Tuesday 23 May 2017

Mini Reviews: The Penelopiad, Take Courage & Sweetpea

I rated The Penelopiad 3 stars, Take Courage 5 stars and Sweetpea 4.5 stars each.

The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood
199⎟Canongate⎟11th October 2005

For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay…

And then, when Odysseus finally returns and slaughters the murderous suitors, he brutally hangs Penelope's twelve beloved maids. What were his motives? And what was Penelope really up to?

I watched countless booktube videos singing the praises of The Penelopiad and with my love of Greek mythology, I had to have it. It didn’t quite live up to expectations, though.

This book is odd. Really odd. The narration is split between Penelope and a chorus (written in verse) of the 12 maids that play a big part in this story - much in the style of the fates and their positions in tales of myth. It’s very clever, very original and a lot of fun, but I didn’t really ever connect with the story at any point. I’m familiar with the story and still it made very little impact.

It was a solidly enjoyable story and the audiobook was great, however. If you want something quick and unusual, I do recommend The Penelopiad.

Take Courage: The Art and Life of Anne Bronte, Samantha Ellis
352⎟Chatto & Windus⎟12th January 2017

Anne Brontë is the forgotten Brontë sister, overshadowed by her older siblings -- virtuous, successful Charlotte, free-spirited Emily and dissolute Branwell. Tragic, virginal, sweet, stoic, selfless, Anne. The less talented Brontë, the other Brontë.

Or that's what Samantha Ellis, a life-long Emily and Wuthering Heights devotee, had always thought. Until, that is, she started questioning that devotion and, in looking more closely at Emily and Charlotte, found herself confronted by Anne instead.

Take Courage is Samantha's personal, poignant and surprising journey into the life and work of a woman sidelined by history. A brave, strongly feminist writer well ahead of her time -- and her more celebrated siblings -- and who has much to teach us today about how to find our way in the world.

Oh, this book. I loved Samantha Ellis’s How to be a Herione, but I adored Take Courage. Samantha Ellis is one of my favourite writers now - this exploration of the genius and wonder of Anne Brontë is pure joy.

Anne Bronte is the forgotten Brontë; the saintly, quiet, meek sister; the weak link in literature's most famous literary family - except she’s really, really not, and Samantha Ellis proves it.

Anne is my favourite Brontë, even though she was the last of the 3 sisters I came across. I thought Jane Eyre was okay, Wuthering Heights was fun but I hated everyone, and then came Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and I fell in love. She was miles ahead of her sisters and yet all of the credit is given to Charlotte. I knew there was some tension between Anne and Charlotte and honestly, the things that Ellis uncovered about their relationship really didn’t warm me up to the oldest Brontë sister.

If you love the Brontës, read this. If you think Anne is the weakest Brontë, read this. If you think Charlotte was the pioneering woman author of the 19th century, read this. Just read it; you’ll fall in love with Anne Brontë and never look back.


Sweetpea, CJ Skuse
384⎟HQ⎟20th April 2017

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

I love CJ’s YA novels - they’re dark, funny, and unusual. With Sweetpea, she goes several steps further and I loved it.

Sweetpea isn’t for the faint of heart - murder, sex, swearing and the darkest humour I’ve read in a long while. I honestly don’t want to say too much about Rhiannon’s exploits; I honestly think it’s best discovered when reading. I honestly don’t want to ruin this for anybody. It’s just so much fun.

Bridget Jones meets Dexter, indeed. Utterly brilliant and one of my favourite reads of 2017. Dark, twisted and just generally bloody brilliant. Emphasis on the bloody.

Thanks to HQ for the review copy.


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