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 🙂

My Review of Hannibal by Thomas Harris

My Review of Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Finished on: June 26th 2013
Rating: 5 stars
Reading Challenge Book: 40
 
I’m sorry for not posting this sooner, I had it written and saved on my computer but I seem to have had a one tracked mind and forgotten to post it. 
 
Hannibal is the final book chronologically in Harris’ Hannibal Lecter series, following on several years later from Silence of the Lambs. Dr Lecter has escaped police custody and is living in Florence, whereas Agent Clarice Starling of the FBI is seeing her career crumble around her, fuelled by Paul Krendler. Wealthy businessmen, ex-patient and victim of Dr Lecter Mason Verger is desperately seeking revenge on the man who made him mutilate himself through drugs and hypnotic suggestion, offering a hefty reward for those who deliver Dr Lecter to him alive. 
 
This book for me was the most twisted of them all I think, particularly the ending, which if you’ve read the book and seen the film you will know that they are quite different. I thought the focus on Hannibal’s dead cannibalised sister Mischa was sometimes not that relevant, especially now with hindsight we know there’s an entire book dedicated to what drives Hannibal as a serial killer and his early years of living and killing. 
 
But, as always, I find it very hard to fault such complex and intriguing work on one of the most notorious characters in the horror/crime genre.

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 Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

My Review of Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Finished on: June 22nd 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Reading Challenge Book: 38

It’s so hard to believe that I’m getting so close to finishing my reading challenge for this year so soon, maybe I will get to 100 again like I did last year.

I moved on from Hannibal Rising to the next book chronologically in Harris’ Hannibal Lecter series, the first book to be published, Red Dragon. This story deals with the hunt for the ‘Tooth Fairy’ serial killer by the FBI, led by Jack Crawford. Hannibal Lecter is at this point incarcerated after being caught some years before by investigator Will Graham, who paid a heavy price for catching him both before the story begins and as it ends.

I have to admit, I’ve seen all of the movies of this and Red Dragon didn’t impress me storyline wise as much as the others. However, the new TV series Hannibal tells the pre Red Dragon story in a very intriguing way which I think provides extra layers into how I interpret the book.

Overall, I still view Harris as a master of this type of genre, the characters are subtle and believable with many complex layers which make them really interesting. I would credit Will Graham as the most intriguing character of this book outside of Lecter himself for being a man so alike to serial killers in terms of psychology and particularly empathy, but so desperate to escape his FBI past in favour of a normal life.

My Review of Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie

Hello everyone!

 
Here is my first review of the summer, Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie
Rating: 3 stars
Finished on: 19th June 2013
Reading Challenge Book: 36
 
It’s the story that so many children are familiar with, especially thanks to Disney; the tale of Peter Pan and Neverland. 
 
Peter Pan is a boy who refuses to grow up, living with the Lost Boys and the fairy Tinkerbell in Neverland, enemies with the notorious Captain Hook. He appears in the bedroom of siblings Wendy, John and Michael Darling, and together they go to Neverland to go on an adventure. Wendy takes on a motherly role to the Lost Boys, something which they have lacked for so long.
 
After a fight in the past with enemy Captain Hook, Peter Pan severed his hand off, leaving him with a hook in its place. The hand is then fed to a crocodile, who loves the taste so much that he follows Hook around with the hope of tasting him some more. It provided such a cool little back story to the widely known fact from the film about why Hook is so afraid of the ticking crocodile who swallowed a clock. 
 
Overall, it was lovely to reconnect with a bit of childhood nostalgia and go back to the original 🙂

My Review of Grantchester Grind by Tom Sharpe

Finished on: 24th January 2013

5th Book of my 2013 Reading Challenge

Rating: 4 stars

Grantchester Grind is the sequel to Porterhouse Blue, a funny and satirical look at Oxbridge traditions that I really enjoyed. Grantchester Grind follows it’s predecessor with a hop, skip and a laugh into the style of writing that Sharpe has made his own. 

Porterhouse Blue ended with the death of the current master Sir Godber Evans and the election of Skullion as Master, previously the Head Porter. Skullion goes on to suffer from a ‘Porterhouse Blue’, which is the college term for a stroke brought on by the luxurious and rich diet they eat at High Table. Grantchester Grind follows some years later, where Sir Godber’s widow, Lady Mary, is convinced her husband was murdered. She proceeds to create a Sir Godber Evans Memorial Fellow, who, funded by a generous salary, will integrate into the college and subtly investigate the circumstances of her husband’s death. Her choice is Dr Purefoy Osbert, who is not really welcomed with open arms at the fictitious college where a first class degree is a once in a blue moon occurrence and miracle. 

As the investigation of Sir Godber’s death plays out, the Dean of the College takes it upon himself to visit prosperous Old Porterthusians (previous members of Porterhouse) in the hope that one is willing and able to become Master if and when Skullion cannot continue. At the same time, the current Bursar is contacted by an American media mogul who seems to be interested in supporting the college without clarifying what it is he wants in return.

Overall, a great satire of tradition in Oxbridge for the sake of tradition and the focus on tradition and sport rather than academia. Skullion failed to deliver for me this time though, given that his character didn’t really get a chance to shine as he was still in a state from his stroke. He still manages to steal the limelight at the end as he does in the first book, which remarks on what a strong personality he is. And I still laugh at the Chaplain’s controversial opinions and distorted hearing which makes him hear things completely wrong. The character’s are familiar with some new ones filtering in to make the story fresh, and without giving away the ending too much, Porterhouse may finally begin embracing the future but still maintaining their staunch traditionalism of the past that they’ve clung to.