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 You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi Macfarlane

My Review of You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi Macfarlane

Finished on: 2nd July 2013
Rating: 3 stars
Reading Challenge Book: 41
Sorry for not posting this sooner, have been running around like a crazy fool for the past week! Have a review to write of Revenge Wears Prada (The Devil Returns) which I think I’ll write tomorrow whilst making the most of a long awaited rest day. 
You Had Me At Hello, if you judge it on its title, is a romantic soppy novel reminiscent of Mills and Boon cringeworthy texts. But in my mind, this book is more than that, it has a beautiful depth and loveable characters.
This book follows Rachel, 10 years out of university and freshly split up from her fiancée Rhys. She bumps into an old university friend Ben at the Iibrary and begins to get to know him once again. What results is her being introduced to a top story for her work as a journalist, to see everything crumble in that respect, and to wonder what her feelings are and who she can trust. 
I love how this book isn’t straight up romance, it has sweet little flashbacks of university life and the romance creeps in at the end, just a tad which makes oh smile and gives you a nice familiar ending. My most favourite character would have to be Rachel herself as she has that type of self deprecating charm that’s quite endearing. On the other side of the fence, I cannot stand the character of Simon, and if you ever read this book you will understand why. God what a whining little twat.

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 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 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 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.

My Review of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Had such a nice week last week at home with the family from Wednesday to Sunday, got together with my friends to celebrate my friend Ilona’s birthday and went out for a Chinese buffet with the family…..One downside, I caught a cold from my nine year old sister and now I am an ill, sleepy, virus-ridden unhappy bunny. 
But, I have finished Sleepy Hollow and decided to give you a review of it 🙂 Hopefully I will be better soon and posting lots of blog-posts in between essay writing, seminar reading and classes
Date Finished: 5th February 2013
Book Challenge Number: 9
Rating: 2 stars
Sleepy Hollow follows the story of a Dutch Settlement in Tarrytown, with a quiet glen nearby called Sleepy Hollow. Here is where the spirit known as ‘the Headless Horseman’ is, believed to be an old revolutionary soldier riding through searching for his head. Teacher Ichabod Crane is fascinated by the tale of the horseman and wants to know more, then one night as he makes his way home, he sees the horseman by the church.
To be perfectly honest, this book should have been right up my street, but it wasn’t. The writing style was alright, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting from the book that brought us the film. I was waiting for a bit of gore, some terror and mysterious killings but all I received was a disappearance at the end and one teacher’s love story plonked in between stories told about the horseman by the villagers. There’s no real character development or half decent plot, and I know it’s a short book, but its like Irving doesn’t even want you to get to know the character that much or build up the story.