Friday, 29 July 2011

Book Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined
Goodreads description:

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.


Review

I love fairy tale retellings and I've been wanting to read Entwined ever since I first heard of it last September so I was happy to finally sink into it. The tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses is familiar to me and I've read another retelling of it called Princess of the Midnight Ball so I was was hoping that I enjoyed this version of the story just as much.

Azalea and her eleven sisters have been plunged into mourning after the death of their mother when giving birth to her youngest daughter Lily. Forced to sport black dresses and banned from, balls, going into the palace gardens except on royal business, seeing suitors and worst of all, dancing, the girls find life dull. That is until they discover a magic staircase in their room leading to a beautiful underworld pavilion where they can dance all night under the watchful eye of the handsome Keeper and wear their dancing shoes to rags to the bewilderment of their servants. However, the Keeper has more to him than meets the eye and the girls realise too late that they have become entangled in something more than they bargained on and danger is hot on their heels.

Entwined is told in the third person through the eyes of Princess Azalea and through the narrative, a beautiful world is spun and the vivid imaginings of the palace and magic captivated me. Heather Dixon has bought a unique spin to the fairy tale and added a fresh and creative dimension that has really made it her own. I loved her descriptions of the kingdom from the grandeur of the palace gardens to the scary silvery shadows of the magic pavilion where the girls go to dance. Oh- and the dancing! I really can't dance myself but I could picture the graceful and elegant movements of the girls gliding and swirling across the ball room. There was also a good balance of old traditions, formal dancing at balls and modern behaviour without it seeming out of place.

The close bond between the sisters was adorable to see and was a joy to read about when so many YA book families are dysfunctional. They comforted each other after the death of their mother and were always looking out for one another. You might think that with twelve girls to contend with, characteristics wouldn't be a strong point but I'm happy to say that each of the girls had a distinct personality and I knew who each one was even though they didn't get equal page time. There was cheeky and fiery. Bramble who's always cracking a joke, responsible and kind Azalea. However the family were not without their problems and Azalea had many worries to deal with from the burden looking after her sisters to the government choosing a suitable husband for her.  The girl's relationship with the King evolved really well throughout the story with him developing a lot as a father and it was lovely to see the family overcome their problems together. One addition I especially loved was that the girl's flower names were arranged in order of their age  so Azalea's name was A as she is the eldest and I was referring to the alphabet constantly to see how old one of the girls were. I would have been lost without that...

Now a fairytale wouldn't be complete without a smidgen of romance, right? There were several romantic interests in Entwined for the eldest of the sisters and each one romantic in their own sweet way! It took nearly the whole book for the relationships to develop but this was part of the beauty of it because there was no love at first sight and made for some very humorous scenes!

One thing to note is that the plot is quite slow moving and although this allowed for the excellent character and relationship development, it did affect my enjoyment slightly.

Verdict: Entwined has everything the perfect fairytale needs- a gorgeous setting, endearing characters, an evil villain, cute romance, humour and a happily-ever-after! It was an enchanting and heart warming break from reality that made me lose myself in the world of princesses, dancing, magic and family love. Not only did I love the story but also Heather Dixon's writing and I'm looking forward to seeing what she writes next. I'd especially recommend Entwined to fairytale and fantasy lovers and wish it would be made into a movie.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Sunday, 24 July 2011

In My Mailbox 24/7/11






In My Mailbox is a weekly meme where book bloggers share all the new books that have made it into their house this week whether from the bookstore, for review or from the library. I've lost my camera connecting lead so there are no photos this week!

My New Books

Eight Keys by Suzanne le Fleur (thank you to Puffin UK for sending this ARC for review)

Another blogger's ARC.

I haven't read this author's debut Love Aubrey but I've heard nothing but praise for it so I'm looking forward to reading my first book of hers. This is also the first ARC I've been sent for review (I've won one before), which is very exciting!

Shadows of the Moon by Zoe Marriott  (bought for Kindle)


This one's a loose retelling of Cinderella and I love fairytales and have seen such positive reviews of it that I just couldn't resist buying it in the Kindle Summer Sale for the bargain price of £2.50! It's actually the first Kindle book I've bought as the rest of the books on my Kindle have been free or from NetGalley.

From my school library:

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen


I know so many bloggers who are huge Dessen fans and when I was recommended her by Jess from Jess Hearts Books when asking for contemporary book recommendations, I finally decided to try her. Thank you to everyone who has recommended Dessen's books to me!

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory


As many of my long term blog readers will know, I love historical fiction but surprisingly I've never read any of Philippa Gregory's books. This is because I've heard there's some inappropriate content for my age but I've decided to try one now.

Arabella by Georgette Heyer


I've read this before and it was my first Heyer so I really want to re-read it this summer. If you're looking to try Heyer's regency romance books, then Arabella would be a great one to start off with.

Have you read any of these books? What did you get in your mailbox?

I don't have much time to visit other's IMM posts this week because I have a friend staying at the moment but I will try my best to get round to as many people as possible.


Friday, 22 July 2011

The summer holidays and summer reading!





Today I finished school for summer- yay! I know in the US schools get a longer summer holidays than the 6 weeks given in the UK so that's why it might seem a bit late. So summer means sun (if I'm lucky!) and lots of reading and I thought I'd share with you the 16 books are on my line up to read this summer:


  • Eight Keys by Suzanne Le Fleur
  • Daughter of Xandu by Dori Jones Yang 

  • Die For Me by Amy Plum
  • A Song For Summer by Eva Ibbotson ( I actually thought I'd read this one as it's been on my shelf for a few years but it turns out I haven't!)
  • These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (my first Dessen after I was recommended her books)
  • Witch Child by Celia Rees
  • The Keeper's Daughter by Gill Arbunthnott
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Troubadour by Mary Hoffman
  • The Traitor's Smile by Patricia Elliot
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird
  • River Secrets by Shannon Hale

  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (my first Philippa Gregory)



  • Shadows On The Moon by Zoe Marriott

I probably won't get through them all but I want to use all the free time I have in the holidays to get through as many of the unread books that I own as possible and I'd like to read at least 10. There are some favourites I'd like to re-read too such as Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Anne Of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery and Party Shoes by Noel Streatfield.

Also, I might not post as regularly or consistently as usual because I have an Italian friend staying with me for a month who I only get to see once a year so I want to spend time with her. There will also be one week where I won't be updating, which is about three weeks from now.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What are you planning to read this summer?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

New favicon feature in blogger and tips on designing a custom favicon

I went onto my design page in Blogger earlier today and saw something unfamiliar... a 'Favicon' (short for favourite icon) edit box at the top left hand corner. For those of you who are unsure of what a Favicon is, it's the small image that accompanies a website name in a tab or the address in the address bar. For example, on most Blogger blogs, you'll see the image below as the favicon: 



More examples of favicons:

favicon.gif


Having a custom favicon for your blog makes it more unique and the blogger logo favicon isn't very pretty or eye catching.  At the moment I have an image of a pink crown as my favicon that I installed with a tutorial using html. In fact I didn't realise it has actually worked until I installed Google Chrome a few weeks ago and it showed up. I'm planning on changing to fit more with the design and theme of my blog. Any suggestions for it?

However now, you don't need to work with hmtl in order to install your own favion because with Blogger's new feature, you can upload an image of the right size easily just like you would upload any other sidebar image.

Instructions for getting a custom favicon for your blog

  • Decide on an image that you would like as a favicon. This could be anything such as one of your favourite images but it is best if it is an icon that represents and fits in with theme of your blog to create a strong and memorable ' brand' image. You could use programs like Photoshop, Piknic or Paint to help you design or customise an image. 
  • The size of the image you will need for a favicon is 16x16 square pixels and you can resize the image you want to use using a free online editing program or some of the helpful websites listed at the bottom will do this for you.
  • Make sure it is saved as a file on your computer.
  • Once you have completed these steps, go to the 'design' tab on your Blogger dashboard and click 'edit' in the Favicon box at the top left hand side of the page.
  • Select the image you resize and upload it.
  • Once you have clicked save, your favicon should be visible on your blog!
Helpful websites

Here are some websites that can help you to generate a favicon:


www.favicon.co.uk
www.favicon-generator.org
www.tools.dynamicdrive.com/favicon/
www.favigen.com
www.favicongenerator.org


I hope these instructions and tips help!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Book Review: Here Lies Bridget by Paige Haribson

Goodreads description:

Bridget Duke is the uncontested ruler of her school. The meanest girl with the biggest secret insecurities. And when new girl Anna Judge arrives, things start to fall apart for Bridget: friends don't worship as attentively, teachers don't fall for her wide-eyed "who me?" look, expulsion looms ahead and the one boy she's always loved—Liam Ward—can barely even look at her anymore. When a desperate Bridget drives too fast and crashes her car, she ends up in limbo, facing everyone she's wronged and walking a few uncomfortable miles in their shoes. Now she has only one chance to make a last impression. Though she might end up dead, she has one last shot at redemption and the chance to right the wrongs she's inflicted on the people who mean the most to her.

And Bridget's about to learn that, sometimes, saying you're sorry just isn't enough….

Book Review

I’ve been meaning to read more contemporary books for a while and Here Lies Bridget seemed to fit the bill with its bright summery cover and high school setting. I also liked the premise because I’ve never read a ‘girl in limbo’ book before such as Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and I know they are very popular in YA. Also, the concept of a mean girl being the main character sounded really interesting because it’s an angle I hadn't come across before.

Bridget Duke is your typical high school Queen Bee, pretty and popular but downright mean. She’s the kind of girl who will advise her friends to wear an unflattering dress so she looks better and doesn’t think about other people’s feelings or spend any quality time with her friends and family. In short, she rules the school with her selfish, catty and spiteful nature.  Characters are one of the most important elements in a book for me and usually I have to like the protagonist to enjoy the book but instead I hated the way Bridget acted for the majority of the book. Despite this I was still rooting for her to change the way she treats people and clean up her act because although she was mean, she wasn’t without a heart but just thoughtless. I pitied her because she has a rough time at home with her father away and a stepmother she always argues with. Deep down in her, I could see the reason the way she behaves the way she does is she has surrounded herself with ‘fans’ to feel loved and wanted even though this is not an excuse. My favourite thing about her is that she's not just your stereotypical mean girl character you'll find in lots of books but  Paige Haribson has created her to be more three-dimensional and complex with a detailed background and events that have influenced who she is.

Another character that deserves a mention is Bridget's ex-boyfriend Liam who she secretly still loves and longs to be with. Despite him breaking up with her, he was waiting for her to return to the girl he once knew and see the error of her ways and this belief in her was adorable, even though Bridget is completely indifferent to him caring about her at all. Their broken relationship was not a big focus of the story at all and it was refreshing to read a contemporary high school book not focused on romance.

It was the second half of the book that really grabbed me and had me racing through the pages to find out Bridget’s fate. Seeing her develop and see the consequences of her actions and remarks through the eyes of other people when she was in limbo was great and that part of the book I loved the msot because it left me guessing as to what would happen. Some people may find this part repetitive but I found it really interesting although I won’t go into detail why to avoid spoilers.

Haribson presents a good moral to the story and as she has just left high school, I took notice of the fact that the ‘teen speech’ was spot on and not clich├ęd or awkward. This added an extra depth of reality to the story combined with what I thought was a realistic portrayal of the stresses and social dynamics of high school. Combined with the easy flowing and smooth narrative and great sense of humour, I think she has promising potential as a young author.

Verict: Here Lies Bridget gives a entertaining insight into the perspectives of a high school mean girl forced to face up to her behaviour and I had a love-hate relationship with it because Bridget's behaviour was maddening but her story of insecurities, second chances, friendship and love was surprisingly compelling. It's a contemporary Christmas Carol story mixed with a dash of Mean Girls and I'd especially recommend it to teenage girls and contemporary fans. This is Paige Haribson's debut and she's definitely an author I look forward to reading more of!

Rating: 3.5

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Required Reading Books for Teens (girls?)

Top Ten Tuesday is  a meme/feature hosted by The Broke And Bookish and is where bloggers compile top ten lists that fit with the topic set each week. This week's theme is:

Books That Should Be Required Reading For Teens

I started writing this list and realised it's probably more of a required reading list geared towards teen girls and not not all of them are for school studies but some are ones I think that every teenage girl should read.

Here's my picks:

1) To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee


I studied this one in school this year. It deals with so many relevant subjects that would be great discussion starters and is just a beautiful book. I've seen it on quite a few lists this week.

2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Does this need an explanation? This is the only Austen I've read so far and it makes classics fun to read. I loved escaping into the Regency world and I'm sure the romance would appeal to other teenagers whilst at the same time, it's wonderfully written! It's a win-win situation for student and teacher =)

3) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank


It's just so inspirational to see how one teenage girl can make such an impact on many people around the world through her diary. This should definitely be on every school's required reading list. In fact everyone NEEDs to read it if they haven't!

4) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


This is a classic that's been enjoyed for generations and the charming family spirit of the March girls, romance and coming of age themes make it a comfort read for me.

5) Delirium by Lauren Oliver


I LOVED this one so much! My English teacher read it and she said it's a great, lighter introduction to classic dystopian books like 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and I agree.

6) The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne


This is such a devastating story that really brings the Holocaust to life through the eyes of an innocent young boy and there is so much to be learnt from it. I seem to remember the blurb (at least when it first came out) saying very little apart from the fact it's about a small boy because they felt it would be better for the reader to start without knowing what was to come. That was really effective.

7) Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian



Another poignant WW2 story. A teacher of mine in primary school read this to my class but it has real crossover appeal so you can't really say it's either only for children or teens. I saw this one in theatre too and it was brilliant on stage!

8) Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah


I studied this one a few years ago and I found the personal autobiography type style story of a neglected and abused Chinese girl in the days when girl's feet were still bound in China very interesting because I'd never learnt about Chinese culture before.

9) Anything by Shakespeare


So far I've studied A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night in school and I think his works are important because they bring about an appreciation of language and make you look at language in a different way. 

I ran out of ideas! There are so many teen books out there that I love but I don't think all of them should be 'required.'

Do you agree with any of the books on my list?
What books would you add?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Blogoversary Giveaway Winner (and entrants favourite things about book blogging)

I'm a Savage.


Sorry for the delay in announcing the winner of my 1st blogoversary giveaway! The winner is........


Rebecca from Rebecca-Books

She choose Arabella by Georgette Heyer. Congratulations!


I have sent out an notification email. Rebecca's blog is one my favourites and we have such similar tastes in books so make sure you stop by and check out her blog. She is also looking for guest posters for a themed week at the moment, so if you're interested then I'm sure it would be much appreciated.

Thank you very much to everyone who entered and spread the word- you're awesome! In the form I asked the question,

 "What is your favourite thing about book blogging?"

 and had some fantastic responses so I've shared my favourite ones below:

I love the fact, like you, that whatever mood you are in - sad, angry, happy - you can go onto Blogger and have this whole different community that makes you feel special and apart of something, like a special family. Even though you may not actually know them personally, it feels like a connection to talk about one of your favourite things: books.
And comments. I love them. They make the blog just feel worthwhile and that someone enjoys your writing and appreciates your views on things.

- Rebecca-Books

 1.) Getting to find people who not only love to read but love the same books that I do.
2.) Getting to discuss books and bookish themes with like minded people :D
3.) Being able to spread word about the books that I love.

Jess- Jess Hearts Books

Gosh, all of it! I love the community feeling and that I can talk to other people about the books I read instead of getting blank stares. You all know what it's like to pine for a book and how you can get lost and read for hours and hours without a thought for food/water/other annoying necessities. 
Oh, and have I mentioned my exploding to-read list? It currently has over 800 books on it...

Daisy

The lovely community! When I first started blogging I couldn't believe how many other book lovers where out there, I didn't know what a Debut Author was, I didn't know anything about HTML, I didn't know half the things I do now! 

The comments! I love hearing what readers think of Imaginary Reads and the reviews I write. It makes me feel like all the hours I spend blogging are more than worth it. So really, it's all about the warm, fuzzy feelings followers give me.

Hilary @ Imaginary Reads

I love being able to express what I have to say and think with people who actually care what I have to say. It's so nice to meet people who share my love and passion for books---it ignites my own at times!

~Rachel @ The Rest Is Still Unwritten

Being a book blogger has led me to discover so many great writers and books.  I've read more titles in the last couple of years than I have in my entire life.  I've made some new friends and have improved my vocabulary, too!

I love talking about books with other readers who appreciate them as much as I do! The sense of community is fabulous and it's fun to have other people who understand your passion for books and will get excited about them right along with you :)

Danya @ A Tapestry Of Words

I love the camaraderie between book bloggers. I love having a world of people to share my love of books with...people who know it is absolutely normal to gush over books.

Amber @ The Musings of ALMYBNENR

Having something to keep me grounded. I love that there's always something to COME HOME TO. You know, other than my family. :P

I love all of the sweethearts I've met while book blogging.  Seriously, book bloggers are amazing.  :)

-Cheyenne

Sunday, 17 July 2011

In My Mailbox 17/7/11


In My Mailbox is held at The Story Siren and is where book bloggers share what books have made it into their house each week:

Here's my haul for this week (all from my school library.) I don't have photos of the book this week because my cameras out of memory:

Ivy By Julie Hearn


I actually gave up on this one half way when I tried it before moving onto another book I'd been looking forward to for ages but I thought I'd give it another try this summer. Hopefully I'll enjoy it more this time =)

Ash by Malinda Lo


This one's a retelling of Cinderella and I love fairytale retellings so hopefully this one will be no exception!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


I've been meaning to read this series for AGES, especially after seeing all the buzz for the last book Mockingjay. I'm hoping I won't be disappointed because of the hype.

Falling Leaves by Adelin Yen Mah


I studied Chinese Cinderella a few years ago at school and Adelin Yen Mah's life story really interested me because there's so much to learn about Chinese culture and history so I decided to try this follow up.

The Traitor's Smile by Patricia Elliot


This is the sequel to The Pale Assassin, which I already have out from the library so I'm hoping to finish them both during the summer holidays. I've loved other books I've read about the French Revolution so this series sounds brilliant.

Have you read any of these books? What did you get in your mailbox this week?