Monday, 23 January 2012

The Night Circus

I have been wanting to read The Night Circus ever since I saw the beautiful cover in the new arrivals section in my local Waterstones. I was expecting a similar tale to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke and the themes of magic, love and a deadly battle are familiar.

Two young apprentices are being trained to take part in a mysterious challenge that reveals itself at certain points in the story. The backdrop is the beautiful circus which arrives suddenly, opens at dusk and closes at dawn. Everything is black and white and there are tents full of ice or labyrinths, a wishing tree, performing cats and magic that almost seems real...  

The book darts back and forth in time which at times makes the reader feel disorientated which is all part of the overall illusion. The chapters vary from different characters viewpoints which makes for a very interesting narrative. There is also the odd page which describes the sights, sounds and smells of the circus as if you, the reader, are exploring the strange tents.

This book has been described as a feast for the senses and it really is. I could almost smell the caramel and sugar mice and see the while flames of the eternal bonfire. The visions are so strong it is no surprise that film rights have already been snapped up.

I don't want to give too much away as the story is revealed slowly, but with a great cast of strange characters, dark humour, romance and stunning descriptions, this is well worth reading! In fact as soon as you finish it, I guarantee you will want to start all over again!

Watch the trailer here:
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Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Snow Child

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the title design for this novel is just beautiful and it caught my eye in my local Waterstones when it was first released. It is so easy to get caught up in the cold, bleak atmosphere of the landscape and I immediately warmed to the central characters of Jack and Mabel, a couple who have suffered as a lot of pain in their lives and are making a fresh start on their Alaskan homestead.

Mabel has always wanted a child and unfortunately previous events mean that her and Jack were never parents. They live an isolated existence from the nearby town, but after a visit to a local family’s home, they have a rare moment of light-heartedness and make a snow child outside their home. In the morning, the form has disappeared leaving a trail of footsteps and soon a mysterious young girl enters their lives and hearts.

I read this book in just a couple of days as the story really caught my imagination. The best way to describe it is as a very simple, but effective, traditional fairytale. The characters are all likeable, the surroundings are beautiful and the story is suitable for all ages to enjoy. The only negative is that the mystery is never really solved for the reader, but I guess that means that each reader has their own interpretation and explanation for events. I would highly recommend this book, but would suggest waiting until the winter to really enjoy it as the sound of the wind and the feel of the cold really bought this novel to life for me.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Woman in Black

I don't know if it was because of the hype of the book, or Susan Hill's atmospheric descriptions, but The Woman in Black was giving me goosebumps from the start. Arthur Kripps is spending Christmas Eve with his family, when they begin the tradition of telling ghost stories. When the young members of the gathering try to persuade Arthur to have a go, it provokes a strong reaction in him. What follows is him writing down his own, true ghost story...

At just 160 pages long, this is a surprisngly short book, but refreshing in the way that there is no needless information and every word is relevant to the story. The strong imagery
means that you can see for yourself the creepy scenes that Arthur encounters and as I was reading this on a very windy and rainy night, I was caught up in the chilling atmosphere of the story and sounds from my noisy neighbours were making me jump!

I have not yet seen the long-running stage play so I do not know how this compares to the original tale, but I am looking forward to seeing the new film adaptation, although from the trailers it looks like some narrative strands have been added. I would recommend reading this before visiting the theatre or cinema, so as not to spoil the surprises revealed.

Genuinely chilling and surprisingly tragic and sad, this is a book you will want to re-read
as soon as you have finished and will be thinking about for a long time.

Monday, 2 January 2012

War Horse - A Story You Will Never Forget

War Horse *****

War Horse has been on  my to-read for a long time as I have been wanting to see the stage play for a while now. With the film coming out in the new year, I received this book for Christmas and built up the courage to read it. As an animal lover I knew I would find it very upsetting.

Told from the viewpoint of a horse called Joey, it begins with him as a six month old foal at a horse fair being seperated from his mother. What follows is a series of distressing incidents throughout his life, but his friendships with other horses and humans, make them all easier for him to deal with. Full of lots of sad moments and some horrific scenes which are made worse as you know that they really did happen throughout the war, this is a hard book to read at times. But I think it is a book that everyone should read to appreciate all of the human and animal lives lost throughout the conflict.

I think that Michael Morpurgo's books are very important as he tells stories of love, friendship, bravery and loss. I saw a play of one of his other wartime books Private Peaceful last year, which was so powerful. I would really recommend his books whatever age you are, as they really will teach you something.

I'm still deciding whether I will be brave enough to see the film, as just the trailer makes me cry,
but this story of Joey will stay with me for a long time.