The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

“ I love you crookedly because my heart’s been unhinged from birth. The doctors gave me strict instructions not to fall in love: my fragile clockwork heart would never survive. But when you gave me a dose of love so powerful – far beyond my wildest dreams – that I felt able to confront anything for you, I decided to put my life in your hands.” 
― Mathias Malzieu, La Mécanique du cœur

‘The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart’, a metaphorical, sweet, and disturbing little book translated into English from French, is a Tim Burtonesque fable of the rarest kind. I purchased the book at the well-known historical bookshop Shakespeare and Co in Paris. Attracted by Benjamin Lacombe’s art on the cover (check some of it out here) I couldn’t not give it a go, and boy am I happy that I did!

Our story begins on a cold dark wintry night (of course it does), when an unkown woman gives birth to a very pale baby, delivered by ‘Dr Madeline’ also known as ‘the witch’ in a gothic house set on top of King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Because yes, this dark gothic tale is set in 19th century Scotland (and we even bump into Jack the Ripper at one point)! The baby is sickly, his heart is weak, and our steampunkish doctor decides to link the hardly-beating heart with a cuckoo-clock set right into the boy’s chest.

Three rules must always be kept:
1. Never touch the hands of the heart-clock
2. Keep your temper under control
3 Whatever else you do, never ever fall in love

Needless to say that during the course of his life, Jack breaks all three rules.

By the way, did I mention there is also an animated version of the book? And it is AMAZING. Yes, this is what happens when the author, Mathias Malzieu, is the leading singer of a French rock band – Dionysus. They created the music for the animated movie themselves of course. You can find some clips on Youtube (both in the original French version and translated to English). 

Oh yes, this book was a real discovery. Thank you Paris. Thank you Shakespeare and Co. Thank you Benjamin Lacombe. And most of all thank you so much Mathias Malzieu!

P.S If you loved Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’, this book is right up your street.

Personal rating – 5 on 5 Stars!

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Sageuk and Splash Splash Love (A Review)

Being a Sageuk fan can wreak havoc with one’s moods. 

Sageuk are Korean historical period dramas, which are usually quiet lengthy, agonizing, emotional roller-coasters, not to mention confusing since they usually only relate to actual historical facts as much as American T.V series usually do… meaning not much.

Apart from loving Korean historical dramas, I actually also adore watching any Asian historical T.V series, therefore even Japanese and Chinese ones. Lately I have watched two very good, but also very long and sad Chinese dramas. These were ‘Three Lives, Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms’ (also known as Eternal Love, or To the Sky Kingdom) which consists of 58 episodes, and ‘Empresses in the Palace (also known as The Legend of Zhen Huan), consisting of 76 episodes, all of them around an hour long per episode.

Craving a break from so much history, I watched ‘The Beauty Inside’ after these (the review can be found here), which is a modern Korean drama. Unfortunately for me, although all of these dramas were VERY good, they were also quiet heavy, meaning that I ended up using rolls and rolls of tissue paper to stem my flow of tears hehe.

So, what to watch when you are still in the mood for historical drama, but want one which is light-hearted and SHORT? Enter – ‘Splash Splash Love’!

This gender-bender time-travel Joseon love story is cute, funny, and historically incorrect. Perfect for those who look forward to two hours of entertainment. It is in fact, only 2 hours long.

Without giving any spoilers, the plot of this South Korean drama follows high school studen Danbi, who is stressed because she is about to take her final examinations. Danbi falls into a rain puddle and is transported to the Joseon era, where the King and all his officials are praying for an end to a 3-year drought. Confusion ensues as Danbi disguises herself as a eunuch and realizes that in medieval Joseon, her very low level of mathematical knowledge is considered to be pure genius. She befriends the king… and well… I’d better not divulge the rest.

Of course, being a fan of Sageuk, some things did jar a bit. For example at one point both the King and the Queen simply run away from the Palace, with no guards or retinue, and spend the night outside (separately) without anyone knowing where they went. A day after, they return to the Palace, and no one even mentions it, as though nothing has happened. Anyone who watches historical Asian drama knows that Royalty NEVER went outside the Palace unsupervised and alone, especially the Queen! How could both the King and Queen just disappear for over 24 hours without anyone noticing?? Surreal lol

However I wasn’t watching this particular drama because I wanted historical accuracy was I? So, I tried to ignore all that, since it was precisely what I needed a break from. 

By the way, if you liked ‘Love in the Moonlight’, you will love this one too!

Personal rating – 3 on 5 stars

The Beauty Inside – A Review

Would you have fallen in love with your significant other if s/he had had another face? Would you be able to love someone with a physical disability? How about someone who, though not visually impaired, was still not able to differentiate faces? Is one’s identity tied to one’s face and appearance?

If you had another face, would you be a totally different person inside as well?

These are all questions the audience cannot help but ask itself, while watching ‘The Beauty Inside’. This very good Korean drama in fact, tells the story of two people whose very difficult situations color their lives in multiple ways.

Han Se-gye is a well-known actress, yet for some mysterious reason, when she is 20 years old something happens to her and she starts to transform into someone else for a week every month. Each time, she transforms into someone different. It could be an old man, a child, an older woman on a wheelchair. Age, race, gender, physical abilities – all change without warning, causing her to break down both mentally and physically.

On the other hand, there is Seo Do-jae, a man who suffers from Prosopagnosia due to having broken his cranium in an accident. Prosopagnosia, also called ‘face blindness’ really does exist, and is a cognitive disorder caused by acute brain damage, whereby a person looses the ability to recognize people’s faces, including one’s own in the mirror. After his accident, Seo Do-jae spends years learning how to recognize people using other individual clues instead. The way they walk, the way they dress, their voice, their scent… no wonder he is the only one who can actually recognize Han Se-gye, even when she wears a different face…

This K-drama is very different from any others I’ve watched, not only because of its very interesting take on mental and physical health and disability, but also because although it is a love story, the focus is not on the dating game itself, but rather highlights the fact that before one can really love and accept others, one must first of all learn to love and accept one’s self.

The supporting cast of characters is pretty impressive too. There are many funny and endearing moments, and also many sad ones. Prepare your tissues!

This T.V series is made up of 16 episodes, all of which are approximately an hour long. If you don’t mind watching them with subs (since obviously, the language is Korean), you can find all of the episodes online for free on various websites.

My personal rating is 5 on 5 stars.

There is also a movie with the same name, with basically the same story-line but different actors.

Enjoy!

Have you visited the Picasso Exhibition in Valletta?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unless you have actually been to the place you are writing about, you cannot write a good review, give suggestions, or try to ‘teach’ people anything about it. Seems like common sense right? Well, actually it is 🙂 

I love travelling. That is kind of obvious to anyone who knows me or who follows my articles or blog-posts. However, that being said, and travelling apart, first and foremost it is important to know and appreciate the beautiful and significant places within your own country, before venturing farther away. Which is why I also love to just explore all the many architectural and historical, not to mention natural wonders in Malta, the island I live in. 

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A few weeks ago, me and my boyfriend decided to grab the bus to Valletta, Malta’s capital city, instead of using the car as usual, and make a kind of adventure out of our excursion. I take the bus almost every day coming back from work, but my boyfriend never does, so venturing to Valletta in this way with him was fun as I felt as though I was seeing everything for the first time with his eyes somehow. It was a very special date, as we went somewhere quiet exceptional – to view the Pablo Picasso’s sketches which are being exhibited in Valletta right now.

Following Antonio Banderas’ work-related visit to our islands while he was working on the set for the forthcoming National Geographic Season 2 of the T.V series ‘Genius’, and portraying the great artist Pablo Picasso, a large number of the Spanish painter’s actual paintings are currently on exhibit in our shores. More specifically, the exhibition is taking place at the Grandmaster’s Palace, in Saint George Square Valletta. It opened its doors on the 7th of April and will be available to the general public until the 30th of June.

This exhibition is part of a major international project titled ‘Picasso-Méditerranée’, an initiative from Musée National Picasso in Paris held between Spring 2017 and Spring 2019. In fact, not only will more than 100 of Picasso’s works be on exhibit, but so will a number of the artworks pertaining to the Spanish artist Joan Miró – the painter, sculptor and ceramicist born in Barcelona. The exhibition, entitled ‘Picasso and Miró: The Flesh and the Spirit’, aims at bringing the public closer to the perception of two artistic creators who shook the foundation of traditional art.

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The exhibition consists of a selection of 100 etchings from the Collection Suite Vollard which belongs to Fundación Mapfre and 40 paintings by Miro belonging to the Espacio Miró exhibition in Madrid. Fundación Mapfre is bringing this exhibition to Malta in collaboration with the Office of the President of Malta and Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (FPM).

The two artists’ work was paired together because of the similarities that run through their style and creative process. This is the first exhibition of Picasso and Miro in Malta and perhaps of any modern painter of this stature. Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro are two of the 20th century’s most influential artists. While the first founded cubism, the second was active in the emergence of surrealism.

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Following the exhibition, we roamed around Valletta and finally found a cute British pub and restaurant where to have lunch. A couple of beers were the perfect foil for such a day!

If you want to read more about Picasso and Miro’s exhibition, take a look at the article which I subsequently wrote for LivingInMalta magazine, here. Some of the info I wrote in this blogpost in fact comes from my article itself, but I urge you to visit the magazine for the whole thing.

February Book Round-Up

I was going to write this post mentioning the books chronologically as I read them one after the other throughout the month, however then I decided to number them according to the order in which they touched me most.

  1. The book I read this month which I loved ‘best’ was actually the one I finished reading last, that is, yesterday evening. I had been looking forward to reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon‘s ‘The Shadow of the Wind‘ for quite some time, as I had heard it was very good, and as soon as I randomly came across the book last weekend at the public library, I knew I had some very full days ahead of me. I love reading books about people who love reading books, and therefore this novel was right up my street. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is a mystery, a love story, a gothic novel, a historic book about the war, a book describing the city of Barcelona, but most of all, it is a book about books and the obsession one person can feel towards them. The writing itself is mezmerising and beautiful. Truly an enchanting read which touched my heart. I give it 5 stars!

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2. Next up is Antoine de Saint Exupery‘s ‘The Little Prince‘ which I had watched as a little girl in anime-form, but had never read. It is an easy book to read. But no, it is not a children’s book, despite its appearance and pictures inside. It is in fact one of the most beautiful and insightful allegories I have ever read. And it is a novel I will always treasure. I am only sorry that I didn’t read it sooner, but better late than never. I know I will re-read it again, and again, and again. This book is almost a tie-in with the first one in fact. Again 5 stars!

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3. In third place, I’m not putting just one book, but actually three, since I started out February by continuing to read the ‘Ender’s Shadow’ series. I am of course referring to Orson Scott Card‘s ‘Shadow Puppets‘, ‘Shadow of the Giant‘ and ‘Shadows in Flight‘. As you know, I don’t usually go for sci-fi, but Card’s ‘Ender’ universe (for want of a better name) hooked me up years ago – what with political depth, emotional metaphors, religious insinuations and technical jargon, again it’s not my cup of tea… but… but… I’m just a sucker for character-development, and this series is just a master-piece. No, the ‘Shadow’ series is not as good as the ‘Ender’ one, I admit, still I really like most of the characters, not to mention Card’s writing and funny turn of phrase. So, definitely a 4 out of 5 stars for this series in general. 

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4. Following all this sci-fi, I turned my gaze to Rick Riordan‘s ‘Kane Chronicles’. Yup – from sci-fi to ‘ YA mythological fantasy’, quite a jump! But I really needed the breath of fresh air, plus I was missing some good references to Egyptian mythology. Riordan does a masterful job, especially when it comes to ancient history, however I must admit that his characters, especially the ‘teens’, DO come across as kind of flat. Admittedly this could be the result of reading a YA writer exactly after a diet of Card’s densely-packed characterization… but I still enjoyed the fast-paced story-line. I give it 3 – 4 stars.

So, in 4th place this month, I’m gonna place Riordan’s trilogy ‘The Red Pyramid’, ‘The Throne of Fire‘ and ‘The Serpent’s Shadow‘.

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5. Lastly, is another book I got from the local public library – ‘Big Little Lies‘ by Liane Moriarty. I can hear you scream ‘WHAT?’ Female Melodrama? ‘Desperate Housewives’ stuff? Again, not my usual genre, but after watching the T.V series and randomly spotting the novel at the library, I decided to try it out. It was quirky and funny and well-written, but, had it not been for the stellar performance given by the cast in the eponymous T.V series, I wouldn’t have given it one thought. Suffice it to say, it was entertaining, but I won’t be reading any more of Moriarty’s work in future. Again, I reiterate that she is a good writer BUT I don’t particularly enjoy this kind of plot. So, this book gets 3 stars.

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At the beginning of the year I had promised myself that I would try to read at least 8 books per month, that is, two books a week. Last month, I only managed to finish 7, which was below quota, however this month I managed 9, which makes up for January as well. I managed to read so much even though I was abroad on holiday for a week, which resulted in a lot of outings and me being too dead tired in the evening to read anything at all. So, yay me!

Finding ‘Eva Luna’ in Utrecht

Ever since I first read Isabel Allende’s ‘House of Spirits’, as well as watching the great movie, it has been my absolute favorite when it comes to her novels. Her writing style, not to mention her rich descriptions, and the way she uses magic realism, enchants me, however, I must admit, most of her books seem to follow the same formula.

There is the main female character who is always strong and fey, facing any adversity with creativity and courage, the mysterious and dark male characters, whom she falls in love with (there are usually at least two or three of these), a couple of strong yet flawed mother-figures, an almost-always absent father-figure, as well as a major war/social upheval in the background. The male love interest is always, in some way or other, invariably linked to some kind of resistance or rebel force, and the heroine ends up trying to help him, even though she’s shocked by the harsh reality he lives by. And this is the plot-line for most, if not all (since I haven’t read all of her books) of Allende’s works.

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Although not actively seeking out her books, I tend to read IA’s novels when I come across them, even though at this point they are entirely predictable.This was the case when I purchased one of her novels which I’ve been curious about for some time now. I refer to ‘Eva Luna’ which I’ve been hearing about on and off for some years.

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While in Utrecht (Netherlands) last December, my boyfriend was off visiting the bell tower and I had some time for myself. I didn’t go up with him cause I’ve been suffering from some back problems recently and all those stairs were definitely not going to help my muscles. So, obviously, I ended up gravitating towards the local bookstore. Most of the books were in Dutch and there was only a small selection of books in English… and there it was – ‘Eva Luna’. 

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Although purchased some weeks ago now, I only started to read it, and finished it, last week. The plot was, once again, the same as usual, yet Allende’s writing style was as rich and captivating as ever, so no I’m not at all sorry I bought this book. I’m not gonna delve any more into the storyline as I guess I’ve already given enough spoilers. 

Stars: 3

Re-reading Narnia – Misogynistic but Pleasant

It’s 2018 and I’m sick in bed. For a change. 2017 was characterized with health problems and currently, 2018 doesn’t look to be much different. On the bright side, this gives me more time to read (and watch K-dramas).

Being in the mood for Xmassy children’s books to end the year, at the end of 2017 I started re-reading the Narnia books. I hadn’t read them in years and having purchased a second hand quasi-new copy at a very good price, thought this the perfect opportunity to do so.

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If you have only watched the Narnia movies, you have missed a lot. In case you did not know this, there are a total of 7 Narnia books (and only 3 movies). Speaking of the movies, the first movie to come out, and the most famous of the Narnia books, is ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. Although most people believe this to be the first book in the Narnia series, it is actually the second, that is, in Narnian chronological order. Let me explain – the American published Narnia books number the series in order of publication. And in that case, yes the ‘Wardrobe’ book would be the first one. C.S Lewis himself however, preferred to look at the books chronologically, meaning that ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ is to be considered the first book, which is how UK publishing houses do it.

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I myself own a UK version of the box series (thank the Goddess), in which the books are numbered chronologically, which is how I prefer to read them. This means that the books should be read like this:

  1. The Magician’s Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Movie No. 1)
  3. Prince Caspian (Movie No. 2)
  4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Movie No. 3)
  5. The Horse and his Boy
  6. The Silver Chair
  7. The Last Battle

While books 2, 3 and 4, which were made into movies, tackle the adventures of the Pevensie children in Narnia, the other books concern other main characters. The Pevensie children feature in these books sometimes as well, but they mostly do this as Kings and Queens of Narnia and they are not the main characters.

I love the books HOWEVER there are some things which bug the hell out of me. For example, no one can deny that almost every book treats the female gender as though it was made of glass. This mentality is not surprising since the author was writing these books in the 1950s, however reading sentences like ‘it is a sad day when women must go to war’ really irritates me. War is ALWAYS terrible, no matter who actually fights in it. Also, why are the boys always given swords and weapons, while the girls have to make do with bows and small daggers, or even face seriously scary foes with no weapons at all??

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As author Philip Pullman himself writes, these books are ‘monumentally disparaging of girls and women’. And what about the baddies who always seem to be powerful women who have gotten ‘above themselves’ defying the patriarchal institution of Aslan? I am of course talking about the White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle. Prince Caspian’s wife, another powerful woman, is not even given a name in the series! The only ways she is referred to is as someone’s daughter or someone’s wife! Very disturbing to say the least!

That being said, another thing which irritates me is the whole Aslan – Jesus metaphor, but that’s just me and it is mostly portrayed in the last book… at least in my perspective since I tried to ignore it as much as possible till the end, and considered the whole thing as fantasy.

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Apart from that, re-reading the series was a blast, and I also discovered echoes of Neil Gaiman, which leads me to believe that the series must have inspired Gaiman to write and develop certain ideas, such as the star-woman concept in ‘Stardust’ for example.

Nice!

February Book Round-Up

Wow, I came on here to write a bit about what I read this month, and then I realized that the last thing I contributed to my poor wee blog was actually last month’s January’s round-up! Bad, bad Moonsong! *slaps wrist*

Ah well, what with multiple writing commissions I never seem able to catch up with, my day-job which is getting more demanding lately, plus one week of travelling through Southern Germany, you could at least try to understand why right?

Anyways, here I am once again – ready to razzle and dazzle… or at least, to ramble a bit about the books I read this month. Here goes:

1, 2, 3, 4 The Giver Quartet – Lois Lowry – 5 Stars

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I had already read all four books previously some years ago, even before I even knew there was going to be a movie. Lois Lowry is a very good writer, tackling current social issues magnificently couched in fantasy. The four books all have different narrators and different settings, and yet I was impressed by how well they interlocked together in the end. The plot is masterful. I purchased a very beautiful hardbound copy of it and couldn’t resist re-reading it at once!

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5. Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter – Ruth Rendell – 3 Stars

I love Ruth Rendell but I had steered clear of her Inspector Wexford Mysteries before. This is because I’m not much into investigative books. I got this one from the public library because I was curious and thought I’d give it a go. It wasn’t bad, however it fell short of my expectations as R.R’s psychological stand-alone thrillers are usually really good and always have a twist at the end. This one… well let’s say that even someone who’s not into investigative fiction could see the so-called ‘twist’ half-way through the book… so no surprises at all there. Kind of disappointing really, though very well written of course.

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6. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen – 3 Stars

I found a beautiful and very cheap edition at my local store, and was honestly  ashamed to realize that although I’ve devoured Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice countless times, I had never actually read Mansfield Park! To be fair, I did not like the characters as much as the ones in Austen’s other novels, and the situations described were not particularly riveting either. No wonder this novel is not as famous as her other works.

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7. Furies of Calderon – Jim Butcher – 3 Stars

I had already read almost all of the Codex of Alera book series last year, however I was missing the last book. Now I’ve bought it, so I obviously need to re-read all the others too in order to refresh my memory, before reading the concluding novel. The first one of the book series was not so great to be honest, not because it was not masterfully written, or because the plot was weak. Not at all it was amazing in that way, however personally I did not like many of the characters much and would have preferred it if the writer had focused only on Tavi, who becomes the main character later on, than equally shift the narrating around.

8. Academ’s Fury – Jim Butcher – 4 Stars

Continuing the series previously mentioned, the second book focuses mainly on Tavi (finally) and is much more satisfying, hence the 4 stars instead of 3. I look forward to more!

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January Round-Up – Book Reviews

FINALLY, I have fifteen minutes’ time to sit down, take a breath, and write the round-up of the books I read in January. It’s been an unbelievably hectic week, and what’s more, it promises to be quite a hectic weekend too, so I’d better get down to it before I fall asleep at the desk.

January has been a good month in that I got hold of quite a few interesting books, some of which I’d had my eye on for a bit. I read a grand total of ten books, which is not too bad, though I admit some of them were not as long as I would have liked. So, here goes:

1 The Moth – Catherine Cookson – 1 star out of 5
I started out the year by deciding to try and read something by this author, since I had previously watched a couple of movies transposed from her novels. The movies are maudlin and depressing, but I thought maybe the novels would be better…? No such luck, apart from being disgustingly predictable, the ‘heroine’ is nothing less than the usual damsel in distress, the ‘hero’ is the ‘charming man of low class’, and of course, though set in rural England, the story-line is completely boring. 

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2 The Interpretation of Murder – Jed Rubenfeld3 Stars out of 5
Lovers of the Agatha Christie/Sherlock mysteries will love this one. Not to mention those who have studied, either professionally or in an amateurish way (as in my case) the theories of Sigmund Freud. Basically, a string of strange crimes and murders are investigated by a young psychoanalyst, who’s also a student of Freud. The plotline is quite good, but what I really loved was the apparent research and dedication the writer shows when describing America in the very early 20th century.

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3 The Rottweiler – Ruth Rendell3 Stars out of 5
I just love anything by Ruth Rendell. The way she portrays her characters, and especially her study of the main character, which is usually the serial killer himself, is truly revealing. Creating a net of everyday happenings, while introducing a number of characters, most of whom all know each other, Rendell creates an enthralling and unsettling landscape where you realize each person you know, in the end, has something to hide.

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4 The Green Mile – Stephen King4 Stars out of 5
I had watched the movie before, and I must be frank, read the book too, but it was such a long time ago, that I decided to refresh my memory a bit. And boy, was I glad I did. King’s suspenseful novels are always a joy, and this one in particular is pretty different from his usual work since there is hardly anything of the supernatural or fantastical in it. It is mostly a portrayal of racism, friendship, love, human behavior, not to mention a stark critique of society which leaves the reader feeling as though he’ll never be the same again after he’s read it.

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5. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald2 Stars out of 5
Ok, I know this is supposed to be like ‘the great American novel’, but seriously, I did not like the pace of writing, and the style much. I admit, if I hadn’t watched the movie before, I would have liked it even less. Yes, I get that it’s a portrayal of society’s hypocritical behavior, but still… I don’t know, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

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6 – 10 – The other five books I read this month were five novels collected in one single thick volume which I finally managed to purchase online. The volume is in beautiful hard cover and all the novels in it are by the horror writer Susan Hill. These are:

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Dolly – This novel had much promise but when I finished it, I felt as though the author could have been more specific or given us at least a partial answer to the weird happenings… 2 Stars out of 5

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The Man in the Picture – This one was my favorite out of Hill’s five novels, it is evocative of Wilde’s ‘Picture of Dorian Grey’, as well as portraying decadent Venice and its masked balls, which is a subject which always wins me over…. 4 Stars out of 5

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Printer Devil’s Court – Hmm I’m of two minds regarding this one. Again, I think it could have been explored more… 2 Stars out of 5

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The Small Hand – Not bad, a ‘traditional’ ghost story with an old mansion, a man with a troubled past, and an unreliable narrator. 3 Stars out of 5

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The Woman in Black – Yes of course I’ve watched the movie with Radcliffe, and the novel is much more toned down than that, still the atmosphere and the writing were breathtaking, though not as good, I think, as The Man in the Picture. So, 3 Stars out of 5

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And that’s it! Right now I’m reading a book about Celtic Lore and Wicca, so it’s not a novel, but I will still include it in my February round-up next month. To be honest, I think the next round up will contain less books than this one, since I will be going to Germany for a week soon, and I doubt I will be reading much during that time as I will be too busy sightseeing!

After Alice by Gregory Maguire – Review

We all know The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. Penned by Oxford Professor Lewis Carroll (whose real name was actually Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in 1865, this quirky children’s fantasy has inspired multitudes of adaptations, movies, artworks, music and even fashion styles.

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Having been an avid fan and reader of Gregory Maguire ever since I read his novel Wicked, which had inspired the popular musical, and his Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, which is an adaptation of Cinderella, I immediately jumped at the chance to read his latest work, After Alice. As is apparent from the title itself, the story is inspired in part by Carroll’s Adventures in Wonderland, and yet, Alice is NOT in fact the narrator or the main character.

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We meet Ada, Alice’s neighbor, who was in fact very briefly mentioned by Alice herself in the eponymous tale. Ada is a troubled child, constrained by Victorian precepts and tenets and by her unconventional household. In hushed whispers, we hear that her mother is a drunk and possibly suffering from postnatal depression. Her father, the Vicar, scarcely takes any notice of her, her baby brother is a squalling brat, and her governess is a simpering fool. In short, Ada has to fend for herself. Her only friend is Alice, whom, Ada discovers, has disappeared.

Maguire paints a very vivid picture of Victorian England. On the one hand, we travel with a surprised Ada to Wonderland, trying to catch up with Alice whilst encountering the consequences of her passage. On the other hand, we also meet Lydia, Alice’s older sister, throughout whose eyes we face such issues as the slave trade, women’s rights, and the British Victorian mentality. Fantasy is interposed with reality in a very interesting narrative. Picturesque and informative, Maguire’s style is nostalgic to Carroll’s, and yet totally his own.

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Now for the negative part – I must be honest, I have mixed feelings regarding this novel. I started reading it with very high expectations, having previously already been wowed by Maguire’s fairytale adaptations, his ingenuity, creativity and whimsical perspective. Also, being an avid Alice in Wonderland aficionado, I generally try to read, watch, or purchase anything related to my favorite fairytale. While Maguire’s story was marvellously written and illuminating with regards to Victorian society and beliefs, I found it sadly lacking with regards to the Wonderland part of the narrative.

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Carroll’s iconic Wonderland is spectacularly special because it simply makes no sense. As the Cheshire Cat once maintains in Alice in Wonderland, “We are all mad here.” And that is the beauty of Wonderland and the point of fantasy and fairytales – they’re not realistic, because they don’t have to be. Maguire on the other hand, tries to make sense of Wonderland, introducing puns and explanations where none are needed. Wherever he cannot find an explanation, he merely copies characters, situations and almost entire dialogues from Carroll’s original novel.

This article has been published on EVE.COM.MT – If you want to read the complete review, please goto – http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/12/18/after-alice-a-book-review/