My Review of Death Sentence by Mikkel Birkegaard

Finished on: 29th April 2013

Book Challenge Number: 33

Rating: 3 stars

Death Sentence follows Danish crime writer Frank Fons, who has a reputation for gritty, gory murder scenes in his books. When murders are committed exactly how he has written them, rather than sharing what he knows with the Police, he decides to track the killer down himself. As this story unfolds, you are presented with several flashbacks of Frank’s career, from losing his family, using writing as therapy and turning to alcohol. 

This book wasn’t actually as bad as I was expecting it to be if I’m honest. The writing style leaves something to be desired but the storyline developed well, culminating in an explosive ending that you can’t help but question. It’s one of those moments where you half expected it to happen but half can’t understand how it ended up at this point. The way Frank was portrayed to me showed a certain darkness to his character with the twistedness of his writing and his state of mind in parts of the book. These character traits of his almost make the ending make sense as Frank is so irrational in places, a bizarre ending is the only way to finish up his story.

It bugs me that the killer is actually never revealed and you don’t find out their story, as for me that makes a crime novel slot together, where you understand their motives and piece together these motivations with events and subtle details within the book. 

Overall, this book is probably not for everyone, but if you’re into crime fiction it’s worth a try.

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My Review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I did have the intention (for all of five minutes) to write a review of War and Peace, but sat down at my laptop and tried writing for god knows how long and it just didn’t work. My opinion on it is that it’s the longest book I’ve ever read and quite dull in places, but the characters are quite loveable and have a subtle quality to them.

Date Finished: 23rd April 2013

Book Challenge 2013 Number: 32

Rating: 4 stars

Anyway, onward to the book I finished today, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This follows characters in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi in the height of the civil rights movement and racial segregation. The main characters are black housemaids Aibileen and Minny and white writer/college graduate Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, and the story is split into their different perspectives on life in this sleepy, segregated town.

You definitely have to admire Minny for her spirit and courage when you find out what she goes through on a daily basis, even if she is cursed with a big mouth and the nerve to use it repeatedly, leading her to be fired 19 times in the same town. The story with the pie will never cease to make me feel sick and make me laugh at the same time. She without a doubt gives as good as she gets and then some, which makes her a bit of a loveable rogue. 

Aibileen is the mother hen of the black help, who has raised almost 20 white children in her career. She’s damn well good at it, and creates a great relationship with little Mae Mobley, who she craves for to learn to be a kind, accepting person who takes people as they are rather than the colour of their skin. Her determination throughout the book leaves me in awe, she’s eternally optimistic and everything pays off.

Skeeter is an interesting character who is constantly driven by the mystery surrounding her old black nanny, Constantine, who she was very close to but who disappeared when she was at college without an explanation. It is this mystery which drives the plot forward as this eternal curiosity and passion to find out what happened leads Skeeter to asking lots of questions and receiving intriguing answers.

If thinking of which character really gets your back up and you want to strangle it’s Hilly Holbrook, an annoying busybody who thinks she runs the town. She isn’t a main character in the sense that her point of view shapes the book like the first three characters I mentioned, but she’s an irritating ideological presence throughout the book, the antagonist to pretty much everyone, especially poor Skeeter towards the end. 

The Help is definitely a book I would recommend, it explores civil rights in a fascinating way whilst giving you characters which make you smile and who you identify with.

Quick Fire Book Reviews

Shakespeare Plays
1. Much Ado About Nothing – 5/5 – Will always be one of my favourite Shakespeare plays as I am a hopeless romantic
2. Henry VIII – 3/5 – I’m interested in the period but this didn’t completely overwhelm me
3. Macbeth – 4/5 – Always a classic and one I haven’t read before. Definitely recommended though!

Other Books:

1. Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith – 2/5 – Meant to be really interesting for history students as it shows the beginnings of interest in the history of ‘everyday lives and people’, but failed to capture my interest

2. The Diplomat’s Wife by Pam Jenoff – 5/5 – Acts as a sequel to one of my favourite books ‘The Kommandant’s Girl’, following resistance member Marta post WWII as she falls in love, experiences heartbreak, marries for convenience and ends up spying on Communists.

3. The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff – 5/5 – The prequel to the Kommandant’s Girl uses some of the familiar characters I love so much in their younger years, such as the Kommandant himself and Krysia. Whilst Jenoff’s first in this series is set in WWII, this one focuses on the fall out in the Treaty of Versailles post WWI. You get to see how all of the older characters came to act the way they did and you find out the mysterious backstory to the Kommandant’s late wife Margot.

4. The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff – 4/5 – Jenoff is quickly becoming a fascination of mine, and this book is as intriguing and engaging as her others I’ve read. This follows a modern day trial against an elderly man accused of assisting the Nazi’s and bringing about the death of his brother. But two investigators find that there is more to the story than that.

5. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – 5/5 – So it’s kind of a given that I love the Tudor era, and this book actually takes some of its ideas from Warnicke’s theories and studies on Anne Boleyn and her relationship with the King leading to her death. I could not put this book down, the film does it no justice.

6. The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo – 3/5 – I read this book as a 9/10 year old in Primary School for Literacy, and decided to revisit it. Although it’s insanely short, it brought back great memories.

7. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo – 4/5 – Decided to foray into a bit more Michael Morpurgo, and after seeing the movie I knew this would be a book I wanted to read. Heart-warming and beautiful, great for all ages.

8. The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne – 4/5 – I love a bit of crime fiction and this one was especially eerie, it made me think quite a bit about children’s behavioural problems, abusive environments and manipulation. It also reminded me somewhat of the tragic James Bulger case which we hear so much about in the media.

9. The Casual Vacancy by J.K.Rowling – 4/5 – This book didn’t really do it for me in places but I loved following Krystal’s story and the dramatic ending that unfolds. Will still never beat Harry Potter for me though!

10. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux – 3/5 – Hard to follow in places but a generally good read. I definitely prefer the book to the film as I feel the film romanticises the phantom a lot more than the book does.

11. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbovsky – 3/5 – My friend Amy hated this book, my opinion is not as strong as that, I find myself a tad ambivalent towards it. Nothing special but nothing too terrible either.

12. Malleus Malefcarium (The Witches Hammer) – 2/5 – A really trying read which was ok but quite dull in places and hard to follow. However, it was very intriguing to see medieval opinions of witchcraft.

13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – 3/5 – I was a bit ambivalent towards this book too despite the hype that seems to revolve around it. However, I love the concept that madness is a social construct or a label forced upon individuals rather than a genuine problem.

Am currently in the process of reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and have about 100 pages left. All I can say is although the characters are very interesting, I don’t think I can stretch myself to a review because of how long and boring I found the majority. A very tedious read that will probably be 2/5 from me 🙂

I realised I’ve read rather a lot in the two months I’ve been away, I’m not sure how long this will last due to the fact I’m running out of books to read and also that I have exams and an internship to focus on 🙂 But I’m sure it won’t matter too much as I’m already way over half way through my 2013 Reading Challenge Goal of 50 books.

Am hoping to post on here tomorrow with an idea that came to me last night whilst talking over twitter with my good friend Amy. It will focus on how I personally make time to read and how I get through as many books as I do on top of everything else 🙂

Making excuses for my absence

Hello everyone.

I realise that I have been gone for quite some time, so here are my lousy attempts at justifying myself:

1. I’ve been reading an inhumane amount (always a good excuse right?)
2. Deadlines, essay feedback and seminar work almost killed me (in the metaphorical sense)
3. Blogging didn’t seem to flow for me, didn’t want to force it out because that’s just not me at all. Stuff like this should be fun, not a chore, and if it becomes a chore, a break is needed, whether permanent or temporary

But never fear, I have returned from the valley of the shadow of blog boredom 🙂

Life is good at the moment if I’m honest; I’m loving being at home with my family and dread going back to uni to face the dreaded exam term. Despite this dread, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is my museum internship. Myself and several other history students from the University of Kent have applied and been chosen for this one day per week experience. Am so excited to get started as either teaching or museum work would be my dream career!

I really really really want to share with you guys what I have been reading on my break, but time and patience prevents me from writing full reviews on everything. However, I will give a brief overview of each book, my view on it and my rating/recommendation. I hope to be returning to full reviews very soon as well as throwing some new stuff into the mix to spice things up a little (after all my surname is Spicer)