The Masque of the Red Death had been on my radar for a long time. I couldn't tell you if it was thOriginally posted on my book blog, Once Upon A Time.
The Masque of the Red Death had been on my radar for a long time. I couldn't tell you if it was the idea of a Poe retelling, a Victoriana dystopian story, a few fantastic reviews or a combination of all three that initially drew me to it but needless to say, it was on my radar. And then Gollancz Geeks sent over a copy with the new UK cover for review! I almost immediately started it and more or less read the entire novel in one sitting.
The story focuses on Araby, daughter of the most important scientist in Masque's world. The man who created the livesaving porcelain masks people wear to ward off the Weeping Sickness. However, he's kept on a tight leash by the mad Prince Prospero who monopolises the masks and thus only the very wealthy can afford to own them. The reason he can do this? Once a mask has been worn, only that person can use it. Araby spends her time seeking oblivion from a life she feels she doesn't deserve until she meets Will who shows her there is more to life than the privilege of drink and drugs. And then Elliott who seeks to rebel against Prince Prospero, his uncle, to create a fairer society. She becomes swept up by events out of her control with one very sure realisation: she doesn't want to die.
I wasn't sure what I thought about Araby and her friend April at first. They're clearly part of the privileged class, travelling to a night out through the poorer distract in April's expensive, flashy steam carriage, while being held up by the body collectors and a young woman unwilling to part with her clearly dead child. It's a tense and dark scene which shows us that Araby, at the very least, cares about other human beings.. but she's quite whiny in the beginning. She seems to think she's worthless and doesn't deserve to be alive so she visits the Debauchery Club with April, drinking and taking drugs to make her forget who she is for a while.. so yes, there's a bit of angst, but it goes away when we meet Will and Elliott because she finally finds something to fight for.
And from there I was lost to the world because of this beautifully gothic dystopian novel. I stopped comparing it to Poe's short story of the same name because whilst I can see where Bethany got her inspiration, it really stops there. The two stories are separate entities. Bethany Griffin's version has such a dark atmosphere and much foreboding that I often pictured night-time in a dark red haze with cloaked figures and leering old men looming around every corner. Everybody has their secrets and you do not know who you can trust. Even now I'm not entirely sure - bring on book two!
Not a fan of love triangles? Don't worry. Me neither. This one didn't bother me at all, in fact, I'm positive you'll find yourself rooting for one or the other boy. Bored of YA dystopias? The Masque of the Red Death doesn't feel like the rest. No, really. I promise you that if a girl who is more or less bored of YA finds this one so unputdownable, it's definitely worth a read. The writing is so fantastic that regardless of whether you think the story is unique or not, you will absolutely love it. It is so easy to find yourself swept up in the narrative. Give The Masque of the Red Death a chance! Yes, this is one of those books I'll be rereading and forcing on others....more
I haven’t read or even browsed Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops yet but that doesn’t mean More Weird TOriginally published on Once Upon A Time.
I haven’t read or even browsed Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops yet but that doesn’t mean More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops becomes unreadable as they are after all just books of odd things people say in bookshops, so it is a sequel in very loose terms. This also means that I can’t compare the two, but I can tell you that this is a small book well worth the purchase as you’ll read it in one sitting if you’re anything like me, and find yourself quoting your favourite bits to the nearest breathing creature even if that does happen to be your cat. My particular favourites are the ones kids come out with. Such as:
Young Boy: You should put a basement in your bookshop. Bookseller: You think so? Young Boy: Yeah. And then you could keep a dragon in it, and he could look after the books for you when you’re not here. Bookseller: That’s pretty cool idea. Dragons breathe fire, though. Do you think he might accidentally burn the books? Young Boy: He might, but you could get one who’d passed a test in bookshop-guarding. Then, you’d be OK Bookseller: You know, I think you’re on to something here.
I think we all agree that a dragon who had passed a test in bookshop-guarding could only be a good thing. Would he be any good at home bookshelf guarding though, do you think?
This is just one of those books you need on your shelves to dip in and out of as and when you fancy a giggle. And the drawings by The Brothers McLeod are simply wonderful. I’ll be getting my hands on a copy of the first one when I can!...more
I picked up Billy and Me after I had finished a fantastic book and was looking for something that couldOriginally posted on my blog Once Upon A Time.
I picked up Billy and Me after I had finished a fantastic book and was looking for something that could follow it. I made my usual piles of potentially good reads and started reading first paragraphs when I realised I'd inadvertently read the entire introduction of Billy and Me which pretty much secured it as my next read. Here we have a heroine who grew up with Tiny Tears dolls, Mr Blobby and the Spice Girls but became shy and withdrawn around the age of 11 and found a love of books. This is the kind of heroine I can relate to and I knew right away that I had to read this as I have quite a bit of trouble finding relateable heroines in chick lit.
"Giovanna has burst on to the scene with all the emotional impact of Jojo Moyes and the lightness of touch of Jenny Colgan." Says Billy and Me's press release. How right they are.
Billy and Me is an absorbing tale of romance, friendship, and finding your place in the world. The story follows Sophie May, a young lady who happily works away in Tea on the Hill, a teashop in the small village of Rosefont Hill where she lives. She looks after the quirky old women who frequent the teashop and her best friend is Molly, the lady who owns the teashop and has a heart of gold. One day a movie crew filming a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, one of Sophie's favourite books, sweeps into town and she becomes enamoured with Billy Buskin, the main star, teen heartthrob, and gorgeously sweet guy, after he calms her down from a panic attack.
I found this novel utterly gripping. More than once, my other half would come to bed around 2am and find me still snugged up with my reading light on. I hated having to put it down but in hindsight it stretched the book out a little more which is of course a good thing!
Sophie and Billy are amazing together. Billy worships the ground Sophie walks on and Sophie isn't entirely sure why because she's "just normal" (this is just one of the reasons I wanted to slap some confidence into her but her lack of confidence was a realistic part of her character) and I found myself awwing at Billy almost constantly. He's so lovely! We get to follow as Sophie becomes a part of his life and really doesn't fit in with all the glitz and glamour but is entirely unwilling to be anything but herself. I loved and respected her for that. She always retained herself.
Throughout Billy and Me, Giovanna hints at a great tragedy in Sophie's life through flashbacks, the panic attacks she suffers and how unsteady her mum seems to be. A part of me wished this tragic past wasn't drawn out for as long as it was but the steady reveals taught us a lot about Sophie and it was clear that this event really affected her. And the way in which it was finally revealed was pretty heartbreaking.
In fact, I think my only complaint was the sometimes odd use of exclamation marks where they really weren't needed.
Billy and Me is a delightful chick lit which (while it might be a tad predictable that really isn't the point) throws the usual formulaic chick lit story out the window and gives us a heartbreaking tale of love in which the heroine learns what is important in life. I recommend Billy and Me to everybody who likes a good chick lit with a decent love story, it's such a refreshing read. Just make sure you have the tissues nearby for the bit with the "emotional impact of Jojo Moyes"....more