REVIEW – The Girl in Between by Laekan Zea Kemp

Bryn is a girl trying to get by and graduate, trying to process her on again off again relationship with school hunk Drew, and keeping her cousin Dani on the straight and narrow. Her dream? To go to art school in Emory and sculpt masterpieces. One small problem – she has KLS, a sleep disorder which makes her fall asleep for days sometimes weeks at a time. Her entire life, put on hold, a slave to her condition.

I hadn’t heard of this condition before, and like some of the stranger neurological disorders, it almost beggars belief that it does exist.

What Kemp has created is a girl just seeking to be normal, but retreating into herself. The mysterious character of Roman was a nice addition, a boy who shared her dream world, who she fought to prove was real and not a figment of her imagination. Even the shadows she feels are out to hurt her, portrayed as paranoia, hallucination seems to be a developing actual threat when it is discovered something like this has happened before. As the book likes to dwell on, there is so much more to understand about the human brain, and that we as humans probably know more about outer space than we do about a crucial organ of ours.

I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel as I have so many unanswered questions. Who/what is the mysterious shadow? Will Eve’s history repeat itself again for poor Bryn? Will Roman and Bryn ever actually meet outside of their joint delusion of a dreamworld? I think I might dive straight into Kemp’s next offering to find out, and that for me is a great sign.

REVIEW – The Lost Girls by Angela Marsons

9 year old Amy and Charlie are best friends, inseparable, their parents as close as you could get, living perfect suburban lives. Until one day they’re not.

Falling prey to a sinister group of kidnappers, all with their motives for doing so different. Will, the cool, calm collected one with his motives in his pocket – Symes, the cold-hearted military man, sadistic in the gaining of his pleasures. And a third, who I won’t reveal for the sake of the ending and spoilers – but I certainly didn’t see that coming.

And that, for me, is the eternal mark of a good crime novel. I’ve read so many over the years, and all too often I’ve spotted the betrayer, the mystery bad guy at the heart of the case. This time I was surprised, and that was enough for me to go – oh yes, this has certainly hit the spot.

The novel part of this book was how the parents were played off against each other, competing financially and psychologically. It broke down the parents’ relationships with each other and had them at each other’s throats, and it does go to show how everything else can go out of the window when your kids are involved.

There were twists and turns with the earlier kidnap of Emily and Suzie that added a wonderful dimension and sense of urgency, because you could see the effect on their parents, the paranoia of Emily’s mother and the depression of Suzie’s. Intertwining the past case that had gone half right and half wrong with the very real threat towards Amy and Charlie was a crowning glory of this novel.

The characters Marsons has created are ones we can all relate to – the woman who put her career on hold for her husbands’ career, always assuming it would come off the back-burner at some point, the woman avoiding her past mistakes only to have them come to light in the most tragic of ways, kids off to bad starts and parents doing just about anything for them.

Kim as the lead detective still had that familiar loveable rogue lone ranger kind of vibe, misunderstood by the system and resistant to authority, but like all good fictional detectives, she gets the commendations in to justify her actions, and she gets the job done.

REVIEW – Shadow of a Century – An Irish Love Story by Jean Grainger

I’m not usually one for titles that declare upfront they’re a love story. And to be fair, reading this book came at completely the wrong time for me. I’d started reading it during what I thought was a supposed rough patch with my boyfriend and what soon turned into a pancake to soften the blow ‘I’m just not in love with you’ break up. But in a way, this book helped with the thoughts swimming around my head, weirdly.
The story follows journalist Scarlett O’Hara, cringing at her unfortunate name, cursing her Irish father and avoiding the spotlight after her high profile affair with a Senator goes public. A chance encounter brings her to Eileen, an old lady who’s house had just been broken into, and the chance to hear the story of Eileen’s parents, Irish revolutionaries at the time of the Easter Rising.
So we then jump seamlessly around time, to pre-WW1 Dublin. Mary Doyle has journeyed to the big city to work in a big house and through the influence of her employer and friends, becomes involved in the movement for an independent Ireland. The friends she makes along the way is reminiscent of that age old storyline that a young orphan moves to the city and find where she belongs. But it didn’t feel gimmicky,
I can’t give away too much about the love story aspect of it for risk of giving away spoilers, but I just loved the delicate intertwining of the past and present and how Eileen felt that she could never settle down because of the storybook romance her parents enjoyed. Throughout the book I couldn’t help but feel bad for her because (potential spoiler alert) – their love never had the chance to bloom and was always stuck in the idealistic honeymoon phase. But I love how Scarlett’s narrative intertwined with Eileen’s story and that of her parents.
I concur with other reviews, definitely not just an Irish love story. So much more.

Missed Me?

So after a disastrous relationship/break up I have hit the books ever so intensely once more. They are my never ending love affair and usually they don’t disappoint! (enter joke here sorry not sorry)

I am forever recommending books to people and passing judgement on what I’ve read – usually good judgements I promise! Once upon a time this blog meant a lot to me, and I’m eager to get that back.

So here I am, older and wiser, still reading copious amounts of books and devouring everything put in front of me. Trying to get back to enjoying that alone time single life brings whilst not being a drip who has no fun. Life’s eternal balance – there is still lots of tea, but I’ve broadened my horizons and also enjoy caramel coffee – I’m told its adult juice.

I’ve got some cracking books lined up to review, and I promise to even try and vaguely attempt to keep up with this for the billionth time!

I’m back :)

After a couple of year break, I’ve decided to pick up the blog once more and vent my everyday MA frustrations of postgraduate life interspersed between book reviews and opinion pieces.

I’m juggling multiple books at the moment, but within the next two weeks I hope to publish reviews on: Emma by Jane Austen, The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans and The Real Odessa by Uki Goni. In terms of general opinion pieces, I’m hoping to do a little bit on maintenance grants and whatever makes me particularly angry in the news.

It’s proving a struggle at the moment to struggle a work placement, an MA class, workshops, a German class, my responsibilities as a course rep and my paid job whilst sleeping and stuff. I’ve already succumbed to some poorly affliction today after a third full day of fun and MA festivity (three days into the new term already and I’m pooped). Therefore a large bowl of the stew my nan sent me back to Canterbury with and a cup of tea are proving to hit the spot. Hopefully the rest of the week is less hectic and I can do some valuable recharging.

My Review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My Review of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

 
Finished on: 8th August 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Book Challenge Number: 48
 
Sorry for my absence from this blog, I’ve been reading some academic texts for the second year of my degree which have taken up quite a bit of my time. Decided not to review them as they’re difficult to review without lots of understandable historiographical terms, which I have been trying to avoid writing down for as long as possible.
 
The Book Thief is an interesting novel which is narrated by ‘Death’, which is an odd concept to get your head around. The setting is WW2 era Germany, where ‘undesirables’ are being rounded up and murdered in concentration camps and bombs are falling left, right and centre. Living in a small German town is Liesel, a girl living with elderly foster parents after her brother dies and her parents worry for her future because of their Communist sympathies making them a Nazi target. When her brother dies, this is the first time Death notices Liesel, and this is where the story begins. 
 
The story continues through the war, with Liesel making friends, hiding in air raid shelters during bombings, assisting her foster mother, learning to read whilst stealing books and food as life becomes tougher in Germany. As the story continues, Death talks about the general climate of the time and how busy he is as he takes people, some of those lives revolving around and close to Liesel.
 
I really liked this book and didn’t find it took me ages to adjust to the odd concept of Death narrating. This book is well-written and quite easy to get into which is always a bonus for me as I don’t like reading to feel like a chore. I highly recommend it’s book for bringing a new dimension to the usual World War 2 story.

My Review of The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

My Review of The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

 
Rating: 4 stars
Book Challenge Number: 45
Finished on: 20th July 2013
 
Sorry it took me a while to write this up and post this, been really busy recently and thought now I have a bit of time before my best friend Amy arrives I would give you my review of The Boleyn Inheritance. Currently in the process of reading a book on Medical Ethics and the Nuremberg Doctors Trial post World War Two, so won’t be posting a review on that for obvious reasons. Once I’ve read my next book (which I hope will be soon) a review will definitely be up!
 
This story follows on from the well known part of history in Tudor England where Anne Boleyn has been executed alongside her brother for adultery, incest and treason. Left behind is George Boleyn’s wife Jane Lady Rochford in disgrace and trying to work her way back to court. Mainly from her perspective, you see how court moves from the reign of Anne Boleyn as Queen through Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.
 
This story has 3 main perspectives, from Jane Boleyn to Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard with their view of events surrounding them at court. It begins with Anne of Cleves and an impotent Henry VIII, their divorce and him referring to her as his sister afterwards, moving through to a 14 year old Katherine Howard and her extra-marital liaisons. All the way through, the Duke of Norfolk acts as a manipulative influence who always manages to look after number one, a concept we can relate to even today.
 
This was written really well and personally, although its fiction, Philippa Gregory builds up the characters in a way that provides an extra layer to cold historical fact. That is the element that I love of historical fiction, it allows for a personal touch.

My Review of The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

My Review of The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Finished on: 11th July 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Reading Challenge Book Number: 44
 
It’s the story that nearly everyone in the country knows, the divorce of Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon in the 16th century, on the grounds that she was his brother’s wife. But The Constant Princess goes further back, to when 15 year old Katherine, known then as Catalina, the Infanta of Spain is sent to England to marry Henry’s brother Arthur. As he lays dying, he urges Catalina to make a solemn deathbed promise to him, that she will lie about them having consummated their marriage so she can marry Henry and be the Queen she was destined to be without Arthur at her side.
 
I think this adds a really intriguing dimension to such a well-known story, especially as it has been remarked upon so much as to how honest a woman Katherine was and therefore must have been telling the truth. The Constant Princess shows she’s not that saintly but is not a straight up liar or perjurer, she is simply a confused girl keeping a promise to a man she loved to fulfil the destiny she has been told she has since being a small child. All the way through The Constant Princess, I do feel sorry for Katherine, but I also admire her strength and constancy as well as the moments of vulnerability. She is a master of her gestures and actions which makes her a force to be reckoned with and what nobles would take to be a true royal. She has been abandoned by all those close to her and therefore can trust no one but herself, which in some ways hardens her heart and makes her reluctant to anyone attempting to get close to her.
 
Is it historically accurate? Probably not. I’ve studied the Tudors in depth and there is not really any compelling evidence to show either way whether the marriage was consummated or not. However, it is an intriguing concept and I think that this is something that historical fiction does well. But do not read this without taking a pinch of salt to the most controversial points, there are many things we cannot really find out about a period so far in the past.

My Review of Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

My Review of Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

 
Finished on: 6th July 2013
Rating: 3 stars
Reading Challenge Book Number: 43
 
I am a big fan of the original Devil Wears Prada book and the film. It’s not usually my sort of thing to want to read about the fashion world but I thought it would be nice to read something about the perspective of those lower in rank to the high fliers such as Miranda Priestly. I was not disappointed.
 
Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns follows on from it’s predecessor ten years down the line. Andy starts the book as an engaged woman on her wedding day and you see her progress through many roles and difficulties in her personal life (as any form of chick lit would). A decade after surviving her terrible year working at Runway, she is working for herself and her business partner Emily (the very same practically anorexic former runway assistant) on a high fashion wedding magazine of their own creation called ‘The Plunge’.
 
There is a sly quality to this book that I know is an essential element but it makes me feel very uncomfortable as Weisberger reveals a side of human nature that is there but few acknowledge. I feel eternally sorry for the character who becomes a victim of it as it must severely affect her ability to trust people.
 
Overall, a decent chick-lit sequel but nothing on the original glamour and drama

My Review of the Body Gossip Book

My Review of the Body Gossip Book
 
Finished on: 3rd July 2013
Rating: 5 stars
Reading Challenge Book Number: 42
 
I am very biased when rating this book, I will let you know in advance!
 
I got involved with Body Gossip very recently after my friend Amy who is an ambassador asked me to go with her to a flashmob they were running to promote positive body image. This is something I am very for, as I know how different everyone’s bodies are and yet they are all beautiful in different unique ways. After participating in the flashmob, I was asked by the co-founder of the charity Ruth Rogers to become an ambassador and help to spread the message. I was completely honoured to be asked to carry on working with this amazing charity with it’s uplifting message – everyone is beautiful.
 
I sat down and began to read this book soon after the flashmob on June 28th 2013. It has been described as an anthology of more than 300 short body stories written by real people from all over the UK. There are poems, prose and dialogues written about everything body image related including pregnancy, diets, sport, ageing, adolescence, eating disorders, ethnicity, sexuality and disability. I was captivated by the raw honesty of the people who had written it, the candid nature of the writing and how enlightening and sometimes humorous the ways people chose to tell their stories about their bodies.
 
Please give this a read guys, it definitely makes you feel better about yourself and your body and uplifts you in a way I cannot even describe to you 🙂