I, Walter – Mike Hartner

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imagePublished: 2014
Publisher: Independent
Genre: Historical Fiction

Walter Crofter was born into Elizabethan England. In a country and a time where favour and politics were both deadly, can an honest boy stay true to himself?
Especially given his family background?

I, Walter is the story of 67 year old Walter Crofter who finally decides to pen his life story. Set in Elizabethan England, an extremely dangerous and politically turbulent period in history- home to the likes of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare- I, Walter is a dynamic, intriguing and action-packed novel.

It’s a story of romance, mystery and adventure- the protagonist sailing far and wide- and the dangers he encounters along the way. It’s also a story of rags to riches. Walter is born into a distinctly working class family, but he finds his way to wealth. Favour with the king. Love in the form of Maria.

The only thing I wasn’t hugely fond of was the American lone words that kept on appearing in the novel. I study English literature and I live in England- so these kinds of slips are a little bit irritating to me. Perhaps American or Canadian readers wouldn’t be as bothered by them, but I certainly found it off putting.

3/5 stars. An action packed historical novel, perfect for someone looking for a quick, fun read. Anyone who liked ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ but is looking for something much lighter to read- I, Walter is for you.

Winger – Andrew Smith

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winger“You know, nothing ever goes back exactly the way it was. Things just expand and contract. Like the universe, like breathing. But you’ll never fill your lungs up with the same air twice.”

Published: 2014 (UK)
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: YA Fiction

Ryan Dean West, known as Winger by his rugby team, and by his new (huge and terrifying) roommate Chas is a Junior in high school. Except that he’s 14 and has been separated from his friends and forced to live in O-Hall: the boarding house full of hooligans. They’re all older, tougher and more confident than him. He’s definitely terrified but he’s not going to show it.

Don’t be fooled by the cover- this is by no means some lad- ish ‘boys only’ book filled with violence and stupidity; instead it’s an incredibly fresh coming of age story about a boy trying to get to grips with growing up. He navigates peer pressure, alcohol, rugby, love, friendship and tragedy. All with a keen sense of loyalty, hilarious wit and the odd comic illustration.

What I loved about Winger is that there’s no straight ‘one’ plot, but lots of parallel goings-on, from being in love with his best friend Annie, to his new, fiercely loyal friendship with Joey, to tiptoeing around his thuggish roommate and trying to hold his own in a world that could easily swallow him up.

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Now here’s a warning, and I say this without any hesitation. Winger will break your heart. And you won’t expect it. Ryan Dean may be a teenager like every other but the world he inhabits is not kind. Yes, the book is hilarious. But it is also desperately tragic and worth every single moment of your time.

Ryan Dean believes that ‘crede quod habes et habes’ (If you believe you’ll have it, you will have it) and perhaps the most difficult thing to learn is that, sometimes, things aren’t quite that straightforward in life. But you try your best, you love your friends- you try to do what is right. And that, I think, is what counts. 5/5 stars.

City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare

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9781442416895_email-1-265x400“I think they’ll probably put that on my gravestone. He was heterosexual and had low expectations.”

Published: 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: YA Fiction

In this dazzling and long-awaited conclusion to the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series, Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.

This is book 6 in The Mortal Instruments series and honestly, I can’t remember being this excited for a book in a very long time. This is the final battle, the happy-ending we’ve all been hoping for and oh-my-god is it good.

Clary’s brother Sebastian believes that it is ‘better to rule in hell than serve in heaven’ – a Miltonian sentiment taken from Paradise Lost and a highly fitting one for characters filled with the blood of angels, committing their often too short lives to killing demons.

Sebastian is Lucifer but this is not the Garden of Eden and there are no humans to tempt. Instead this is a heavenly war. There is no straightforward good or evil this time and the sides are so blurred that even the Shadowhunters don’t know what to do. They must learn to slay their own and Jace, Clary and the others must hold on to those they love.

The book itself is a mighty 725 pages long which means there’s more than enough material for readers to get their hands on. And for readers of Clare’s parallel book series The Infernal Devices, there are more than enough mentions of Tessa, Jem and Will to satisfy our cravings.

Lives are lost- Clare DID warn us there would be loses, so I guess we can’t complain too much. And I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have a few tearful moments. But we do get that happy ending… eventually. And of course, Jace’s incredible wit.

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One thing to say about Cassandra Clare’s books- they contain characters who are actually similar to real people. Shock horror?! Her world is racially diverse, not everyone is straight and there are women who even have a personality! Frankly, at least Cassie Clare knows what real society is like.

5/5 stars. Just read it. NOW.

The Fortune Hunter – Daisy Goodwin

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20856664Published: April 2014
Publisher: Headline
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies. Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything — except happiness.

Bored of her life in the Hapsburg Court, and of  her too dutiful husband Franz Joseph, she comes to England to hunt.

She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton. Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied…

The Fortune Hunter is a dramatic novel centring around Sisi, the Empress of Austria, Charlotte- a young photographer and the rogue gentleman Bay Middleton.

It’s written by the author of My Last Duchess and is a rather racy tale of temptation, adultery and forbidden romance.

The characters are caught between desire and duty- their decisions are oh-so disastrous but you can’t help but urge them on regardless.

The historical details are more background information so if you’re looking for a predominantly non- fiction book then this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for a fast-paced plot with some twists and turns-and funny historical cameos this book is for you.

There was a nice focus on female characters- and the power play between them. Alan Bennett said that ‘history is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men’ so it’s refreshing to see a novel following the trials and tribulations of women in power.

3.5/5 stars. The perfect summer read with an interesting historical setting. 

Being Benedict Cumberbatch – Joanna Benecke

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Published: April 2014
Publisher: Plexus Books
Genre: Biography

Did you know Benedict Cumberbatch’s first word was helicopter? Or that growing up, he lived near Una Stubbs? (the actress who plays Mrs Hudson in Sherlock) Or even that he spent a year in a Tibetan Monastery in Darjeeling, India after he left school? Well did you?

If you did.. Well, clearly you’ve already read the book. And if you didn’t, well what are you waiting for?

Being Benedict Cumberbatch is a compelling visual biography of the rakish and redoubtable actor that draws on his life and work in film theatre and television.

This isn’t some dry, factual account of someone’s life- akin to trawling through a Wikipedia article. It’s written by Joanna Benecke, author of previous books such as 100 Reasons to Love Ryan Gosling (It’s already been placed on my to-read list…)

She is incredibly witty. Reading this book feels a little like having one of those over-excited high-pitched girly conversations with your best friend. She’s funny, sarcastic and enthusiastic which really comes across in her writing. Frankly, even if you weren’t interested in Benedict Cumberbatch before, Joanna Benecke’s writing will coerce you into it.

The book also covers Benedict’s life before he rose to fame in Sherlock. From his school days at Harrow to his previous acting experiences- it really is an in-depth account of the actor we all know and love.

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Honestly, it’s the loveliest little book to flick through. And I’m not just saying that because there are over 85 full colour photographs of Benedict, all the way through the book…. 4/5 stars. 

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