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 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.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Why We Love... Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Picture Book Review: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Tree is quite different to the sorts of picture books I normally buy. The only book we have that I could compare it to is Snow by Walter de la Mere, as it reads like a poem.

Tree follows the landscape through the seasons, as seen by an owl sat in his tree. Sections of the pages have been cut out, so the picture is built up gradually, with more animals appearing as the year progresses. The artwork in this picture book is really beautiful. The illustrator, Teckentrup, has done a wonderful job and I will definitely be on the look out for more of her work in the future.   

It's a calm, relaxing book which is good to read when you're winding down for bed or nap time. But there is still lots to get involved with, as there are plenty of animals to point out and name and it's a great way of explaining how the world around us changes throughout the year.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Grisha Trilogy

Shadow and Bone / Siege and Storm / Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

I'm condensing my review of these three novels into one, as I read them one after the other and I think I'd struggle to separate my thoughts on each. 

My favourite thing about this trilogy is definitely the strength of the world building. It is phenomenally well thought out, with different countries, customs, languages and, of course, magic. I think Grisha power was very well defined and it's limitations explored and explained. I knew a little bit about Grisha magic from reading Six of Crows, but it was nice to see it as the main focus in these books.  

My favourite character was Nikolai, as he had such a fun and distinctive personality. But I also liked the time that was given to the Darkling's backstory; he was a well defined villain and Bardugo does an excellent job of humanising him at the end. 

“Watch yourself, Nikolai,” Mal said softly. “Princes bleed just like other men.”

Nikolai plucked an invisible piece of dust from his sleeve. “Yes,” he said. “They just do it in better clothes.”

As with Six of Crows, the dialogue is really strong, and there are witty exchanges a-plenty, particularly where Nikolai was concerned and I repeatedly found myself laughing out loud. 

“I took a breath. “Your highness—”

“Nikolai,” he corrected. “But I’ve also been known to answer to ‘sweetheart’ or ‘handsome.”

Overall, I don't think I enjoyed this series quite as much as Six of Crows, (I preferred the characters in the latter) but I would still definitely recommend it. 

“Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay. I tilted my head back. The stars looked like they were close together, when really they were millions of miles apart. In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.”