Saturday, 18 March 2017

Film Review: Beauty and the Beast

I have been looking forward to this film for so long. No surprise then that I booked tickets for the very first screening at my local cinema yesterday morning. I wasn't disappointed, if anything it was actually better than I was expecting! It's been a long while since I saw the original cartoon of Beauty and the Beast, so I can't do a direct comparison, but in my mind this live action adaptation surpasses it. When you want to watch a film again immediately after the credits have rolled you know it's a good one.

Let me just start out by praising the musical god that is Alan Menken. At least 50% of my musical soundtrack Spotify playlist is accredited to him, and if he could score every movie for the rest of my life I would be a very happy girl. He scored the original Beauty and the Beast, so it would have been rude, and foolish, not to invite him back for the remake. This time acround the soundtrack is even more breathtakingly beautiful and enchanting, and together with the original lyricist Tim Rice, Alan has even added new songs into the mix. These new songs, Evermore in particular (I'm currently obsessed with that song), fit seamlessly into the film, and feel as if they've always been a part of the story.



Emma Watson pleasantly surprised me as Belle - the trailers really don't do her justice! Almost instantly I forgot I was watching Hermione Grainger, and her singing voice isn't half bad either. Dan Stevens is a great choice for the Beast too, in the transformation scene I don't think there's any other actor who looks as like the cartoon prince as he does. There's a really interesting article here on how they made Dan into the Beast - including motion picture and CGI of course, but also stilts and a muscle suit. Yes he learnt to waltz on stilts. Give that man an award right now.

Much as I adore Emma Thompson (and I really do), she did fall a little short as Mrs Potts for me. I think this is largely down to the fact that Angela Lansbury's rendition of Beauty and the Beast during the ballroom scene is so iconic that no one could ever come close. I wasn't at all keen on the new design of the character in teapot form either. But I did love Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen as Lumiere and Cogsworth. Ewan doesn't sing enough in films for my liking (I fell in love with his voice in Moulin Rouge), and dodgy French accent aside he did a great job on Be Our Guest.

If there's one man who was born to play his role though, it's Luke Evans as Gaston. He is FANTASTIC. His West End experience shines through as he absolutely owns every scene he is in, and his singing voice really packs a punch. He made Gaston a villain that I really loved to hate, and loved to love a bit too.

The settings are stunning and almost characters in themselves, from the quaint country village to the freezing forest teeming with danger. Then there's the castle. It's a full on crumbling Gothic fantasy, a romantic's dream. Don't even get me started on that incredible library. I felt Belle's squeals of delight when the Beast gifted it to her, I'd be exactly the same!

If you're planning on seeing Beauty and the Beast in the cinema, which I highly recommend that you do, I would suggest bringing food supplies, and maybe even a blanket. At over two hours long it is a film you can truly immerse yourself in, but at the same time it feels overlong. The flashbacks to the Beast's youth for example, and he and Belle's excursion to Paris feel entirely unnecessary and cast a bit of a sombre shadow over the story.

That aside I loved every minute of this film. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen I was still laughing at the Beast's gruff manners and jokes, crying when the last petal fell, and on the edge of my seat during the final fight with Gaston. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about it - Josh Gad does a brilliant turn as an openly gay Le Fou but even this is subtle. Critics will no doubt go to town on how traditional it has remained, but I'm completely fine with this. All I wanted was to be enchanted by the film, to enjoy it for what it is, and in this regard it is absolutely a success.

Whether reliving your childhood or experiencing Beauty and the Beast for the first time, either way you're in for a treat.



Check out my other film reviews, including the live action remake of Cinderella, here!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Review: The Last Piece of my heart by Paige Toon

***Firstly, massive thanks to Simon and Schuster and Books and the City for surprising me with a proof of this novel - and for the adorable jigsaw that accompanied it!***

Meet Bridget, a successful travel journalist with ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog into a novel. But, after numerous rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition: Nicole Dupre died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel, and the family need someone to finish it. Bridget is just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities begin to change …

As a rule, I don't like chick-lit and I don't much like children. Imagine my surprise then when I really loved this book! Maybe my tastes are changing now that I've hit my mid-twenties...

The premise is simple - if every person you've ever loved has taken a piece of your heart, can you ever love someone wholeheartedly? Travel writer Bridget aims to find out. She's visiting her exes one by one and compiling a popular blog from her experiences. As a result of her success, she is drafted in to ghostwrite the sequel to The Secret Life of Us, a bestselling novel written by Nicole 'Nicki' Dupre, an author who died tragically young. Six weeks living in a caravan in Cornwall whilst working from Nicki's home is no mean feat, especially when you take into account the grieving family Nicki left behind - her widow, Charlie, and their baby daughter April.

I was so, SO in love with Charlie by the end of this book. Not only was he gorgeous both inside and out, but he was also the most adorable dad. The pain he was going through was clear to see, and it broke my heart in places. Bridget herself was a lovely character too. She wasn't afraid to go after what she wanted, to chase her dreams and risk her heart in the process. It has to be said that April stole the show though. She was so sweet and such an integral part of the story.

The plot is fairly predictable, but this is by no means a bad thing - knowing vaguely what's going to happen takes the stress out of reading so you can just sit back and enjoy. The settings are beautiful and make you long for a holiday yourself; Cornwall and Thailand are like characters in themselves. I'm so grateful that we got an epilogue too - so many writers forgo them and I hate unfinished business - and the last few sentences in particular were just the perfect way to end it all.

Another thing I loved about this book was Paige's use of music. I love novels that have a soundtrack to them, and Bridget's eclectic taste in songs and artists is great! Including a tracklist at the end of the novel was a brilliant touch; I had actually intended to flip back through the pages to make a note of some of the unfamiliar songs anyway so I'll definitely be checking them out!

My one criticism would be that the cover really doesn't do this novel justice! I almost certainly would have passed this by in a library or bookshop - even though I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

This is my first book by Paige Toon, but it certainly won't be my last. The Last Piece of My Heart is a heartwarming novel of love and loss that will leave you with a big smile on your face.


Monday, 13 February 2017

Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.


Review

Contemporary romance isn't a genre that I delve into that often, but once in a while something catches my attention. I have seen a LOT of hype for this book on Instagram and Goodreads, so I decided to give it a go. From the cover I wasn't expecting to be that taken with it, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Two very late nights later and I'm besotted!

That Hating Game made me laugh out loud, smile a lot, hug my e-reader and cry actual happy tears, something which never, ever happens to me! It's funny, cute, and jam packed with brilliant banter and crackling chemistry between the two lead characters. It's romantic without being cheesy, sexy without being explicit, chick-lit without the cringe. In short, it's perfect.

On the face of it it's a light read, but it is very much dialogue driven which I think is why I fell for the characters so much. Lucy reminded me a little of myself, although she is a lot more feisty. And as as for Josh.. where do I find myself a Joshua Templeman?? The guy is all kinds of perfect, and as I've already said he's one of the few fictional men with the ability to make me cry. I adored every second of Josh and Lucy's story and would have loved a few more chapters at the end to find out what happened next.

I need a physical copy of this book urgently so I can highlight all my favourite bits and keep it forever.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Review: Paper Princess / Broken Prince / Twisted Palace by Erin Watt

This review is for all three books in The Royals series - because I binge read them this week and they're now all one big crazy mess in my head.



These Royals will ruin you…
--------
PAPER PRINCESS
Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone. 

Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.

Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.

He might be right.

Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees. 
----------
BROKEN PRINCE
Reed Royal has it all—looks, status, money. The girls at his elite prep school line up to date him, the guys want to be him, but Reed never gave a damn about anyone but his family until Ella Harper walked into his life.

What started off as burning resentment and the need to make his father’s new ward suffer turned into something else entirely—keep Ella close. Keep Ella safe. But when one foolish mistake drives her out of Reed’s arms and brings chaos to the Royal household, Reed’s entire world begins to fall apart around him.

Ella doesn’t want him anymore. She says they’ll only destroy each other.

She might be right.

Secrets. Betrayal. Enemies. It’s like nothing Reed has ever dealt with before, and if he’s going to win back his princess, he’ll need to prove himself Royally worthy.
--------
TWISTED PALACE
Ella Harper has met every challenge that life has thrown her way. She’s tough, resilient, and willing to do whatever it takes to defend the people she loves, but the challenge of a long-lost father and a boyfriend whose life is on the line might be too much for even Ella to overcome.

Reed Royal has a quick temper and even faster fists. But his tendency to meet every obstacle with violence has finally caught up with him. If he wants to save himself and the girl he loves, he’ll need to rise above his tortured past and tarnished reputation.

No one believes Ella can survive the Royals. Everyone is sure Reed will destroy them all.

They may be right.

With everything and everyone conspiring to keep them apart, Ella and Reed must find a way to beat the law, save their families, and unravel all the secrets in their Twisted Palace.
--------
REVIEW
'These Royals will ruin you' - YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN!

Yes these books are trashy and far fetched but they are beyond addictive and I literally could not put them down! I read the trilogy every spare minute that I found for five days straight and now that it's over I don't know what to do with my life!

Enter Ella Harper. Stereotypically down on her luck, headstrong and fiercely independent heroine who finds herself plucked from a life in the gutter by her fairy godfather of sorts Callum Royal. Only she has to share his fairytale palace with his five sons, none of whom want her there and all of whom have dark secrets to bear. I hated all five of them at first, and by the end of the trilogy I was in varying states of love with them all. Reed, obviously, is my new book boyfriend, but Easton turned out to be all kinds of adorable and possibly my favourite character of them all. The twins Sawyer and Sebastian were hilarious, and Gideon was so absent and mysterious that I'd love to know more about him. In fact I'm hoping and praying that all of the brothers (but especially Easton) get their own spin off stories!

The plot gets more and more ridiculous and unbelievable as it goes along, but suspend your disbelief and just go with it. I'm thanking my lucky stars that I found Paper Princess once the whole trilogy was out - I don't know how I'd have coped if I'd had to wait for the next installment!

Monday, 16 January 2017

Review: Pengelly's Daughter by Nicola Pryce

 
Cornwall, 1793: Rose Pengelly's father has been ruined—he has lost his boat yard and his fortune, plunging Rose and her mother into poverty and debt. There appears to be only one way out of their terrible circumstances; for Rose to marry Mr Tregellas, a powerful timber merchant and the man Rose believes is responsible for her father's downfall. He has made his terms clear; either she marries him or faces homelessness and destitution. Desperate, Rose sets out to find evidence of Mr Tregellas's wrongdoing. In her search, she encounters a mysterious young sailor called Jim, who refuses to disclose his identity. Even as she falls in love with him, she questions who he really is. He may help her restore her fortune and her good name, but does he ever tell her the truth?

Review

From the cover of this novel I got a Catherine Cookson/family saga vibe that I have to admit almost put me off. But the blurb and the comparisons with Poldark had me sold. For a debut novel this has all the makings of a great historical adventure. I actually looked up the author expecting a back catalogue of similar novels so well established was her style, characterisation, and vivid descriptions of the sights and smells of Cornwall.

Rose, true to form in this genre of novel, was a feisty and headstrong heroine, fighting to make her own way in what was very much a man's world.She was ahead of her time in her thinking, with ideas that many of the other characters found shocking. As for Jim, well... I only wish that we saw more of him. The relationship he had with Rose was my favourite part of the novel and I would have loved more of an ending to their story. Hopefully this is just the beginning for them and a sequel of some kind is in the works - there are so many brilliant characters that there is easily scope for more stories set in this particular fictional community.

4/5 stars: With a hero who is more than a match for Ross Poldark, this is a fast paced and fun historical romp through Cornwall.

Review: Everything You Told Me by Lucy Dawson

 
You went to bed at home, just like every other night.
You woke up in the back of a taxi, over 250 miles away.
You have no idea how you got there and no memory of the last ten hours.
You have no phone, no money; just a suicide note in your coat pocket, in your own writing.
You know you weren’t planning to kill yourself.
Your family and friends think you are lying.

Someone knows exactly what happened to you.
But they’re not telling…


Review 
Thanks to Corvus Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review. Thanks also to them for sending me an anonymous fake taxi receipt - a cheeky nod to the plot of this novel that left me massivey confused and accusing my long suffering boyfriend of pranking me! As to the book itself, it has all the ingredients for a good psychological thriller , and the opening was really strong. The central character I found really annoying and difficult to like -  but that really isn't uncommon for me in novels of this genre! It is a little drawn out in places, but it contains enough drama to keep you interested . No-one is entirely trustworthy, and I was kept guessing until the very end as to what actually happened to Sally that night. A twisty and unpredictable read that's sure to satisfy thriller fans.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Review: The Book of Mirrors by E.O Chirovici


I was lucky enough to snag one of the gorgeous proof copies of this book. Massive thanks to Francesca Russell at Cornerstone!

When big-shot literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued.

The author, Richard Flynn is writing a memoir about his time at Princeton in the late 80s, documenting his relationship with the famous Professor Joseph Wieder.

One night in 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home and the case was never solved.

Peter Katz is hell-bent on getting to the bottom of what happened that night twenty-five years ago and is convinced the full manuscript will reveal who committed the violent crime.

But other people's recollections are dangerous weapons to play with, and this might be one memory that is best kept buried.


Review

There is a lot of hype surrounding this book-although I have to admit that I hadn't heard of it or the author before-so I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. On the face of it we have a 25 year old cold case, a murder brought back to light by a mysterious manuscript. As the literary agent begins to dig, the case gets passed on to a local reporter, then on to an ex-cop who was involved with the original case. It is from the perspective of these three men that we as readers try and piece together what happened on the night of the crime. The ending actually isn't that surprising, but it's the getting there with this case that's interesting. What makes this whodunit different is its focus on psychology and the power of the mind - how it can be manipulated but also how it can manipulate itself. The tag line - 'one man's truth is another man's lie' - is entirely apt at summing up this novel. Is memory fact or fiction? Is a wrongly recollected truth a lie? How reliable exactly is the human mind? As all the witness statements begin to contradict each other, are any of the suspects actually telling the truth? The plot of the murder case is relatively straightforward when the truth is revealed, but it throws up a lot of questions that leave you questioning even your own mind. The Book of Mirrors is a very clever and well written novel (very well written considering that English is not the author's first language). I'm interested to read the inevitable translations of Chiovici's other works.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

End of Year Book Survey 2016

First of all, an apology. I haven't posted anywhere near as often as I'd have liked to this year, and I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read as much either! At least my New Year's resolutions are easily decided this time. Anyway, as the New Year rolls around it's time to look back on my year of reading, and although my stats aren't as high as I'd like them to be, I have read some great books!

Hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner

2016 Reading Stats
Number of books you read: 32
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre you read the most from: Historical Fiction
Shortest Book: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith (215 pages)
Longest Book: Florence Grace by Tracy Rees (544 pages)


Best in Books
Best Book You Read In 2016?
Florence Grace by Tracy Rees. I just adored it. You can find my review here



Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I was hugely exited about Kate Williams' novels about the de Witt family during the First World War, but the first two books of the trilogy took some getting through. I'll still read the third though!

 

Best series you started in 2016?

Easy. Outlander! I'm around halfway through it now and totally get what all the fuss is about!

 

Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

Kate Riordan. Both The Girl in the Photograph and The Shadow Hour are gripping!

 

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Maestra by LS Hilton. Weirdly compelling - and be warned it is explicit! 

 

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Girl on the Train. I read it pretty much in one sitting! Worth the hype!

 

Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I don't generally re-read so probably none of them!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. I was obsessed with the TV series and the companion novel is gorgeous!



Most memorable character of 2016?

Florence 'Florrie' Grace. I just loved her.

Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

If I Forget You by T.C Greene. It's practically poetic.

 

Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. It's inspirational.



Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. I've been brought up on the TV adaptations but have never read one of her novels until now - and I loved it!


Book That Shocked You The Most
We Were Liars by E Lockhart. This one floored me!

 
Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Queen Victoria and Lord Melbourne. As much as I ship them I know it isn't to be.


 
 

Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Florence Grace. I loved Tracy Rees' debut novel Amy Snow, and I adored this one even more!
 

Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
Murder at The Brighwell. My mum adored it and pestered me about it until I read it. I bought her the sequel for her birthday!


Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?
Jamie Fraser...
 
 

Best 2016 debut you read?
Pengelly's Daughter by Nicola Pryce. If you're missing Poldark I would heartily recommend it!


Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Rebel Warrior and King's Knight by Regan Walker bring Medieval Britain gloriously alive.
 
 

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Love From Paris by Alexandra Potter. Cheesy Chick-Lit at it's finest!


Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
We Were Liars. It's rare for me to cry at books and this one killed me.

Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Florence Grace. More people need to read this so I can fangirl with them about it!

Book That Crushed Your Soul?

We Were Liars. Enough said.
 

Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?
We Were Liars. The plot, the writing style, it's everything.

Book That Made You The Most Mad?
 

The Girl With a Clock for a Heart. Because that ending was not an ending. Gah.
 
So there you have it, my year in books! Here's to another great year of reading!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!