Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Book to film/TV adaptations for 2019

There are a whole host of books being adapted for film or television this year, so I thought I would pick a few that I'm really excited about. To be completely honest, I can't name many book adaptations that I've enjoyed. I absolutely hate it when they change the endings for film or TV and I always tend to think that the book is better. One of my favourite books is The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger but I was very disappointed by how the film turned out. That aside, I can't help but watch to see what producers do with books that I've read and at the moment there are quite a few upcoming adaptations that have got me genuinely intrigued and excited.
I first read this back in 2014 and it was one of my favourite books of the year. It reminds me of 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens, in the scope of the story and the way that it follows the main character Theo's life from boyhood to adulthood. It shows the consequences of one terrible day during his childhood and how that reverberates throughout his whole life. A worthy winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is being made into a film starring Nicole Kidman and Luke Wilson.

This is a book that I've read over and over again and seen many film and TV adaptations of. It's one of my favourite classics and never fails to make me laugh, smile and cry. I always identified closely with Beth when I was growing up, although I loved Jo's wild and courageous spirit and Meg's motherly nature. I adored the recent BBC adaptation and I can't wait to see the latest big screen adaptation when it's released in December. The cast is phenomenal: Emma Watson, James Norton and Meryl Streep, plus a whole host of other famous faces.
A BBC and HBO co-production, this is the one that I think everyone is waiting for. The full-length trailer is currently available to watch and it looks amazing! Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda all star and the script has been written by Jack Thorne, who collaborated with J.K. Rowling on 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'. I definitely need to re-read this trilogy, prior to the official release.  
Since the start of the year, I've been on an Agatha Christie reading binge. I've now read most of the Poirot and Miss Marple stories but I'm still catching up with all of her stand-alone novels, this one included. 'Death Comes as the End' is being adapted for the small screen by Gwyneth Hughes and is set to air over Christmas.
 Do you enjoy book to film/TV adaptations? What are your favourites?
Which ones are you looking forward to seeing in 2019?

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Review: Dear Ally, How Do I Write a Book? - Ally Carter

Dear Ally, How Do I Write a Book? by Ally Carter, published by Orchard Books on 4th April 2019

Goodreads synopsis:
Ally and her author friends want to help YOU write the book you've always dreamed of. Part agony aunt, part writing guru, this writing guide is thoughtful, witty and best of all, useful.

You don't have to be a teen to find this book hugely informative and useful. If you have any interest at all in writing for a YA audience then this is the best guide to get you started. I'm a huge admirer of Ally Carter and I've read all of her books, so I was instantly intrigued when I heard about this title. I've read a number of other guides to fiction writing but they have all been designed for adult writers. This is the first really useful book I've come across that is written by a YA author and packed full of tips and advice for those who want to write YA fiction. It is one of those titles that you know you'll continually be picking off your bookshelf and referring back to. 

The book is broken down into chapters such as 'Planning your book', 'Developing your plot' and 'Editing your book'. The structure is linear and takes you through every stage of the writing process, from creating your characters, to building your world. There is a wealth of thoughtful and useful advice but Carter also makes it explicitly clear that there is no single right way to write. Everyone has their own style and their own process which is crafted and developed over a period of time. You just have to find what works best for you and sometimes that only comes through trial and error. 

Interspersed throughout the book are questions and answers from a number of other well-known authors, such as David Levithan, Stephanie Perkins, Marie Lu and Holly Black. I found these really interesting and insightful, as it helped to show the unique nature of the writing process, as well as providing author stories about the road to publication. Ally Carter often refers to her own journey in becoming a YA author and some of the insights she shares about choosing characters, settings or plot lines were fascinating. 

Ultimately you do have to find your own way and write about things that matter to you but if you have always dreamt of becoming a published author, or even just want to nail that next NaNoWriMo challenge then this is THE book you read.    

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely - Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, published by Bloomsbury Children's Books on 29th January 2019

Goodreads synopsis:
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she's pulled into a magical world.

Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

I'm going to stick my neck out now and say that this is the best fairy tale retelling I've ever read. I often have high hopes for this type of book, only to end up disappointed but there was nothing disappointing about 'A Curse So Dark and Lonely'. Brigid Kemmerer has got the perfect balance between old and new elements of the story with this wonderful fantasy twist on the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast.  I've read other books by the same author but this is my absolute favourite. Kemmerer's storytelling skills and way with words are both sublime and her characters come alive in such a way that you never stop rooting for them. We may only be in April but I have a feeling that I've already found one of the best books of 2019.

The essential elements of Beauty and the Beast are there to see (Prince must make a girl fall in love with him to break a curse) but they're interwoven in such a unique and original way that it felt like capturing all the best elements of a truly classic tale with fresh, modern touches that transformed it into something new and wondrous.

The narrative switches back and forth between Prince Rhen of Emberfall and a young girl called Harper of modern day Washington, D.C. She is inadvertently transported to Emberfall by the Prince's Commander Grey. Both were strong voices in the story that I equally enjoyed reading. The Prince has been cursed to live his 18th year over and over again, until he can find a girl who will fall in love with him. The problem is that the Prince is hiding a terrible secret which threatens the lives of everyone in the kingdom and makes him a little less marriageable material.

I absolutely loved Rhen and Harper. The latter has cerebral palsy but doesn't let this stop her from being a real bad-ass! She is clever, resourceful, independent and brave. She won't be won over easily and isn't swayed by fancy dresses or the comfort of the castle. She is used to being underestimated and thought weak, so the development of her character was excellent because Kemmerer shows her growing in confidence, refusing to be pushed aside and becoming more and more integral to the future of Emberfall. I was also won over by Prince Rhen but my favourite was probably Commander Grey. He's not the love interest (although could have been) and has a steely personality which begins to soften in the presence of Harper.

The story is so much more than just a romance though and it would do it an injustice to label it as such. It is also about saving a kingdom, preventing a war and finding your true place in the world, wherever that may be.

'A Curse So Dark and Lonely' is the perfect combination of fantasy, adventure, romance and heroism. The sequel, 'A Heart So Fierce and Broken', is set for 2020, although that is such an unbearably long time to wait! I'm excited to find out what happens to the people of Emberfall next. Kemmerer leaves you with the taste of anticipation and a wish to return as quickly as possible to this incredible world.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Blog tour: The Everlasting Rose - Dhonielle Clayton

Welcome to today's stop on the blog tour for 'The Everlasting Rose' by Dhonielle Clayton. This is the second book in The Belles duology.

Goodreads synopsis:
Camellia, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Remy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia's Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies-a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely-and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider's Web, Camellia uses her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orleans.

'The Everlasting Rose' is the second book about The Belles and picks up where the previous story finished. The main character Camellia and her sister Edel are on the run, along with Remy, one of the palace guards. They are desperate to find the ailing Princess Charlotte and restore her to her place on the throne. Along the way they're helped by the mysterious Iron Ladies who have rejected the beauty treatments that the rest of society are so dependent and reliant on.

I felt like Camellia became a much more rounded character in this book. She is far more confident in herself and determined and she goes into the action with her eyes wide open. She has a mission to wrest control of Orleans away from Sophia and she will literally stop at nothing to prevent her evil reign. I wish that we'd found out more about the Iron Ladies because they were an interesting addition to the story but maybe Dhonielle Clayton is planning to do a spin-off on them in the future.

My feelings about this book are very similar to those I had for 'The Belles'. It was a good read and I did enjoy it but I didn't love it. I thought that the first half of the story was meandering and rather slow and then the ending was exciting but felt quite rushed. Everything seemed to happen all at once although it was a fitting end to the story and nicely tied up all the plot threads.

If you're a fan of the first book then I'm sure you will enjoy 'The Everlasting Rose'. I tend to feel that it bordered too much on the fantasy genre for my tastes but I will definitely be checking out future titles by Dhonielle Clayton.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Blog tour: The Beauty of the Wolf - Wray Delaney

Today I'm hosting a stop on the blog tour for 'The Beauty of the Wolf' by Wray Delaney. Read on to find out what I thought about this fairy tale retelling.

Goodreads synopsis:
In the age of the Faerie Queene, Elizabeth I, Lord Francis Rodermere starts to lay waste to a forest. Furious, the sorceress who dwells there scrawls a curse into the bark of the first oak he fells: A faerie boy will be born to you whose beauty will be your death.

Ten years later, Lord Rodermere’s son, Beau is born – and all who encounter him are struck by his great beauty.

Meanwhile, many miles away in a London alchemist’s cellar lives Randa – a beast deemed too monstrous to see the light of day.

And so begins a timeless tale of love, tragedy and revenge…

'The Beauty of the Wolf' is written by Wren Delaney, the pen name of author Sally Gardner. I've read a lot of Gardner's children's books but this is the first of her adult novels that I've picked up. I love her style of writing and wonderful use of language, so I've really been looking forward to this title. There were two things that particularly attracted me to it. The first was the description of it as a feminist retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I can't stress how much I love a new spin on a traditional fairytale. This one sounded especially intriguing because of the swapping of gender roles between the two main characters. The second thing was the absolutely beautiful hardback edition. I am always sucked in by a pretty cover and this one is absolutely gorgeous.   

This is an adult retelling, so it's quite dark and far removed from any visions that you might have of the Disney version. Don't go into it expecting there to be love and flowers and talking tea cups. This is more like a dark, gothic story with some serious adult themes and some strong sexual content.

I really liked the historical setting of Elizabethan England and the world building was excellent. Delaney made it come alive before my eyes and I felt immersed in all of the details of the period. I did find the pace very slow at the beginning of the story which I know is something that other reviewers have commented on. I like to be drawn into a book right from the start, or I can sometimes have a tendency to give up on titles that I'm not enjoying. Therefore, for me, I felt like more needed to happen in the first few chapters.  

The story is told from the point of view of three different characters: The Sorceress, The Beast and Beauty. The problem with this is that it felt like the narrative flitted around a lot between the characters and they came across as pretty flat. Randa was probably my favourite but I didn't feel hugely engaged by any one individual.

There does seem to be a trend at the moment for historical fiction with a side of bawdy (I'm thinking of books like 'The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock' which this reminded me of). This isn't really my kind of thing which probably explains why I struggled with this novel. I'm disappointed that I didn't end up enjoying it more but it's one that I might come back to and read again at some point in the future because I'd like to give it another chance.  

Check out all of the other stops on 'The Beauty of the Wolf' blog tour.

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