Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Vow on the Heron (Plantagenet Saga #9) by Jean Plaidy

The Vow on the Heron depicts the reign of Edward III, starting and ending similarly in disgrace and with an impoverished country, but with a tumultuous journey in between.

Beginning as a puppet boy-king, Edward III rose from his early failures of youthful inexperience as a great military leader, often likened to his grandfather Edward I and most notably remembered for staring the Hundred Years’ War with France.

What I liked the most about his life was that he had a really good marriage and family life and was for the most part a faithful husband and a good father, which seems to be an exception more often than not when it comes to historical rulers of whichever country.

As usually with Plaidy, The Vow on the Heron is written in a simple but evocative language that makes what could be a boring history rather interesting, although it could be edited a bit more meticulously.

Overall, this was a quick and easy but compelling read.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Alpha (2018)

DIRECTOR: Albert Hughes; CAST: Kodi Smit-McPhee, J√≥hannes Haukur J√≥hannesson, Marcin Kowalczyk…

SUMMARY: During the last Ice Age, a friendship forms between a boy on the verge of adulthood and a wolf.


Although I’m more of a cat than a dog person, Alpha was one of my must-see films of this year ever since I had seen the first trailer and it did not disappoint.

A coming-of-age story follows a developing bond between an injured boy and a wounded wolf in a suspenseful and oftentimes poignant arc that comes to a heart-warming conclusion.

The film is filled with stunning visuals and some breath-taking action; CGI is not half-bad, either. And, with a fictionalised backdrop and taken with a grain of salt as to historical accuracy, Alpha could have nevertheless been one of the versions of how people domesticated wolves.

My only ‘complaint’ is that with around an hour and a half the film could have been longer; I would not mind watching more of Keda and Alpha’s adventures at all.

RECOMMENDATION: The film contains hunting and other animal injuries, so you might want to be careful if you are sensitive to that (but all ends well for the main protagonist.) Other than that, Alpha is an engaging film that is perfect for watching on one of these dark winter nights when you need something to make you feel good.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

NOTE: This review contains SPOILERS. 

Sixteen-year-old Lindsey crushes on her teacher, dreaming of escaping a cold home with a violent father and an intimidated, emotionally absent mother. 

But when she ‘seduces’ him – although the man, nearly twice her age, who turns out to be a truly despicable character, should very well know better – and gets pregnant, her in many ways sheltered world of wealth comes crashing down along with her dreams.

On the cusp of sexual revolution, pregnancy outside of marriage is still a taboo, unmarried mothers shamed and shunned, sent away to have their children put up for adoption. 

In one such home for unmarried mothers, Lindsey is faced with a different reality of poverty and exhausting work, coming face to face with people she used to look down upon but who become her only friends when everyone else turns their backs on her and from whom she learns not only about suffering she couldn’t imagine before but also about perseverance.

Initially a deluded girl who stubbornly sticks to her pipe dream with her head in the sand, Lindsey made me pity her, but I soon started empathise with her, being reminded of how hard it must have been for women in the time where they were dependent on men, purposely kept in the dark about the facts of life, with sex education non-existent, then shamed for the consequences of actions often not of their own design, lied to, manipulated, and finally coerced into giving their children up for adoption.

Set against the backdrop of women’s emancipation movement, Liza Perrat depicts these issues as well as the challenges of the aftermath of losing the children they are not allowed to grieve for as their sole existence is shameful and best to forget in the eyes of society, such as depression and suicide attempts, in a multi-faced way that inspires a whole range of raw emotions in the reader, but most of all an admiration for women like Lindsey and her friends.

Thus, The Swooping Magpie is above all a testimony of women’s strength. With a collection of colourful characters and an exquisite Australian setting, it is a truly gripping and quick read (I finished it in two days) and might be, in my opinion, Liza Perrat’s best work to date.

Thanks to the author for kindly sending me a copy of The Swooping Magpie in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.