Monday 29 June 2015

Book Review, The Selection by Kiera Cass


For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

My Musings 

I'm not sure where to place this novel. Its starts in a dystopian world not dissimilar to the Hunger Games with its different districts and social pecking order but then the world shrinks to the story between America (the heroine) and her first love Astor and her burgeoning friendship with Prince Maxon. This isn't a bad thing for the story but if you like indepth world building you may get a little frustrated.

This is a light fluffy romantic holiday read based loosely on Cinderella (which I got immediately )and (reading an interview) Esther from the Bible. (Will have to read up on this as not familiar).

Prince Maxim hold a 'selection' to pick a wife from chosen girls from various levels of their social order. America is a poor and struggling number 5, one up from 6 who are servants. The problem is her first love Astor is a 6 and is thereby deemed unsuitable for her so they have carried on their relationship in secret. Astor breaks up with America as he can't provide for her and persuades her to go for the 'selection'. Here the story really starts.

I have mixed emotions with America. Her behavior in some parts was so annoying and obnoxious it really raised my hackles and then she would be so lovely, feisty and endearing you forgive her and start to root for her again. I didn't like the way she kept Prince Maxim dangling and that she manipulated a secret friendship with him at the expense of the other girls. But I really loved her relationship with her maids and how she looked after them and stood up for them. The action when the enemy of the country attacks the palace adds some much needed energy and really brings out her better qualities.

 Prince Maxim started off very uptight and prissy but developed nicely into the guy you really wanted to win and find true love. Astor though I feel was never truly developed as a suitor. I also didn't really like him as I felt he kept putting America into very dangerous situations for selfish reasons.

This book remains true to its pretty girly cover. Light fun romance that you will escape into for a couple of hours. If you like palaces, princes and fairytales with a little nip rather than bite this is the book for you.
And Yes I will definitely read the next one to see how the relationship develops and if America still keeps the Prince dangling or actually makes up her mind. Once I realised this was going to be a fun light read and shouldn't be taken seriously I really enjoyed it and understand why its had a lot of positive reviews and fans. It will appeal to your inner Cinderella!!


Thursday 18 June 2015

Book Review, We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

 We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

My Musings

The story begins within a fractured framework jumping from a woman driving away from her young children to the young children desperately fending for themselves alone. Why is she abandoning them? Where is she going? Why does she believe she is a bad mother? Will her children survive? 

All the pieces  fall into place like birds coming together for migration. Feathers and birds pepper the story with symbolism similar to flowers in Diffenbaugh's first beautiful novel The Language of Flowers,  but in a more spiritual, fleeting way. 

We see Letty  struggle to become a fit mother, the decisions she has made , the effect these have on her children especially her 15 year old son, Alex. Both go through rites of passage and come of age helped by some lovable characters. The story draws your emotions as they struggle to survive poverty and the humility and unfairness it brings but also importantly how it can bring out kindness.

Letty also has to pick between old and new loves while her son discovers first love and the pitfalls of his own naivity. It is a captivating read that speaks of the transience of life and relationships. To live and appreciate those special moments on our journey through life and how to keep going no matter what. It is a poignant tale of family and friendship that was an engrossing and memorable read and a must read for Diffenbaugh fans. 

It took me on a journey and even when the book ended you knew her characters were still on their own journeys of discovery and that in itself was a fitting and satisfying end. 

Lyrical and emotive writing with a wonderfully colorful set of characters. A great read and a good choice for a book group with lots to talk about.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Film Review Jurassic World


Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitors' interest, which backfires horribly.

My Musings

I have always loved the Jurassic Park series for the white knuckle ride, the great ensemble cast and scary thrill after scary thrill. Jurassic World has just had the biggest opening in movie history so expectation was high. What could go wrong?

Actually rather a lot!

Just to start with all previous films had wall to wall action with every scary thrill being thrown at the audience until they could take no more. In Jurassic World you have to wait HOUR??!!! for any action at all. Even then its sporadic. The dinosaurs are introduced with a great big splash which is great and you think, FINALLY here we go. Again the dinosaurs, even with today's technology looked a little 'tired', although I did love the entrance of the iconic T REX.  However after that there are only two great action/scary scenes, one with the two boys trapped in a bubble car and the other when Chris Pratt is riding alongside racing velociraptors.

What is shocking is that the characters are caricatures and two dimensional. Chris Pratt I do like very much but he had more chemistry with the velociraptor than the actress Bryce Dallas Howard, playing his love interest. Where to begin with her role. I am speechless. The ghastly suit, the high heels, the weird hair which made her look like she'd just wandered off an eighties film set. I'm still not sure if she was supposed to be tongue in cheek? She just was bloody irritating. I personally  would have liked to have seen more with Pratt and Omar Sy who both have great screen presence and Sy was woefully underused. The two boys I thought were great and saved the movie somewhat. But even the ending was woeful as the humans just stood by as two big dinosaurs rolled about a bit.

So in conclusion, so many missed opportunities, so many lazy mistakes, bad directing and especially Spielberg overseeing, Did he actually see it? Children will probably love it especially if they haven't seen it before but I came out of the cinema feeling really conned by the hype and and totally irritated that an amazing concept and iconic film series had been reduced to this.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Chris Riddell Childrens Laureate 2015-2017

Congratulations to Chris Riddell on becoming Childrens Laureate 2015-2017. Love that he is promoting books and art. BBC article below.

Illustrator and author Chris Riddell wants to encourage "drawing every day" as part of his new role as children's laureate.
The ninth laureate, Riddell, creator of the Goth Girl series, has taken over from Malorie Blackman.
"I'm interested in illustration in all its forms," he said.
"Not only in books for children but in posters, prints and performance, as a way of drawing people into books and stories."
Riddell, 53, who is also a political cartoonist, was officially appointed on Tuesday at a ceremony at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in London.
He said he planned to put "visual literacy" at the heart of his term of office, which runs until 2017.
You can see Chris talk about his new role on the link below. 

Childrens Laureate 2015 Chris Riddell

Saturday 6 June 2015

Book Review She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick


Laureth Peak's father is a writer. For years he's been trying, and failing, to write a novel about coincidence. His wife thinks he's obsessed, Laureth thinks he's on the verge of a breakdown. He's supposed to be doing research in Austria, so when his notebook shows up in New York, Laureth knows something is wrong.

On impulse she steals her mother's credit card and heads for the States, taking her strange little brother Benjamin with her. Reunited with the notebook, they begin to follow clues inside, trying to find their wayward father. Ahead lie challenges and threats, all of which are that much tougher for Laureth than they would be for any other 16 year old. Because Laureth Peak is blind.

My Musings

Marcus Sedgwick has set up a fascinating premise within a multi layered thriller/adventure that will have you gripped from the start. Laureth is sixteen and blind so when she sets off to find her missing father with her seven year old Benjamin and his stuffed toy raven Stan you are kept in a a state of permanent tension about their obvious vulnerability travelling half way across the world . You just want her to succeed despite some people's ignorance and lack of understanding.

What is interesting is Marcus's insight into how the world works if you are blind.  Marcus portrays this through Laureth's point of view. What does she has to think of and go through to get from A to B? The reader is made to rethink everyday situations we take for granted and how we underuse the rest of our senses. Laureth is feisty , bright and headstrong and her little brother totally endearing. You are conscious  how some young adults and children in certain situations have to mature beyond their years.

 A major plot line  also hinges on the theory of coincidences which her father was obsessed with. Trust me it sounds bizarre but it gives the story an extra dimension and a thrilling edge by setting the reader clues throughout which is really clever. Would his notebook on coincidences help them find him?  Was he even alive? Who were the men following them ?

 Marcus has an almighty imagination and never writes the same book twice. This is a stand alone novel that is unique and unusual. Don't be put off by the theory part, trust me its fascinating and just adds to the mystery. Its one of those books you can read again and discover even more. It will definitely get you thinking!!

 I really cared for the characters and felt it had many layers. A fast paced intelligent thriller that will have you hooked. It makes us look at the world from a different angles and appreciate the mindset of a girl who no longer wants to be invisible just  to fit in.

Out Now in Paperback. Orion Books.