Monarch Series: Isabella of Castile

Inspired by my b.e.a.u.tiful Rifle Paper & Co desk calendar, I will be dedicating a post every month to one of the fabulous female leaders portrayed in said calendar. Some posts may be a list of facts, others myth busting or perhaps even an article about their life/achievements. I’m not too sure at the moment, I’ll have to see how each ruler strikes me! I may even throw some male rulers in too, just to spice things up a bit! Anyway, watch this space.

This month is dedicated to the formidable Isabella of Castile, who held the Crown of Castile from 1474 – 1504. Mother of the famous Katherine of Aragon and one half of the Spanish Catholic Kings, Isabella is known for reviving and uniting Spain after her brother and predecessor depleted its coffers.

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A Place For Us by Harriet Evans – A Review

Okay so I’m going to be totally honest with you, I LOVE Harriet Evans novels. I’ve read every single one and they just get better with every re-read. So naturally I began this one with high expectations.  A Place For Us was originally released as an ebook in four parts. I did buy the first one but I much prefer reading actual books so I decided to wait until it was published in full. Each chapter focuses on a different character. I’m pleased this type of narrative is becoming more popular as it gives a fuller insight into each character’s personality and allows easier shifts between time.

 

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The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins – A Review

Unemployed, divorced, an alcoholic; life is at an all time low for Rachel. She gets the same 08:04 train into London every weekday so her flatmate won’t know she’s been fired and looks forward to Fridays as it is more socially acceptable to drink alcohol on the train. Still in love with her ex-husband, jealous of his new wife for giving him the baby she never could and desperate for escapism, Rachel romanticises the life of a couple she sees from the train window of her commute. Jess and Jason, as she’s named them, are beautiful and madly in love. Unfortunately, the couple live a few doors down from the house she shared with Tom and now is forced to see the blinds change as he and his new wife become a family. One morning however, Rachel is witness to a shocking event outside her dream couple’s house that forces her to question her own reliability and plunges her back into the life of her ex and inevitably the life of Scott and Megan, the couple she’s watched from afar.

The Girl On The Train is journalist Paula Hawkins’ first novel and it is expertly crafted. Shifting between three female narratives, Hawkins is able to create a sense of unease from the first few pages. Rachel’s alcohol abuse makes her unreliable as she regularly wakes up not knowing what she did the night before but feeling dread, shame and fear as she trawls through he phone to find clues. Feeling that what she saw may be the key to the events that unfold, she stumbles her way through her old street, contacting both her ex and visiting the house she’d watched. Despite trying to help, her motives are soon questioned and reliability dismissed leaving her feeling she needs to take matters into her own hands. As the novel progresses, it is clear none of the characters are who they seem and none are particularly likeable.

Some critics have highlighted how strange it is to have such an unlikable character as a protagonist yet I disagree. I don’t hate Rachel, I pity her. I wanted better for her and often found myself shouting “No don’t do that” and surely that’s the point? Despite being extremely flawed, She invokes feeling in her readers, whether that’s hate, annoyance or pity, the fact the reader feels something means they’re connecting with the story and her flaws only make her more human. This novel explores the nature of love, and how it is a complex emotion that causes vastly different reactions and behaviour in everyone, yet can also leave people vulnerable. Isn’t it the ones you love the most, the ones you trust the most?

I finished this within hours of starting it, at 320 pages it isn’t a particularly long novel, I was hooked from the first page. I felt tense and uneasy from the first few pages, desperate to read on. It is set to become 2015 bestseller and with DreamWorks having the film rights we’ll soon be seeing it on the big screen. I can’t wait!

Buy The Girl On The Train here

Dissolution – A Review

Wow. C J Sansom’s first novel in his Shardlake series is excellent. A murder mystery set in the turbulent years after Anne Boleyn’s execution and when the dissolution of corrupt monastic houses was underway, Sansom depicts a vivid world with larger than life characters.

Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer and a reformist and as such, trusted by Thomas Cromwell. Having orchestrated the fall of Henry VIII’s second and most controversial queen Cromwell had turned to rooting out papists and ensuring all holy houses swore an oath of loyalty to the king’s supremacy over their church. The murder of one of his commissioners in a monastery in Kent could draw unwanted attention and suspicion over the desired submission of the house. Enter Shardlake. In Cromwell’s favour and eager to prove his loyalty to the Vicar-General, Shardlake is dispatched along with his ward Mark Poer to seek the truth of the commissioner’s murder quickly and efficiently. However, as soon as he arrives it is clear the monastery at Scarnsea holds many secrets and lies.

Like any good murder mystery everyone is under suspicion and many clues point to different culprits. As the days pass more scandalous events occur that keep you guessing at what exactly had happened. I gasped so many times while reading and i was desperate to learn who the murderer was. The protagonist was endearing and likeable, Sansom certainly created an unforgettable narrator. He cleverly intertwines factual events with current historical theories into his fictional plot with ease. The writing was a joy to read and the expert descriptions plunge readers into the tumultuous sixteenth century.

I recommend this for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and whodunnit murder mysteries. It is not quite as fast paced as perhaps more stereotypical plots in the genre but it fits with the Shardlake’s character and the period in which it is set.

Devoured this in two sittings and cannot wait to go and buy the second in the series, Dark Fire!

5 stars.

Four Days and Counting….

Wednesday 21st January 2015, 9pm, BBC 2: What will you be doing?

The highly anticipated BBC dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s awarding winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies is hitting our screens in just four days. Excited? You should be. With Damian Lewis portraying a pre-tyrannical King Henry VIII and Mark Rylance as the protagonist Thomas Cromwell, it is bound to be incredible. The stellar cast has already proved that this portrayal of Tudor England will be dark and full of drama in the trailers.

Focussing on Cromwell and viewing the period from his point of view is an interesting take on the politics of the time. I for one can’t wait to see how these excellent books have been translated onto the screen.

Wolf Hall will start on Wednesday 21st January, BBC2 at 9pm, UK.

Let me know what you think!

Start The Year Organised

Hello Monday, it’s been a while…

The first day back at work after the Christmas break is always a hard one, some of you may have even had to work in between the holidays! Whether you’ve already been back a few days or like me, today is the first, it always helps to be organised.

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So… I’m running a Half Marathon for Cancer Research UK

Now that the festive period is officially over (boo!) I’m kick-starting my year with half marathon training. This may seem like a crazy new year resolution, but it really isn’t. I’m running the full 13 miles (21 km) to raise money for Cancer Research UK. The charity does an amazing job funding critical research into curing and preventing the rise of this awful disease.

Since meeting my boyfriend back in 2011, we’ve always said we’d like to do whatever we could to help their mission. I have never been a runner, I was part of the netball, hockey and rounders teams at school, but running never seemed to factor in, so this is a huge challenge for me. Running had always been the plan but we had been thinking more along 5k race line yet when we saw the Cambridge Half Marathon we thought it was a better challenge; 5k seemed too achievable. Although right now it seems a mammoth distance, especially for a beginner like me (I’m slightly terrified), at least it is something I will have to work for. I don’t want to do something easy, that seems to defeat the point of sponsorship. By signing up through CRUK I have pledged to raise £300, that seems like a lot right now but i’m hoping to get as much as possible for such a great cause.

If any of you would like to help me on my way to achieving this, any donation would be greatly, greatly appreciated. £1 would be fantastic. You can donate by following my sponsor link on the right side of my homepage or by following this link. Clicking the Gift Aid option and filling in your postcode allows an extra 25p for every pound donated without any extra cost to you.

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My 2015 Reading Resolution

2014/2015 London Fireworks
2014/2015 London Fireworks

Happy New Year!

I hope you all entered 2015 happy and with resolutions aplenty. I know it seems a bit cheesy nowadays to make resolutions, after all, why should we change? We’re already brilliant. Yet I think it’s quite nice to start on a blank page and set achievable challenges for the year ahead. I won’t bore you with all of mine but let’s just say they involve writing more, reading more and experiencing more.  I’m sorry it’s been a while since my last post but my excuses lay in 2014 and as it is a new year, I shall focus on my main quest: a new reading challenge.

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