Friday, 25 November 2016

Blog Revamp... and Bookstagram!

There's been a few subtle changes going on here over the past few weeks. 'Good Friends, Good Books and a Sleepy Conscience' is no more! I'd never actually intended on keeping the name anyway, it was a sort of stop-gap until I decided what I actually wanted to call it  - a stop-gap that ended up lasting over two years!

After much deliberation my sister came up with the idea of Reading in Wellies (like Running in Heels but with farmers and books, geddit?)

The url is staying as lilmissvixreads for now - if anyone has any expertise on changing urls on over 200+ posts I would greatly appreciate it. Do I need to make custom redirects for all of them? Technology is hard.


In other news, I've finally joined the wonderous world of instagram. You can find me there @readinginwellies.
I had no idea how many amazing bookstagrammers there are out there, and while I'm still very much a novice I'm loving all the beautiful book photography!

A photo posted by Vicki 🇬🇧 📚🐄 (@readinginwellies) on

A photo posted by Vicki 🇬🇧 📚🐄 (@readinginwellies) on

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Review: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

I've always been very interested in the life of Queen Victoria. It's hard not to be when you're named after her! So it was with some delight that I discovered ITV were making a television series all about her early years, penned by the wonderful Daisy Goodwin. Despite my initial frustration to discover that the majority of the series was filmed within an hour's drive of my house and I knew nothing of it, I was glued to my screen every night for the eight week duration (Captain Poldark had to wait for iPlayer).

So when I heard that Daisy had written a novel to accompany the series, complete with extra scenes, well I headed straight online to pre-order it. The cover is beautiful and perfectly fitting, and I dived right in as soon as it arrived.

"In June 1837, the eighteen-year-old Victoria wakes up to find that she is Queen of the most powerful nation in the world. But will she be queen in her own right, or a puppet controlled by her mother and the sinister Sir John Conroy? Can this tiny girl prevail against the men who believe that women are too hysterical to rule?

Everyone wants her to get married, but Victoria has no intention of entering into a marriage of convenience with her cousin Albert, a shy bookworm who didn't know how to dance the last time she met him. She would much rather reign alone with a little help from her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. He may be old enough to be her father, but he is the only man who believes that she will be a great Queen, and he knows how to make her laugh. A husband would only get in the way..."

From the very first page it is clear that Victoria is a headstrong and stubborn character, determined to rule the country her way. Despite her incredibly sheltered upbringing and her naivety she quickly adapts to her role as Queen, with her loyal aide and advisor Lord Melbourne by her side. There are constant comparisons between herself and Elizabeth I, and it seems to me that she would have been perfectly capable of ruling without a husband, despite all that her interfering family thought of her. She has a tendency to be childish at times, but that's to be expected, and as she grows into her role as Queen, she also matures into an adult.

The revelation in both TV series and novel for me was Lord M. Having only previously encountered Paul Bettany's portrayal of him in the 2009 film The Young Victoria, I didn't think much of his character. I knew Victoria depended on him more than others deemed proper, and the film seems to suggest that he uses her to gain and retain power. Daisy Goodwin's interpretation of his character shows him in an entirely new light, as a man conflicted between emotion and duty, as a man devoted to his Queen. The moment Rufus Sewell appeared on screen I knew I was a goner. Full of wit and one liners, with a painful vulnerability below the surface, the novel portrays him in a similar fashion, and whilst the description differs from Rufus (the real Lord M was blonde), you get an even deeper sense of his and Victoria's inner turmoil and their confused feelings towards one another. Indeed, it is no surprise that some people have dismissed the novel as 'Vicbourne' fanfiction, as Albert doesn't actually appear until page 360. Like in the TV series Victoria and Albert's relationship feels rushed somehow, and whilst the insta-love trope may well be true for the real Queen Victoria, for fictional Victoria to transfer her affections from Melbourne to Albert in a matter of pages is a little unbelievable.

Although it is written as a companion piece to the TV series, there are some significant differences in the novel. The servants for example are given a lot less attention, and whilst I may be in the minority here I preferred it that way. They still have names, and all their major storylines feature, but I do feel as if their role was amplified unnecessarily in the TV series to give it that Downton/Upstairs Downstairs vibe that proves popular with audiences. Another major difference is that the novel ends -potential spoiler ahead- with Victoria's proposal to Albert. There's no wedding, and therefore, most regrettably to me, there is no goodbye scene between Victoria and Lord M - a moment in the TV series which broke my heart.

That being said, it is still a book that I would heartily recommend, to historical fiction and period
drama fans alike. Those who frown on anachronism may want to steer clear, although alongside the dramatic licence there are also some surprising truths to be found - Albert actually did slice his shirt open at the ball to wear Victoria's gardenias close to his heart!

If, like me, you're interested in how much is true, I would have a trawl through Daisy Goodwin's Twitter feed; she live-tweeted some of the TV episodes when they aired and has answered many viewer/reader questions about Victoria.

I'm very much looking forward to the second series of Victoria (even though I fear that Lord M is gone for good), and to what I hope will be the second novel to accompany it!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Review: Maestra by L.S Hilton


A spectacular fraud in a London auction house. 

A barefoot lover running through the Paris streets. 

A colossal theft from a billionaire's yacht. 

A vicious murder under a bridge in Rome. 

They started it. she'll end it. 


The simple yet deceptive blurb on the back of this novel is what drew me to read it.I had no idea what to expect, and it was nothing like I could ever have imagined.

Maestra comes with the tagline 'The Most Shocking Thriller You'll Read This Year'. I'll admit that I haven't read that many thrillers, but this is  certainly true for me. Maestra is unpredictable, graphic in every sense of the word and left me feeling very uneasy. I couldn't put it down. So I suppose that makes it a success.

Having looked at the reader reviews I'm surprised how many negative ones there are. Yes it's explicit, designed to shock, but Maestra is reflective of the baser aspects of human nature - lust and greed. Although the gratuitous use of the 'c' word did lose its impact after a while. The book has been described as The Talented Mr Ripley crossed with Gone Girl, and whilst I haven't read either of the works, I have seen the film adaptation of the former and can easily see where the comparisons come from. Judith isn't a character you can relate to, which is perhaps why some readers detest her so much. Driven by 'rage' and determination to work her way up in the world she finds herself resorting to increasingly desperate measures, measures which soon become habits. Yet despite her dangerous flaws, her appalling language and her skewed morals you can't help but want her to get away with her actions. I'm very curious to read the sequel.