Thursday, 26 May 2016

Book Review: Tales From the Kingdom by Sarah Pinborough

Read: May 24-26  Verdict: 4 Stars

Tales From the Kingdom is a set of three 200-300 page retellings of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Let’s just call it the overall idea of Disney, with a terrifying touch of Grimms Fairy Tales and the drama and spice of Once Upon a Time. i felt like all the stories had a really great mix of the idea of ‘happily ever after’ with the stark realities of real life and the idea of monsters hiding in the closet. There was some romance, lust, sex as well as friendship, danger and lunacy. 

I think my overall favourite of the three was Charm which was Cinderella’s retelling. Cinderella was a complex character with ideas above her station and she wasn’t a simpering, charming girl the way I always thought to be. She had unkind thoughts as well as kind and was a bit selfish in ways her step-sisters were not. That brings me to Cinderella’s family and the backstory of her family which was great. There was a real history there that I loved and I really liked that the step-mother and step-sister weren’t these ugly and wicked people like they’re always portrayed. Cinderella’s character development was the best out of all the characters in the tales (frankly I feel like the Prince learnt absolutely nothing but thank goodness he married someone who could give him the kick up the bum he would need now and again) and I really saw her grow from a selfish girl with selfish ideals into a young woman with a better idea of the world and that sometimes dreams should stay as dreams.

I really loved the inclusion of other fairytales within the three tales such as the mention of the gingerbread house, Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood and even Rapunzel. They were all wrapped up as part of the story really well and I enjoyed the subtle way they were connected.

I would definitely recommend reading the three tales one after another as they read as one big book with three different parts and they are all connected to each other in a way that may be confusing if you read them out of order. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Book Review: The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley

Read: May 17-18   Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

The Good Goodbye is a dramatic and suspenseful novel about two girls and a family full of secrets. Arden and Rory Falcone are cousins and best friends, born only four months apart. They have been together their whole lives but when a fire breaks out in their dorm room leaving the girls in critical condition and another student dead, Arden and Rory's parents end up with a lot of questions and wonder if they ever even knew their daughters at all.

This ended up being way better than I thought it would be. I wasn't expecting anything bad but I definitely got a lot more sucked in than I originally thought I would be. The family dynamic in this book alone is something that gripped me and figuring out how everyone was related and the history between everyone, the secrets, the romances. Arden and Rory are both complex characters who are hiding things and everything comes to light really slowly in a great way over the novel and through flashbacks. The girls were definitely not as perfect as they originally appeared to be, Rory not as pristine and Arden not quite as innocent and I really enjoyed reading along to figure out why they were the way they were.

I really love how little tidbits were given here and there among the story that really made me o "whatttt!" in shock and just really made it hard to put down the book. There's definitely a delightful amount of mystery in the book and I seriously suspected everyone from Arden, Rory, Hunter, DD, Gabrielle. No-one was safe!

The timeline could get confusing at times as there was no point where the reader was told we were heading into a flashback, we kind of had to figure it out but other than that the reading was easy, fast and gripping. I really enjoyed the ride.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Book Review: The Girl In 6E by A.R Torre

Read: May 16-17    Verdict: 4 Stars

The Girl in 6E is about a woman called Deanna, who is also known as Jessica by a plethora of online friends - mostly men. Deanna has locked herself into her apartment for three years...because she has an uncontrollable urge to kill people. She makes her money as a sex cam girl but when a little girl goes missing, Deanna believes one of her clients may be behind it and she goes out to save the day, and possibly kill while doing so.

This ended up being a pretty enjoyable book though I would say for anyone looking for really gory, disturbing scenes of murder or crime, there's not much in this one. Surprisingly for me, Deanna ended up being an extremely likable character. Despite her urges to kill people, she's actually a pretty decent human being. She goes out of her way to avoid being in situations where she could end up hurting others, she deals with disturbed individuals like 'Ralph' to make sure he doesn't transfer his fantasies to another living person who could get hurt and she strikes up genuine friendships with people like Mike and Paul. She also warns clients on different occasions about being taken advantage of by other sex cam girls. So yeah, I actually ended up warming a lot to her.

There's a lot of graphic sexual content in this book because of Deanna's job and her interaction with clients so if anyone doesn't like reading that kind of stuff, maybe stay clear of this one. I'm normally fine with reading such content but even I was blushing a bit at the start and attempting to hide my pages from other people on the train in case they saw what I was reading. I do think there may have been a few times where there was explicit content just to have it for shock value, rather than it benefiting the plot of the story.

In a way, Deanna really takes control of her situation and confronts her mental illness. She accepts that it's there and that she needs to take control of it, or at least make sure it doesn't control her. While locking herself up the way she does may not be the healthiest option in terms of mental health, the fact that she acknowledged the problem, rather than ignoring it was refreshing.

I do think there were some unrealistic bits when it came to Deanna's eventual showdown with you know who but overall, I was enjoying the book too much to care. This was a fast and thrilling read and I can't wait to pick up more.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Book Review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Read: April 30 - May 1 Verdict: 4.5 Stars

The Museum of Extraordinary Things tells the dual tale of Coralie and Eddie. Coralie's father owns The Museum of Extraordinary Things, located near the historical Dreamland amusement park on Coney Island, Brooklyn, in 1911. Coralie was born with webbed fingers and has to pose as 'human mermaid' in the museum. Eddie is running away from an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and is a photographer. Coralie and Eddie's lives become intertwined the same year as the Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Dreamland Fire.

It took me a while to get into this book but once I did it was beautiful. The story is told perfectly in between these two major historical fires in New York in the same year and I really love how the fires symbolised something big in the character's lives (the factory fire was the start of Eddie's journey finding Hannah and, in a way, coming back to himself. The Dreamland fire was an escape for both Eddie and Coralie.) There was a real sense of magic in the ordinary in this writing, and the imagery and words were just beautiful. I loved how Coralie and Eddie's story came together. I love how they were struck dumb with love by each other the moment they saw each other (at different times) and I think this story proves that the concept of insta-love is believable and enjoyable when it's done well.

There was a perfect sense of atmosphere in this book. The amusement park on and off seasons, the build up of Dreamland and the tensions it caused the Professor. I loved Eddie's descriptions of the Yiddish community he grew up in and how he wandered back from time to time. It was a 1900's New York I haven't seen a lot of before in books and I loved it. I think people who know and have grown up in New York would love this book and there is a sense of history that's really interesting, even for someone like me who has never been.

I think this book would be perfect for fans of The Night Circus. It doesn't have the real magic like The Night Circus but there's something about it that has the same spark and feeling.

Book Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Read: April 28-30   Verdict: 5 Stars

Tiger Lily is a retelling of Peter Pan, told through the eyes of Tinkerbell but focusing on the life of Tiger Lily, the girl who knew Peter before Wendy. Tiger Lily is a strong, independent spirit and her tale is one that really strikes you in the heart.

"I am only a faerie. I don't have grand ideas, or grand dreams, or long for grand freedoms like people do. But I wanted to be part of their dreams too, even if I was only a flea riding on their tails."

I loved this. The imaginings of the different tribes on Neverland, Tick Tok and his beautiful hair and dress, Pine Sap and his bird calls, Tiger Lily and her spirit and Peter Pan and his Lost Boys. This was a great reimagining of Neverland as an unexplored island somewhere in the Atlantic, somewhere where everyone stops ageing at some point on their lives. I really loved Tinkerbell's voice throughout and how she was more tiger Lily's fairy that Peter's but that she loved Peter in her own special way.

"How can I describe Peter's face, the pieces of him that stick to my heart? Peter sometimes looked aloof and distant; sometimes his face was open and soft as a bruise."

There were some cute and lovely fairy moments from Tink, like the way she was stuck if she dropped in water, fairy bites being more painful than wasp stings and of course just general fairy thoughts.

"I was carrying a raindrop to keep in a little hole in the wood, so I could drink from it at my leisure. But each raindrop I lifted kept falling apart. Water is so delicate."

There was some beautiful moments in this book and at times the language and the style of writing blew me away, There were some mature moments in the book that oen wouldn't normally associate with Peter Pan, such as Smee's obsessions, Peter's kisses and Giant's stalking of Moon Eyes.

There were times that Peter was explained so Pan like, it was just magical and wonderful and so the Peter Pan we all love.

"Maybe the way he seemed to vibrate made her stillness seem less glaring, and Peter seemed calmer."

I always love the Lost Boys in stories. Boys who secretly want to be taken care of yet at the same time they're independent and wild, almost feral in their ferociousness to be themselves. Throughout Tiger Lily, there was a tinge of loneliness from every character. Peter, the Lost Boys, Tick Tok, even Captain Hook.

"Finally, Nibs took Tootles's hand and they slow-danced, each leaning against the other, like rag dolls. The twins soon did the same. It was proof of their loneliness for other people that they were willing to lean on each other so much."

There are some powerful moments in this book about Tick Tok in particular and, what I can only call, his gender fluidity and how it was so accepted at first but was then whispered about and shunned when a stranger came and began to make it bad thing. There was something about Tick Tok that really touched me and I think his story in particular is one of the strongest points in this book.

This just a beautiful book, filled with beautiful words. I highly recommend to anyone who loves a Peter Pan retelling, or anything to do with magic, belonging and finding someone to fit in with.