Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Once upon a time 200 years ago.....

One of the worlds greatest storytellers was born.

So every book blog will be talking about Charles Dickens today, in one way or another, so I figured I would jump on the band wagon and talk about how his work has influenced me.  Many years ago (not quite 200 but close enough *ahem*) when I was a child, I would visit my grandparents regularly, but the visits I loved the most were the ones where I would stay the night, it was always an adventure, always exciting, and it also gave me the chance to read books I did not have access to at home.  My grandparents didn't have a library, but they did have a fantastic collection of classic fiction all in hardback (glee) and part of this collection was the entire Dickens library, each book bound in dark blue leather, with embossed gold lettering.  Whenever I slept over I would grab one of these titles and find a place to hide so I could loose myself in the streets of Victorian London, in the summer when the evenings were light it was the branches of the cooking apple tree, in the winter my hidey hole was behind the armchair in the corner of the lounge so I could sit under the big floor lamp and read about Pip and Oliver, and Nell in the Old Curiosity shop.  Now being 7/8 years old I did not understand a lot of what what was happening in these stories, but I did understand what was scary, what was terrifying and what made a happy ending, I also learnt what made great reading, and great storytelling.  Dickens showed me how to love books and this influence showed through the books I chose in contemporary fiction to read as a child.  Books by authors such as Diana Wynne Jones, Alan Garner, and one of my favourite books The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.  (if you have not read it do so ASAP)

Speaking of wolves Dickens was a huge fan of fairy tales, and loved the Grimms tale Little Red Riding Hood.  He once wrote: "Little Red Riding Hood was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood I should have known perfect bliss." 
Charles Dickens and I not only love fairy tales, but like mr D, Little Red Riding Hood is my ALL TIME FAVOURITE FAIRY TALE (The film was naff, except for the last half hour, yes I have it in my DVD collection, *I have my reasons* and will probably watch it today!!!) so in honour of this shared love here are two lovely retellings that you must must MUST include in your library.
Little Red Hood
By Marjolaine Leray
This picture book is stunning in it's simplicity. It is one of those things which you look at and think 'Why didn't I come up with this!?'
The illustrations are beautifully minimalist, all done in red and black coloured pencils, and are done in a whimsical doodling fashion, and look like they belong on a proud parents fridge door for all the world to see.
The story follows the basic premise of the classic Little Red story, but has a marvellous twist that harks back to the clever, and brave Red of the 16th century original.
With it's pocket sized format and easy to follow story and pictures it is the ideal book to keep in a bag, in order to entertain adults and children alike.


This next version is just toooooooo lush for words!

Little Red Riding Hood
By Daniel Egneus and the Brothers Grimm

This is the basic Grimm version but sumptuously illustrated. Seriously the end papers sold it to me alone. The artwork is by the amazingly talented Illustrator Daniel Egneus whose work has featured in, on, and around anything that is fashionable or fashion related. His style is pure whimsical fantasy, like some intriguing delicate confection made of spun sugar, and wafer thin chocolate brushed with gold leaf, that surrounds a rich dark heart. His illustrations are so ethereal that you are afraid to breath looking at them, incase, like a dandelion clock the colours and lines would be blown from the page. Those of you who know me, know that my background is in fashion/fashion design (Yes I have TWO degrees in fashion design, and I am doing nothing with them! Well kind off ) so this book brings all three of my loves fashion/fairytales/books into one gorgeous beautifully packaged edition.


For those of you who are budding writers in the YA paranormal/fantasy/romance fields I highly reccomend these books as an invaluable source of insight and information.

jacket image for The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim - large version

 With regards to Mr Charles Dickens, and stories retold, you have to read Oliver Twisted.  No this is not the biography of the finnish rocker from Crashdiet, but a totally awesome reworking of the Dickens classic Oliver Twist by J D Sharpe

First off I just have to say that this novel is GENIUS!

Oliver Twisted is published by Electric Monkey the new YA imprint from Egmont books, the author Jasmine Richards who is also a senior editor contacted me a few months ago to let me know about her new novel based upon the Dickens classic Oliver with a horror twist (see what I did there) as soon as I heard this I could not wait for my proof copy to arrive so I could start reading, and I certainly was not dissapointed when I did.
As with all the best works of horror fiction, this tale is filled with werewolves, vampyres, zombies aka woe begottens, demons, and vengeful spirits, and like its inspiration, the character Oliver is fought over by the forces of good and evil, but in this version the reason for this battle centres around the fact that Oliver Twisted is in fact a very rare and powerful warlock who, it is fortold will either become the saviour of humanity or the cause of its destruction.  This is not the only cleverly adapted plot device in fact if you have read or know the original story, part of the enjoyment of reading Oliver Twisted is recognising scenes and story arcs, and how imaginative J D Sharpe is at seemlessly blending the ingenious horror twists thrown in, such as human blood farms disguised as orphanages, which are filled with starving orphans turned cannibals.  Cults that worship wolf gods with child sacrifice, and demons that ply humans with drink until they can possess their bodies.  But what really brings the book to life (no pun intended) is her description of the grisly scenes which fill every chapter, hits just the right level of Hammer Horror gore till you feel the book itself is made from human skin covered with pus filled boils and you expect to find foaming maggots falling out, with each turn of the page.  Take for instance when Oliver is given to Mr Sowerberry the undertaker to apprentice.  Now in the classic this was horrific enough, but with flair and gusto the author works our imagination by turning Sowerberry and his household into a true house of horrors by making them flesh eating ghouls who feast on the innards of the dear departed left in their care.

"Oliver's knees buckled beneath him. The last thing he saw as he crashed to the ground was the bowl of guts smashing down beside him and a rheumy eyeball rolling across the flagstone floor."

You add in Fagin as a soul stealing demon, and Bill Sikes as a vicious werewolf, which is perfect re-characterization, and how Bill and his hound Bullseye are connected to each other is a brilliant example of the cleverly simple quirks that add layer upon layer of this gloriously gruesome novel.  From the first chapter this is a pacy, grisly, intense read, and I am not going to tell you anymore because I will ruin the story for you, so if you want to know what I am talking about then you will have to buy the book yourself. 
Believe me when I say you'll devour it like a woe begotten at an all the people you can eat buffet.

Oliver Twisted by J D Sharpe was released 6/2/12

I can already envisage a J D Sharpe reworking of Great Expectations with Pip working in the Devils foundry and Lady Haversham as a lovelorn spectre holding her daughter Estella prisoner, until her love returns to her.
On the topic of Great Expectations I am very excited about the movie coming out later this year.  Jeremy Irvine of War Horse fame is playing Pip, but what I am really excited about is the phenomenal casting of Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Haversham.  She was born for the role, and I just cannot wait to see her performance.
It is also a shameless excuse to pop up some pics of the ridiculously pretty Douglas Booth who played Pip in the BBC adaptation of Great Expectations*Swoon*.

Until next time heres wishing you unpleasant dreams. xoxo

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