Saturday, 3 December 2016

PS, I Still Love You

PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han


Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once? {Goodreads Summary}


YA novels is full of tough, action-driven, no nonsense protagonists at the moment, and while I love Katniss and Tris, there was something really refreshing about returning to Lara Jean. 

“People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.”

Lara Jean's naivity and optimism are the real strengths of this series; she is such a lovely character to see the world through the eyes of. PS I Still Love You is a celebration of being young and in love; of taking risks; and being, as Margo so brilliantly puts it "in love with love."

“Lara Jean, I think you half-fall in love with every person you meet. It’s part of your charm. You’re in love with love.”

Stormy was my favourite new character. She's a good contrast to Lara Jean, because her views on love and relationships are so different. If Lara Jean loves love, then Stormy loves living. I did also enjoy the introduction of John (the scene in the snow was particularly adorable), but I remained team Peter throughout. 

“I know now that I don’t want to love or be loved in half measures. I want it all, and to have it all, you have to risk it all.” 

Kitty was also just as brilliant as she was in the first book. I've read another review suggesting she ought to get her own story and I would definitely be interested in reading that. She's very different to Lara Jean, but her stubbornness and love of scheming make her very interesting to read about. I would also love a mini Lara Jean recipe book - she bakes so many delicious sounding things throughout the novel and it would be great to have a go at some of them. 

PS, I Still Love You also has a more serious side and Han repeated addresses the double standard between the way teenage boys and teenage girls are treated, which I thought was brilliant:

Society is far too caught up in shaming a woman for enjoying sex and applauding a man. I mean, all of the comments are about how Lara Jean is a slut, but nobody's saying anything about Peter, and he's right there with her. It's a ridiculous double standard.

Life is sexist. If you were to get pregnant, you’re the one whose life changes. Nothing of significance changes for the boy. You’re the one people whisper about. I’ve seen that show, Teen Moms. All those boys are worthless. Garbage!

If you haven't read To All the Boys I've Loved Before or PS, I Still Love You, make sure they're at the top of your 2017 reading lists; I promise they won't disappoint!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

War & Peace

So I haven't been blogging for a little while (the result of working on a short story, editing two novels, starting (and unfortunately having to abandon) NaNoWriMo), which means that I didn't get a chance to celebrate this exciting news when it happened a few weeks ago:


That's right, after a second epilogue which very nearly defeated me, I have finally finished War & Peace! And nicely within my one year target too. 

At times (the end) it felt like an impossible task, but I really enjoyed the vast majority of the novel. The characters are superbly written and the plot had enough twists, turns, battles and society drama to keep the story racing along. Tolstoy is a masterful storyteller and I loved the way he intertwined the lives of his different characters and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen to them next. I read and loved Anna Karenina in my teens and would definitely like to read Tolstoy's novellas at a later date. 

Would I recommend it? Absolutely, but not all in one go. 

Would I read it again? Probably not. I'll buy the BBC adaptation if I ever want to revisit the characters!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Fairytale Community's Retelling Awards

As regular readers will know, I've been posting my gender-reversed fairytale retellings for a while now. A few weeks ago, I discovered that there was a Wattpad community devoted to retellings and they are currently running a competition!

I have entered both Mirrored Snow and Princess Charming, but if you're a Wattpad user, I need your help for the People's Choice category. You can vote for both here by commenting with the story title, username (I'm @makexbelieve on Wattpad, same as Twitter) and why you think they should win. You can vote for up to three retellings, so it's worth checking the list of amazing writers that have entered the award. 

If you haven't read either story yet, please do! You can find them on the following links:

In other exciting writing news, once I finish Princess Charming, I will start working on a Beauty and the Beast retelling which will be called Skin Deep. And I'm going to be posting each chapter here on the blog first, because I don't think I post enough writing on here anymore and I would love for readers who don't use Wattpad to be able read this one too. So keep an eye on the blog for more stories coming soon!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Winter

Winter by Marissa Meyer



Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long. Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? {Goodreads Summary}

It didn't take long for Winter to become my favourite Lunar Chronicles character. It's a shame that this was the final novel in the series, as it meant that there was a lot of non-Winter story line to resolve and I would have liked to read a book that was solely focused on her. That being said, the way Meyer weaves her characters different lives and plot lines together is extremely clever and Winter is a very successful conclusion to the series.

“Fear was a weakness in the court. Much better to act unperturbed. Much safer to act crazy, when in doubt.” 

I enjoyed the way Meyer portrayed her protagonist's mental health problems, giving them a fantasy twist. Winter aroused sympathy not only because of what she goes through on a daily basis, but also for the reason behind her hallucinations and the selflessness of her character. Cinder's physical disabilities were also explored more in this novel and it was interesting to see the effect that they have on her personality, particularly as her cyborg-enhancements make them easy to overlook in the previous novels. 

“When she catches you," the guard snarled, "my queen will eat your heart with salt and pepper." "Well," said Cinder, unconcerned, "my heart is half synthetic, so it'll probably give her indigestion." Kinney looked almost amused.

One of the things I have loved across the series that definitely wasn't missing in Winter is the humour Meyer injects into her writing. Thorne in particular is brilliant for this and he had some very funny lines. 

“Did you see any rice in there? Maybe we could fill Cinder's head with it."

Everyone stared at him.

"You know, to...absorb the moisture, or something. Isn't that a thing?"

"We're not putting rice in my head.”

Beyond the characters, it was really exciting to have the final novel in the series set on Lunar. Meyer's world building is superb and I never struggled to imagine her sci-fi world. I'm also looking forward to taking a closer look at the Lunar Chronicles colouring book and seeing how the pictures of Artemisia compare to what I'm imagined as I read. 

If you like fairy-tales with a twist; novels with action, romance and humour; and a diverse range of characters then I definitely recommend the Lunar Chronicles. 



Sunday, 11 September 2016

The History Boys

The History Boys by Alan Bennett


An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy's life. In doing so, he raises—with gentle wit and pitch-perfect command of character—not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today. {Goodreads Summary}

I think my love of reading plays began at school, when I studied A Streetcar Named Desire for AS English. I enjoyed it so much that I read the whole play in one sitting and quickly followed it with the other two plays in the book, as well as buying a copy of The Cat on the Hot Tin Roof so that I could read three more. My fondness for play scripts continued at University, where I took a module on European theatre and got to read everything from Moliere to Wedekind. And then of course, there's always Shakespeare. 

That's not to say that I don't like going to the theatre and watching plays in the format that the playwright intended. It's just very expensive and I can buy the book at a fraction of the cost to enjoy again and again. 

"But to put something in context is a step towards saying it can be understood and that it can be explained. And if it can be explained that it can be explained away."

My most recent play is The History Boys, by Allen Bennett. It's been years since I first saw the film adaptation and I've wanted to read the play ever since, but didn't get around to it. When I found out this week that we were going to be studying at work, I ordered a copy on my lunch break and started reading the next day. 

“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.” 

In a week where educational reforms are making front page news, I don't think my first reading of The History Boys could have been more timely. Bennett picks apart not only what we teach in schools, but how it is taught and what it's value is. Do we learn to pass exams, or to help us in later life. Is poetry a way of scoring points or, as Hector puts it, "poetry is the trailer! Forthcoming attractions!" Bennett doesn't provide the answers, but he leaves you thinking about the questions long after you've finished the play. I'm looking forward to discussing them further over the next few months.

“I don't always understand poetry!'

'You don't always understand it? Timms, I never understand it. But learn it now, know it now and you will understand it...whenever.”


Friday, 26 August 2016

Reviews: An Update

I'm sorry the blog has been a bit quiet recently. Over July, I had two really long books on the go (War & Peace and Winter) so I didn't actually have any finished novels to review. By the time I'd finally finished Winter, I had moved into my new house and it has taken almost a month of phone calls to sort out any kind of WiFi. But I finally have internet access again, so in the next couple of weeks you can expect reviews of Winter and Rebel of the Sands, as well as a War & Peace update. There will also be lots more picture book reviews coming up - my daughter has just had a birthday so we have lots of new books to post about, including Giraffes Can't Dance, I'm a Girl and The Trouble with Dragons. 

Enjoy the bank holiday weekend! I'll post again very soon.


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Why We Love... Shh! We Have A Plan

Picture Book Review: Shh! We Have A Plan



"Tip-toe slowly, tip-toe slowly, now stop. Shh!"

I had my eye on Shh! for a while before finally getting round to buying it, and I'm so pleased that I did. 

Shh! is a fantastic story that's really easy to get involved in. There's so much repetition that, with a few prompts, my daughter can read me the entire book. When I get the chance to read, I find it really fun to say aloud.

My daughter loves the protagonists' comical attempts at capturing a bird, which are accompanied by bright, eye-catching artwork. It's a really lovely picture book.