her best friend and work colleague Jen, and Jen’s older brother Jeb, who has always been protective towards Alyssa, but whom Alyssa has always wanted much more from. After an incident at the institution where her Mum lives, Alyssa finds a series of clues and objects linked to Wonderland which she believes will cure her mother’s madness. During an argument with Jeb, she accidentally lures him into Wonderland with her, plunging the two of them into great danger. Although the pair begin to learn much more about themselves and each other, leading them to confess their feelings for one another, things are complicated by Morpheus, Alyssa’s dangerous but attractive guide to Wonderland. As Alyssa completes an increasing number of tasks that we recognise as stemming from the original story – for example, her emptying of the Pool of Tears – she begins to uncover more and more secrets about her heritage, and finds a way to break the curse of madness that has plagued the women of her family ever since Alice Liddell.

This book was clever and imaginative, and the storyline was more unusual and different from many of the usual formulaic reproductions of the Alice story. There were some parts of the book that I simply enjoyed less than others; I loved the development of the relationship between Alyssa and Jeb, and the conflicting desires Alyssa felt for the two men in her life. There were some elements of Wonderland itself that I enjoyed less; for example, the moment when the flowers turned into zombie-like creatures and chased Alyssa and Jeb in an attempt to eat them. I can’t pinpoint what exactly about this book didn’t quite hit the spot for me, because I did enjoy it, and the writing style was good with vivid description. I am intrigued to see what the further books in this series have to offer for this tale.

0

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J. K. Rowling

81umom15dcl-_ac_ul320_sr200320_

RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “Explorer and magizoologist Newt Scamander has just completed a round-the-globe trip in search of the most rare and unusual magical creatures. Arriving in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when Newt’s case is misplaced and some of his fantastic beasts escape into the city, it spells trouble for everyone…”

REVIEW: Before the ‘Fantastic Beasts…’ film came out in cinemas last November, I admit I felt a little bit of a trepadation at the thought of a whole new Harry Potter-linked franchise. After I had been to see the film, however, I became completely obsessed; as an animal-lover I adored all of the magical creatures Rowling introduced to us, many of whom we had heard mentioned in the original Potter series but never fully seen. I also loved how Newt’s story links to the Harry Potter books, such as the link with Grindelwald and the mention of Dumbledore. After I went on for weeks about how much I loved the film, my Mum bought me the screenplay for Christmas. Sometimes I find reading scripts to be a little more challenging; to me, they often feel clunky and the stage directions can easily feel like interruptions. However, the screenplay of ‘Fantastic Beasts…’ was a joy to read and flowed just as the words and actions flowed on screen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am very much looking forward to watching the film again when the DVD comes out next month.

0

George Boleyn by Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgeway

the_life_of_george_boleyn-197x300

RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “George Boleyn has gone down in history as being the brother of the ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and for being executed for treason, after being found guilty of incest and of conspiring to kill the King. This biography allows George to step out of the shadows and brings him to life as a court poet, royal favourite, keen sportsman, talented diplomat and loyal brother.”

REVIEW: As many of you will not know, but as everyone who knows me well is all too aware, I am completely obsessed with George Boleyn. Much of my academic career so far has been dedicated to research about him and his life, and I am currently planning my Master’s dissertation, in which he will heavily feature. It has always frustrated me that George, despite being such a fascinating and important historical figure is generally overlooked due to the fame of his sister, Anne Boleyn. Although Anne Boleyn is of course worth great admiration –  my undergraduate dissertation was on her, in fact – it is upsetting that George is often relegated to a chapter or a few sentences in books about his sisters. His portrayal in fiction, both in the form of books and TV shows, is also something that I have often found distressing, not to mention based on very little factual evidence, as is pointed out in this book. Therefore I was delighted to receive this biography as a Christmas present from my Mum, who has been a victim of my obsession for several years now and has herself become quite fond of George. This biography brilliantly gathers together the little evidence we have on George from primary documents and cleverly examines what these sources can tell us about George’s life and his career as a courtier, poet and diplomat. The authors’ admiration for George and respect for his talents really shines through in the writing, and it made such an enjoyable change to read something of this nature dedicated entirely to George. This book will be a valuable source to me in the research and writing of my dissertation, and I hope it introduces many more people to the fascinating historical figure that is George Boleyn.

2

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

19601481._SY540_.jpg

RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager, into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader. And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief amongst them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them. To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne. So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…”

REVIEW: The first two books in this trilogy took up the top spaces in my Top Ten Books of 2015, and I was so excited to read the third and final installment this year. I am glad to say that it did not disappoint, and will be very high up on my Top Ten Books of 2016 (keep your eyes peeled!). ‘The Fate of the Tearling’ begins right where its predecessor, ‘The Invasion of the Tearling’, left off, with Kelsea being transported to the Red Queen in Mortmesne after sacrificing herself and her powerful Tear sapphires for the safety of the people of the Tearling. Kelsea is sure that the kingdom is in safe hands under the Mace, and believes that she is being taken to the Red Queen to die. The Red Queen – or Evelyn, as Kelsea knows her from her visions – however, proves to be rather more vulnerable than Kelsea anticipated, her fear of Row Finn driving her to paranoia and leaving her on the verge of madness, and the two form a strange bond that is almost close to friendship, despite Kelsea being kept as Evelyn’s prisoner. As this story continues, we also see much of the Mace and Aisa, his newly recruited guard, who is determined to become a member of the Caden but is shadowed by her own morals and demons. The Tearling begins to turn in on itself, with the priests of the Arvath waging war against the Queen’s government, who are too occupied with trying to find and rescue their Queen to deal with the true depth of the danger they are in. Kelsea’s visions also teach us more ab0ut Lily, who appeared previously in her visions, but this time through the eyes of a young woman named Katie Rice. Katie was a woman who settled in the Tearling after the Crossing, living under the leadership of the famous William Tear and eventually becoming the Head Guard to his son, Johnathan. Her loyalties to the Tears, however, conflict with her friendship with a young and mysterious Row Finn, whom Katie despises and yet is powerfully attracted to. All of these storylines combine to ensure a fantastic end to the trilogy, which I in no way wish to spoil for anyone. The twist at the end of the novel combines both Kelsea’s visions of the past and the present threats experienced by the Tear and, although the ending still leaves the reader with questions, it is somehow a satisfying conclusion to such a gripping and complex trilogy.

1

Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

page

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-03-20 11:11:03Z | |

RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “Meet Oliver, a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale and transported into the real world. Meet Delilah, the girl who wished Oliver into being. It’s a miracle that seems perfect at first – but there are complications. To exist in Delilah’s world, Oliver must take the place of a regular boy. Enter Edgar, who agrees to play Oliver’s role in the pages of Delilah’s favourite book. But just when it seems that the plan will work, everything gets turned upside down. In this multilayered universe, the line between what’s on the page and what’s possible is blurred. Is there a way for everyone to live happily ever after?”

REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment of Delilah and Oliver’s story, ‘Between the Lines’, which I did in fact review on this blog not long after it was released in 2012. Although I had not expected there to be a sequel, I was excited to see how Delilah and Oliver’s story had progressed after Oliver’s removal from the fairy tale world and emergence into our world. The multiple perspectives from the three principal characters; Delilah, Oliver and Oliver’s replacement in the novel, Edgar; allows the reader to see how both worlds have been dramatically changed by Delilah and Oliver’s relationship and their desperation to be together, and all is not going well. Oliver’s arrival causes some problems for the couple when he finds himself becoming incredibly popular, particularly with girls – something that Delilah is none to happy about. There is also the problem of Oliver’s adopted mother – who is really Edgar’s mother, and the author of the book in which Oliver once lived, Jessamyn James – as she becomes increasingly unwell. Back in the fairytale world, things are also not going smoothly for Edgar or many of the other beloved characters – including Frump, Oliver’s best friend, and Seraphima, his ex-girlfriend. The book has noted the changes being made and is beginning to rewrite itself, pleading with Oliver to return and spontaneously causing people from the real world to swap with characters in the book, leading to both disastrous and tragic consequences (I may have cried at this book, but unfortunately can’t let on why). Delilah and Oliver are desperate to find a way for everyone to be happy and for Jessamyn to stay alive, but things are not so simple. This novel follows their journey to achieve a happy ending in both worlds, but cleverly intermingles this with the more general ups-and-downs of teenage relationships, and the problems we encounter when we fall in love for the first time and suddenly realise that being in love and in a relationship isn’t always easy. I did really enjoy this book and was pleased to be reunited with the characters, who remained consistent across both stories and kept me entertained. The book was easy to read and I read it quickly; I was undoubtedly hooked from beginning to end. I did, however, feel that this book was not quite so gripping as the first, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why – it seemed to lack some of the magic of the first story. I would still highly recommend it, however, particularly for fans of ‘Between the Lines’ who would like to be reuinted with all their favourite characters.

0

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

download

RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Princess Mia’s life in New York City is one glamorous whirlwind. Not only does she have to deal with nosy gossip columnists on a daily basis and the paparazzi following her every move, she’s also expected to enchant wealthy strangers at royal engagements. Speaking of engagements…Mia’s gorgeous long-term boyfriend Michael has popped The Question on an exotic Caribbean island. Finally they’re ready to settle down…or so she thought. When Mia and Michael return from their romantic hideaway, they discover that they are embroiled in a scandal of majestic proportions! A scandal that could turn the normally calm Michael into a runaway groom….Worse still, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne. Mia may be ready to wed, but is she ready to rule as well?”

REVIEW: I grew up absolutely obsessed with the original Princess Diaries series. When I was younger I used to get the audiobooks out from my local library and listen to them before bed, and in my teenage years I devoured every book in the series over and over, and cried my eyes out when I finally finished what I thought would be the final instalment. I had always identified with the shy, geeky, awkward girl that Mia was on the inside, and losing her felt like losing a friend I’d had for years. So you can imagine how excited I was when I read that a new installment was to be released. Cabot has not changed Mia a bit, despite the events that have occurred in the life of our favourite Genovian Princess since she graduated from high school in the last book; her stepfather Mr Gianni is dead, leaving the way open for her father to win back her mother at last; her close friends Tina Hakim-Baba and Boris Pelowski (now an international superstar) have broken up; and she is being attacked by protesters, and a mysterious stalker, over her plans to allow refugees into Genovia.Thankfully, some things have stayed the same for Mia; her boyfriend Michael has remained a constant and I was ecstatic to read more about their relationship – and for him to propose! – in this novel. She also still has her best friend Lilly Moscovitz, Michael’s sister, and her beloved cat Fat Louie. Over the course of the novel, however, which retains Cabot’s witty, funny and briliiantly relatable style, many twists and turns take place which make Mia’s path to the throne even more stressful than usual. I don’t want to spoil them here, but I will say that there will be many surprises for previous readers of the series, all of them guaranteed to bring a smile. I can’t wait to see if Cabot is going to write any further books about the brilliant Mia Thermopolis, and I will certainly be reading them if she does.