Stravaganza Series – Mary Hoffman

I don’t think this series receives the attention it deserves. Why doesn’t anyone talk about it!? Harry Potter is fab, but surely there’s a little bit of enthusiasm for middle grade magic left over? No? Come on guys.

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Stravaganza is a middle grade series about teenagers travelling from the present day to a parallel renaissance Italy, Talia. I read the first four books as a child, and absolutely adored them, so a few years ago when I found out that two more had been written, I of course reread the whole series.

Each book focusses on a new main character who discovers they are a Stravagante, someone able to travel between England and Talia. The main characters return in subsequent books, allowing an overarching plot as well as new individual character stories. The Stravaganti are often experiencing hardships in the present day, resulting in a perfect mix of “real-life” struggles as well as exciting historical political intrigue.

Although it’s a while since I read the series, I do remember absolutely falling in love with some of the characters, particularly Arianna, a young Talian noble woman. I was so invested in the fates of all the characters, and the racing plots, and the beautiful descriptions of all the stunning festivals and historical costumes. UGH IT WAS JUST SO GOOD.

It’s a magical series that cemented my love of reading.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️4.5/5

X0oXooO

Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman

As most people are probably aware, the Noughts and Crosses series is set in an alternative world in which the white race (the Noughts) have been historically oppressed by the black race (the Crosses), rather than the other way round. There are a lot of racial conflict and civil rights issues being played out, but it’s the black people who hold all the power and the white people who are screwed by the system.

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It’s taken me absolutely AGES to finish this series. Literal ages.

I read the first book, Noughts and Crosses, when I was about 12. I found the book very shocking and traumatic – to be honest, it was probably a bit too mature for me to be reading. So I never continued on with the series. One dose of this sex/violence/tear gas-infused sequence was quite enough for my sheltered little mind.

It wasn’t until last year when I spotted the series at the library, and decided to give it another shot. Ironically, I think that perhaps this time round, I’ve overshot the mark a bit, because I found some of the language quite juvenile. For example, words like “sooooo” kind of grated on my nerves a bit. (Although this may well be more of a reflection of my nerves rather than bad writing, since after all parts of it were narrated by a young-ish girl.)

The premise of this book is certainly fascinating. I know that at 12, I found it really thought provoking, especially smaller issues like “skin coloured plasters” only being pink (or in this universe, brown). I found it really embarrassing that I’d never noticed stuff like that before. Obviously in an ideal world, it would have had the same impact without the race reversal, but flipping the status quo like this really forces the reader to abandon all their stupid unconscious racial bias.

Much of this series focuses on relationships between noughts and crosses across the racial divide, angsty forbidden love à la Romeo and Juliet. I must say that a lot of the characters throughout this series really frustrated me in their seeming inability to EVER change their mind about things. This did make for really frustrating parts, where people would mull over a stupid grudge for YEARS and not have any fresh perspectives or even consider any other point of view. High stubbornness content I would say. Everyone thinking in black and white, as if the colour scheme of the book covers has leaked into their consciousnesses. (Ooh, poetic).

All in all, great premise, but irritating characters and juvenile language.

⭐️⭐️⭐️3/5

XxxXOO

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

*WARNING! May contain Jane Eyre spoilers* Continue at your peril if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, and don’t know the story. In fact if the above is true, then probably go and read it.

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The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which is a prequel to Jane Eyre. It was an intriguing read, all about the back story of how Mr Rochester managed to end up with a secret wife in his attic. Which is, I suppose, quite a pertinent question.

It really turns the original story on its head. Whereas Bronte portrays Mrs Rochester as some kind of possessed demon-freak, selfishly coming between the innocent lovers living downstairs, Rhys takes a step back, and tries to explain the backstory to all this horrible mess.

I mean hang on, right? This guy keeps his wife locked in the attic, and yet Bronte still seems to think he’s good husband material?  Wide Sargasso Sea makes it sound more like a kidnapping case.

The story is set mostly in the West Indies, where Antoinette is growing up. (She’s not even actually called Bertha. Bonkers). It’s all happening in a time just after slavery has been abolished, and so there’s a lot of unrest, and nobody’s doing any work, because they can’t afford to actually pay the amount of people they were enslaving. There’s a lot of racial tension, and she ends up having a pretty traumatic childhood.  Followed by what I think most would assess to be a pretty traumatic marriage.

It’s a Raises quite a few issues about mental health and the unfair demonization  – I think most people would be pretty derailed after the treatment she’s had. I mean, she doesn’t even know she’s in England!

So is Mr Rochester the victim of an unfair marriage arrangement? Or did he bring his “curse” upon himself?

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5

XoxoxX

 

First blog post

Good morning, procrastinators or England, and/or the World (delete as appropriate).

I have decided to take the plunge and make my own website, which has nothing WHATSOEVER to do with an impending Epidemiology essay crisis I am trying not to think about.

I have been hovering bashfully around the fringes of the book blogging world for ages, like the cold duckling in Bambi who doesn’t want to get its feet wet, in case critical friends and/or future employers, or actual english students stumble across my confused ramblings and ostracise me for eternity.

However, this is all about to change, unless I feel instant regret and delete the whole thing. Watch this space…

xoxoXo