Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review: Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

2017 HQ Press • 384 pages

Barry Bleeker and Sophie Ducel are two very different people destined to take the same journey. As they are both aboard a flight to the Marquesas Islands, their tiny plane crashes leaving Barry and Sophie the only survivors. Until recently, Barry was an investment banker in New York before he decided to leave his life behind and pursue his dream of painting. Sophie meanwhile, was a French architect who along with her husband Etienne was planning a honeymoon of a lifetime. Now Barry and Sophie are alone on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, where they must learn to put aside their differences and survive.

I’ve no doubt you’ve heard this kind of story before. Stick two very different people who dislike one another together on a desert island and you can probably guess where the story is going to end up. It’s your classic stranded-at-sea tale that has been used as a plot device for many books and films but do you know, it doesn’t matter because it’s how the story is executed which makes this work. Dane Huckelbridge brings together all the usual elements familiar to a survival story and adds humour and history to make what is an emotional and fascinating novel about human relationships.

Both characters are faced with the standard problems that come with being stranded on a desert island: meagre food, basic rations recovered from the crash, very little shelter, and nothing but water surrounding them for miles. Barry and Sophie may heartily dislike their current situation and both of them are grieving the lives they once had, but they are survivors and so they must learn how to survive. It does take a little while to build up pace and the first third or so of the story plays with some pretty predictable stereotypes, but it does develop in to a rather moving narrative.

Instead of being just about survival, the story bends in a way so it becomes about the characters. Their story is one of survival but ultimately there is more to it than that. You learn about the lives of both characters before fate washed them on to the shores of an uninhabited island and Huckelbridge manages to mould Barry and Sophie in to well rounded, diverse characters. Stripped down, it’s a simple story but it manages to simultaneously deal with complex and life shattering issues.

When you only have two people driving the plot, there is the worry that the story will run dry and become stale but Castle of Water stays fresh throughout. The imagery is rich and the language captures Barry and Sophie’s struggle to survive wonderfully. Each small victory or major inconvenience they experience is magnified due to their situation and I did feel as though I was experiencing their journey with them. I will admit, I did see where the story would end up from quite early on but I don’t really think it mattered because I had a pleasant experience reading this book. It’s touching, darkly humorous, and emotional throughout. It was a delightful read and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to read it.

Overall rating: 3 stars

My copy of Castle of Water was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Upcoming Book to T.V & Film Adaptations

If there's one thing I love more than a really good book, it's a really good adaptation of that book. In recent years faithful and worthy adaptations of popular books have increased dramatically - their market value has undoubtedly raised the bar for what new upcoming TV and films audiences want to see. Years ago, with the exception of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises, book adaptations were a rarity and even then they were nowhere near as well put together as they are now. Maybe this is just my age speaking because 15 years ago I was a lot younger and hadn't read as many books to know if there were adaptations of them. But now the film and TV industry seem to be taking inspiration from books left, right, and centre, and I couldn't be more pleased.

So in this post I'm going to talk about some recently released and upcoming adaptations of books that caught my eye.

Hulu Productions
Release date: 28th May

I feel like this series has been a long time coming. When I heard it was in the making I thought, why hasn't it been done before? It think it was made in to a film back in the early 90's, but by the standard of TV series being released today I knew this was going to blow everything out of the water.
The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of Offred, a young woman sent to live with a wealthy couple to be their handmaid - to service them by giving them a child. It's a newly formed religious dystopia where fertile women are a rare commodity, used solely for their ability to bear children. Offred tells the story of her life as a handmaid and reflects on her life before society changed for the worst.
The novel is brilliant and this new adaptation is terrifyingly good. In the current political climate it makes scary but powerful viewing.

BBC Productions
Release date: TBA

Jessie Burton's debut novel was an instant hit when it first came out back in 2014. I was a little late to the party but I read it last year and loved it (my review is uploaded here). I had no idea the BBC were making a show based on the book until about a month ago and I was so excited when I found out. Who doesn't love a good costume drama? I’m really interested to see how it’s going to be adapted for television and I think it could be done really well if it’s in the right hands. I don’t think there’s an air date yet but I assume it’s going to be released later on this year – maybe in the autumn when summer cools down and it’s all about those cosy evenings spent indoors. Whenever it does eventually come out, I’ll sure be watching.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date: 9th June

My love for Daphne du Maurier is no secret. I think she’s brilliant and I’ve got many of her books lined up that I still need to read. I read My Cousin Rachel around two years ago now and whilst it’s not my favourite du Maurier, I was still super excited when I heard there was a film adaptation being made. The film is currently out in the UK and I’ve yet to see it but I hear it’s got favourable reviews, plus it stars Rachel Weisz in the title role who is brilliant and I think would make the perfect Rachel.
I did think about re-reading the book before I saw the film but there are so many books on my TBR, I don’t think I’ll have the time! I would however like to give the book another read at some point. I did enjoy but I’m hoping I’ll appreciate it more on a second reading.

So there are a few recently released and upcoming adaptations of books that I’m excited about. There may be a few more in the pipeline that I’ve yet to discover but so far I’m really intrigued about these three. There are so many great books out there that deserve their own series or film contract – I wonder which books are destined to be made for the screen next?

Happy reading, book lovers!

Monday, 12 June 2017

I'm in a Reading Slump

Lately, I haven't been reading much. I've a couple of books on the go which I'm dipping in and out of, but nothing that want to return to and devour. I'm just not really enjoying reading at the moment, and as much as I hate not wanting to read, trying to force myself doesn't always help. But I'm in a bit of a slump and ultimately, I want out.

But how do you get out of a reading slump? And why do they suddenly pop up? It’s a subjective topic but I think for me they can happen when I’ve been reading a bit too much. Sounds crazy – how can you read too much? Most of us set ourselves goals to read as many books as we can in a year; something which we continue to do again and again, because reading is something so many of us love. So how can you have too much of it? Again, it’s different for every person but for me, I think I’m just a bit burnt out.

For the past few years I’ve set myself a target of reading 40 books and each year I’ve successfully read a little more than the previous year. 2017 is no different and I’m actually the furthest ahead I’ve been at this point in the yea. I’m proud of that – of course I am! I’m doing something I love and with each month I’m discovery new stories to read. It’s my passion and hobby, something I’ve adored doing since I was little. Sometimes however, you just feel like you need a break.  A break to do other things in your down time: watch some Netflix, see friends, or maybe just browse the internet. I want to read and there’s a little voice in the back of my mind telling me that I should pick up a book and get off Twitter, but right now, I don’t really want too. And guess what? That’s okay.

Reading slumps are something that we readers always have ever now and again. Our mind-set changes or life becomes suddenly hectic and we don’t always have the time to curl up on our sofas and snuggle with a book for a few hours. I like to read before bed but I’m so tired after a day a work sometimes my eyes can’t focus on the page long enough to get in to the story and I end up instead watching an episode of Family Guy. Like anything in life we all need a break from it sometimes, even reading. Otherwise you end up burnt out and not wanting to touch your TBR pile.

So as much as I hate reading slumps, I’ve come to accept that they happen from time to time. I don’t think there’s anything in particular that I do to help me come out of it, I just don’t read for a while. I do whatever else I fancy doing instead until I see a book on my shelf that catches my interest out of the blue, or I pick up a book on my bedside table and find I’m enjoying the experience again. For now, I’m quite liking watching Netflix and scrolling through the internet. Season 5 of Orange is the New Black has arrived so I’ve got plenty to do to keep myself occupied. When the feeling takes me, I’ll pick up a book. Slumps may seem annoying at the time but they pass so I’m just going to ride it out. 

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Review: Deposed by David Barbaree

Deposed by David Barbaree (2017)
Twenty7  480 pages

A.D 68. A deposed emperor lies in a prison cell, betrayed and newly blinded by those who were sworn to protect him. He is now crippled and deprived from power, left completely on the edge of despair with a frightened young slave named Marcus as his only companion. Ten years later and it is Emperor Vespasian who wears the purple. Things may have settled since the civil war but Vespasian’s son Titus is plagued with worry about plots to murder his father. Gruesome atrocities and mysterious disappearances are ripe throughout Rome; it is a city full of falsehoods and intrigues with the fear of rebellion lurking beneath the surface. Furthermore, a man who used to be emperor still lives – a blind man who everyone believes to be dead. His name is Nero and he seeks revenge against those who wronged him. 

Ancient Rome is a fascinating historical period and in my opinion it’s not any easy task to write a convincing novel set during this time. Deposed however manages just that. It is undoubtedly a superb novel that deals with just a short period in Rome’s vast history and creates a story full of mystery and suspense. David Barbaree takes both the facts and the missing details from this period and moulds them in to something that feels convincing and simultaneously entertaining. It’s original and gripping – I was amazed that this is the work of a debut author.

Deposed is a complex piece of work yet it is cleverly done; it moves back and forth between the years and follows different characters who gradually come together as the story moves forward. It’s written in a mix of first and second person which along with the vast number of characters did confuse me a little in the beginning, but it comes together nicely after the first few chapters. Plus, there is a list of all the characters and their positions in the back pages of the book which was helpful. This is a dense piece of historical fiction but it really works – it’s full of subplots, it has a vast set of diverse characters, and its timeline weaves back and forth over a period of ten years. A novel this complex could very easily become a sea of confusion but David Barbaree makes it work. I don’t know how he did it but he really pulled it out of the bag and managed to write a stunningly intricate novel.

Each character has their own unique voice which allows them to hold a chapter on their own without it falling flat. We follow characters that are based off historical figures and completely fictional characters but all of them drive the story. Everything in this book felt real; the beautiful palaces, the crowded streets, the temples, and the prisons all belong to a world that existed long ago but they are brought to life within the pages of this book. The entire tone of the story is dark and melancholy; the intrigues and conspiracies that run throughout create a menacing feel that hangs over the story, giving it the weight that is so difficult to achieve in historical novels.

Deposed is fantastic debut and although it works wonderfully on its own, there is a hint that a sequel may follow in the future. David Barbaree is a new author worth looking out for and I highly recommend you check this one out if you’re a lover of historical fiction.

Overall rating: 4 stars

My copy of Deposed was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review: Radical Hope ed. by Carolina de Robertis

2017 Virago Press • 272 pages

On 8th November 2016, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. Since then many Americans have been overcome with fear, worrying about what will become of American society during Trump’s administration. Carolina de Robertis was no exception to this fear and in response to the newly elected President and his policies she put out a call for action. Radical Hope is the outcome to this call. De Robertis reached out to fellow writers and activists asking for letters, predominantly letters of love, addressed to the citizens of today and those of past and future generations in order to help spread hope during times of uncertainty.

This is powerful stuff. In the aftermath of Trump’s election, the fear felt by so many across America was so strong it shook the U.K. and other countries throughout the world. In this collection many different writers come together to share their letters to loved ones, strangers, and children of the future. Each of them is unique but they all share one thing in common: the hope for a better future. Some of the contributors to this work include Celeste Ng, Meredith Russo, Chip Livingston, Lisa See – some more well-known than others but as writers they use their words to create a sense of solidarity, regardless of race or religion or sexual orientation.

The letters in this book provide a voice to numerous different stories from all walks of life. The writers themselves come from countless countries including Syria, Egypt, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Russia, as well as various places throughout Europe and each of them identifies the United States as their home. Each letter focuses on a different life and a new story waiting to be told. They are intelligently written; each one branded with the author’s own unique style. The definitive message that stands out from this collection is about hope and how words help to spread that hope, but it is also about not being silent and vocalises stories about courage and strength in order to fight hatred and anger. In the current political climate Radical Hope is the perfect commentary on how affairs of government affect the lives of ordinary people.

This is a tricky one to review in some respects because despite the book’s overarching themes and collective message, some of the letters spoke to me more than others. Like any short story or essay collection, some are going to stand out more depending on the reader and that very much applies here. But the purpose behind all of these letters is a powerful one and the fact that they are all written by a different contributor adds to the message of the book. It speaks to so many on numerous levels that whoever picks it up will surely find a letter within its pages that they identify with.

This is a stunningly powerful book that I believe most readers will benefit from and I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to read it.

Overall rating: 4 stars

My copy of Radical Hope was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.
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