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.”