Monday, 30 June 2014

July Reads!

This month I gave myself a fairly ambitious TBR and then fell into a horrible reading slump, so next month I'm going to set myself less to read with the hope that that somehow helps me to read more. Reverse psychology's weird.

All three of the books on my TBR this month are books I'm already a substantial amount of the way through, and I want to finish them soon!

by Mira Grant

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn't seem as fun when you've lost as much as he has. 

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead. 

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

by Terry Pratchett

The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did, before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son. Unfortunately for his colleagues in the chauvinistic (not to say misogynistic) world of magic, he failed to check on the new-born baby's sex...

by Stef Penney

1867, Canada: as winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a 17-year old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead man's cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township - journalists, Hudson's Bay Company men, trappers, traders - but do they want to solve the crime or exploit it? 

One-by-one the assembled searchers set out from Dove River, pursuing the tracks across a desolate landscape home only to wild animals, madmen and fugitives, variously seeking a murderer, a son, two sisters missing for 17 years, a Native American culture, and a fortune in stolen furs before the snows settle and cover the tracks of the past for good.

What are you planning to read in July?


Reading Wrap-Up | June 2014

I gave myself an incredibly ambitious TBR at the start of this month and then, naturally, fell into a huge reading slump that I only managed to climb out of in the last week of the month. Even so, I managed to read three books and a short story this month so it could have been worse - I could have read nothing at all!

by Polly Bloom

My Rating: 

A treasure trove of age-old customs and time honoured advice, as well as eccentric old wives' tales, this book includes:

A brief history of old wives' lore
Remedies for health and well being
Practical guidance for home and garden
Tips on predicting the weather
Superstitions and hokum

I found this little book in The Works for a very cheap price, and it's probably not the kind of book you'd expect you'd expect to see mentioned on a book blog, but as some of you know I'm currently working on a historical fiction novel and my protagonist is a healer. I decided to pick this book up to see if it would come in handy and it did actually provide me with a few tidbits I can use in my writing, as well as teaching me how haemorrhoids played a part in the Battle of Waterloo!

by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 

Next I read another of Marissa Meyer's short stories set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles. This little story follows Carswell Thorne as a little boy and shows us what really happened regarding the incident with Kate Fallow. It was such an adorable little read, and it was great fun to be back in this world!

by Livi Michael

My Rating: 

Wouldn't you like to save your family, Jennet?

Jennet's family all believe they are witches. Other folk think they are, too. But 1612 is a dangerous time to be a witch. When her family are imprisoned and put on trial in Lancaster Castle, Jennet's evidence will help decide their fate.

Next up was some middle grade historical fiction, and it's been so long since I read any middle grade that this was a lot of fun to read. I had the pleasure of meeting Livi Michael a couple of months ago at the Children's Literature Festival in Lancaster, which was where I bought my copy of Malkin Child (which she very kindly signed for me) and went to an event where she talked about writing the book and read out some extracts.

This is a very touching story based on the Pendle Witch trials of 1612. I definitely recommend checking it out!

by Marcus Sedgwick

My Rating: 

At first, Jamie isn't too worried about the bad dreams he's been having since coming to his aunt's house. Most people awoken in the middle of the night to find their house burning down would probably have nightmares, too. But instead of fire, he keeps dreaming of a "horrible, scary old woman," relentlessly coming after him for some awful, inexplicable purpose. Even though he's come to Aunt Jane's to recover from the fire's aftermath, he doesn't want to bother her or his cousin Alison with his silly fears. He can see that they are very busy with their village's community service project--cleaning off an age-old carving on the side of hill that overlooks the town. But when the carving turns out to be a peculiar primordial figure instead of the "crown" that the people of Crownshill expected to see, and Jamie uncovers evidence of an ancient witchcraft trial in local history papers, he is swept into a centuries-old mystery to which he unwittingly has the key. Who is the old crone chasing him, and what does she want? Jamie will have to endure an experience worse than fire to find out.

After Malkin Child I jumped into another middle grade book, and my first Marcus Sedgwick book. This was a fun, spooky little novella which, like Malkin Child, I read in the space of about an hour. I didn't enjoy this read quite as much; oddly enough, even though Malkin Child is based off real events, I actually found Witch Hill more predictable and a little boring. I'd still recommend it to any younger readers, though!

What did you read this month?


Friday, 27 June 2014

10 Books That Changed Me | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

As a child of the Harry Potter generation one of the HP books was bound to be on this list, though I never thought I'd choose this one because The Goblet of Fire is probably my least favourite book in the series. If I really had to pick a least favourite. I still like the book a lot.

I'm not even entirely sure why this book is my least favourite. I can tell you exactly why The Order of the Phoenix is my favourite book in the series: Dumbledore's Army; Tonks; Luna; the return of Sirius and Lupin; the Order; the battle in the Ministry and Umbridge. That's right. Umbridge. Otherwise known as the villain we all love to hate. I mean if we're completely honest I think most HP fans, myself included, hate Umbridge more than Voldemort.

The Order of the Phoenix is also the first book in the series that feels really different to the first. It's so much darker. That's not to say The Goblet of Fire isn't dark, but I always found that the fourth book in the series was an odd mixture between the more child-like tone in the first three books and the darker tone in the latter three. In many ways it's a very in-between book, which I think is the main reason why it's my least favourite.

But like The Magic Finger, the first book on my list, The Goblet of Fire is special to me in that as far as I can remember it's the first Harry Potter book I read alone. The first three were read to me by my Dad when I was little. It was also the first book I ever read where not only did someone die in the very first chapter, but later a character who was still in school died, too. For no other reason than that Voldemort is a terrible human being.

Cedric Diggory's death has always stayed with me, and even though I'm in my twenties now it still makes me sad. It disturbed me, when I first read The Goblet of Fire, to be hit with the realisation that just because someone is young and still in school doesn't make them immortal or untouchable; that they can still just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, at the mercy of the wrong person.

I'm fairly certain this was the first book I read in which more than one person died, and also the first book in which those deaths just felt... pointless. Not in a 'I don't understand why J.K. Rowlng made that decision' kind of way, but in a 'how could Voldemort murder them? They didn't do anything!' kind of way.

This book gave me a lot to think about when I was still quite young, and I'm glad it did. It might not be my favourite book in the series, but it taught me a lot.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

What's Up Wednesday | 25/06/14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

What I'm Reading

This week I finally started to pull myself out of the reading slump I've found myself in for the majority of this month, hooray!

First I read Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky by Marissa Meyer, which is another of Meyer's short stories set in The Lunar Chronicles universe. This one takes place before the events of the series and tells the story of Captain Thorne and Kate Fallow, who was mentioned in Cress. It was a lot of fun!

After that I read Malkin Child by Livi Michael, which is a historical middle grade novella about the Pendle Witches from the POV of Jennet Device, the little girl who testified against her family in 1612, leading to their execution. I really enjoyed this. It might be written for children but anyone can enjoy it, and I really enjoyed how Michael portrayed the story; I've seen so many theories regarding the Pendle Witches claiming that Jennet deliberately testified against them because she didn't like her family and she wanted to see them hanged, whereas this story argues she was a little girl who was misused by the law. I definitely recommend it - my edition's only 111 pages long!

I haven't read any more of Deadline yet, even though I'm eager to. My slump came along for various reasons that I won't go into here and I hate ending up in a slump when I'm halfway through a book I'm enjoying. I want to pick it up and finish it soon, but I know as soon as I finish it I'll want to read Blackout, the third and final book in the trilogy. So I might treat myself to a copy of Blackout some time this week and then marathon the rest of the trilogy.

On Monday I also started reading Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves. I came across a second hand copy for only £1.50 and the story intrigued me - it's been a while since I read a whodunnit, and I don't think I've read anything set in Canada either - but I'm having trouble getting into it. I'm interested in the main character, but the narrative keeps breaking away and jumping around to all these other characters I don't care about all that much and it's boring me a little. I'm hoping the story picks up soon!

What I'm Writing

Still novelling away. I recently did a wordcount (as I'm currently doing my MA in Creative Writing and my current WIP is also what I've been working on for my portfolio) and I have over 28,000 words! That probably sounds like nothing when you take into account that I've been working on this novel since October, but before I did this MA I suffered from serious story ADD. I'd start a story, get bored with it and move on. This is the longest I've ever worked on a single project and I'm really proud of myself.

On top of that, my portfolio is 30,000 words, so it's good to know I'm on track. Now I just need to go through and a do a major edit on everything I've got and write a 5,000 word reflective essay - I have a lot of work this summer!

What Inspires Me Right Now

People wanting to read my novel! I'll talk a little more about this below, but at the weekend I met some lovely people who found my story really interesting and want to read the whole thing and it's a wonderful feeling.

What Else I've Been Up To

On Saturday we had our MA Showcase, which basically meant that we got up in front of an audience of around 30 people and read extracts from our work. I decided to read the prologue from my current WIP and I was really pleased with the response I got - a fair few absolutely lovely people told me that they enjoyed my extract and that they'd love to read more, and that just made me so happy. It's always nice to know you're doing something right!

This past week I also finally saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Muppets Most Wanted, both of which were showing at our campus cinema. I enjoyed them, but I have to admit I was expecting to see more Bucky in The Winter Soldier.

I desperately wanted to see Belle while it was out, but I've been a little bit skint recently. Today I could finally afford a cinema trip, only to discover that the last Belle showing was yesterday. Sigh. I really, really wanted to see it.

I also started an account over on myWriteClub, which is a fun little site where you can keep track of your writing progress and any of your friends' - you can find me here if you want to!

What's new with you?

Monday, 23 June 2014

Five Facts About My Main Character!

I was tagged by Beth von Staats over on Facebook to share five facts about the protagonist of my current WIP, and because the majority of my friends on Facebook aren't writers I thought it'd be a lot more fun to post my facts here instead, and even tag some other bloggers!

My current WIP is Bloodroot and Bracken, a historical/paranormal novel set in 16th century Lancaster. My protagonists are Jane Allerdice (née Ask) and Thora Allerdice, Jane's daughter. Today Jane is going to be the character I focus on, though in future I might make another post like this for Thora.

  1. Jane's mother, Annabel, died not long after her sixth birthday. She thinks about her every day.
  2. She grew up with two older brothers, Matthew and David, and never understood why they were allowed to cut their hair and she was not. When she was seven she took matters into her own hands. By the time her father found her she'd already cut short half of her hair, and was left with a head of uneven tufts for weeks.
  3. Under the tutelage of her brothers, she learned how to throw a mean punch.
  4. She never goes to watch the executions on Gallows Hill, and she's unusual in that respect. When she was a child her father once took her to watch a hanging, to show her why their family didn't go, and for weeks afterwards she had nightmares about kicking legs and purpling faces. Some nights the person being hanged was her mother. Some nights she still has those nightmares.
  5. Her favourite flowers are forget-me-nots.
I'm going to tag Amy, Cole, Caitie, Emma and Melanie. You don't have to do it, but it's fun!


Friday, 20 June 2014

TBR | High Fantasy

Earlier this month I talked about my sci-fi TBR, so today I thought I'd talk about high fantasy because considering fantasy is one of my favourite genres, I really don't read enough of it!

Today I've compiled a list of ten high fantasy books that are currently on my TBR list and need to be ticked off soon. I've decided to stay away from Tolkien, Martin, Pierce and Le Guin - hopefully you might find something here you haven't heard of before if I stay away from the obvious choices!

I've also decided to stay from any series continuations or authors I've already read, so all ten of these books are the first in a series and are all by authors I have yet to read.

by Patrick Rothfuss

I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant "to know".

I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

by Brandon Sanderson

A thousand years ago evil came to the land. A dark lord rules through the aristocratic families and ordinary folk labor as slaves in volcanic ash fields. A troublemaker arrives. A rumored revolt depends on an untrustworthy criminal and a young girl who must master Allomancy, metal magic.

by Brian Staveley

When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.

Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral.

by Robin Hobb

Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons who were hatched weak and deformed by a river turned toxic. If neglected, the creatures will rampage--or die--so it is decreed that they must move farther upriver toward Kelsingra, the mythical homeland whose location is locked deep within the dragons' uncertain ancestral memories.

Thymara, an unschooled forest girl, and Alise, wife of an unloving and wealthy Trader, are among the disparate group entrusted with escorting the dragons to their new home. And on an extraordinary odyssey with no promise of return, many lessons will be learned--as dragons and tenders alike experience hardships, betrayals . . . and joys beyond their wildest imaginings.

by Lloyd Alexander

Taran dreams of adventure, but nothing exciting ever happens to an Assistant Pig-Keeper--until his pig runs away. A chase through the woods leads Taran far from home and into great danger, for evil prowls the land of Prydain. With a collection of strange and wonderful friends whom he meets on his journey, Taran finds himself fighting so that good may triumph over evil--and so that his beloved home will not fall to a diabolical fiend.

by James Clemens

On a fateful night five centuries ago, three made a desperate last stand, sacrificing everything to preserve the only hope of goodness in the beautiful, doomed land of Alasea. Now, on the anniversary of that ominous night, a girl-child ripens into the heritage of lost power. But before she can even comprehend her terrible new gift, the Dark Lord dispatches his winged monsters to capture her and bring him the embryonic magic she embodies.

Fleeing the minions of darkness, Elena is swept toward certain doom-and into the company of unexpected allies. Aided by a one-armed warrior and a strange seer, she forms a band of the hunted and the cursed, the outcasts and the outlaws, to battle the unstoppable forces of evil and rescue a once-glorious empire...

by Alison Goodman
Sixteen-year-old Eon has a dream, and a mission. For years, he's been studying sword-work and magic, toward one end. He and his master hope that he will be chosen as a Dragoneye-an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune.
But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use Dragon Magic; if anyone discovers she has been hiding in plain sight, her death is assured.
When Eon's secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a deadly struggle for the Imperial throne. Eon must find the strength and inner power to battle those who want to take her magic...and her life.

by Morgan Rhodes

In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects' lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:

Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.

Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

by Scott Lynch

An orphan's life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.

A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected "family" of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld's most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined. 

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi's most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr's underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying...

by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together. 

To break the spell, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks--all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic... and the growing romantic tension between them.

I hope you came across something here that you haven't before, but if you're a fantasy buff who's read all the books I've mentioned here feel free to tell me which one I should read first!

What are some of your favourite fantasy reads?


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

What's Up Wednesday! | 18/06/14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

This week I'm back to participating in WUW after taking a week out last week, purely because last week was so boring there was nothing worth sharing with all of you lovely people!

What I'm Reading

After a horrible slump brought on by a sudden onslaught of uni work, this week I've slowly started to get back into reading. On Monday I read Polly Bloom's Old Wives' Lore: A Book of Old-Fashioned Tips & Remedies, which is a little non-fiction book that does what it says on the tin. It probably sounds like a bit of an odd read, but for someone who's currently writing a novel about a woman who works as a healer this book was actually full of some pretty useful information. Not to mention it taught me that haemorrhoids may have played a part in the outcome of the Battle of the Waterloo...

I'm hoping I'll get back into Mira Grant's Deadline this week as I haven't continued with it for over two weeks now! It's not the book's fault at all, I'm loving the Newsflesh trilogy, uni just got on top of me for a while and every time I considered reading for fun I felt as though I wasn't allowed. It's not a good feeling.

What I'm Writing

This week I'm actually going to be having a go at writing one of the climactic scenes of my WIP, which seems a little crazy considering I'm not there yet in terms of where I am in the draft. Not only have I been advised to include one of the climactic scenes in my portfolio for my MA, but recently I've been really stressed (thus my lack of reading etc.) and it made me fall out of love with my WIP. My wonderful coursemates have made me start to fall in love with the idea again, and I think writing one of the scenes I'm really excited to write will help me to write the rest of the novel, too!

I'm also working on a steampunk short story, in which a middle-aged librarian mistakenly sets an assassin on himself, which has been lying around unfinished for far too long!

What Inspires Me Right Now

The other writers on my MA course - they're amazing!

What Else I've Been Up To

Today one of my friends turns 24, so we're spending the day in town looking at all the pretty things we can't afford before a group of us go out for some Thai food this evening - I'm really excited for a stir-fry!

I haven't been up to too much this past week, other than stressing about the future as I so often do - there's something so uneasy about being in your 20's and having no idea where you might be a year from now, but when the thought of life after uni isn't making me want to be a bit sick it's pretty exciting. I just hope I can find a job I can dive straight into; the last thing I want is to be moping around in unemployment.

Other than that, I've started watching the second season of Orphan Black, and I've been incredibly excited since I discovered that Marissa Meyer will be releasing a new book, Fairest, in January, which will delve into the backstory of Levana. You can find out more about it here!

What have you been up to?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday | My Summer TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find out everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR list', so here are some of the books I'd most like to read this summer!

by Alexandre Dumas

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.

by Eva Ibbotson

Twenty-year-old Ruth Berger is desperate. The daughter of a Jewish-Austrian professor, she was supposed to have escaped Vienna before the Nazis marched into the city. Yet the plan went completely wrong, and while her family and fiancé are waiting for her in safety, Ruth is stuck in Vienna with no way to escape. Then she encounters her father’s younger college professor, the dashing British paleontologist Quin Sommerville. Together, they strike a bargain: a marriage of convenience, to be annulled as soon as they return to safety. But dissolving the marriage proves to be more difficult than either of them thought...

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

by Moira Young

It seemed so simple: Defeat the Tonton, rescue her kidnapped brother, Lugh, and then order would be restored to Saba's world. Simplicity, however, has proved to be elusive. Now, Saba and her family travel west, headed for a better life and a longed-for reunion with Jack. But the fight for Lugh's freedom has unleashed a new power in the dust lands, and a formidable new enemy is on the rise.

What is the truth about Jack? And how far will Saba go to get what she wants?

by John Connolly

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways... But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

by Jenny Colgan

Rosie Hopkins thinks leaving her busy London life, and her boyfriend Gerard, to sort out her elderly Aunt Lilian's sweetshop in a small country village is going to be dull. Boy, is she wrong.

Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton's sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. As she struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to settle up, she also wrestles with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully coloured sweets.

by Kate Furnivall

In a city full of thieves and Communists, danger and death, spirited young Lydia Ivanova has lived a hard life. Always looking over her shoulder, the sixteen-year-old must steal to feed herself and her mother, Valentina, who numbered among the Russian elite until Bolsheviks murdered most of them, including her husband. As exiles, Lydia and Valentina have learned to survive in a foreign land.

Often, Lydia steals away to meet with the handsome young freedom fighter Chang An Lo. But they face danger: Chiang Kai Shek's troops are headed toward Junchow to kill Reds like Chang, who has in his possession the jewels of a tsarina, meant as a gift for the despot's wife. The young pair's all-consuming love can only bring shame and peril upon them, from both sides. Those in power will do anything to quell it. But Lydia and Chang are powerless to end it.

by Paula Brackston

My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. Each new settlement asks for a new journal, and so this Book of Shadows begins…

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate at the hands of the panicked mob: the Warlock Gideon Masters, and his Book of Shadows. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had and making her immortal. She couldn't have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself, tending her garden and selling herbs and oils at the local farmers' market. But her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl called Tegan starts hanging around. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth begins teaching Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories--and demons—long thought forgotten.

by Katie Coyle

A chilling vision of a contemporary USA where the sinister Church of America is destroying lives. Our cynical protagonist, seventeen-­year-­old Vivian Apple, is awaiting the fated 'Rapture' -­ or rather the lack of it. Her evangelical parents have been in the Church's thrall for too long, and she's looking forward to getting them back. Except that when Vivian arrives home the day after the supposed 'Rapture', her parents are gone. All that is left are two holes in the ceiling...

Viv is determined to carry on as normal, but when she starts to suspect that her parents might still be alive, she realises she must uncover the truth. Joined by Peter, a boy claiming to know the real whereabouts of the Church, and Edie, a heavily pregnant Believer who has been 'left behind', they embark on a road trip across America. Encountering freak weather, roving 'Believer' gangs and a strange teenage group calling themselves the 'New Orphans', Viv soon begins to realise that the Rapture was just the beginning.

What's on your summer TBR?


Monday, 16 June 2014

Top 5 | Worst Book Adaptations

From Harry Potter to The Great Gatsby, over the past few years book adaptations have been absolutely everywhere. I've already done two previous posts in which I talk about my ten favourite adaptations, so now I think it's time that we address those adaptations that we wish had never been made in the first place.

This post isn't meant to be cruel or to make fun of anyone's tastes, these are just my five worst book adaptations!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
dir. Chris Columbus
Based on The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

First up we have Chris Columbus's adaptation of the first book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.

Now I have to admit I haven't actually read any of the Percy Jackson books. Yet. I actually started The Lightning Thief some time last year and I really enjoyed the chapters I read, but then my dissertation got in the way and I just haven't returned to it. While I have yet to really read the series, the chapters I did read were enough to tell me that the film isn't a very faithful adaptation.

That being said, I do actually like this film! If I watch it and forget it was a book first it's a lot of fun - something easy to watch on the nights when I just want to relax and not think. Even so, as much as it might be a fun film, it's not a good adaptation.

Inkheart (2008)
dir. Iain Softley
Based on Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

In many ways this adaptation of the first book in Cornelia Funke's Inkworld trilogy is the same as the Percy Jackson adaptations. If you forget about the books entirely and just watch this film then it's an enjoyable film; I remember seeing the film advertised in the cinema before I'd even heard of the books and I thought it looked really cool, but thankfully I read the trilogy before I watched it.

The main reason this book has made my list is because I love the Inkworld trilogy. I discovered it during my teens and I absolutely adored it; Funke's worldbuilding is fantastic and her characters are beautifully written (though I have to admit Meggie becomes less and less of a main protagonist after the first book). So when the film adaptation was relatively weak in comparison and the ending ruined the possibility of them making adaptations of the second and third books, I was so disappointed.

There's so much in this trilogy that I actually think it would make a brilliant TV series instead!

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
dir. Mel Stuart
Based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Whenever I tell someone I prefer Tim Burton's adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I'm usually met with gaping mouths and cries of: 'but the 70's adaptation is a classic!'

I, however, really cannot stand this adaptation. Why? Because rather than telling the story of a little boy whose luck finally changes when he finds the last golden ticket, this film is basically 'The Gene Wilder Show'. The fact that the name in the title has been changed is proof enough of that.

For me the 2005 adaptation is a lot more bizarre, fun and true to the original story. Obviously I don't expect an exact replica of a book when I sit down to watch an adaptation, but this film really takes the biscuit. It's also worth mentioning that Roald Dahl himself disowned this film, claiming that he was disappointed with the lack of emphasis on Charlie.

Eragon (2006)
dir. Stefen Fangmeier
Based on Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Do I really need to say anything?

I'm not a fan of Eragon. I tried reading the book a few years ago and I managed to get about three quarters of the way through before I just had to put it down. Whenever I've told fans of the Inheritance Cycle this they've often told me that the series gets especially good from the second book onwards, but I'm not the kind of reader who appreciates having to 'just get through' the first book before I can start to enjoy the story. I could be reading something else!

Having said that, even though I've never finished the book even I can recognise that this adaptation is just appalling. Like Percy Jackson and Inkheart, if you forget that this is an adaptation you can sit down and enjoy it on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but even then it's still a pretty bad film.

I really do feel sorry for fans of the Inheritance Cycle.

Birdsong (2012)
dir. Philip Martin
Based on Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Unlike the other adaptations on this list, this adaptation of Birdsong is a two-part BBC drama. And it's terrible.

If you haven't read Birdsong then I can't recommend it highly enough, and now that we're honouring the 100 year anniversary of WW1 it's the perfect time to read it. It's a story that takes place both in France during WW1 and in England during the 70's. In France we follow a soldier called Stephen Wraysford through his harrowing experiences, and in the 70's we follow Elizabeth, his granddaughter, who is trying to learn more about the war.

It's one of those stories that will haunt you forever. Every now and then it creeps back into your mind and it's just stunning.

So when I discovered the BBC were doing an adaptation I was both excited and extremely nervous. Then I watched it, and was devastatingly disappointed. So much so that I didn't bother watching the second part. Honestly, the majority of the first part was just Eddie Redmayne and Clemence Poesy staring at each other in what I think was supposed to be sexual frustration, but looked more like constipation. I wasn't a fan of the casting either; Redmayne looks nothing like the Stephen I imagined while I was reading.

Out of all the adaptations on this list this one is definitely my least favourite - just seeing the cover makes me grumpy.

So those are my least favourite book adaptations, what are yours?