Tuesday 29 July 2014

Book Review Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss. 

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel

My Musings

The first thing that caught my attention about this book was how visual and atmospheric it was. Stedman really draws you into the age at in the 1940's in Australia just after the war. Also the main location which is the  lighthouse has a magical quality as a place 'away from the things of man' and away from reality. This is the premise of this wonderful book. The lighthouse is a safe haven for Tom the new lighthouse keeper and his young wife Isabel as he wants to escape the memories of the war and start afresh. Life is idyllic until after 3 miscarriages and inconsolable Isobel finds a baby washed up in a little boat with a dead man and persuades Tom much against his instincts to keep it.
Like Tom and Isobel the reader assumes the baby's family is dead are they?

The plot really starts to thicken and the different shades of right and wrong rear their head on several occasions. As new truths emerge Tom struggles with his conscious about who the baby belongs with. His loving wife and brilliant mother or the young woman who believes she has lost both her husband and baby. 
The dilemma for Tom, especially when he realises he has met the baby's mother before, is can he sacrifice this womans grief for the happiness of his wife? The moral dilemma of a situation rapidly spinning out of control is painful , heartbreaking and intriguing. I am not sure any reader would be convinced of the absolute right or wrong of any of the decisions made . 

Of course ultimately it is the innocent little girl. Lucy Grace who will be the unwitting victim and potentially emotionally scarred. 

A gripping read that will have the rights and wrongs of the situation swirling around your head long after you finish the book. A great first book and look forward to the film as it definitely has a cinematic quality.

If you like this you may also like
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Ps. Good For a Book Group, loads to discuss

Sunday 20 July 2014

Book Review of Hope in a Ballet Shoe/ Taking Flight by Michaela and Elaine DePrince

Hope in A Ballet Shoe UK Title
Taking Flight US Title

The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.

Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is now the youngest principal dancer with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She has appeared in the ballet documentary First Position, as well as on Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America, and Nightline.

In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet’s most exciting rising stars.
My Musings
An extraordinary powerful story of a young girl who becomes orphaned in Sierra Leon against the backdrop of civil war. Despite seeing horrendous atrocities and experiencing personal tragedy she remains strong and stoic.
One day in the orphanage she sees a picture of a ballerina and from that day on it is her ambition to become one against all the odds. Michaela is adopted by wonderful and inspirational couple who take her to live in USA where they encourage her ambition. Again she has to deal with a new culture , racism in daily life and in the ballet world but still she is undeterred. Despite enormous obstacles Michaela never gives up on her dream and today she is a ballerina with the Dutch National Balet.
A young women with true grit and determination that is a role model for young women everywhere in all walks of life. A black female dancer in classical ballet is a rare thing but this book highlights and begins to address an issue. Michaela is breaking the mould, as far too few have done before her. I really hope this inspires others to follow in her footsteps and forces other ballet companies to take notice of talented dancers they have previously dismissed for no other reason than the color of their skin.  There is a very long way to go but every journey starts with one step. If Michaela has done all this by 19 I look forward to her future achievements.

This book is a triumph over extreme adversity. A must read whether your a ballet fan or not!

Out in the UK October 2014

Books for Ballet Lovers Non Fiction 
Taking Flight Official Website

Saturday 19 July 2014

Film Review, Maleficent

A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.

My Musings

Maleficent is one of those rare films that starts off badly and then just gets better and better. What I would call a slow burner. This is the tale of Maleficent , the evil fairy godmother in Disney's classic version of Sleeping Beauty but seen from another angle. Why is Maleficent so evil? What made her so bitter?

An interesting premise and the writers certainly delivered. 
The whole changer in Maleficent's character is that it hinges on her befriending and falling in love with a young boy who when grows up cuts off her wings to gain power for himself and to become King. This happens at the beginning of the movie which is why I don't think it will ruin it if you read it here. The anguish and pain Angelina shows is heartbreaking and sets up the rest of the plot well.

The weaknesses for me was right at the beginning of the film showing Maleficent as a young girl. Its just badly directed and not very believable. The three fairies , one of whom is Imelda Staunton, are also let down by the directing and script. They should have been much funnier and their comic timing seemed off. 

It revves up a gear when Angelina becomes Maleficent. I loved the recreated scene when she curses Aurora. It is exactly like the cartoon. Angelina's smile is so wide as she evilly laughs I wondered if they had digitally enhanced her mouth!!

Aurora played by Elle Fanning is a delight and she is perfect for the role with an easy smile and light nature that is a perfect foil for Maleficent. Their growing relationship and bond is lovely and they have a real chemistry. Also loved The Crow as Maleficents side kick. Its not easy to share the screen with Jolie but he does it with aplomb. 

The film builds up well and I did not see any of the twists and turns till the end. Will Maleficent retract her curse? What has happened to her wings? Will Aurora find her true prince?

The end action scene is gripping and you real root for Maleficent and girl power!! 

I started the film thinking, Am I going to make it through? and ended it feel totally hyped and giving it a big thumbs up. So my advice is wait for Angelina before you give up on it, its worth the wait.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Book Review The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman


Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Laneis told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark

My Musings

This is my first Neil Gaiman book and it captured my imagination immediately. A man returns to his childhood haunts and therein his memories, good and bad. These little fragments about his birthday party, his kitten, his parents are really quite haunting and pull at your heart strings.  I also  love his wonderful visual imagery in the book. However the problems for me came with the fantasy element. These were random sections that I felt were alien to the rest of the story.   I kept feeling I would 'get it' later on. That there would be symbolism in these elements that would connect to his life, or they were life lessons but unfortunately nothing transpired.I also felt that the reactions of him as  a young child to devastating events where not childlike. I felt upset for the child in these situations and was frustrated that there was no emotion from his regarding key events. I was left a bemused and unsatisfied which is very unfortunate as I was really looking forward to this book. I know this was expanded from a short story and it really tells. I am a bit perplexed that so many reviewers have given this such top marks. 

Saturday 5 July 2014

Book Review Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini


Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

My Musings

I know Josephine is a talented writer from her first series Starcrossed but this really cranks it up a notch. Lily suffers life endangering allergies , has a schizophrenic mother and absent father. Her rock and support system is her older sister Juliet and best friend Tristan. The plot speeds on at a crackling pace with Tristan becoming her boyfriend, cheating on her at a party of which the stress ends up with her have a seizure.
This calamitous event sends her to a new alternative world to which her doppelganger Lillian, a powerful witch, has called her for help. But why has Lillian called her here? Why does she push her away into the arms of her old lover who now hates her and Lilly because they are one of the same? So many twists and turns in this book I really don't know where to begin but it had me hooked from the beginning. The love/hate relationship with Rowen positively sizzles and I loved the developments through the book.  Lily grows from peace loving sensitive girl into a strong powerful witch is totally absorbing . The brewing romance and doomed love hover over the book filling it with tension. As does the question mark of why Lillian has become so evil? What future has she seen? Why did she push Rowan away and make him hate her so much? Some reviewers have said that for the arch enemy Lillian is under developed but I didn't feel that way at all. Her motives and what she sees in the future are the linch pin for the whole plot of the book and I just felt (and hope) that Josephine will build up her role in the future books. In this one it wasn't necessary. 
There are also many attractive secondary characters that you want to follow, Sweet sister Juliet, Rebel leader Alaric, Tristan in both worlds. Also her world building are rich in detail and not one dimensional. A brilliant start to a new series and I can't wait for the second one as you feel invested in the characters.

If you like this you might like
Throne of Glass Sarah J Maas
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Laini Taylor