Guest Post

Posts by guest bloggers, on any theme or topic or feature

Guest Post: ‘Royal Harlot’

806777Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott
NAL Trade, July 3, 2007 (Historical Fiction)

Stacey and I are pleased to welcome back Koren, with another guest review. Not surprisingly, she is reviewing historical fiction that brings us court intrigue and introduces readers to a woman from the history books, Barbara Villiers. It looks like an interesting read, and we thank Koren for writing and contributing her review.

Rating: 3 stars

The first introduction I had to Barbara Villiers was in my first ever Jean Plaidy novels, A Health Unto His Majesty, and The Pleasures of Love. Plaidy portrayed her as a villain you love to hate. She was calculating and vindictive and I rooted for the queen who just couldn’t compete for Charles II’s attention. Coming into this book, I tried to set aside my existing views of Barbara and be more open minded about her motives and actions.

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Guest Review: ‘The Ashford Affair’

15701533The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
St. Martin’s Press, April 9, 2013 (Historical Fiction)

This Friday’s post is courtesy of Koren, who is another librarian and a friend of ours from library school. She’s a history buff, so naturally her book review features a historical fiction novel. The Ashford Affair sounds like an intriguing read that will appeal to Downton Abbey fans, but does it live up to Willig’s Pink Carnation series?

This is a female-focused drama of family- and self-discovery filled with tragedy, betrayals, unrequited and requited love, and an exploration of the complicated relationships between women.

The Ashford Affair opens on a hot, dusty train ride through Kenya in 1926. Addie, a young woman feeling awkward and unfashionable, is on her way to see her cousin Bea whom she hasn’t seen in several years. As a child, Addie is orphaned and is sent to live with her aunt and uncle, the wealthy upper-class Gillecotes, at Ashford Park. Bea, the middle daughter of the Gillecotes, takes a shine to Addie and they become fast friends. As the story unfolds, we see that Addie plays a supporting role to Bea’s glittering socialite star. There has since been conflict in the family and so there has been little contact between its members. Apprehensive about meeting her cousin, Addie feels a mixture of love and resentment at the prospect of seeing her. When she finally arrives at the train station, sweat-stained and dusty, Bea is there to meet her looking fabulous. The presence of Bea’s husband makes Addie uncomfortable, nervous, and very curious – there has been some sort of relationship between Addie and her cousin’s husband but what kind of relationship it was isn’t clear at this point.

The scene jumps to New York in 1999, where the reader meets Clementine Evans, or Clemmie as she’s usually known, a workaholic lawyer at a large firm who’s recently split up with her fiance, on her way to her grandmother Addie’s birthday party. Flustered, dishevelled, and late, Clemmie arrives at Addie’s apartment and has to deal with the disapproval of her mother and her catty remarks about Clemmie’s aunt, Anna. Here she is reunited with Jon, a sort of ex-step-cousin, from one of Anna’s previous relationships, with whom Clemmie has a past (there are continuous ominous references to a past encounter in Rome). At this party, Clemmie overhears a reference to a family secret and so begins to investigate her grandmother’s past while struggling to keep up with her hectic job. Clemmie, like Addie, has a troubled family life – her parents had divorced when she was a child. Despite her position as a lawyer in a New York firm, I felt like Clemmie was irrational at times.

Through the book, we jump back and forth through time between the stories of Addie and Clemmie. Their stories and experiences run parallel, on their journeys to understand themselves and their families. At first, I found the switches between Addie and Clemmie to be clunky and distracting. However, these transitions became smoother closer to the book’s climax. I usually enjoy books that have a multiple story and multiple time format stories, but I had trouble with the way Willig did these jumps. I found that the reader would often be left on a cliffhanger but when the story returned to that time, the action had already happened and the reader is left with the aftermath.

I feel like the story is rushed and Willig has gotten so caught up juggling the multiple story strands that I didn’t have time to connect with any of the characters. This “juggling” affected my feelings towards the characters, especially Addie. I never felt like I really got to know her and that I was always catching up on important developments in her life. Willig’s characters had great potential and I wish that she spent more time exploring the emotions of her characters. How did Addie feel about Bea’s actions? Bea was Addie’s partner in crime and for much of her life, her only friend. There are several significant moments in Addie’s life which we only hear about after the fact.

Since the title is named for the Gillecotes’ house where Bea and Addie grew up, I expected more time to be spent at Ashford, with more exploration of family life at Ashford. After reading the book jacket, I expected much of the story to take place in Kenya. However, again because of the way Willig crafted the book, most of what we hear about Kenya has already happened.

Overall, The Ashford Affair was enjoyable. There were many twists – some expected, some unexpected. This was my not my first Lauren Willig book, but I didn’t realize this was the author of the Pink Carnation series until after I had finished the book. The Ashford Affair is quite different from Willig’s Pink Carnation series and definitely has a more serious tone. Fans of Kate Morton will enjoy this book.

Guest Post: a line-up of upcoming YA movie adaptations

divGood Monday, lovely readers! My life is in upheaval these days, so I’ve called on a friend of mine, who has graciously provided a YA Book-To-Movie itinerary for you! Read on for some great recommendations for books (and movies) from Zarena.

Stacey

 

Have you read a great movie lately?

Adapting a book into a movie is just another way to tell the same story. While I’m not above a little book snobbery -the book is almost always better – that doesn’t mean I don’t love watching the movie, too. While some die-hard book fans might disagree, I always look forward to a film adaptation. Who will they cast? What will they change? Will I love it? Will I hate it? Will I get popcorn or candy? Only time will tell.
YA book adaptations are all the rage in Hollywood these days. If you’re anything like me you’ll want to read the book ahead of time, so I’ve compiled a short list of the upcoming adaptations I’m most looking forward to:

The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

This gem is already in theaters. It stars Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller as Aimee and Sutter, two teens who start an unlikely romance. Aimee is shy and flies under the radar. Sutter is popular, outgoing, and a functioning alcoholic. Full disclosure: I wasn’t over the moon about this book and I had a hard time relating to Sutter, but I really think the subtle nuances of their budding relationship will translate better on screen. It doesn’t hurt that this film, which premiered at Sundance, is racking up glowing reviews.

The Fault In Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Shailene Woodley is back at it again, this time playing Hazel, a young girl who has been battling cancer since she was 13. While at a cancer support group Hazel meets a boy named Augustus and they quickly form a friendship, and that friendship quickly evolves into something more. I don’t want to say too much, but this book was exceptional. As the first of John Green’s novels to be adapted for film, a legion of loyal fans will have a lot to say about this one, no matter how it turns out.

DivergentDivergent by Veronica Roth

This upcoming adaptation of the popular Veronica Roth novel stars, wait for it, Shailene Woodley. Yes, again. Divergent, the first in a triology, is billed as a Hunger Games read-a-like. While they are both dystopias, and feature a strong female lead, the stories are quite different. I have a feeling that Roth’s story can hold its own on the silver screen, and unlike some recent YA film flops (City of Bones, anyone?) this film has some serious star power behind it: Kate Winslet will star as the big bad in this one. Isn’t that alone worth shelling out ten bucks?

If I StayIf I Stay by Gayle Forman

This adaptation is still in its early stages. After being shopped around for awhile, it seems to have found a home at MGM and a lead actress in the young, but capable Chloe Grace Moretz. Moretz will play Mia, a 17 year old girl who finds herself in a coma after she and her family are in a serious car crash. With friends and her loving boyfriend Adam tethering her to life, Mia must choose whether to wake up or let go. Told through series of flashbacks, I think this novel will translate really well on screen. While in the book we only get to know characters though Mia’s memories, in the movie we’ll see characters own their own scenes.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

This series has it all – great female characters, forbidden romance, strong friendships, and a fairly fresh plot. While the story suffers from predictability at times, it’s an overall fun and juicy read. Its film adaptation is slated for release next Valentine’s Day, and Mark Waters, the genius behind Mean Girls, is back in the directors chair to give us what I’m sure will be a smart and satirical ride. This movie is also a family affair with Mark’s brother, Daniel Walters, screenwriting the adaptation. Daniel is also the writer behind the 80’s cult classic Heathers which is just another indication of the places this adaptation might go. I was really surprised by the trailer, but I will reserve my judgement for now. We wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so let’s not judge a movie by its trailer!
Lastly, a few parting words of wisdom: always remember that a bad movie can’t actually ruin a good book. While you may feel that a beloved story and characters are being done a disservice when Hollywood comes a-calling, a movie can’t ever really compare with a book. I think Stephen King said it best:

“Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They both are fruit, but taste completely different.”