Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Books 83 & 84 of 2015: New England Witch Chronicles by Chelsea Bellingeri & The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

By the beginning of December last year I was struggling to get caught up on the Reading Challenge as I'd fallen behind a little. It was about this point that I made the decision to just read what I felt like reading this year, I didn't like the pressure of having to find a book that ticked each of the criteria on the list and then feeling like I wasn't going to be able to complete it right at the end.

For Week 48 the book was one written by an author with your same initials. The obvious choice here was Charlotte Bronte. I have Jane Eyre sitting up on my bookshelf, but I wanted something shorter, less heavy going and I was determined to go for something off of my Kindle.

In the end I selected New England Witch Chronicles by Chelsea Bellingeri. I should add that the cover below does have the author's name down as Chelsea Luna, but my copy is under the name Chelsea Bellingeri.

I think that I pretty much picked this by sorting all my Kindle books into alphabetical order by author and scanning through all the authors whose surnames began with the letter B. In the end, out of all of the books on my device, I think there were two with the initials CB. I don't remember exactly how I picked this one to read; I suspect this was the shorter of the two, that's how I seemed to choose most of my Reading Challenge books last year.

This book is about a teenage girl, named Alex, whose seventeenth birthday brings some weird dreams at right about the same time a girl is murdered after apparently messing with witchcraft. It looks like there might be a witch hunter in Hazel Cove.

It clocks in at around 343 pages but I managed to get through it surprisingly quickly. Part of that was because it was a fairly easy read. It's aimed at teens and I was able to just switch off my brain and lose myself in it, which was exactly what I needed for my book of the week. I got through this in just four sittings.

On the whole I enjoyed it, though I couldn't help but be reminded of Twilight in places. I think it was inevitable with the supernatural elements; you can't help but draw parallels when these things crop up in teen fiction now. But also the Peter/Alex/James love triangle too.

Another, and rather surprising, comparison that I found myself drawing was between this book and the Kathy Reichs books. I think it was because for a large chunk of the book Alex is trying to figure out what was going on, then someone was out to get her which led to her being attacked during the last eighth of the book. It's the classic Tempe Brennan formula.

I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending. It builds up to a point and then breaks off to make way for the next book. It's a good hook but I would've liked a little more resolution, especially as I wasn't sure I was going to go on to read the next book (spoiler: I haven't yet).

I followed this up with Week 49's book: a play.

I had a lot of choice here. I've got plays left over from my various OU courses (should I have fancied a reread), I've got a couple on my Kindle, I've got some I've picked up in random bookshops and haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Once again, time and energy won out. I looked for the shortest recognisable (to me) play on my Kindle. I went with The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare (because 127 pages). Interestingly, it was first published in the First Folio text, one of which currently resides not a million miles away from where I sit writing this review. Neat, right?

It's in a similar vein to Hamlet, but it's a sort of mix of tragedy and comedy. Leontes is convinced that his pregnant wife has been having an affair with Polixenes, leading to the latter escaping the country. Things generally go downhill from this point. But it's okay because it's kind of funny too.

I really enjoyed this. I always remember at school everyone groaned when we had to study Shakespeare, but I've always loved it. When I was fifteen, the only thing I wanted for my birthday was a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I carried that (massive) tome everywhere with me (including a school trip to M&Ds) and it still resides upstairs on my bookcase.

My greatest dread was always that moment when everyone would be assigned a 'role' in the text and we'd have to read it aloud. I was going to say that certain types of writing sound better when they're read aloud, but I think that's inaccurate. You could read the list of ingredients off the side of a cereal box and it could sound beautiful. It's about the way you say the words, the way you feel them in your mouth, how you play with the letters on your tongue. I think I have some synaesthesia thing going on with my relationship with words (and that's probably another blog post entirely).

In short, bored teenagers reading Shakespeare aloud, does nothing to make the text feel beautiful and exciting.

Which is why I've always much preferred reading these books alone.

Basically what I was getting at here is that I loved the language and I really didn't have any trouble following what was going on or was being said. Sure the language use is pretty archaic in places, but in others it's fairly unchanged all these years later.

I was reminded of The Duchess of Malfi and The Tempest in equal measure. The former because of Hermione, the woman who is powerless against the forces of the men in her life; the latter because of the abandonment of Perdita on the beach and her being raised by the shepherd. I'd love to see it performed on the stage to see if how I was picturing it is accurate to a performance.

Bits of it were quite funny. I especially enjoyed seeing the famous 'exit, pursued by bear' stage direction. I always like it when I get to see things which have become part of the cultural consciousness firsthand, it makes me feel like I'm in on the joke now too.

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