Saturday, 21 January 2017

Books You Should Read in 2017



Hey fellow bookworms!

2017 is set to be a great year for the world of literature. Many books are being adapted for the TV and big screen, and there are hundreds of fantastic new releases to look forward to. I have picked some of my favourites for you to choose from:


1. Jumanji - Chris Van Allsburg

You may not realise this, but Jumanji was actually adapted from a book. Since a remake of Jumanji is being released later this year, now is the perfect time to pick up the book. Okay, so it may be a picture book, but it is still supposed to be a fun read. For those of you not familiar with Jumanji, it focuses on two children who come across a mysterious boarding game and are soon sucked into it. Unlike the original film, which starred Kirsten Dunst and the late Robin Williams, the 2017 remake features four teenagers. You'll recognise some famous faces, including Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Missy Pyle, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Nick Jonas. The film will be released at the end of December.


2. Hidden Figures - Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures tells the true story of three pioneering African-American women who worked at NASA during the 1960s. The astronaut John Glenn would not have been able to travel into space if it had not been for those women. The film is directed by Theodore Melfi and stars Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons. The release date for Hidden Figures is 17th February.


3. The Circle - Dave Eggers

Beauty and the Beast isn't the only film starring Emma Watson this year; she has also been cast as the lead in James Ponsoldt's adaptation of the novel The Circle. Emma Watson plays a young woman who is hired by the most powerful tech company in the country. The film also features Tom Hanks and Karen Gillan, and will be enjoyed by fans of sci-fi.


4. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall follows a similar premise to Groundhog Day, except it's aimed at a teenage audience. Popular girl Sam keeps reliving the last day of her life and has to try to figure out why this is happening to her. Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy) has been cast as the lead. Let's hope Before I Fall fares better than the 2014 TV version of Lauren Oliver's novel Delirium.


5. Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon's heart-breaking debut novel Everything, Everything is set to become a film later this year, and I personally can't wait. It will star Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as Madeline, with Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) as her love interest. The book (and film) centres on a teenager who suffers from severe combined immunodeficiency and has been stuck inside all her life. This all changes when a boy moves in next door...


6. Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty's bestselling novel Big Little Lies is coming to the small screen early this year in the form of a TV series directed by David E. Kelly. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley portray three mothers whose lives start to unravel after their kids become friends.


7. All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places is a tearjerker that is perfect for fans of The Fault in Our Stars. Elle Fanning plays Violet, a teenage girl who is dealing with the death of her sister and falls in love with a boy who is fascinated by death. According to director Miguel Arteta, "Violet and Finch's achingly heartfelt and authentic story is the most convincing portrayal of teenage life I have ever come across...It's such a privilege to bring it to the screen."


8. Wonder - R.J. Palacio

Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy who was born with a facial deformity. Auggie has to attempt to fit in at a regular school after being home-schooled his whole life. The film is directed by Stephen Scbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.


9. History is All You Left Me - Adam Silvera

History is All You Left Me is one of the most anticipated YA novels of the year. According to Nicola Yoon, "Adam Silvera is a master at capturing the infinite small heartbreaks of love and loss and grid. History is All You Left Me is a beautiful meditation on what it means to survive devastating loss. This book will make you cry, think, and then cry some more."


10. Doing It - Hannah Witton

Hannah Witton is a popular British Youtuber who vlogs about feminism, sex and books. If you keep up-to-date with Hannah's social media, you'll know that she is working on her first book, which will be released sometime in April. Unsurprisingly, the book, which is called 'Doing It', will be about sex and relationships, and touch on some intimate topics, for example puberty and masturbation.


11. Caravel - Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber's spellbinding new novel Caraval has been hailed as the new The Night Circus. It focuses on a mysterious show that captures the attention of sisters Scarlett and Tella. However, Tella suddenly vanishes and Scarlett has to try to find her before it's too late.


12. Into the Water - Paula Hawkins

The bestselling author of The Girl on the Train is back with her latest offering, Into the Water. Like The Girl on the Train, Into the Water is a psychological thriller that is full of twists and turns. It deals with human instinct and how it can be deceptive. In an interview, Paula Hawkins stated that "This story has been brewing for a good while. For me there is something irresistible about the stories we tell ourselves, the way voices and truths can be hidden consciously or unconsciously, memories can be washed away and whole histories submerged. Then two sisters appeared, and the novel began to form."


What books are you looking forward to reading this year? Have you read any on this list?


Serena

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

TBR List 2017


Hey fellow bookworms!

There are so many books I want to read this year! I've set my Goodreads challenge to 45 books - hopefully I'll manage to achieve it this year since I only read half last year!


Books I Already Own

1. Before Midnight - Cameron Dokey
2. I Am Malala  Malala Yousafzai
3. Holding Up the Universe - Jennifer Niven
4. The World According to Bob - James Bowen
5. Between the Lines - Jodi Picoult
6. How to Be a Woman - Caitlin Moran
7. An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
8. Rules of Attraction - Simone Elkeles
9. Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
10. It Ends With Us - Coleen Hoover
11. The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan
12. Letters to the Lost - Iona Grey
13. Vendetta - Catherine Doyle
14. A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray 
15. No and Me - Delphine de Vigan
16. The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen
17. A Little Something Different - Sandy Hall
18. The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
19. Off the Pages - Jodi Picoult
20. Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl


Books I Need to Buy

21. Prep - Curtis Sittenfeld
22. The Sun is also a Star - Nicola Yoon
23. Forever - Judy Blume (how have I never read books by Judy Blume?!)
24. The Sound - Sarah Alderson
25. The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks (can't believe I haven't watched the film or read the book!)
26. Shopaholic to the Stars - Sophia Kinsella (Shopaholic is one of my fave series!)
27. Eligible - Curtis Sittenfeld
28. How to Deal - Sarah Dessen
29. Still Star-Crossed - Melinda Taub
30. After You - Jojo Moyes
31. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher (apparently this is being made into a TV show so I have to read it ASAP)
32. A Whole New World - Liz Braswell
33. Let it Snow - John Green
34. The Pact - Jodi Picoult
35. Midnight in Austenland - Shannon Hale
36. Just One Day - Gayle Forman
37. Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge
38. Great - Sara Benincasa (retelling of The Great Gatsby? Yes please!)
39. The Muse - Jessie Burton
40. Dream a Little Dream - Giovanna Fletcher
41. Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen
42. Entwined - Heather Dixon
43. London Belongs to Us - Sarra Manning
44. House of Night: Destined - P.C. Cast (this series has been dragging on a bit, and it's been over a year since I've read the books, but I'm determined to finish it!)


What's on your TBR for 2017?


Serena

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Before Midnight Review





Before Midnight: A Retelling of Cinderella by Cameron Dokey
Pages: 193
Publisher: Simon Pulse


Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.

The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants' care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon's father, and her arrival changes their lives.

When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon's new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny -- a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are.


My Thoughts


By now, you're probably aware that Cinderella is my favourite fairy tale. I just love everything about it - the story, the magic, how evil the stepmother and stepsisters are, and of course, Cinderella herself. So it should come as no surprise that Before Midnight was on my TBR list, and it had been sitting there for a long, long time, waiting for me to order it off Amazon. When I finally did order Before Midnight, I pretty much read it straightaway.

As you can guess from the title, Before Midnight is a retelling of Cinderella. Since Cinderella is one of the most famous fairy tales, it has been retold many times (think books like Cinder, Ella Enchanted, Ash and films like A Cinderella Story and Ever After). You'd think that it would be hard to create an original take on Cinderella, but Before Midnight manages that successfully.

At the beginning of the novel, we find out that the protagonist's mother died whilst giving birth to her. Etienne de Brabant, the girl's father, is distraught and leaves his daughter for a life in the palace. The main character, who was born as Constanze d'Este but is called Cendrillon by the rest of her family and friends, grows up without both her parents and is looked after by a maid. Etienne also brought back a boy after his wife passed away, and this boy is like a brother to Cendrillon. He has no idea who his parents are, but this is revealed at a ball several years later, when the stepmother figure enters Cendrillon's life.

Cendrillon is a likeable protagonist and you can't help but feel sorry for her. I can't imagine what it would be like to not have a mother and be hated by your father. I also like that Cendrillon has a sort-of sibling; I haven't come across this in other retellings. Although it did take a while for the stepmother and stepsisters to be introduced, I was relieved when they turned out to be less evil than expected - Cendrillon's father was the 'wicked' character in this novel. That's not to say I liked the stepsisters - Anastasia seemed so selfish and spoiled. The romance element between Cendrillon and Pascal was underdeveloped, which seemed a bit of a shame.

Despite its flaws, Before Midnight is a unique version of Cinderella that will keep you hooked from start to finish. Dokey takes the classic tale and explores new sides to the characters, while staying true to the original Brothers Grimm version. It's a quick read, with only 193 pages, so you'll whizz through it, just like I did.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Confectioner's Tale Review


The Confectioner's Tale by Laura Madeleine
Pages: 336
Publisher: Black Swan
Recommended for: Anyone who loves Paris, cakes or historical fiction.


What secrets are hiding in the heart of Paris?

At the famous Patisserie Clermont in Paris, 1909, a chance encounter with the owner's daughter has given one young man a glimpse into a life he never knew existed: of sweet cream and melted chocolate, golden caramel and powdered sugar, of pastry light as air.

But it is not just the art of confectionery that holds him captive, and soon a forbidden love affair begins.

Almost eighty years later, an academic discovers a hidden photograph of her grandfather as a young man with two people she has never seen before. Scrawled on the back of the picture are the words 'Forgive me'. Unable to resist the mystery behind it, she begins to unravel the story of two star-crossed lovers and one irrevocable betrayal.

Take a moment to savour an evocative, bittersweet love story that echoes through the decades – perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore and Victoria Hislop.




My Thoughts

 
The Confectioner's Tale is a beautiful debut from English author Laura Madeleine. It focuses on Petra, a young scholar who is fascinated by her late grandfather's past and decides to research it for her thesis. After finding an old photograph with the words 'forgive me' written on it, Petra realises that her grandfather (J. G. Stevenson) may have been keeping a from her. However, she refuses to believe that it is anything bad. Nevertheless, as Petra delves further into the mystery, she realises that maybe she didn't know her grandfather as well as she thought.

In her book, Madeleine explores two time periods: the early 1900s and the 1980s. The chapters alternate between the two eras, half focussing on Petra and the other on a French man called Guillaume de Frere. Guillaume finds himself homeless and begins to work at a patisserie in Paris. It isn't long before he falls in love with the daughter of the owner, oblivious to the fact that she is engaged to another man. This results in a scandal that involves J. G. Stevenson and captures the attention of Petra and an autobiographer decades later.

I enjoyed both parts of the narrative, especially finding out about J. G. Stevenson's involvement with Guillaume and Patisserie Clermont. One might find the dual narrative confusing at times, but I managed to keep up. I loved the mouth-watering descriptions of the cakes and the detailed paragraphs about Paris in general. I could picture the settings and characters in my head. The book is really well-researched and full of drama and secrets. Although I was a little disappointed by the ultimate revelation in The Confectioner's Tale, I'm glad I read it. It's one of the few books that you can judge by its cover.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Longbourn


Longbourn by Jo Baker
Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 442
 
 
• Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
 
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.

In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.
 
 
 
 
My Thoughts
 
There have been many adaptations and retellings of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice over the years, and Longbourn is one I've been eager to read for a long time. I was delighted when I finally got my hands on a copy a few months ago. Longbourn is the second retelling of Pride and Prejudice I've read - the first was Austentatious by Alyssa Goodnight - and I really enjoyed it. The book gives a fascinating insight into the life of servants in Austen's time and all the unpleasant chores they had to complete.
 
What I like about Longbourn is how Jo Baker has ensured that the plot stays close to that of Pride and Prejudice. The language is very similar and the characters are exactly the same as they are in Austen's novel. Baker also manages to include all the main characters from Pride and Prejudice - we hear about the five Bennet sisters, their parents, Darcy, Bingley, and the horrible Mr Collins. There are also some additional characters that appear in Longbourn - the protagonist Sarah, the housekeeper Mrs Hill, a young maid called Polly, and the footman James Smith.
 
Baker really brings her characters to life in Longbourn. They are well-developed. Sarah won my sympathy straightaway, and I admired her determination. She is an intelligent and spirited character and wants more out of her life than just serving other people. Sarah has to do a lot around the house and is frequently overlooked by the Bennets, although Elizabeth does let her accompany her to the Collins'. I also liked James. He is mysterious and intriguing - I could understand why Sarah was so interested in him. Unfortunately, I wasn't keen on Ptolemy, Sarah's other love interest. I thought he was an irrelevant character.
 
Another thing I like about Longbourn is the fact that the narrative doesn't just focus on Sarah. The third person perspective enables us to find out how the other maids and James spend their days. This adds to the story and makes it more varied.
 
Longbourn is a unique book that explores a previously untouched aspect of Pride and Prejudice. Unlike Austen, Baker focuses more on the hardships of the time, including the Napoleonic wars. There was a lot of struggles endured by both the servants and families who lived during the Regency period. Longbourn could stand on its own, but I'd recommend reading Pride and Prejudice first to familiarise yourself with the setting and characters. It'll appeal to fans of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey and historical fiction.
 
 
 
Have you read Longbourn? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?
 
 
Serena
 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Brooklyn Review



Hey fellow bookworms!


I'll admit I've been in a bit of a reading slump recently. As I don't have a full-time job yet, I've been aiming to read one or two books per week. However, it hasn't really worked out. I've gone days without reading any books, which is so unlike me. Okay, so I did have 154 episodes of Gilmore Girls to watch in less than three months, plus I've been attending a number of interviews, but still! Anyway, I finally got round to reading Brooklyn, so here are my thoughts:



Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 252
Source: Goodreads


It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.

Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home - and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma - a devastating choice between two worlds.



My Thoughts



Brooklyn is a quick and simple, yet surprisingly powerful, read. It focuses on a small-town girl called Eilis Lacey, who has lived in Ireland all her life. One day, Eilis is offered the chance to move to the US, and although reluctant at first, she seizes this opportunity, since there is a lack of jobs in Ireland, and even fewer men.

"Eilis had always presumed that she would live in the town all her life, as her mother had done, knowing everyone, having the same friends and neighbors, the same routines in the same streets. She had expected that she would find a job in the town, and then marry someone and give up the job and have children. Now, she felt that she was being singled out for something for which she was not in any way prepared."

After a rocky journey crossing the Atlantic, Eilis finally arrives in Brooklyn. The young woman is greeted by Father Flood, who arranged the whole trip, and is introduced to Mrs Kehoe, who runs the boarding house where Eilis will be staying. Eilis becomes acquainted with her fellow boarder and then begins her new job at a department store. Receiving letters from her sister Rose makes Eilis feel homesick, so she decides to take a course in bookkeeping to occupy herself in her free time. She also ends up falling in love with Tony, a young Italian-American who she meets at a dance. Following a tragedy back at home, Eilis has to choose between moving back to Ireland or starting a new life in America with Tony.

Overall, I really liked Brooklyn, although I do feel that Toibin ended it rather abruptly. Toibin has painted a vivid and realistic picture of immigration and life in Ireland and America during the 1950s. The plot flowed smoothly and there was plenty of romance. Eilis is a likeable protagonist. She is quiet and obedient, and prioritises her family. I found it easy to resonate and sympathise with her, especially when she is homesick at the beginning of the book. It takes a while for Eilis to settle in, and that's understandable - she's never left Ireland before, and she comes to Brooklyn only vaguely knowing Father Flood.

Brooklyn is a delightful and emotional coming-of-age story that will be enjoyed by anyone who loves historical fiction.


Have you read Brooklyn? What are your thoughts?


Serena

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Mini Book Reviews #3

Hey fellow bookworms!


I've been neglecting this blog so much recently and I want to apologise! I haven't really been reading as much as I would like lately since I've been swamped with applying for jobs and going for interviews! I've had a few draft book reviews sitting in my notebook for quite some time now, so since I have some free time today, I thought I'd share them with you. Finally!


1. The Giver

Google

























This book was a little bit different to what I was expecting. However, I still enjoyed it. I find dystopian novels so fascinating and Lois Lowry has done a fantastic job at creating an unstable futuristic world. Unfortunately, I did feel that too much of the book was spent building up the characters and the plot and the action only started near the end. Thus, I would probably give The Giver 6 stars.


2. Sisters Red

Google

























I found this book so gripping and intriguing. I felt really sorry for the two sisters. I also liked the writing - I thought it was really descriptive, e.g. "Their skin glows under the neon lights - amber ebony, cream-like shined metal, flawless and smooth". However, I did think it was unrealistic that the girls weren't in school, and Scarlett was an annoying character. The plot twist was predictable too - I guessed it quite early on. From the blurb, it seems like Sisters Red has such a good premise, but the story could have been so much better.


3. Isla and the Happily Ever After

Google

























I was a bit disappointed by Lola and the Boy Next Door, but fortunately Isla and the Happily Ever After renewed the faith I had in Stephanie Perkins after reading Anna and the French Kiss. Sure, the book is full of clich├ęs, Isla was completely obsessed with Josh, and the romance was 100% insta-love, but it was a really sweet story and I loved the setting. The ending was just the best. It made me laugh AND cry. I was so happy that Isla got to meet Anna, St Clair, Lola and Cricket. It was such a satisfying ending to the series. Stephanie Perkins definitely has a way of capturing first love and teen crushes. I look forward to reading more books by her.


What book(s) are you reading at the moment? I've just finished reading Brooklyn and I'm planning to read Longbourn next. :)


Serena