The Disney Book

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Blurb: “For more than 90 years, Disney has captured imaginations with pioneering entertainment and storytelling for all ages. From Sleeping Beauty to Frozen, Mary Poppins to the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise and Disneyland to Tokyo DisneySea, explore the world of Disney in this exciting guide.”
Did you know that Walt Disney originally want to call Mickey Mouse, Mortimer until his wife said the name sounded too pompous?

Did you know that the Hawaii location backgrounds in Lilo & Sitch are actually watercolour paintings and not CGI/Animation?

Did you know that the first Disneyland Park opened 17th July 1955 and seven weeks later celebrated its one millionth guest?

No? Well now you do. And that’s just a snippet of what you will learn in this book.

Also, each copy of the book features a 35mm filmstrip from Brave. So that’s just a little extra to tempt you.
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This book is split into three parts:

 

The first part is titled “Drawn Disney” and covers everything from Walt Disney in the early years to Mickey Mouse, to the Silly Symphonies cartoons, to some of the classic films we know and adore. As a lover of animation and how it’s made, it was a real treat seeing some of the concept art, the cameras used to make the films, and how the voice actors would actually act out scenes to give the animators an idea of how the characters should move on screen to make them look more human.  This section shows little surprises/links to other Disney productions to look out for in their various films, which I’ll definitely look for the next time I give them a watch. I greatly underestimated the work that went into some aspects of these creations, for example: sound. Bambi (1942) has fewer than 1000 words of dialogue. The rest is just sound. But it provides an excellent example of how much information can be conveyed just through putting sounds together.

The second part is titled “Disney In Action” which you can probably guess covers the live action side of Disney. There are mentions of Walt’s love for Jules Verne which lead to him creating his first made-in-Hollywood blockbuster “20,000 leagues Under The Sea”. A model of the Nautilus can be found next to Space Mountain in Disneyland Paris. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was inspired by the classic Disneyland park attraction. Again, the detail of the design for the Dead Man’s Chest is something really overlooked on screen, but really appreciated when you’re aware of it.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a section on live action Disney without mentioning the incredibly fun “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” starring Angela Lansbury and Mary Poppins starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Both of which combine live action with animation, creating two of arguably the best Disney live action films.

The third part is titled “Experience Disney” and focuses on the Disneyland theme parks. The idea for to expand Disney to this area came to Walt when he was sat in a theme park watching his children on a ride. The first Disneyland Park opened in July 1955 featuring 18 major attractions. By the end of its first year, 3.6 million people had visited. But Walt didn’t want to stop there and began making plans for a four-part theme park in Florida, also featuring the Magic Kingdom park. Sadly, he died a year after plans were publically announced. His co-partner and brother Roy gave a speech stating that the new accumulation in Florida would be named “Walt Disney World” so that no one will forget the man behind the creations. Two months later, Roy died.

This book combines all kinds of wonderful information and facts with colourful images and photographs that stop it  becoming just some old boring textbook.

This is an absolute must for any Disney lover!

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New World: Rising – Jennifer Wilson

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Blurb: “Since witnessing her parents’ murders at the age of eleven, Phoenix’s only purpose in life has been to uphold her mother’s dying words- to be strong and survive. But surviving outside of The Walls- outside of The Sanctuary- is more like a drawn-out death sentence. A cruel and ruthless city, Tartarus is run by the Tribes whose motto is simple, “Join or die.” 

Refusing to join and determined to live, Phoenix fights to survive in this savage world. But who can she trust, when no one can be trusted? Not even herself.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
When I started reading this book, I was initially struck by the unique and interesting way the groups of people were showcased. Rather than drowning the reader with information in a prologue, or first chapter, the groups were shown through sketches.

As shown from the images above, it provides a handy reference guide to go back to if you’re confused by any of the tribes. So let me break them down for you.

Wraiths: “the ghosts of the city”, seen collecting victim’s left hands

Ravagers: Hunt people for sport.

Adroits: smart group, set traps that result in high payout, low physical involvement.

Jaciturns – deceptive, have spies in other tribes

Scavengers: thieves

Colons: filthy STOLE FROM HER PARENTS

See? Not as interesting as the beautiful images is it?

The story follows Phoenix who gets through every day with her mother’s last words echoing in her ears: “be strong, survive.” And that’s what Phoenix intends to do. She holds a deep hatred for the Scavengers, who stole her parent’s last belongings, and the ravagers who took her parents lives. She is alone in this incredible dystopian world that Jennifer Wilson has created.

Through Phoenix, the world is explored as she does everything she can to survive. Science changed the world for better and for worse. The wall was built and The Sanctuary created. Those seeking equality and security were welcomed to The Sanctuary and those who sought power were left to Tartarus (which has Greek Mythology connections as Tartarus was the prison for titans).

One night Phoenix travels to a library. While most steal the books to burn them for warmth, Phoenix actually reads them, until she is interrupted by the sound of ravagers and they can hear her. She manages to escape with damage to her leg, but at least she’s alive. She runs outside to look for a safe place only to hear the hunting call of the ravagers. Then she hears screaming – a child screaming. She tries to save her and is captured.

Phoenix is sure her captors are the ravagers although this turns out not to be the case. They call themselves The Subversive and they want answers.

Phoenix was successful in saving the child but it turns out that she is a mute so cannot give The Subversive what they want. After being probed with questions Phoenix has little interest in answering, The Subversive ask her for her father’s notebook so they can unlock the secrets of how she has managed to survive.

The first thing I am going to say about New World: Rising is that a lot of the content is very mature. I was actually shocked by some of what I read purely because I didn’t expect it. So if you’re quite young, I would probably wait a few years before you pick this one up.

Phoenix is your typical dystopian lead that you would categorise heavily in the “strong female” list however, what I loved about this character was that she was flawed. She wakes up every day from night terrors stemming from witnessing her parents deaths. She just felt raw and real to me.

Another aspect I loved was Mouse (the name given to the girl Phoenix saved). She is at a disadvantage as she cannot speak yet the beautiful thing is that she wasn’t cast aside for it. Phoenix helped develop a way for them to communicate using a sign language book and it was really refreshing to see that kind of dialogue taking place.

In contrast, I did have a few issues with this book. The place The Subversive reside is described as a “military bunker” and a lot of the descriptions of it and the reasoning behind The Subversive hiding reminded me of District 13 from Mockingjay and it just felt a bit samey.

The other issue was the romance. I am just so bored with unnecessary romance lately. If it doesn’t add anything to the story, then it doesn’t need to be there. Personally, if I was going off to a war the last thing I’d do is start smooching someone.

These issues aren’t as much with this particular book itself but with reoccurring themes that a spreading out over this genre. And I’m just getting tired of it.

 

All in all, this book was an enjoyable read and I’d like to give a shoutout to Ben over at OfTomes publishing who sent me a copy!

 
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Unseemly Science – Rod Duncan

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Blurb: “In the divided land of England, Elizabeth Barnabus has been living a double life – as both herself – and as her brother, the private detective. Witnessing the brutal hanging of someone very close to her, Elizabeth resolves to throw the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook into the fire, and forget her past. If only it were that easy! There is a new charitable organisation in town, run by some highly respectable women. But something doesn’t feel right to Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time for her fictional brother to come out of retirement for one last case? Her unstoppable curiosity leads her to a dark world of body-snatching, unseemly experimentation, politics and scandal. Never was it harder or a woman in a man’s world.”

This is the second book in the “Fall of The Gas-Lit Empire” series and a hanging is taking place in the Kingdom.  It is hugely anticipated due to newspaper coverage and speculation. Elizabeth plans to sneak in to watch. However, she is wanted by the law. So a disguise is required.  Placing herself among the crowd she watches as the woman who gave her the Bullet Catcher’s Handbook is hanged. Elizabeth returns home and goes to burn the wretched book only to save it from the fire moments later as it is her last connection to the deceased woman.

The reader sees the return of Julia – personally my favourite character – who is caught up in a fight with her mother as usual. Julia wants to move to the Kingdom and study law, her mother wants Julia to get a husband.

A stranger – a royalist called Yan Romero – offers Elizabeth legal advice for a price. This immediately appears sketchy to Elizabeth who knows that passage in and out of the kingdom boarder is pricey. When he leaves, she follows and watches him enter the home of a farm labourer who is not the kind of person a royalist would hang out with. Elizabeth speaks to the farmer a few days later and quickly assesses that he once lived in the kingdom like she did, but fled too. She gets information from him, learning that an extradition treaty is to be made and if it goes ahead “they’ll get us all. Drag us home in chains.”

Julia becomes increasingly interested by a woman called Mrs Raike who runs a charitable organisation which runs soup kitchens, Sunday schools and other works that benefit the poor and needy. As per usual, Elizabeth doesn’t trust this mysterious Mrs Raike and begins investigating.

A register is brought in and both Elizabeth and her brother had to return every two weeks to re-sign the register. A feat which will quickly prove difficult as Elizabeth is both herself and her brother so the two cannot appear and sign the register together.
In my years of reading, I often find that sequels are sub-par compared to their debut counterparts. Unseemly Science is an exception to that idea. This book is fantastically written to the point where it sucks you in and you forget that you are in fact, not a part of the world but actually reading a book. Julia proves yet again to be a strong side character and some form of support for Elizabeth. And of course, Elizabeth’s adventures only leave you hungry for more.

 

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Alice Takes Back Wonderland – David D.Hammons

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Blurb: “After ten years of being told she can’t tell the difference between real life and a fairy tale, Alice finally stops believing in Wonderland. So when the White Rabbit shows up at her house, Alice thinks she is going crazy. Only when the White Rabbit kicks her down the rabbit hole does Alice realise that the magical land she visited as a child is real. But all is not well in Wonderland.”

**I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The story opens with seven year old Alice running out of the courtroom after the case that takes place in the original story. As she runs to freedom, the Cheshire cat spouts his usual nonsense, this time about fairy tales and their echoes (echoes are how we know fairy tales, and the fairy tales are what really happened). For example, in the story as we know it, Alice is an English girl from the nineteenth century, in this book she is an American girl from the twenty-first century.

She returns to her world only to be told that the people she met, the adventures she had, and the world she visited are not real. She spends Christmas in a mental hospital, gets diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. One line that really broke my heart at this point was: “I told the doctors I didn’t believe ADHD was real. They told me they didn’t believe Wonderland was real.”

Ten years of therapy sessions, popping pills and re-affirming to herself that what she experienced was not real, Alice is finally (slightly) on the mend. That is, until the White Rabbit shows up in her bedroom.  Wonderland has changed and he needs her help: The Ace of Spades is now in charge and the Cheshire cat is dead. It is also later revealed that Ace send the White Rabbit through the rabbit holes and into the real world so he can collect things, because Ace wants Wonderland to be a mirror of our world.

The mad hatter wants things to return to well… as normal as they can be in Wonderland so he tells Alice that she need to seek help from other fairy tale characters to create an army to take back Wonderland. He puts Alice in a flying machine and sends her on her way.

So time for my thoughts.

Going back to what I mentioned about the mental struggles Alice faces when she returns from Wonderland; this part was so well written. To say this happened very early on in the story, you really feel for her and just want to reach through the pages, hug her and tell her that Wonderland is real. The pressure she has put on her by her mother and sister to be normal and go to university etc was just so sad to read.

However for me, this is where everything good about this book ended. The transitions between the worlds when Alice sets off on her adventures were just too jarring and felt kind of like I’d hit a brick wall. She seemed to spend way too much time in Wonderland to say there was this sense of urgency to create an army to beat Ace and the pace of the book was lost because of it.

It felt to me that a lot of the fairy tale characters were just thrown in randomly, without much thought, in order to get people buying this book for the very fact that it’s mentioned on the blurb  (in particular Peter Pan). I just felt like these types of characters were used for that reason and then left with a pretty sub-par story. Now I am all for fairy-tale retellings/reimagining’s but I feel like the idea of “echoes” was used as an excuse just to allow the author to change the fairy tales and their characters as much as they have done.

Also, I don’t know why the story needed to be americanised. It added literally nothing except obviously a location change in the real world. The only way the story would have been affected if the location had remained England and that time period was that there would have been no ADHD diagnosis and instead they would have just simply called her “mad” and shunned her.

If I wasn’t reading this because it was sent to me by a publisher and I had to give an honest review, then honestly I would have stopped reading this before the halfway point. However, it was only fair that I read the book in its entirety.

Overall, a very disappointing book.
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Top Books of 2015

So another glorious year of reading is over and while I await new releases with great anticipation. It’s now time for me to reflect on my favourite books I read last year.

Disclaimer: not all of the books listed came out in 2015, some of them I just happened to read in that year. I will state these accordingly. Also, the order the books appear in this post doesn’t reflect the order in which I enjoyed them.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (2015)

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This story follows teenager Emma O’Donovan who goes to a house party with her friends. She wakes up on the front porch of her house the following morning with no memory of how she got there or what happened. Until various photos and videos start to make their appearance on the internet. This book is a very difficult read and I won’t lie, it’s not pleasant at times. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid the serious and important topics this book discusses. The quote on the front of the book says “She writes with a scalpel.” That couldn’t be more true.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E.Schwab (2015)

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In A Darker Shade Of Magic there are four londons: Grey London which is dirty, boring and lacks magic, Red London where life and magic are admired with a flourishing empire, White London which is ruled by whoever murders their way onto the throne, and Black London… which no one speaks of.
Kell is the last of the Travelers – rare magicians with the ability to travel between the various londons. He smuggles items from realm to realm for those who are willing to pay the price. But when he accidently gets accused of treason, the only thing left for him to do is flee.
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

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Simon is a not-so-openly gay sixteen year old sending emails to his secret lover who goes by the name of Blue. He understands Simon, and Simon has quite a few feelings for the person on the other side of his emails. When the emails fall into the wrong hands, Simon finds himself being blackmailed by one of his classmates: if he doesn’t play wing-man and help this person get with his friend, then the emails will be released to the entire school and not only that, but the privacy of Blue will be destroyed.


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011)

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Told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs, a horrific family tragedy sends Jacob looking for clues on Cairholm Island off the coast from Wales. Here he discovers the abandoned orphanage known as Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. When chased by a girl who produces fire and a boy who can turn invisible, Jacob finds himself trapped in September 3rd 1940, the day Miss Peregrine’s home was destroyed by a bomb dropped during World War II. And he’s stuck in a time loop where the day restarts just as the bomb hits the home.

Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (2012)

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After years of being a prisoner in the salt mines of Endovier, eighteen year old assassin Celaena Sardothien is brought before the Crown Prince, Dorian who offers her her freedom. But only if she competes as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. If she wins, she must serve the kingdom for four years and then she will be free. But when a contestant turns up dead, swiftly followed by the death of another, can she find out who is behind the killings before she becomes the next victim?
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)

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Theodore Finch is fascinated by death and constantly thinking of ways to end his life. Violet Markey is living for the future, counting each pitiful day until graduation. When the pair meet on the ledge of the school’s bell tower they inadvertently save each other.

When paired together on a project, the new duo are sent off to discover “natural wonders” of their state, making some important discoveries about themselves along the way.

 

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)

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Tally is an ugly. She cannot wait until she turns sixteen and becomes a pretty: to become part of a world where her only job is to look good and have fun. Tally’s friend, Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty and decides to run away. As Shay’s only friend, Tally is approached by the authorities who offer her a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015)

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Everything Everything tells the story of Maddy, a teenager with a rare illness – she’s allergic to everything. She can’t go outside. She has spent her life interacting with only her mother and nurse.

But when a moving truck appears next door and Maddy sets her eyes on Olly, she feels she has to get to know him, no matter what the cost will be.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2014)

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It’s the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is out buying last-minute presents while his wife is adding the last details to her treasure hunt based on clues linked to aspects of their years together. When Nick returns home to find the home trashed and his wife missing, he calls the police.

But the suspiciously articulated crime scene and disturbing passages in Amy’s diary lead the detectives to wonder, could the husband have killed his wife?
A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J.Maas

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An utterly beautiful Beauty And The Beast retelling following the huntress Feyre who kills a wolf in the woods. Later, a beast-like creature demands retribution and takes her as his prisoner to a magical land she’s only heard about in legends. Feyre learns that her captor isn’t a beast but in fact Tamlin – one of the immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
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