Thursday 26 December 2013

Review Confessions of a Wild Child by Jackie Collins


Lucky Santangelo The Prequel at last. Jackie Collins gives us the background to her popular heroine of seven books. This is Lucky’s teenage years in her own words. Neglected by her Mafia father, her mother was murdered when Lucky was five, she behaves badly to get his attention but when she hits sixteen he’s had enough! This is a glorious romp through her antics and experimentations with boys.

My Musings

I have read all of Jackie Collins books featuring her most popular characters Gino and later his daughter Lucky and really loved them. They are larger than life characters who take no prisoners. Tough, ruthless yet both have a vunerability that makes them hugely appealing. So when I heard Jackie was writting a prequel about Lucky's teenage years aimed for the YA market I was very curious but excited to read it.

First it's written in the first person from Lucky and it seems Jackie has almost simplified her way of writing to appeal to her younger audience. It took me a while to get into it but I persevered as I am fan of Lucky and 'luckily' it soon picked up the pace. This is purely a holiday easy fun read but I found that there was no real direction and could have been developed more. I really felt Jackie had written this in a rush because her publisher had thought it was a good idea to get ont he YA bandwagon.

Re the YA fiction genre I am not sure if I would suggest this for a young teenager as there is a lot of sexual innuendo and exploits although Jackie does not go into full descriptions. On the other hand a strong part of the plot is that Lucky will do a lot but never go all the way with her numerous boyfriends. In other words Jackie's message to young girls is respect yourself , don't give it away. You can still have fun.

 What I have always liked about Jackie is she writes about very strong inspirational heroines' that won't take crap from anyone. If that is one message she can get across than great. If she tries this market again I would urge her to take it as seriously as her other books as I felt this needed more depth.

Could have been a lot better. Started off disappointed but it definately improved. A fun, light holiday read for Lucky and Gino Fans with an open mind!! Lots of glamour and sexual innuendo.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas


Wishing you all Peace and Joy This Christmas. Zoe xx

Sistene Madonna by Raphael

Sunday 22 December 2013

My List of Fiction Books for Art Lovers


This is a list of fictional books I have read featureing artists and painters is some guise. Some take centre stage , while some use it as a backdrop but is still a relevant part of the story and of interest to anyone interested in art and painting. I will add more as I discover them!
Please feel free to add to my list as I am always on the look out for other books featuring artists.

The Girl With The Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

17th Century Holland. When Griet becomes a maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer in the town of Delft, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry and the care of his six children. But as she becomes part of his world and his work, their growing intimacy spreads tension and deception in the ordered household and, as the scandal seeps out, into the town beyond.

My Musings
Beautiful story of the relationship between the artist and an unlikely muse. Tender, visually stunning and romantic.

Paris in Winter by Imogen Robinson

A deep, dark and opulent tale of Belle Époque Paris, and the secrets and dangers hidden beneath its luxurious façade.
My Musings
I am not going to lie, this is a book I have not read yet but can't wait to. Superficially love the cover but the story looks great and love this era. Has had good reviews so couldn't resist putting it on!

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach


The Amsterdam of the early 17th century has been forever immortalised by the serene, precise domestic realism of the canvases of Vermeer and Rembrandt. Deborah Moggach's novel Tulip Fever gives this time a compelling fictional twist. Set in 1630s Amsterdam, it begins with a typical Renaissance love triangle: a wealthy, elderly merchant, Cornelis Sandvoort, his beautiful but frustrated young wife Sophia and the painter who enters their life, Jan van Loos. Commissioned to paint the happy couple's portrait, Jan becomes embroiled in a series of emotional and financial speculations which are to change the character's lives forever. Interspersed with 16 beautifully reproduced Dutch paintings, Tulip Fever is a delightfully conceived story which offers a new dimension to what really goes on within the apparently placid domestic interiors of such canvases.
My Musings
For those who loved Girl With a Pearl Earring. Very evocative, passionate and interesting historical content about the age. Also lovely colour pictures of paintings, which is very unusual in fiction book.


The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff

A forbidden love, a life-long secret, and one chance to make the right decision. Ella has always been an artist, jotting down pictures from a young age, and now in her thirties she has made it her profession. When Ella's younger sister Chloe asks her to paint a portrait of her new fiance Nate, Ella is reluctant. He is a brash American who Ella thinks has proposed far too fast, so the thought of spending many hours alone with him fills her with dread. But before long Ella realises there is more to Nate than meets the eye. Beautifully inter-weaving the stories of Ella's sitters - from the old lady with a wartime secret, to the handsome politician who has a confession to make - with Ella's own hunt for her real father and slow realization that she is falling in love with the wrong man.
My Musings
Set around a portrait artists and her sitters a great insight into the intimacy that can evolve from these sitttings and a really good holiday read and gift.

Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman

RoNA Best Epic Romantic Novel 2013, Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read 2012, and shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2013.

'You are a remarkable woman and you deserve all the happiness, contentment and love in the world. I, for one, know that I have never met anyone quite like you.'

When Rose Pritchard turns up on the doorstep of a Cumbrian B&B it is her last resort. She and her seven-year-old daughter Maddie have left everything behind. And they have come to the village of Millthwaite in search of the person who once offered Rose hope.

Almost immediately Rose wonders if she's made a terrible mistake - if she's chasing a dream - but she knows in her heart that she cannot go back. She's been given a second chance - at life, and love - but will she have the courage to take it?
My Musings
This book features the artist as Rose's long lost father whom she goes to find. It is more about Rose and her getting out of a very bad situation and rebonding with her father. However it also goes on to describe well how obsessive and selfish artists can be!! A really good read.

The Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb

A spellbinding tale about the power of love, the danger of obsession, and the unfaithful nature of memory. A Half Forgotten Song is by turns haunting, heartbreaking and joyous.

1937. In a village on the Dorset coast, fourteen-year-old Mitzy Hatcher has endured a wild and lonely upbringing, until the arrival of renowned artist Charles Aubrey-along with his exotic mistress and their daughters-changes everything. Over the next three summers, Mitzy sees a future she had never thought possible, and a powerful love is kindled in her. A love that grows from innocence to obsession; from childish infatuation to something far more complex. Years later, a young man in an art gallery looks at a hastily-drawn portrait and wonders at its intensity. The questions he asks lead him to a Dorset village and to the truth about those fevered summers in the 1930s.

My musings
This is loosely based on the artist Augustus John I believe. A very dark but brilliant tale of obsession.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Set in the Paris it tells the story of three sisters, one of whom becomes the model for Degas' Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. A Darkly Beautiful read on theatre life in The Belle Epoque. 
My Musings 
A Darkly Beautiful read on theatre life in The Belle Epoque. For a Full Review click here

An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay


An outstanding debut about a love affair between artists that endures professional rivalry, alcoholism and betrayal
My Musings.
Totally forgot about this book until I was tidying up my bookshelf. I remember it being deeply evocative and the wonderful descriptions of time and place were haunting. Definately a great gift for a lover of art, spain and beautiful prose. 
Some more reviews below.
'An Equal Stillness is pitch perfect. Kay describes Mallow's painting with an arresting intensity' (Eithne Farry DAILY MAIL)

An enchanting life story... Exquisitely written: the descriptions of Jennet's work, paintings that never existed and the descriptions of colour are breathtaking. (DAILY EXPRESS)

it's the freshness of the prose, the insightfulness of the author, that makes this a very special book... A startlingly accomplished debut. (newbooks magazine)

a masterful portrait of a woman forging an unexpectedly dazzling career against the backdrop of familial duty (EASY LIVING)

Kay writes about art with a wonderful sensuality and relish (THE TIMES)

Kay's writing is beautifully intense (FINANCIAL TIMES)

a compelling, vivid portrait (THE GUARDIAN)

Francesca Kay's impressive first novel is a fictional biography... The descriptions of artworks are remarkable. Colour is evoked with amazing subtlety. (THE INDEPENDENT)

the most beautiful, accomplished debut I have read for a long time... It is a powerful novel by a supremely talented artist. (Francesca Segal THE OBSERVER)

the author successfully shares with us her delight in the world. (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

This is a story of genius amid domesticity that will resonate with readers on a fundamental level. We're thrilled to recommend this book and are excited to see what Francesca Kay does next (Mishal Husain Orange Chair of Judges, BBC World News presenter)

Ms Kay has an unusual ability to ignite the imagination. A passion for art and a gift for depicting the landscape of paint are what make the book stand out. (THE ECONOMIST)

Francesca Kay has won this year's Orange Award for New Writers and a real star has stepped on to the stage... Lyrical, sensual, sharp - this is the most impressive contemporary novel I have read for years. (A.N. Wilson READERS DIGEST)

Thursday 19 December 2013

A List of My Favourite Childhood Books

A List of My Favourite Childhood Books

Books I have treasured and believe are still current today. Some of the book images are from my own collection as I thought it would be nice to see the covers from back then!! You can probably tell which those are. If your looking for a present you can't go wrong with introducing a child to these and also adults who are young at heart.

The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Motherless Sara Crewe was sent home from India to school at Miss Minchin's. Her father was immensely rich and she became ‘show pupil’ - a little princess. Then her father dies and his wealth disappears, and Sara has to learn to cope with her changed circumstances. Her strong character enables her to fight successfully against her new-found poverty and the scorn of her fellows.

One of my favourite books of all time. I loved Sara and it didn't matter whether she was rich or poor she still had a strong character, new right from wrong and could transport herself away with her imagination. She could see the good in any situation. A magical Story.

See also
The Secret Garden by Frances Hogson Burnett

The Magic Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair collection by Enid Blyton

When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home, an Enchanted Wood is on their doorstep. And when they discover the Faraway Tree, it proves to be the beginning of many magical adventures! Join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please? Come on an amazing adventure – there’ll be adventures waiting whatever happens.
Enid Blyton’s funny, magical adventure stories have become true classics, loved by millions and still selling thousands of copies every year. She is arguably the most famous children’s author of all time, thanks to series such as The Wishing-Chair, The Faraway Tree­, The Mysteries, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.
There are 6 books in this series that transported me as a child to a magical land full of amazing and memorable character. I still have a soft spot for Silky!
See also by Enid Blyton
Famous Five, Mallory Towers, The Adventure series.

Little House on The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Set during the pioneer days of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Laura Ingalls Wilder's books chronicle her life growing up on the Western frontier.

 A beautiful series that introduced me to living out in the wilds of Canada. The hardships and the life lessons while growing up surrounded by and living off nature. I still have a yearning to collect syrup from maple trees like they did in the books.

Anne of Green Gables

When the Cuthberts send to an orphanage for a boy to help them at Green Gables, their farm in Canada, they are astonished when a talkative little girl steps off the train. Anne, red-headed, pugnacious and incurably romantic, causes chaos at Green Gables and in the village, but her wit and good nature delight the fictional community of Prince Edward Island, Canada, and ensure that Anne of Green Gables continues to be a firm favourite with readers worldwide.

Anne of Avonlea continues Anne's story. Now half-past sixteen but as strong-headed and romantic as ever, Anne becomes a teacher at her old school and dreams of its improvement. But her responsible position and mature ambitions do not prevent her entanglement in the scrapes that still seem to beset her in spite of her best intentions.

Thoroughly charming and amusing, with a supporting cast of colourful and endearing characters, both books will enchant and entertain readers, guaranteeing that Anne's adventures capture their affections as well as their imaginations.

I loved Anne's feisty adventerous character, her relationship with her adopted parents and her growing romance with Gilbert. A real treasure and something we can all  relate to.

See also TV Series with Megan Fellowes is just as good as the books. It gives a different aspect and the actress who playes Anne, Megan Fellowes is perfect.


Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson


‘Fifteen men on the dead man's chest-Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!’ Treasure Island is a tale of pirates and villains, maps, treasure and shipwreck, and is perhaps the best adventure story ever written.
When young Jim Hawkins finds a packet in Captain Flint's sea chest, he could not know that the map inside it would lead him to unimaginable treasure. Shipping as cabin boy on the Hispaniola, he sails with Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett, Dr Livesey, the sinister Long John Silver and a frightening crew to Treasure Island. There, mutiny, murder and mayhem lead to a thrilling climax.


I remember my mum reading this to me when I was about 6 or 7 and I was totally enthralled by Jim's adventures with the pirates and especially Long John Silver. I remember loving his parrot! The illustrations by Mervyn Peake were amazing and perfect for the story.


Song of The Lioness Series By Tamora Pierce

Becoming a legend is not easy, as young Alanna of Trebond discovers when she disguises herself as a boy and begins training to be a knight. Alanna's skills and stubborness help her befriend Prince Jonathan and alienate his evil uncle, Duke Roger. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, this book is a rousing introduction to the intensely satisfying story of Alanna.
The series that got me into reading fantasy fiction. I LOVE this series. Alanna is a very strong role model for little girls everywhere. She never lets anything get in her way, is brave, strong and bright. There is adventure and romance all against the backdrop of a little girl growing up and all of those issues she has to deal with while pretending to be a boy. It is an outrage this book is no longer published in the UK but you can still get second hand copies so please do!


The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by Tolkein


Immerse yourself in Middle-earth with Tolkien’s classic masterpieces behind the films, telling the complete story of Bilbo Baggins and the Hobbits’ epic encounters with Gandalf, Gollum, dragons and monsters, in the quest to destroy the One Ring.
When they were first published, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings became instant classics. Treasured by readers young and old, these works of sweeping fantasy, steeped in unrivalled magic and other worldliness have sold more than 150 million copies around the world.
This new boxed gift set, published to celebrate the release of the first of Peter Jackson’s three-part film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, contains both titles and features cover images from both films.
It offers readers a new opportunity to discover Tolkien’s remarkable world of Middle-earth and to follow the complete story of Bilbo Baggins and the Hobbits’ part in the epic quest for the Ring – beginning with Bilbo’s fateful visit from Gandalf and culminating in the dramatic climax between Frodo and Gollum atop Mount Doom.

What can i say, A true Classic. Tolkein builds an amazing world and characters that take your breath away. A true genius.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe

The 33 Scandinavian folk tales take the imagination of the reader from rags to riches, from skulduggery to heroism, via witches' curses, beautiful princesses, giants, quests, billy goats and the occasional wicked troll, to a happy ending.
I was given this book when I was about 7 I think and was immediately transported into Scandinavian folk tales by the beautiful illustrations by Kay Nielsen. I had never heard these tales before and have been a firm fan ever since. You can see my somewhat dogeared copy!

If you do like this
check out two particular authors who have written their own version of the tales and they are both are equally as good and also have a different take so you will see it from different angles. I have read all and have really enjoyed them individually.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon by illustrator and writer Jackie Morris. Beautifully illustrated by Jackie as always
 North Child by Edith Pattou
All the above books make really great gifts for 10+ and a great idea if you want to pick something a little more unusual.

BFG by Roald Dahl

The well-loved story of a big friendly giant who spirits a child out of bed to the land of the child-eating giants. Illustrations by Quentin Blake
One of my favourite Roald Dahl along with Matilda, I loved the idea of the BFG. Dahl is an inspiration and will never go out of fashion.
see also
 Matilda and Witches and everything else by Roald Dahl.
Also if they have got through Roald Dahl check out David Walliams, surprising good and along the same lines.

 The Butterfly Ball


Renowned illustrator Alan Aldridge introduced the fantastical world of the Butterfly Ball in this breathtaking modern classic. It is now available in a lavish new edition, complete with nature notes by Richard Fitter on each creature and an introduction to the life and work of Alan Aldridge.
This originally came out in the 7o's and has been re released. Not surprising it is a gorgeous book and gift for any child. I loved pouring over the illustrations and seeing all the different things I had missed and I never tired of looking. I am particularly fond of this as I got to play Aranea the spider in our school play when I was 10. I was a real femme fatale!! You'll understand when you read the poem...

And last but not least an author I wished I had discovered when I was a child


Eva Ibbotson

Eva recently died in her 90's after a long and successful career as an author. She only came back to prominence after Harry Potter came out and people wanted similar books. However she has written for all ages and my particular favourite is The Dog and His Boy and all her teen romance novels set against WW2 like The Secret Countess. She won many awards especially for Journey to River Sea. If you are not familiar please take a look you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Review of Stella by Helen Eve

Stella by Helen Eve


17-year-old Stella Hamilton is the star blazing at the heart of Temperley High. Leader of the maliciously exclusive elite, she is surrounded by adulation; envied and lusted after in equal measure. And she is in the final stage of a five-year campaign to achieve her destiny: love with her equally popular male equivalent, and triumph as Head Girl on election night. By contrast, new girl Caitlin Clarke has until now lived a quietly conformist life in New York. With the collapse of her parents' marriage she has been sent across the Atlantic for an English boarding school education, only to discover that at Temperley, the only important rules are the unwritten ones. It's a world of the beautiful and the dangerous, and acceptance means staying on the right side of Stella Hamilton, the most beautiful and dangerous of them all. Not everyone is happy to be under the Hamilton rule. But fighting the system means treading the same dark path as Stella - and if Caitlin puts a foot wrong, it's a long way down ...

My Musings

When I chose this proof I was attracted to the blurb comparing it to to Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars. Also Stella is a play on Estella from Great Expectations who I find a fascinating character so a modern take would certainly spike my interest.
I thought the setting of rich girls at boarding school would be perfect for the time honoured two girls fighting over cute boy plot.... How wrong was I!!  Honestly I would go further and compare it to a cross between the films Cruel Intentions (a teen adaption on Dangerous Liaisons) and Carrie, the horror movie. OK so that is a little extreme but by the end of the book,(No Spoilers here) you will know where I am coming from.

Alternate chapters are written from the personal viewpoint of the 2 main girls, the 'heroin' Caitlin and the 'anti heroine' Stella. It is a power play from the off set. Stella knows she is beautiful, bright and can manipulate her friends and boyfriends which ever way she pleases. As we read further you discover her background and her closeness to her sisters. It is like peeling an onion, layer by horrifying layer.

Caitlin on the other hand moves from USA with her selfish father and really wants to fit in. She proves useful for Stella but starts to see cracks in the dominating group and starts to realise she has the power, like Stella to become a power player in the school. 

Inevitably Caitlins and Stellas friendship implodes as they fight to be Head Girl.
Who is more ruthless, who has the most ambition. How far will they go?

The two boys who are ruthlessly manipulated by both girls Edward and Luke end up with a lot of your sympathy but they are definitely not what this book is about. The romance is a small part of it but very powerful and sad, especially regarding Stella and Luke. I found their romance incredibly poignant.

I am not going to give any plot away but I will say that the writer manipulates the reader very well! Your alliances and sympathies throughout are turned on its head.
It took me a while to get in to it as the chapter by each girl I found a little frenetic at first but once I was used to her style of writing I became engrossed. I found this very frustrating as I wanted to read a fluffy light book but this was certainly not but I needed to know what happened in the end.

Dark, Machiavellian and not for the faint hearted. Turn away now if you want a light romance. The story and characters will remain with you a long while after you have finished the book.

If you like this you might like
Cruel Intentions
Dangerous Liaisons
Single White Female
The Talented Mr Ripley

Gossip Girl
Sex and the City
Pretty Little Liars


Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach
Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

Sunday 15 December 2013

Peter O'Toole 1932-2013

Always loved Peter O'Toole. So beautiful, so elegant, so witty.
An amazing actor who lived life tot he full. He will be much missed but still will always have his films to enjoy. One of my favourites was How To Steal a Million. A fluffy comedy but did Audrey Hepburn and Peter light up the screen. A joy to watch.

I loved this quote and he certainly a achieved it

As a teenager, Peter O'Toole scribbled a pledge in his notebook:
 "I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony."


Friday 13 December 2013

Review of America's Queen by Sarah Bradford

America's Queen by Sarah Bradford



Synopsis taken from The Daily Mail

With the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination just days away, this revised and reissued biography is a timely reminder of the contradictory and complicated character of the First Lady. The daughter of a notorious drunk and womaniser whom she adored, Jackie was attracted to power and money and if that meant tolerating sexual infidelity, then the deal was worth it. However, she valued loyalty above all else in others, and could be ruthless with those who broke ranks. Her lasting role in American history was cemented by the images of her at JFK’s assassination and funeral, although her subsequent marriage to the physically unattractive but rich and influential Aristotle Onassis shocked many.  Bradford’s sources include Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill and although Jackie’s obsessive privacy leaves many doors still unopened, this is a revealing portrait.


My Musings

I was really pleased to see this fascinating biography reissued. (Although I do prefer the original pink cover). For anyone interested in the Kennedy's or just in the rich and powerful this is a must.
Jackie was a product of her family, especially her womanising father, Black Jack Bouvier. She learned from him the importance of money and also how to deal with charming rogues and Alpha Males. It charts her extraordinary rise to the top of America's political royalty. How she used her attributes, her attractiveness and little girl voice to full effect while being capable of total ruthlessness and coldness. It gives us an insight into how and why a woman would put up with such a womanising husband. It also exposes why in fact she did fall for Onassis much to America's horror at the time. Bradford has written a multi layered and in depth account of Jackies' life and of those closest to her. She was a formidable woman who's love of  power and wealth and her ruthless ambition probably helped her deal with the unimaginable cruelties that littered her family's life. This is a great present and a real page turner.

If you like this you might like

Life of the Party by Christopher Ogden
This is the fascinating story of Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman , whom when I started it I knew absolutely nothing about. However a friend insisted that I read it and I wasn't disappointed. An absolute riot of a read!!
NB. from what I can see this is now out of print but if you can get your hands on it snap it up quickly!


When President Bill Clinton nominated Pamela Harriman to become U.S. ambassador to France in 1993, he was rewarding an extraordinary supporter with a crown jewel from the American political spoils system. Few deserved it more. The glamorous widow of statesman Averell Harriman had sheltered the Democratic party through a dozen years of exile and had used her late husband's fortune and her own drive to raise $12 million for the party and, ultimately, Clinton's campaign. But long before she became a diplomat, Pamela Harriman had an international reputation - as courtesan of the century. The ambitious eldest child of an English baron, Pamela was eager to flee rural life when her formal education ended at sixteen. Red-haired, voluptuous, and sexy at eighteen, when she claims to have met Adolf Hitler, she married Winston Churchill's only son at the onset of World War II and moved into No. 10 Downing Street. A volatile marriage to Randolph Churchill propelled the seductive young mother into wartime affairs with such powerful men as Harriman, Edward R. Murrow, and top generals on both sides of the Anglo-American alliance. After the war, Pamela divorced, moving to France and into liaisons with wealthy playboys Aly Khan, Gianni Agnelli, and Elie de Rothschild. Her second marriage, to Sound of Music producer Leland Hayward, put her at the crossroads of Broadway and Hollywood in the 1960s. After Hayward's death, a family feud, and a flirtation with Frank Sinatra, she married the seventy-nine-year-old Harriman. The former ambassador, New York governor, and presidential candidate introduced her to a new generation of world leaders as well as Democratic party officials delighted to welcome a beautifuland energetic doyenne. Unauthorized, but based on months of exclusive talks with Pamela Harriman, plus interviews with nearly two hundred friends, relatives, and critics, Life of the Party is the first inside look at the spectacular life and rise of a remarkable woman.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Review of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire


Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.

My Musings

I unexpectedly  loved The Hunger Games Book Series which I had put off reading for a while due to the publicity about it's violent content. I also really enjoyed the first film so I couldn't wait for the second installment, Catching Fire. I wasn't disappointed.

The tension builds agonizingly slowely from the beginning when Katniss and Peta are forced to pretend they are in love while on their winning tour  as their family and friends have been threatened by Snow. The dystopian world is brilliantly portrayed with powerful imagery of  the poor areas compared to the rich Capitol. It echoes of regimes and dictatorships past and present and makes it suitably uncomfortable viewing. You feel the repression, the frustration and the desperation of the different sectors to find any hope and that they find it in Katniss who seem to have broken rules but still be alive and well. Donald Sutherland and Phillip Seymour Hoffman  play the villains like two chess masters using the Hunger Games competitors as pawns to hang on to power.

With rebellions breaking out , in desperation they take all the winners of past Hunger Games and pit them against one another in a Hunger Games Special . Like before the competitors form alliances alongside enemies  while surviving against whatever Hoffman throws at them as The Games Master. This part is really exciting and one point ( monkeys!)  I jumped out of my chair. It's very eerily atmospheric, mainly played out in dusk but they show Katniss as a real warrior showing no mercy and her growing feelings tomards Peta. Suzanne Harris wanted to show what violence really can do, what a battle can be like and the consequences of those actions and the sacrifice that people have to make rather than glamorise it as they do in other films and books. They definately succeeded in this film which I really appreciated.

I really appreciate seeing a strong powerful and inspiring femail role model. Jennifer Lawrence must be thrilled to have such an iconic role that even today is a rarity. I also think the films success rely heavily on her commitment to the role. This does not include a spoiler but the brilliant last scene is exceptional as Jennifer lets you know exactly what Katniss is feeling without uttering a single word.

The film really tries to remain true to the book while making a gripping action film. You will leave the cinema with your adrenilin pumping!  I cannot wait to see the third film.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Books for Ballet Lovers Part 2 Fiction for Adults and Children

Books for Ballet Lovers Part 2 Fiction for Adults and Children

Alina Cojocaru and Sergei Polunin by Zoe James-Williams, pastel

My list of ballet books was getting so long I thought I had better put it into two parts.

Books for Ballet Lovers Part 2 focuses on ballet in fiction for adults and children.

Ballet In Fiction

Prima Donna by Karen Swan

Pia Soto is the sexy and glamorous prima ballerina, the Brazilian bombshell who’s shaking up the ballet world with her outrageous behaviour. She’s determined that no man will ever control her destiny. But ruthless financier Will Silk has Pia in his sights, When a devastating accident threatens to cut short Pia’s illustrious career, Sophie has to step out of the shadows and face up to the demons in her own life. A really fun holiday read by an author who has clearly done her research. Very enjoyable with larger than life characters and lots of glamour!
Pan ISBN 978-1447223740

Check out Karen Swan's Website

Dancer by Colin McCann

Fictional life of Rudolf Nureyev as a child and how he became a dancer.
Phoenix ISBN: 978-0753817049

First Love by Adrienne Sharp

Gripping story of two ballet dancers in love making their way through the ranks. Quite dark in places so have put it in Fiction but could be given to older teenager. NB this seems to be out of print but if you can get it worth the read. An easy holiday read.
Arrow ISBN-13: 978-0099491026
Two books using Degas and the ballet world so must read

Painted girls by Cathy Buchanan

Set in the Paris it tells the story of three sisters, one of whom becomes the model for Degas' Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. A Darkly Beautiful read on theatre life in The Belle Epoque. For My Review click here
US Imports ISBN-13: 978-1594486241

Ballet in Children's Fiction 7+

Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

A historical romance in which one Harriet Morton comes to life only when she attends her weekly ballet class in 1912. She finds her fortune as a dancer, but all the time she is followed by her father and by the man intent on becoming her husband. A great read for Ibbotson fans and a modern day classic!
Picador ISBN- 978-0230014848
Children 9+

Ballet Shoes Noel Streatfield

The story of three sisters going to stage school, the youngest being an inspiring dancer. A Classic.
Puffin ISBN- 978-0141334424
Children 9+

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfield

When their mother dies, leaving them orphaned, Rachel and Hilary are sent to live with their aunt, who runs a troupe of dancing girls -'Mrs Wintle's Little Wonders'. Hilary, a talented dancer, settles there immediately and loves the chance to dance every day. Rachel finds it more difficult to fit in. She's also got another worry on her mind. Her mother's dying wish was for Hilary to attend the Royal Ballet School. But Hilary seems to have other ideas! Another classic
Hodder ISBN- 978-0340626634
Children 9+

Magic Ballerina Series by Darcey Bussell

A delightful series of stories about different little ballerina's on various adventures. The first one is called Delphie and the Magic Ballet Slippers.
Harper Collins ISBN- 978-0007286072
Children 7+

Ballet in Picture and Activity Books


A striking picture book about a tiger who aspires to be a ballet dancer in Paris. Against all the odds he follows his dream and with a little help from his new friend finally performs in a proper theatre. The bold limited palette really captures the French capital and the twilight world of theatre life. Enchanting and inspiring with the lovely sentiment that nothing is impossible this is the perfect present for little dancers everywhere.
ISBN: 9781408336885 HB Orchard Books £11.99
5/5 Stars

Ella Bella Series by James Mayhew

Stories of a little student ballerina being whisked away into the words of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the Nutcracker (isbn below). Beautiful illustrations and a real delight.
Orchard ISBN-: 978-1408314081

Ps. James has a great blog to check out
James Mayhew Blog

Dogs Don't Do Ballet by Anna Kemp

Funny and heart warming story of a Dog who Dreams of Being a Ballerina
Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1847384744

Tutu Tilly Series by Adele Geras

Tilly's adventures as a ballerina including My Ballet Dream and Little Ballet Star and The Ballet Class(isbn below)
Orchard ISBN: 978-1843624134

Angelina Ballerina Series by Katherine Holabird

A Series of adventures of a little mouse who is a ballerina. Picture Books
Puffin ISBN- 978-0723271666

Fairy Pop-Up Ballet Tree

A beautiful 3D pop-up tree with movable pieces, press-out fairies and decorations, fun fairy facts and a novelty pocket
Macmillan ISBN 978-0230760301

How to Draw Princesses and Ballerinas by Fiona Watt 5+

Aspiring artists can choose from gorgeous projects including a Sugar Plum Fairy, a Fairytale castle and a Princess Sleepover. With simple step-by-step instructions, children will be able to produce satisfying results time and time again.
Usborne ISBN 978-1409566366

Ballerinas, Usborne Sticker Fashion by Leonie Pratt 5+

Dress the ballerinas up in different costumes with 400 stickers provided
Usborne ISBN 978-0746076583

Monday 2 December 2013

Books for Ballet Lovers Part 1 Non Fiction

Waiting to Dance, pastel by Zoe James-Williams

Books for Ballet Lovers
Being a huge ballet lover and fan I have read and have been given all types of ballet books so I thought I would make a categorised list from my bookshelf and wish list. Please feel free to add suggestions that I may have missed.

Ballet Biographies

No Way Home by Carlos Acosta

Superb rags-to-riches story of one of the world’s greatest dancers, from his difficult beginnings living in poverty in the backstreets of Cuba to his astronomical rise to international stardom.
Harper Perennial     ISBN 978-0007250783

Xander Parish, Russian Prince

This tells the extraordinary story of the former Royal Ballet dancer, whose exceptional talent was spotted by Yuri Fateyev, artistic director of the legendary St Petersburg company.
 ISBN 978-09549804-6-7 £15.95

Rudolf Nureyev, The Life by Judith Kavanagh

A fascinating biography of one of the worlds most famous ballet dancers. It covers his highs and lows and you will laugh and cry. A real work of love.
Penguin ISBN- 978-0141029696


Daria Klimentova, The Agony and Ectasy by Daria Klimentova and Graham Watts

Autobiography of Daria Klimentova Senior Principal at English National Ballet. Daria had forged a remarkable partnership with the young Russian Principal, Vadim Muntagirov,

Metro Books ISBN 978-1857828832

Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman

The extraordinary life of one of Britains most loved prima ballerina's.

Penguin ISBN 978-0140165302

Dancer in Wartime by Gillian Lynne

Biography of a young dancer working her way through the ranks in WW2 alonside such names as Fonteyn and Moira Shearer. I thought this was a delight. Very insightful and fascinating.

Vintage ISBN 978-0099555773

Bloomsbury Ballerina by Judith Mackrell

The extraordinary story of Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova who lived a long and remarkable life.
Orion ISBN- 978-0753825785

Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin

Told in his own distinctive voice, this is Li's inspirational story of how he came to be Mao's last dancer, and one of the world's greatest ballet dancers.

Penguin ISBN: 978-0141040226

Hope in a Ballet Shoe by Michaela and Elaine DePrince 

Biography of an orphan from Sierra Leon who becomes a ballerina against all the odds. A Truelly inspiring read.

The Royal Ballet 75 Years by Zoe Anderson

In 1931, Ninette de Valois started a ballet company with just six dancers. Within twenty years, the Royal Ballet was established as one of the world's great companies. This book presents a critical account of its first 75 years, tracing the company's growth, and its great cultural importance.
Faber and Faber ISBN 978-0571227969

Ballet in Coffee Table Books/ Photography Books

Pas de deux, The Royal Ballet in Pictures

I love this book, its got some gorgeous photos off and on stage of principal Royal Ballet dancers.

Invitation Sylvie Guillem

Photographs of the ballet phenomenon that is Mademoiselle Non!
ISBN-13: 978-2702207000

Darcy Bussell by Darcy Bussell

This book of stunning images chronicles Darcey Bussell's amazing career on the stage.
Ballet Russe

Dancers Behind The Scenes by Andrei Uspenki

Royal Ballet dancer Andrej Uspenski has a unique perspective on photographic composition of dance imagery, as well as unrivalled access not only to the Royal Ballet's productions, but also to the dancers who perform in them. This gives the reader an exclusive insight in to the Royal Ballet's work. DANCERS includes exclusive, backstage photographs, as well as a number of breathtaking images taken from the wings during live stage performances, making this a unique photographic record, perfect for all ballet fans. Some amazing photos.
Oberon Books ISBN 978-1849433884

Natalia Osipova, Becoming a Swan By Andrei Uspenski

Haven't seen this yet but I am sure it a beautiful book and a must for fans of Osipova
ISBN 978-1783190225

Diaghilev and The Golden Age of Ballet Russes by Jane Pritchard

A sumptous book charting the rise and fall of Diaghilev and his legendary ballet company Ballet Russes
V&A Publishing ISBN 978-1851776139

Ballet in Art Books

Laura Knight at the Theatre by Timothy Wilcox

Wonderful book of the first femail RA and her passion for ballet and theatre
Unicorn Press Ltc ISBN-13: 978-1906509798

Degas and The Ballet: Picturing Movement by Richard Kendall

Gorgeous book to go with a past exhibition at the RA. Quite a tombe but well worth the read and some wonderful paintings and drawings included
ISBN-13: 978-1905711680

Degas Drawings

Lovely PB book for those who admired Degas drawings of ballet dancers
Dover Publications, ISBN:9780486406985

Sir William Russell Flint by Ralph Lewis (Out of Print but if you do find one buy it!)

Features his paintings of ballet dancers and Moira Shearer who stared in the Red Shoes

Reference Books for Ballet

The Ballet Companion: A Dancer's Guide to the Technique, Traditions and Joys of Ballet by Eliza Gaynor Mindon

A great reference book that covers all aspects of ballet
Simon and Schuster ISBN 978-0743264075