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.
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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 🙂

My Review of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Date Finished: 16th February 2013

Book Challenge 2013 Number: 13

Rating: 4 stars
 
It’s definitely going to be a lazy Sunday for me, have for the moment got no immediately pressing work to complete and am feeling a bit rough around the edges. Think I’ll turn to some Shakespeare today for a bit of reading in bed with the IPod on shuffle. 
 
I Capture the Castle is certainly an intriguing read, following the Mortmain family mainly through the eyes of Cassandra in their old, dilapidated castle. Mr Mortmain took out a 40 year lease on it, hoping it would soothe his chronic writers block after he can’t seem to write anything after his first book. Jacob Wrestling. He lives there with his 2 daughters Rose and Cassandra, his son Thomas, his second wife Topaz and Stephen, who helps out around the house and is desperately in love with Cassandra. Money is extremely tight for them, and Rose in particular craves a luxurious lifestyle. Then the Cotton brothers turn up, Neil and Simon. Simon is the heir to a considerable fortune, which could rescue the family from their dire financial situation…
 
This book was such a charming one to read, and literary-enthusiast Cassandra makes for a great narrator. I especially love the first line of the entire novel ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’. She tells the story as she sees it, and feels that ‘capturing’ everything around her and learning to speed write will lead to her literary ambitions of becoming an author. 
 
My favourite character from I Capture the Castle would definitely have to be Cassandra herself, she’s a typical late teenage girl wanting things she can’t have, but she’s not typical in so many ways. She has a lot of burden placed upon her which forces her to mature in order to help out to make life a little easier for the entire family. Their situation isn’t helped by Mr Mortmain himself, who for the first half of the book doesn’t appear to do much.
 
I absolutely adored the ending, which was a lovely surprise (and I won’t be giving it away). You feel a sense of elation on Cassandra’s behalf and also extremely sorry for poor Simon.
 
Definitely a recommended read 🙂

My Review of Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Finished on: 29/01/13

7th Book of my 2013 Reading Challenge

Rating: 4 stars

Sorry for my lack of presence in the blogging sphere since I reviewed Sir Thomas More, I have been a busy bee starting to write my essays ages before the deadlines. Weird I know, but I like knowing that I have time to edit after a first draft and avoid any last minute disasters.

At this moment in time, I am very excited because I am going home tomorrow for 5 days! 5 whole days with my family, which is going to be amazing! I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my family and going out to celebrate my good friend Ilona’s 19th birthday (any gathering which brings us lot together is always massive fun). But whilst at home, I have some work to do (which is inevitable being a uni student), including reading the book ‘The Prince’ by Niccolo Macchiavelli. It’s the content for my seminar discussion next week and I also have picked the essay question on Macchiavelli as my first assignment. I’m hoping it will be an interesting read but you never know. I’m also not sure whether to review it when I’m done, I think I’ll reserve judgement until I have finished reading it.

Anyway, onward to my review of Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton.

This thriller/mystery novel follows Gracie and her daughter Jenny, caught in a fire at son Adam’s school, an arson attack but no one can work out who is responsible. Although both Gracie and Jenny are unconscious in hospital, between them in what I can only describe as a ‘alternative plane of existence’ or a middle ground between this life and the next, they try to piece together what happened and who is responsible. In the ‘real world’, Grace’s sister in law Sarah, a police officer, is also trying to work out what happened to them and who started the fire.

I really enjoyed this book, mainly because this is the second book I’ve read by Lupton that has left me completely clueless as to who the arsonist was. I had so many ideas in my mind and the person I considered to be the least capable was responsible! I love it when mystery novels actually manage that!

The ending was also really beautiful, I can’t really give it away but it’s mentioned throughout the book as a possible outcome, but you delude yourself into thinking that no one will let it go ahead. Yet it does, and it’s a beautiful example of unconditional love and putting your children first.

Definitely highly recommended, a great and engaging read which keeps you guessing until the very end

My Review of Sir Thomas More: The Play

Finished on: 25th January 2013

6th Book of my 2013 Reading Challenge

Rating: 4 stars

I always thought that Shakespeare had written this play, before doing a bit of research and realising that it was probably written by a multitude of writers, of which Shakespeare may very well have been one of. 

This review will probably be a short one as I am totally useless at reviewing Shakespeare. I only started this today, but as it’s such a short play, I finished it rather quickly, especially after getting so into it. 

It’s a period of history I adore and a historical individual I admire. Sir Thomas More, starting out his career in law and politics before becoming Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, later executed for opposing Henry VIII’s changing of the church and his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. 

The language, especially that which leads to his death, is so emotive and powerful. I want to share with you my favourite passage that I found towards the end, where he is imprisoned and awaiting death for high treason:

Now I will speak like More in melancholy;
For if grief’s power could with her sharpest darts
Pierce my firm bosom, here’s sufficient cause
To take my farewell of mirth’s hurtless laws.
Poor humbled lady, thou that wert of late
Placed with the noblest women of the land,
Invited to their angel companies,
Seeming a bright star in the courtly sphere;
Why shouldst thou like a widow sit thus low,
And all thy fair consolers move from the clouds
That over drip thy beauty and thy worth?
I’ll tell thee the true cause. The court, like heaven
Examines not the anger of the prince,
And, being more frail-composed of gilded earth,
Shines upon them on whom the king doth shine
Smiles if he smile, declines if he decline
Yet, seeing both are mortal, court and king
Shed not one tear for any earthly thing.
For, so God pardon me, in my saddest hour
Thou hast no more occasion to lament,
Nor these, nor those, my exile from the court – 
No, nor this body’s torture, weren’t imposed,
As commonly disgraces of great men
Are the forewarnings of a hasty death – 
Than to behold me after many a toil
Honoured with endless rest. Perchance the Kind,
Seeing the court is full of vanity,
Has pity lest our souls should be misled
And sends us to a life contemplative
O, happy banishment from worldly pride,
When souls by private life are sanctified!

My Review of A Place of Execution by Val McDermid

Finished on the 16th January 2013

3rd Book of my 2013 Reading Challenge

This book begins in a cold winter of 1963, in a tiny hamlet in Derbyshire called Scardale. 13 year old Alison Carter has gone missing in strange circumstances, her dog being found tied up close by. No one can figure out who is responsible, was it an outsider who didn’t know their way around the village? Or someone closer to home? A person is convicted through the dedication of the team of police officers led by George Bennett. 35 years later, journalist Catherine Heathcote is determined to write a tell-all book about the case with George Bennett, a gritty true crime text. But a new lead emerges, and Bennett tries to stop the story, leading Catherine determined to find out the truth about the Carter case.

Let me just say how AMAZING this book is. At first I was a bit, ‘okay it’s a tragic story but…’. But then it got intriguing, so intriguing that I managed to finish the book yesterday instead of today. When it got to the 35 years later bit, I seriously couldn’t put it down. It’s got everything you could possibly want from a mystery novel; tragedy, disturbing events, the blame game, family suspicion, rumours, ghosts, abuse, cover-ups, genuinely everything. I was seriously impressed by the ending, even I did not see that coming!

 Val McDermid has definitely outdone herself with A Place of Execution, it’s truly an easy-read yet so perfectly written for the genre. It has loveable characters with a wide variety of personalities, such as the secretive yet community minded and practically all related members of Scardale, the loveable rogue Tommy Clough, the dedicated George Bennett and the headstrong Ma Lomas. I love the continuity throughout the book and how all of the events seem quite straightforward at the beginning but then intertwine to shock you with the conclusion. Thoroughly recommended, definitely, 100%.

My Review of The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

Finished on: 10th January 2013

2nd Book of my 2013 Reading Challenge

My Rating: 3 stars

This crime thriller begins in St Andrews in the 1970’s, with the violent murder of barmaid Rosie Duff. Four students; Ziggy, Weird, Mondo and Gilly (nicknames obviously), discover her body and are immediately labelled as guilty and suspicious with blood on their hands. Facing the media and public opinion, they face the wrath of Rosie’s disgruntled and rather thuggish brothers, Colin and Brian. Time progresses to when the students are in their 40’s, and someone is out for revenge.

It saddens me that I have given a three star rating to one of the books written by my favourite author. It just didn’t have the sparkle that her other books possess, and the twist and turns you expect from a crime novel. I like to be kept guessing with crime thrillers, if not until the very end as far through the book as I can. You always have some idea who the killer is, but you question yourself with every page. Pretty early on you fill in the blanks and have a sneaking suspicion who was responsible for Rosie Duff’s murder and the murder of those suspected of killing her.  McDermid valiantly tries to lead you to believe that it is a cut and dry answer to the question, but when is crime fiction ever about who obviously committed the crime? In fact, it would have actually shocked me if the obvious suspects were responsible for the murder. Without giving away spoilers, you get the sense when the true killers are revealed that you actually knew all along.

However, McDermid’s writing remains as familiar as ever to me, and I found this an easy-read and in places quite intriguing. I guess I am just wising up too much to the methods of crime fiction and am longing for something that will keep me guessing until the very last minute. Thus far, few books have ever accomplished it. I guess we shall see, given that I’m terrible for overanalysing a mystery to death. I suppose that is why one of my favourite books is McDermid’s Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series, as it delves into psychological themes and many unknown characters who remain mysterious. The problem with storylines such as this is that the perpetrators would have a personal motive rather than a random sexual one, which limits the suspect pool and the intrigue.

I’m going to start either ‘A Place of Execution’ or ‘The Vanishing Point’ by Val McDermid next, and I hope they will deliver for me what ‘The Distant Echo’ failed to. 

My Review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Finished on  Monday 7th January 2013

Rating: ****
 
Okay, so here is my confession; I am a sucker for musicals and Les Miserables the musical moves me to tears every time. My main reason for wanting to power through this book (and it’s some 1500 odd pages) was to experience the novel before watching the film. Silly, I know, as I’ve already seen the musical, but hey, we all have to have some targets and deadlines ahead of us, otherwise nothing would get done.
 
To summarise this story briefly (without major spoilers and ruining it for everyone), it follows a bunch of miserable people (hence the title) in revolutionary France as they go about their lives as poor unfortunate souls. The main characters include:
-Fantine, mother of illegitimate Cosette who due to losing her job is forced to become a prostitute. She gives up Cosette to a relatively poor couple who keep an inn, named the Thenardiers. Fantine does this so that she can work and earn money for Cosette’s keep.
-Jean Valjean, the freed convict who manages time and time again to evade being captured by Inspector Javert. He meets Fantine and agrees to bring Cosette to her, later raising her as his own child. 
-Marius, the son of an old noble endorsed by Napoleon who finds himself in dire circumstances but falls in love with Cosette and finds himself at the mercy of the barricade, becoming one of the key leaders. 
-Eponine and Gavroche, son and daughter of the Thenardiers who become street urchins very early on in life. Both become embroiled in the story of the barricade also, Eponine hoping that it will bring her closer to Marius, whom she loves.
 
I hope I managed to give you some insight into the key characters without giving away their fates that become known in the book.
 
In places, I found this book very hard to persevere with, especially the long-winded descriptions of Napoleonic battles at sea and minor characters which don’t seem to contribute to the story very much but still received twenty odd pages of your attention. But then again, I do like the detail Victor Hugo goes into in some aspects, especially the tense build ups of Jean Valjean evading capture. I love the continuity all the way through of Jean Valjean trying to escape the long arm of the law and Inspector Javert, it’s something that follows you nicely all of the way through the story and reassures you that you’re not actually reading lots of different novels. I also was enamoured by how they wrapped up the ongoing dialogue between Javert and Jean Valjean, and I can’t give that away without major spoilers, but it was quite shocking to me at first but then Javert’s motives became startlingly clear and you really get insight into his character and what drives him.
 
The individual stories all mount up into an intriguing picture of nineteenth century France, with a variety of lower social strata and circumstance all intertwined to create pure brilliance. You cannot read the build up of Fantine’s story without finally reaching an understanding of her complex living situation reflected so beautifully in the film and stage production. And that’s what I love about books over the films/musical, the detail, beauty and understanding of backstory that films and musicals simply do not have the time to accomplish.
 
Overall, a really long book, but that shouldn’t put you off. This book deserves the 4 stars I most lovingly give it, and I hope to traipse its depths once again in the future. This is my first book read towards my 2013 Reading Challenge, may I enjoy every book in the challenge as much as I enjoyed this one!
 
And oh, while I’m at it, book fans can find me on goodreads by searching ‘Ellis Spicer’ (I should be the only one who comes up, if not my picture is one that looks like a hippy with curly hair and red lipstick) and can also be found on twitter by looking for ‘ellisspicy’.