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 🙂

My Review of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

My Review of The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Finished on: June 24th 2013
Rating: 5 stars
Reading Challenge Book: 39
I am really getting into Harris’ work and the Hannibal series of books. Today I’ve started the last in that series ‘Hannibal’ and am whizzing through it whilst enjoying every second. 
The Silence of the Lambs follows FBI academy student/trainee Clarice Starling, asked by Agent Jack Crawford to visit Dr Hannibal Lecter in the asylum and ask for his advice on a psychological profile/survey of people like him. The hidden motive is for Starling to extract information from Lecter that may be potentially useful for catching the killer known as ‘Buffalo Bill’ who has been killing and skinning women.
Lecter is as manipulative as ever, using ‘quid pro quo’ to extract information from Clarice about herself and her childhood. This book particularly opens up how Lecter is seen by those around him, with Chilton wanting to study him as a ‘pure sociopath’ and the orderly at the asylum Barney who he appears to respect, telling him that he finds rudeness so irritating that he likes eating ‘free range rude’. The way Clarice sees him I find particularly interesting though, she appears to respect him as an academic personality, although she is nevertheless horrified at his crimes and motivations. The way she refers to him as ‘Dr Lecter’ is interesting, sort of screams to me as a method of deference and shows that he is the dominant personality in this situation. 
I just love the intrigue of Harris’ writing and the complex psychological themes that he uses. Can’t wait to finish the last book in the series, where I’ve heard that Starling and Lecter’s relationship really gets twisted.

My Review of Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris

Finished on: 20th June 2013

Rating: 5 stars

Reading Challenge Book: 37

It’s been so nice to work my way back into reading and relax whilst reading with a bit of music on without having to worry about revision, exams or deadlines.

Now for those of you who know me or read a lot of my reviews, you’ll know that I love a bit of gory writing and horror, especially within the realm of crime/criminal psychology. My favourite series ever is McDermid’s ‘Wire in the Blood’, revolving around criminal psychologist Tony Hill. So it would make sense that I would enjoy reading Hannibal Lecter books and watching the many programmes and films based on him. Weirdly, it had never occurred to me to read the books until recently. 

I decided to read Hannibal Rising first, as although it’s the last book published, it acts as a prequel to the others in terms of chronology. You begin to understand what has driven him to become this psychopathic killer who kills without remorse or regret, and it does almost give you a sense of sympathy for him. I think that’s important with books and characters such as these as ‘monsters’ are simply not born that way, they have to be created through trauma, and although this does not excuse the crimes they go on to commit, it helps your understanding. 

I was blown away by how true the movie actually was to the book, as in I could recall individual lines from the book that were used pretty much as is in the film. Only a few minor details are skipped over, but this does not detract from the story that Harris has created! Brilliant!

Overall, I found this quite an enjoyable read, and a lot less gruesome I would imagine than the ones to come as it shows how he becomes this notorious killer on a learning curve rather than showing him at his murderous peaks.

My Review of The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid

Finished on 12/02/13

2013 Reading Challenge Book Number: 12
Rating: 5 stars
The Vanishing Point follows ghost writer Stephanie Harker, guardian of Jimmy Higgins age 5. Steph has screws in her leg which always sets off the metal detectors at airports, and their trip to America is no exception. But as Jimmy waits for her to be searched, a figure whisks a compliant Jimmy away. As Steph and the FBI try to piece together what happened, you find yourself transported into how Steph became Jimmy’s guardian and close friends with his mother Scarlett. 
McDermid as usual has hit the spot for me once more. The characters are convincing as well as conniving, and you question everyone’s motives until the very end. My personal favourite character is Scarlett, who outside of Steph is a central character to the novel. I began to feel very sorry for her as the story progressed for going through so much and coming out on top. The storyline is also very intriguing, the narrative being told by Steph retrospectively for most of the story, a story of her becoming part of Jimmy and Scarlett’s life. The story then shifts dramatically to Steph and DS Nick Nicolaides in the present tense as they try to piece the story of Jimmy’s kidnap together. 
The ending had me completely speechless! Not for one moment had I considered that particular motive that McDermid reveals. Now I’m not one to give away spoilers, but wow. It’s taking every ounce of my self control to not let slip the dramatic ending. It’s so ruthless it seems almost inconsiderable, then you realise you had the completely wrong impression of a particular character all the way through the book. 

My Review of Before I Go To Sleep by S.J.Watson

Date Finished: 8th February 2013

Book Challenge Number: 11 (I’ve skipped number 10 because it was Utopia by Thomas More, compulsory reading for a presentation I had to do. Also skipped 8 which was the Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, I don’t want to bore you or myself by posting a review on those)
Rating: 5 stars
Before I Go To Sleep follows Christine, a woman who wakes up unable to remember the previous day or key events in her life before a traumatic event. With the help of Dr Nash, she keeps a journal and tries to recapture her memories. 
When I first started reading this book, I was expecting it to be quite dry with no real storyline apart from ‘she can’t remember’ and thought the story might get repetitive. But oh no, this story had so many twists and turns that it well and truly had my attention. I do a lot of reading when I’m under the weather, but this book captivated me so much I finished it in two days! 
I love the way Watson builds up this image of domesticity with that undertone of suspicion that runs all the way through, culminating in an explosive climax that I did not see coming. The ending is really a happy one by all accounts, and a lot of questions you have as the story progresses are answered in the ending.
Overall, it was a heartfelt novel about feeling like you’ve lost yourself because you can’t remember key events in your life. I loved the little flashbacks that she has of past events as she visits new places and meets old faces, it really made the book personal and made you sympathise for poor Christine as her life appears so wasted.
For beautiful writing, emotion, suspicion and a brilliant ending, I 100% recommend this book

My Review of Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Finished on the 20th January 2013

4th Book of my 2013 Reading Challenge

Rating: 5 stars

This book continues with the chapter of Tudor history involving Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, told through the eyes of Secretary Thomas Cromwell. The prequel to this, Wolf Hall, followed Anne’s ascension to the throne, now Bring Up The Bodies follows the grisly path in history she took afterwards, leading to her death by beheading.

I will confess that I adore Tudor history, it’s one of my favourite periods of history. I love the intrigue, faction, culture, society and relationships. I took a module last term entitled Monarchy and Aristocracy 1460-1640, featuring the Tudors in the middle, and I was enamoured by it. It offers an alternative explanation to the commonly accepted notion that as a reformer, Thomas Cromwell was raised by the ascension of the Boleyn’s themselves, but Mantel puts forward the idea that, trained under Wolsey, Cromwell was a logical replacement for the former bureaucrat and executor of the King’s wishes. 

Mantel also communicates superbly how the factions interplayed with each other and how the Papist and Reformist groups interacted. For a work of fiction, it reads almost like a historical reconstruction, the attention to detail and history is so precise that Mantel definitely deserves the accolades given to her thus far for these two pieces of historical fiction. The complex interactions and intrigue between factions, such as Cromwell’s joining forces with the Papist faction in order to depose Anne Boleyn, is communicated so clearly you almost believe it was that simple.

In contrast with Wolf Hall, there’s less of the slight annoyance of that pesky pronoun ‘he’ in reference to Cromwell. It’s refreshing; although I usually expect sequels to fail to deliver, this was a welcome surprise. I love how Mantel communicates the ruthlessness of what a Tudor court was like, and the double-crossing and rumours that arose. You also build up a sympathy and rapport with Anne Boleyn for being caught in the crossfire but also being responsible for her own downfall in some aspects. You can’t help but feel in places that she was forced into marriage to the King by a pushy family and didn’t quite know how to handle herself as a wife.

Overall, a brilliant book that I will definitely read again. I encourage people looking for an easy route into complex historical events in the Tudor period to begin with Mantel’s works, it gives you a literary but nonetheless helpful insight into historical events and the roles of the key players.

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%.