Review – Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson

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“Hanover falls hasn’t had a werewolf problem in over one hundred years, but when people suddenly start dying in Claire Benoit’s town, panic spreads fast. The gruesome killings are all anyone can talk about at Claire’s sixteenth birthday party, though the only thing on Claire’s mind is gorgeous Matthew Engle chatting and flirting with her as if she’s the only girl there. But that night, Claire discovers something that takes away all sense of normality: she’s a werewolf.

Claire knows she must keep her changing identity a secret, especially from Matthew, whose father is leading the werewolf hunt. But then a rogue werewolf threatens to put everyone she knows in danger. Struggling to feel comfortable in either skin, and with her lupine loyalty at odds with her human heart, Claire is forced to make a choice that will change her forever.”

 

Claire de Lune – Christine Johnson

It’s no secret that I love a young adult book and while vampires and werewolves are quickly becoming old news, the different angle in Claire de Lune definitely caught my attention.

Claire is your typical 16 year old girl – slightly self obsessed and always at odds with her mother. Like any other girl at that age she has her eyes on a cute guy who she is not really allowed to go anywhere near. Still, things are going well until she finds out that the werewolf gene runs in her family. As she struggles with her love life, her best friend leaving and her difficult family and home life, Claire also has to cope with her changing body and the painful process of transforming into a wolf. Add to this her rebellious attitude towards her mother and the constant threat of being discovered, Claire has much more on her plate than your average teenage girl.

Claire de Lune is a fast paced, un-put-downable novel which I think brings something new to the werewolf genre. It makes a change for the girl to be the supe and the guy to be an average joe! I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who is a supernatural fan!

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Are you bored of the vampire/werewolf genre yet or is it still going strong?

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NOTE – I am currently away at Leeds Festival but will answer all comments when I return!

Review – The Woman Who Went To Bed For a Year by Sue Townsend

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“The day her twins leave home, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she’s wanted to yell at the world, “stop! I want to get off!” Finally, this is her chance.

Her husband Brian, an astronomer having an unsatisfactory affair, is upset. Who will cook his dinner? Eva, he complains, is attention seeking. But word of Eva’s defiance spreads.

Legions of fans, believing she is protesting, gather in the street, while her new friend Alexander the white-van man brings tea, toast and unexpected sympathy. And from this odd but comforting place, Eva begins to see both herself and the world very, very differently…”

The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year – Sue Townsend

I have been keeping an eye out for The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole in my local charity shops for a while now so when I saw The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year by the same author I snapped it up.

Eva is the mother to Brian Junior and Brianne, seventeen year old twins who took up her entire life before they left to go to university. Once they have gone Eva gets into bed and refuses to get out again. Her not-so-loving husband, Brian, is confused and frustrated by her stubborness and has absolutely no idea how to make a meal for himself, nevermind run a house. As Eva’s family get used to fending for themselves and looking after her for a change, she starts to see the world in a totally different way. Alexander the local white van man becomes her closest friend and she starts giving advice to those who pop in and see her.

This novel is a brilliant and hilarious look at family life but it also has darker psychological themes as Eva is obviously having some kind of breakdown. She is an extremely likeable character though and you can’t help but cheer her on in her mission to think about herself for a change!

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Are you ever tempted to just give up on all your responsibilities and stay in bed? Would you feel liberated or just bored?

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NOTE – I am currently away at Leeds Festival but will answer all comments when I return!

Review – Splintered by A.G. Howard


This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own”

This is one of those rare books that I immediately went out and bought and that was not in my to-read pile for long! I discovered this novel when I was looking at my top ten 2013 debuts that I was looking forward to. Everything attracted me to it! The cover is of course beautiful and I am definitely a sucker for a good book cover. Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favourite stories and I was very excited when the Tim Burton film came out. I’ve also always been attracted to retellings of fairy tales so this book definitely ticked all the boxes!

The premise for this novel is a brilliant one. Alyssa Gardner is descended from Alice Liddell, the little girl who first inspired Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland tale. Madness has been diagnosed in all of the women in her family who all get to a certain age before they start rambling about teacups and rabbits. Alice spends her life dreading her fate while visiting her mother in a mental institute every week. She is an immediately likeable character who every misfit will relate to. Her quirky fashion sense and alternative art make her the perfect teenage heroine and link her unknowingly to the creatures of Wonderland. Jeb is also a brilliant character and the love triangle was an excellent addition to the story. My favourite character in the novel however was Morpheus. The descriptions of him sound breathtaking and he is such a multi-layered character.

Wonderland itself is very Burton-esque and Howard mentions how she was inspired by Tim Burton in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. Every character from the Mad Hatter (Hattington) to the Cheshire Cat (Chessie) and the White Rabbit (Rabid) has had a dark makeover which leaves you wanting more. The landscape sounds brilliant and Wonderland is full of gothic magic. It’s all much better than I imagined when I first heard of this book and I’m now desperate for a sequel! (Please!). I’m not into spoilers on this blog but during the last few chapters I could not put this book down. It was full of surprises and twists and did not end in the way I was expecting.

I’ll leave it there before I give anything away! If you’re a fan of retellings, Tim Burton, Wonderland or any one of those three things I urge you to give this book a try. You’ll love it.

Have you read Splintered or is it on your to-read list?

Book Review – Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

 

“Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liquer, plies her culinary trade at the creperie – and lets memory play strange games.

Into this world comes the threat of revelation as Framboise’s nephew – a profiteering Parisian – attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes she has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers of Les Laveuses. As the spilt blood of a tragic wartime childhood flows again, exposure beckons for Framboise, the widow with an invented past.”

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Joanne Harris I’ve always considered as a hit and miss author. Now I realise there is a pattern to the books I liked that were written by her. The first book I read by Joanne Harris was Chocolat and I fell in love with it. It was probably the first novel I’d read that was set in a different country to the UK and I loved the idea of a little french village. I then read Blackberry Wine which I loved for similar reasons. I was therefore quite surprised when I tried Holy Fools and got bored. I then realised what it was that made me love the first two books. Joanne Harris has a remarkable talent for portraying the emotions and family ties caused by food. It’s the one thing that always manages to bring people together. I therefore tried Five Quarters of the Orange and it turns out I was right, I loved it.

This novel switches from the present day Framboise to when she was a child. This confused me at first but it was a brilliant  way of writing and creating suspense as I desperately tried to get to the end to find out what it was that made the adult Framboise so ashamed of her childhood.

The chapters that were based on the younger Framboise were my favourites. As a child she grew up on a french farm and spend most of her time tending crops and making food such as jam. It always sounds like such a wonderful life! I’d missed the bit about the war when I read the back of this book which is lucky because it usually puts me off. However this was a very interesting angle on the war, there were little or no bombings and the terror of wartime childhood wasn’t portrayed at all. This might because Framboise and her siblings grew up on a village farm where the threats were lower. The german soldiers buying information from the children was really interesting to me as I’d never heard of it before. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to give to much away!

The older Framboise’s story didn’t grip me quite as much but it served as a teaser and kept me reading because I wanted to find out what had happened in her childhood. I liked the idea of her little creperie though and the scrapbook left by her mother was a beautiful addition. I love the idea of a recipe scrapbook slash diary and it just adds to what I was saying before about food and emotions.

All in all I really enjoyed this novel. I didn’t speed through it like I do with the novels that really grip me but I did want to keep reading. It definitely restored my faith in Joanne Harris but from now on I’ll look for titles with food in them!

Have you read this book? What do you think of novels based on the emotional aspects of food and family life?

Review – Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast

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The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird’s world, vampyres have always existed.  In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire — that is, if she makes it through the Change.  Not all of those who are chosen do.  It’s tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling.  She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx.  But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers.  When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny–with a little help from her new vampyre friends

This is one of those books that I wanted to read for ages then found a copy and left it unread for months. When I finally got round to reading it I loved it though! It reminded me of Hogwarts but with vampyres!

Zoey was not a character that I immediately liked. She was one of the stereotypical “popular” kids which immediately put me off her. Once she was marked though it made for a much more interesting story as she had to change her whole outlook. Once she started at the House of Night I fell in love with the vampyre school with amazing history lessons, fencing and equestrian studies. I don’t want to give too much away but the ending was really gripping and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Off to find the next installment now!

Have you read the House of Night novels? What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday – My Top Ten Favourite Characters in the Vampire Genre

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme held over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week they are looking at your top ten characters in whichever genre you choose! This has prompted a lot more variety as each blogger has chosen the genre they like best. I spent ages trying to decide which genre to choose and have decided on a quite specific one of Vampire novels. Now I know this probably comes under the fantasy genre but I wanted to be a bit more specific as I read a lot of fantasy. So here goes, my top ten favourite characters in the vampire genre (in no particular order)!

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1) Eric Northman – The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

Now this is the kind of vampire I like. Although I have included some Twilight characters on this list they don’t scream vampire to me. Eric is my favourite character in this series (I can’t stand Bill!). He is confident to the point of arrogance but man does he deserve to be! He’s also the only character who has ever been true to Sookie.

 

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2) Alice Cullen – Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

Although not the typical vampire type I love Alice. She’s so petite and fragile looking but is amazingly strong (physically and emotionally). I love the bond she has with Bella too, she is pretty much the total opposite to her and yet embraces her easily as a sister. Alice is without a doubt my favourite character in the Twilight series.

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3) Damon Salvatore – The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

I love Damon for a similar reason as I love Eric. His brother (Stefan) is one of the most boring vampires I have ever come across. Damon is more like a traditional vampire, he embraces the evil parts of himself. This makes him a much stronger character in my opinion because he lives a similar life to Stefan but doesn’t ignore who he is. I’ve only read the first book in The Vampire Diaries series but I really hope Damon and Elena get together!

 

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4) Count Dracula – Dracula by Bram Stoker

Of course Dracula had to be on this list. He has such pride in what he is and where he’s come from and is so charming. There is an anger there though which many vampires are missing in modern stories. He also inspired so many novels, tv programmes and films about vampires and he is the archetypal vampire character.

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5) Erik Night – House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast

I have just finished the first novel in this series (Marked) and already really like this character. He’s only a developing vampire but I think there’s huge potential. He is attracted to the main character in the novel (Zoey) and is really sweet and kind about the characteristics that are making the “popular kids” hate her. I’m looking forward to seeing how his character develops throughout the series.

6) Neferet  – House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Again, my opinion on Neferet is only based on the first novel in this series. I love her character because she has such power about her. She’s really nice to Zoey as well and makes her feel welcome.

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7) Diana Bishop – Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I found Diana immediately like-able and related a lot to her. What I loved most about her is that unlike most female characters who fall in love with vampires (Bella Swann I’m looking at you!) she is a strong and powerful woman. She doesn’t come across as helplessly in love and she doesn’t let her vampire fight her battles.

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8) Jasper Hale – Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

It is probably no coincidence that the other vampire I love from the Twilight series is Alice’s partner, Jasper. There is a vulnerability in Jasper as he tries his best to lead a “vegetarian” lifestyle. I like that about him because it shows amazing self control and belief. His troubled past is also much more interesting than that of his other glittering siblings.

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9) Pam Ravenscroft – The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

If you’ve only ever seen the TV programme of True Blood then you need to read the books ASAP! Pam is just one of the characters that is a lot different on TV than she is portrayed in the books. What I love about her is loyalty and her sense of humour. She’s also the person who kept Eric grounded for 160 years.

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10) R.M. Renfield – Dracula by Bram Stoker

Renfield is held in a lunatic asylum in this novel as he is under the influence of Count Dracula. I’ve always found him deeply interesting and remember reading the novel waiting for him to come up again. Towards the end of the story he manages to fight against the mind control that Dracula is using on him and helps to save Mina’s life, giving up his own in the process. An extremely strong character who helps to drive the story along.

Did you take part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? Leave your link in the comments!

Review – Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

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“I simply wanted to know – for myself and mu family – what meat is. Where does it come from? How is it produced? What are the economic, social and environmental effects? Are there animals that it is straightforwardly right to eat? Are there situations in which not eating animals is wrong? If this began as a personal quest, it didn’t stay that way for long…”

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals is the most original book on the subject of food written in this century. It will change the way you think, and change the way you eat. For good.

This book was not written for vegetarians or vegans. Part of it’s brilliance is that it is unbiased. The author was not a vegetarian to start with and set out on a quest lasting three years to find out what actually happens before meat is served up on your roast dinner. He looks at factory farming of different types of animals from pigs to chickens, cows and even fish. He then looks at the way free range animals are treated and speaks to a variety of people from factory farm workers to vegans and everything in between. This book goes in depth and as you would expect is truly shocking and disturbing.

Once the cruelty of animal farming has been discussed the author goes onto wondering how to solve this major problem. He looks at whether veganism and vegetarianism is the best way or whether we should be working on destroying factory farming and going back to basics.This brings him to talk to many interesting people including a vegetarian rancher and a vegan who owns a slaughter house. It is a thought provoking issue and he does not judge people for their decisions.

This is definitely a book that needs to be read by anyone who eats meat (and even those who don’t). It’s not a case of trying to make people feel guilty for enjoying their cheeseburger, it’s a case of making them aware where that burger has come from. If you do want to eat meat it’s important to know how that meat ended up on your plate. If you decide to carry on eating it that’s up to you but people should not be living in ignorance. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from this shocking but brilliant book.

“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?”

Review – Beauty by Robin McKinley

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“Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Beauty, believing herself plain and awkward, loves roses. But when her father goes travelling and plucks just one magnificent, crimson rosebud from the garden of a magical castle, a fearsome Beast demands revenge. Either Beauty’s father must forfeit his life – or his daughter must promise to live with the Beast for ever.

A captivating retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast from a Newbery Medal-winning author.

Hunting through my shelves for the next book to read I came across a novel that has been on there for a year (or more). I actually remember starting this novel and then putting it down and starting something else. I now have no idea why I did such a thing! My mum gave me this book to read because I’m such a huge fan of Wicked and Gregory Maguire and a fan of fairy tales in general. Beauty and the Beast is also one of my all-time favourite Disney films (after the Lion King of course!).

The story starts off with not a lot in common with the original tale at all (which might be where I went wrong the first time I read it). Beauty lives with quite a well off family in the city and has a wonderful life. It’s when the family lose everything they own that they have to sell the house and move to a little village in the middle of nowhere that is on the outskirts of a magical forest. Here she lives a good life too but has to put up with certain changes such as working harder and losing her beloved library of books. Unlike in the original story, Beauty has some lovely sisters and a wholesome family. This makes it ultimately harder to choose to go to the Beast. Once the Beast appears the story is very similar to the original and just as captivating.

Once I’d got through the first few chapters I sped through this book. It’s a lot more realistic than the original story and Beauty is a character who is easy to relate to. Her growing up throughout the novel is something that is not as prominent in the original story or the Disney adaptation. This is what would make this book so popular to the young teenage girl audience and I wish I’d discovered it while I was still at high school. As it was though I adored this book and would recommend it to anybody else who loves their fairy tales.

After looking at the Robin McKinley website (here) I really want to read Sunshine and Pegasus so I will be hunting those two down!

Have you ever read a Robin McKinley novel? How do you feel about retellings of fairy tales? 

Book Review – Number Ten by Sue Townsend

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After the mammoth amount of time it took me to read my last book (JK Rowlings A Casual Vacancy – https://writingbeckles.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/the-casual-vacancy-by-jk-rowling-a-quick-review/) this one was a refreshing change!

Here is a description from the back of this book:

Edward Clare, PM of England, doesn’t know the price of a liter of milk. Worse, he’s admitted it on national television. The public that ushered him to a landslide election has turned against him.

Edward decides the only way to get closer to the men and women on the street is to travel the country dressed in drag. Leaving his high-powered, ambitious wife to attend to things in his absence, he sets out.

In this comic romp Sue Townsend sends up, roasts, hoists and generally petards the once and future prime ministers as only she can.

 

I’ve been waiting for the first Adrian Mole book to turn up at Oxfam for months because I’ve heard such good reviews of it. Unfortunately it still hasn’t appeared but this one popped up a few months ago and I immediately put it in my “to buy at the end of the month” pile. I’d actually never heard of this book before but the blurb caught my attention straight away. 

I admit I was apprehensive because I’ve never read a book similar to this before but after the first few pages my worries floated away. The prime minister (Edward Clare) was obviously based on Tony Blair but as a character he was quite likeable (unlike Tony Blair..). The trip into reality starts with him being asked when the last time he travelled on a train was and him being ridiculed because photos of him on a wooden choo choo train are passed around the commons (Osborne class anyone?). He then spends a week travelling around Britain dressed as a woman and trying to learn more about what it’s like to be an average person. Queue hilarious situations as well as serious issues being raised about families living in poverty, crack addiction, the state of the NHS and the closure of nursing homes. While he was on this journey his self obsessed wife had a bit of a breakdown and basically made a fool of herself in front of the press. 

All in all this book was a great read but I was disappointed with the ending as I felt it finished quite abruptly and the loose ends weren’t really tied up. I’ve already found another Townsend book in Oxfam (The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year) and I’ll definitely be looking out for others.

 

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling – A Quick Review!

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I’ve just finished this book after a whole two months. This is a bad start really as I usually go through a book this length in a week. This is just a quick review with no spoilers and I’m not going to go too in depth.

Firstly let me confess that as I grew up with Harry Potter and slightly idolise JK Rowling, I was always going to try this book. I am currently writing a story which is aimed at a similar aged audience as the later Harry Potter books and I really admire the way she wrote the series, particularly the way she built a whole world from scratch. I never want to be famous like she is (I’d be happy just seeing some of my writing in print) but I do think she is brilliant. That said, I am not going to compare this novel to the Harry Potter series because it can’t be done. This was never meant to be similar to the Potter books and needs to be read and reviewed as a stand alone novel. With that bit over and done with let’s get onto The Casual Vacancy.

The Casual Vacancy

A BIG NOVEL ABOUT A SMALL TOWN …

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils … Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

 

 

This book failed to grip me from the very start. I persevered with it hoping it would get better and I found that my interest came and went as the story went on. I loved Pagford and the war with The Fields (the poorer end of the village). It’s the kind of place that always looks perfect but when you get a closer look it never is. With tiny village shops, the school and the community where everyone knows each other, Pagford is the perfect setting for a scandal such as there is in this novel.

However I feel that the characters let this story down. I found it hard to keep track of who was who and there was only really one family in the story that I was interested in. It turned out to be a very important story to the plot but I think focusing more on that part of the story would have made it a better read. I also found the election story line quite boring and not much happened in the first half of the book.

I won’t give anything away but I liked the ending. It was a good climax to the story and made for a more interesting few chapters. I definitely related more to the teenagers in this story and wonder whether it’s because JK Rowling is better at creating unique teenage characters than adults? 

All in all I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought I would and do not understand the hype surrounding it. However I think fans of this type of novel would maybe enjoy it more. I’ve heard it compared to Joanna Trollope although I have never read any of her books. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a fan of this type of literature though. I was willing to give a new genre a try but it didn’t really work! I hope JK will branch out into other genres soon.