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Rosemarie (England)

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My Lady of Cleves
My Lady of Cleves
by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars "to be called a Flanders Mare?", 18 Mar. 2014
This review is from: My Lady of Cleves (Paperback)
I like to think that, at this stage, I have built up a fairly strong base knowledge concerning historical fiction. I have read a lot. Nevertheless, as with all reading in this genre I always consult one forum alone after completion of my newest find; my Mom. She's read ten times more than I have and there's not a historical fiction novel I can name she hasn't partaken in at one point or another. And she very much helped me to clarify my thoughts on this book.

It's dated. Badly.

I'll leave comparisons to the end because it's unfair to immediately throw in other author's names. But suffice to say I found a lot of problems here. If it were not a novel about the relatively unwritten about Anne of Cleves it would have been two stars. However I enjoyed the chance to finally read from the perspective of the jilted Flemish Princess. She's a character I've been interested in for some time, always searching for small details about her. Not least because her marriage was the ultimate downfall of my favourite historical personage - Thomas Cromwell.

Campbell Barnes does a fair job of attempting to capture the confusion and fear running like a vein through Anne's marriage. However her portrayal of Anne, I think, is overly flattering. As is her depiction of a whole host of characters. In contrast to that her thoughts on characters such as Cromwell and Wriothsley were wholly negative. Therefore there is very little moral grey to her characterisation, which I think is so important in a novel about the Tudor court. Everyone played along a blurred line there, no one announced their loyalty to anyone but the King. Yet the moral compass of characters here is more fitting for a fairytale than an attempt at reliving reality.

I also thought a lot of the flow was lost as, with each changing chapter, time jumps differed hugely. A month passes, a year. Huge chunks of married life are missed out. In my case one of the things I was most looking forward to was interactions with Anne and Henry, both during their marriage and after it. Instead I was accosted by a fictitious flirtation between Anne and Hans Holbein. I didn't mind this too much, romance sells and without that authorial interjection Campbell Barnes would have struggled with childless, divorced Anne. However I would have preferred less obviousness between Holbein and Anne - personally it struck me as a little forced.

Historical accuracy did many leaps from the window, departing completely from any semblance of reality. When I saw scenes reminiscent of the TV show The Tudors I had to smile. Perhaps Neil Jordan read this novel when writing about the marriage of Anne of Cleves? However in a world post The Other Boleyn Girl, I am well used to vast departures from historical accuracy and, whilst I sometimes wish the author had done just a little more research, I can largely accept it in a novel borne of fiction.

Saying all of this I did, to an extent, enjoy reading. It was a light read and, whilst it lacked the historical depth and sharp characterisation of Jean Plaidy (I told you name dropping was coming) I thought that, for the time it was written (1946) this is a well enough way to dip your toes into the Tudor world and experience it through she who was perhaps Henry's luckiest Queen.


The Shock of the Fall
The Shock of the Fall
by Nathan Filer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars 'reading is a bit like hallucinating', 13 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Shock of the Fall (Paperback)
The Shock of the Fall is the début novel of Nathan Filer. However, upon reading, I would never have selected this for the category of 'début'. As the Costa Award judges, who proclaimed this their winner, pointed out, The Shock of the Fall is sure footed. It's confident whilst being vulnerable. It's painful whilst being funny. It's the gathered mass of contradictions which make up a human being, like hundreds of thousands of atoms, and that makes both the writing and the character almost unbearably human.

As a psychiatric nurse, Filer knows a lot about mental illness. But knowing isn't always the same as KNOWING. Nevertheless, the insight displayed here is unflinching. Filer doesn't care for sensitivity - he goes instead for truth. It makes The Shock of the Fall a lot stronger as a novel, as a result. Whilst his character is likeable, there is the underlying suspicion of his mental illness warping his personality, making you unsure of your position as a reader. Is the narrator telling you the truth? Or is this all a distorted sense of time and place, from the mind of a person incapable of understanding either?

The style of presentation, I felt, was at time forced. I liked the change between computer font and typewriter lettering, yet some of the layout seemed at times slightly laboured. However this didn't affect my enjoyment of the material, which was extremely well done. A very strong first novel, and a very interesting read.


To Kill A Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition
To Kill A Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Harper Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird", 9 Mar. 2014
I am, I feel, one of the few people in the world who was not made to read this book whilst at school. For that I am infinitely grateful. Not because I didn't like it, quite to the contrary, I was absolutely entranced with this tale of prejudice, told through the eyes of a young Southern girl by the name of Scout Finch. Similarly I wanted nothing more than to be eight and go on adventures in the neighbourhood with Scout, her brother Jem and their summer friend Dill (based on Lee's lifelong friend Truman Capote). I wanted nothing more than for my Father to be the level headed, intelligent, incredibly moral Atticus Finch, who never treated his children with less than respect and always did the best he could.

However if I had read this at school would I have felt the same? Perhaps, perhaps not. It is no secret that many children have long lasting loathing for the set books they were forced to read in classrooms. I have an undying, underlying cautiousness towards poetry as a result of years of studying it against my will in G.C.S.E English. And To Kill a Mockingbird is something which should never be forced upon a person, as doing so violates the core principle of the book. Freedom is something which should not be given. It should simply be. Prejudice inhibits that; prejudice towards people because of their skin colour, their sex, their position in life. A school room prejudice against this book, because of when it was read, seems to be an amazing irony; in mind of the content.

I find it both sad and also strangely right that the total sum of Harper Lee's bibliography can be read by completing this one novel. What a novel to base your life on. It handles subjects with strength and an unflinching, typically straightforward, Southern gaze. Lee doesn't try to sympathise as such. She simply tries to see, through the innocent eyes of a child. Through that innocence what is visible is a truth which the time could not envisage. The characterisation is perfection; I care about each and every name I read, for better or worse. My dislike of Bob Ewell is as intense an emotion as my love for the Finches. There is also human ambiguity with all characters. Take, for example, Aunt Alexandra - both likeable and unlikeable at once; always attempting to change Scout and yet devoted to her nonetheless, and generally as goodhearted as she knows how to be.

This is a remarkable book, quite rightly listed above the Bible in many lists of 'Books to Read Before You Die' - there is a meditation on life here which puts the world of the time into stark contrast with modern views. What makes it more startling is that a great deal is autobiographical, a picture of Lee's life which no one but her could ever paint.

Perhaps Harper Lee never wrote another book because she didn't think she could write anything better. To my mind, I highly doubt anyone ever could. A must read.


Thanks for Sharing
Thanks for Sharing
Dvd
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'i'm not an alcoholic', 5 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Thanks for Sharing (DVD)
As the other reviewer has pointed out, there is nothing essentially wrong with this film. I say this because I think it fell very much into the 'rom com trying to be a bit serious so critics instantly hate it' category. Yes, Thanks for Sharing does have a theme at its core which is serious. And for the most part that core is treated with a shade of respect. Perhaps not the shade it should have been, but there is no making a mockery of sex addiction here. Which is, let's admit, a good start.

The performances definitely elevate the material. Whilst there are some intriguing plot lines (a doctor who can't stop himself from frotaging being one of them) there is a certain colour by numbers theme. However the acting, especially by Mark Ruffalo, Josh Gad and, slightly surprisingly, Alecia Moore (otherwise known as the singer Pink) brings life to the scenarios we are faced with. Tim Robbins and Joely Richardson bring life to a story which has real spark, with Tim Robbins especially bringing his story line to the fore. The only cast member which disappointed me in the least was Gwyneth Paltrow (to me she seemed hopelessly miscast) but that was partly due to the underwriting of her role.

If you have a couple of hours to spare, I'd recommend this over many modern attempts at a similar genre. Where this falls down is the lack of bravery - this could have been a much more intriguing piece had the creators just stepped that bit further over the line in the sand and brought a higher level of realism. However, saying that, there are more hits than misses and, whilst nothing overwhelmingly memorable, I enjoyed Thanks for Sharing for that it was; a light meditation on sex, people, and the consequences of addiction.


JETech® PU Leather Quality Wallet iPhone 5/5S Case for Apple iPhone 5 5G 5S (Wallet-White/Green)
JETech® PU Leather Quality Wallet iPhone 5/5S Case for Apple iPhone 5 5G 5S (Wallet-White/Green)
Offered by JEDirect UK
Price: £9.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars JETech phone case (green and white), 5 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've got to say that I've never had a better phone case than this. Not only is it light and good looking (there's a slight silvery sheen to the green/white cover which makes it look tastefully metallic under bright light) but very durable. I'm not the most careful of beings and my iPhone has been saved countless times by this case. I've scuffed it ever so slightly in the last three months but the sheen means the scuff are nigh on impossible to see. The magnetic closure is also incredibly useful, making sure the cover doesn't flap open and expose my screen whilst I'm carrying my phone in my bag. The magnet is also on the backside of the cover, meaning I can fold the front behind the phone and easily hold it in place with the clasp, which is easier than having it in the way during protracted phone use. None of the buttons are covered by the case (a common problem I've had in the past) meaning I very rarely, if ever, have to take the case off. Overall a brilliant purchase, highly recommended.


A Clash of Kings: Game of Thrones Season Two (A Song of Ice and Fire)
A Clash of Kings: Game of Thrones Season Two (A Song of Ice and Fire)
by George R R Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars "valar morghulis", 5 Mar. 2014
Whoever said 'the devil is in the details' must have had George R. R. Martin in mind. It's no secret that the book series which spawned Game of Thrones is a lesson in dedication. At eight hundred plus pages, A Clash of Kings is no exception. But a more enthralling experience for a fantasy fan would be very difficult to find.

I think what is so compelling about this world, for me, is the fact that you never quite know who the victor is going to be. Traditionally, in all fiction, you read from the winning side. Whether it be first, second or third person, you follow the protagonist(s) from beginning to end, seeing their foes fall by the wayside along the journey. In this case there is none of that. Protagonists and antagonists are all subjective. We're treated to points of view from all manner of characters, their chapters humanising them. Hate the Lannisters? Reading Tyrion's chapter makes me less than sure. Revile Theon? Not after reading his chapter I don't. It's a whole bundle of moral ambiguity, and I love it.

The world being so rich and complex doesn't hurt either. Everything is very Tolkien in its level of detail. It gives the genre epic fantasy a whole new twist when it takes me several glances at a supplementary house chart in order to understand which house supports which ruler, and therefore gain context implied during the narrative. But I never found the complexity overwhelming. Instead it aided the immersion I yearn for in my fantasy choices, enjoying the experience all the more for it.

My favourite character? That's like asking someone their favourite song - there's always more than one. I'm all for girl power though, Sansa, Brienne, Asha, Arya, Danaerys - however Tyrion, Varys, Jacquen, Jorah, the Hound and Jaime also hold a special place in my heart. I think it's more about the whole than the individual. And Martin sure knows how to provide the whole.

Fantastic continuation of the series, going from strength to strength to leave me eager for more.


Leon
Leon
Dvd
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars "I'm old enough. I need time to grow up", 28 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Leon (DVD)
Leon is a film which is always beautiful. Even at its most ugly, with scenes of death and violence splattered across the screen, there is a poetry to each movement and syllable. Jean Reno is startling; at one moment a child, smiling as he watches a Cary Grant film, the next executing men (no women, no children) on request. However he is almost overshadowed by Natalie Portman, remarkable as Mathilda, in a performance which is dark, vulnerable and also frighteningly sexually aware for someone so young, playing the lolita elements of her character flawlessly. It a love story like no other; filled with great power and emotion, offset nicely by the unhinged nature of Gary Oldman's performance Perhaps Besson's best and a certain must see.


Almost Famous
Almost Famous
Dvd
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "And hey. I met you. You are not cool", 28 Feb. 2014
Almost Famous is many things. A coming of age story, a reflection on fame, a warning against the all consuming nature of ego, a tale of first love...and yet for all these elements this film never seems crowded. The performances are perfect; light and yet filled with depth. My personal favourite is jaded Lester Bangs, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. He delivers every line of dialogue with unexpected and yet appreciated emotion, for a character so blunt. Kate Hudson glows throughout and Billy Crudup is suitably morally confused. Definitely a recommendation from me; a film which made me laugh one moment and feel incredible sadness the next. Must see.


The Bling Ring
The Bling Ring
Dvd
Price: £3.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Girls, time for your Adderall', 28 Feb. 2014
I have to admit that for me this is a film of two halves.

The first I found impossibly dull - the countless calls of "OMG!" as the gang invaded people's homes and rifled through their possessions did nothing to bring anything new to the subject of The Bling Ring. I also found the lack of back story to the characters disappointing. I don't feel like I ever got a feel for the motivations of the culprits, there was very little to suggest what in their lives led them to their spate of robberies. However the second half was far more compelling, chronicling the arrest and court appearances of each - I found the script was stronger here, giving the characters a more humane side (for better or worse). Each reacted differently to their being faced with the charges; some turning on one another, others quietly remorseful for their acts whilst others still used it as a chance at fame. I wish this level of character insight had been present throughout, as it would have made for a much stronger film.

The performances were also very varied. Whilst I enjoyed Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga (possibly backed by the fact their characters' family life was more thoroughly explored, with their Mother feeding them Adderall and a new age 'education'). I thought many of the other central roles were played in a manner more befitting of a cheap TV movie than a Sophia Coppola film. There was a lot of woodenness where there shouldn't have been. The direction was solid for the most part, with the exception of what I would deem a few badly chosen scenes of, again, the robberies. I think Coppola missed out on a lot by trying to focus so much on the crime and so little on the aftermath - everyone is aware that Paris Hilton got robbed. But what happened after is far more sketchy - and more interesting. It was surprising to me that the director of the hugely emotive Lost in Translation would produce something so lacking heart.

Overall a passable film, but you won't be losing out by giving it a miss.


A Very Private Grave (The Monastery Murders)
A Very Private Grave (The Monastery Murders)
Price: £6.02

4.0 out of 5 stars 'soaked in his blood', 16 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I originally bought it when it was on offer on Kindle, and started off with the laboured non-interest of someone with nothing else to read. However I soon found myself hooked by the author's style and, perhaps more importantly, the characters. In fact them, more than the plot (which whilst enjoyable was clichéd enough to cause a few eye rolls here and there), was what had me streaking ahead to find out what happened next. The whole forbidden romance which is skirted around interested me, simply because, despite it feeling overdone, there aren't that many examples of it. In fact I found myself applauding the courage to even hint at it, something which could easily provoke backlash. I hear this is a series and I'd like to see what happens next, which is about as good a recommendation I can give. Especially as I am usually very anti crime/thriller - it takes a lot to get me to read a crime book and Donna Fletcher Crow has achieved my wishing to read more.


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