Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Other Half Lives - Sophie Hannah

What would you do if your boyfriend told you he'd killed someone? That he'd killed a woman years ago? This is the premise for Sophie Hannah's The Other Half Lives. Ruth Bussey knows the meaning of heartache and pain, she's felt the kind that rips a person apart and nearly destroys you. She's left everything she's ever known, relocated and met and fallen in love with a man: Aidan Seed, a man whose love she feels she doesn't deserve. Aiden, haunted by a past he's never quite able to escape confides in Ruth telling her of a woman he killed years ago: Mary Trelease, the name of a woman Ruth knows to be very much alive.

What struck me about The Other Half Lives is the way it jumps perspective from each of the main characters. Each of the characters has a secret buried within their past and are each so emotionally damaged and stunted by these secrets that they now inform and define their characters. Each of the characters and their secrets are intricately intertwined with each other that as the plot unfolds each chapter is like pieces of a puzzle coming together and finding its place.

The plot itself is full of deception and misdirection so that the path the reader thinks it is on is actually being weaved in the opposite direction, also just when the reader thinks they have it all figured it out a hurdle is thrown in.

The plot in this story is mainly pushed along by the female leads. When we first meet Ruth Bussey is a woman about to tell a story so crazy that it couldn't possibly have been imagined: her boyfriend is convinced he killed a woman - a woman who is very much alive and kicking. As the story moves along Ruth desperately tries to convince the police of Aidan's sanity and at the same time convince Aidan of his innocence - a task not easily done. Charlotte (Charlie) is a policewoman who after a terribly bad and trumatic judgement call has been demoted and is now pushing paper. Charlie is also newly engaged to a detective with whom her relationship lacks intimate contact and with whom everyone is convinced she is making a mistake marrying.

What I thought: I've never really been one for thrillers, I've always found them heavy on the action and violence and found it hard to identify with the characters but The Other Half Lives was a pleasant surprise. It is intelligently written with a plot that moves along at an exciting pace and kept me engaged and contained well rounded (if not a slightly damaged) characters which were identifiable but which I also found myself caring about and rooting for. There were moments of sweetness and tenderness between the characters, perfectly portrayed moment of awkwardness and moments that sent a shiver of fear down my spine. The writing was witty which at times took out the bite of some of the more fearsome moments. Overall a book I would highly recommend. I would give it five out of five stars.

Shakespeare, William

Recently I read a book written by Bill Bryson about William Shakespeare. I am naturally a fan of Shakespeare in fact there may have been a small amount of squealing when I got a confirmation email about a tour I'd planned to Shakespeare country (but that's another post altogether). My favourite sonnet by the Barb would be Shall I compare thee...while my favourite play is Romeo and Juliet. I didn't always favour Shakespeare's tragedy of the two star-crossed lovers. When I read it for an English class at high school I did not have favourable opinions about it, while the writing is superb I was of the opinion that Romeo was fickle and Juliet was young and stupid.

When I sat down to read Bryson's biography I asked myself a question: How much do I really know about William Shakespeare? I know the plays and some of the sonnets, I know he was from Stratford-upon-Avon. I know he was married to Anne Hathaway. After that I couldn't come up with anything else. So, I was expecting Bryson's biography to unveil some new information or exciting tidbit but to my disappointment it was mainly made up of assumptions mixed in with the few legitamate facts the world actually have. This book while a slight disappoint in terms of new information is wittily written. Perhaps Shakespeare is going to remain somewhat of a mystery but that doesn't deter from the brilliance of what he was: one of the greatest writers of all time.

The Bronze horseman - Paullina Simons

This is one of my all time favourite books. My copy of it is worn with deep creases etched into the spine and the pages dog earred, the pages which were once pure white are now coloured. In my opinion, this is a modern day Romeo and Juliet story - except possibly more relatible - it contains the same restrained passion, the love that can never be.

Set in World War Two Russia The Bronze Horseman tells the story of Tatiana Metanova, a seventeen year old girl who meets the handsome soldier Alexander on the first day of war. There is an attraction between them which is ignited from their first meeting. There's just one problem: Alexander is already entangled with Tatiana's older sister Dasha. Mix in Dimitri, Alexander's weasely best friend who sets his sights on Tatiana. Add to this the violence of the waging war and their love seems impossible.

Their relationship is an intense push/pull situation with Alexander trying to do the right thing and the noble thing and protect Tatiana and her family and Tatiana's unwavering loyalty to Dasha. Add to their already strained relationship the secret Alexander is harbouring; a secret he's endeavoured to share with Tatiana (and Dimitri, who uses it as blackmail material). It's hard enough to keep romance alive without the added burden of just trying to survive, to just stay alive.

Paullina Simons has written a story which is just the right mix of historical fact and description, drama, action and romance. The prose is so well written and the descriptions are so clear and rich that it seems as though you are right there in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) with Tatiana and Alexander, that you are right there witnessing their every argument, every rushed, secret kiss, their hushed discussions and their every sly look and touch.

The Ambulance Chaser by Richard Beasley

The Ambulance Chaser is a story about being at the lowest point in life but finding a cause worth fighting for. Which I’m sure we can all relate to.

Lawyer Christopher Blake has hit rock bottom. He was recently dis-barred and declared bankrupt. He has no money, no driver’s license, is a sometimes drunk and uses sarcasm and dry humour as a defense mechanism to get through everyday life. And just when he thinks things can’t get any worse, his girlfriend walks out on him.

In a bid to keep some connection to his old life, Chris continues to work at a legal centre giving advice to everyone from an illegal immigrant to a man who wants to sue a cat.

It is at the legal centre where Chris meets the latest love of his life, Gabrielle Sheperd, who unfortunately for Chris, is gay.

Even though Chris’ motto in life is that “Politicians and insurance companies can not be trusted”, he takes a job at South Pacific Group insurance. Chris soon discovers a terrifying trend within the insurance company, a trend of injured plaintiffs dying at an unusual and alarming rate.

With his motto in mind and his suspicions about what is really happening, Chirs enlists Gabrielle to help him start his own investigation into the deaths.

The Ambulance Chaser is a fast paced book and though at first glance the story can appear to be quite depressing and full of legal jargon, it is a surprisingly funny, witty story narrated by a man who while dis-barred and bankrupt is actually an honest lawyer trying to put his life back together.

Rubdown - Leigh Redhead

With ‘Rubdown’, author Leigh Redhead gives the reader a uniquely thrilling crime novel with something for everyone; sex, drugs, car chases and shoot outs, all of which are connected to an intelligent and headstrong leading lady, who just happens to have once been a stripper.

Simone Kirsch, stripper turned private investigator has an uncanny ability of getting entangled with all the wrong people and attracting trouble. Simone has made a deal with her Private investigator boss that she will go straight, which means no stripping, no sex, drugs, sex industry behaviour, danger and above all no trouble of any kind. But when she is asked to investigate sex worker, Tamara Wade’s supposed suicide and tangles with the brothel’s sleazy owner, her no danger, no trouble policy goes flying out the window especially when she meets someone who will go to any lengths necessary to stop her investigation, even if it means killing her.

To complete the tangled web she weaves, Simone is caught up in an intriguing love quadrangle with three police officers, two of whom are attracted to her and want to keep her safe and one who also happens to be a female.

Although Rubdown is a stand alone book, in parts in can be slightly confusing and reading Leigh Redhead’s first book, ‘Peepshow’ would clear up any confusion. Some readers may find the actual cover of the book a bit off putting but once past the front cover, the book reveals itself as an intriguing, funny and thrilling read which keeps the reader engaged right up until the last page.

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

It’s the usual scenario. Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy can’t possibly have girl. Bella Swan moves to Forks, Washington to live with a father who in the last few years has only seen for two or so weeks in the year. Edward Cullen is the quiet brooding, intimidating, pale skinned, beautiful boy who seemingly takes an instant dislike to Bella. And lets not forget the small fact that he’s a vampire. A vampire who doesn’t snack on humans.

Bella, seventeen, never expected to like Forks, in fact she was determined to hate it. It was the opposite of Pheonix, a place she loved. It rained frequently and the town was under a constant sky of cloud. Eventually, vampire and human strike up an unlikely friendship, with Bella forming both a bond and an attraction to the young vampire posing as a human. Edward and his surrogate family of vampires manage to hide their true identity from Bella and the town they’ve called home for the past two years…that is until Bella, while on a beach trip with friends comes across a boy who explains to her the local legend of ‘the cold ones’, a group of vampires or ‘blood drinkers’ who have sworn off human blood and hunt only animals. Armed with the legend and a little book research, Bella comes to the conclusion that Edward is in fact one of those vampires. This fact would scare some people but for Bella, it means nothing. It changes nothing. She’s already in love with Edward, it’s too late to go back now.

For Edward, Bella’s lack of fear is frustrating but at the same time it delights him as well. Bella is the first person he’s loved since he was turned into a vampire at the end of the first world war. Though he loves her, being so close to her is his own type of torture. He can never get too close, he has to be so careful, treat he like the delicate human she is because one wrong move could harm her. Her scent and her blood is also almost too tempting for Edward to resist.
The love story between Edward and Bella has themes of Romeo and Juliet weaving through it. It’s a doomed love story, two people who should be natural enemies yet still want each other but may never be able to have each other. It’s also a push pull type romance with Edward desperately trying to do the right thing and keep Bella away from him but being so drawn to her that he just can’t stay away from her.

Twilight is written in the first person, narrated by Bellas, so every piece of information the reader receives is from Bella’s point of view. Bella’s view of Edward is very romanticized, we see him as she sees him, this beautiful, dangerous hero. The character of Bella is beautifully and realistically written from her shy, clumsiness to her sarcastic inner thoughts. The vampire mythology is uniquely written, destroying the old predictable cliches we are usually given.
Beautifully written, touching and compelling and at times heartbreakingly sad, Twilight is a sweet story of star-crossed love which can be read time and time again and never gets old.

Size 12 is not Fat - Meg Cabot

After To Kill a Mockingbird, I wanted to read something a bit lighter. As a teen I had read Meg Cabot’s Mediator series and had really enjoyed her style of writing even though I’m not a huge fan of the supernatural.

Heather Wells was a teen pop sensation with everything to lose. And then she did lose it. She’s hit rock bottom, sick of singing songs written by others, her record label dumps her. Her fiance cheats on her. Heather ends up living in her fiance’s brother’s (Cooper) attic apartment, finds a job in a New York college dorm and finally thinks her life is turning around. Until….girls start turning up dead at the bottom of elevator shafts. Apparently, elevator surfing is a favourite past time for college students. The official line is that these girl’s deaths are accidents…tragic…but still accidents. Except Heather has other ideas. She knows teenage girls…she was a teenage girl and teenage girls don’t elevator surf, especially girls afraid of heights. Heather decides there’s something suspicious about these deaths and makes it her mission to get to the bottom of them….enlisting a reluctant Cooper’s help, Cooper who just happens to be a private detective. Little does Heather know that not only is she fighting for justice for these girls but also for her life.

Written in the first person from Heather’s perspective, Size 12 is not Fat, is a light - if not at times fluffy - read about a girl who is trying to piece her destroyed life back together, find what other talents she has besides singing and trying to find her place in the world. There is a fairytale, sweet quality about Meg Cabot’s writing which makes it a delightful read - perhaps not a piece of literary genius but still an enchanting tale worth a look.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

There are two major issues in this world which I cannot stand. Number One: Sexism. You’d better not tell me I can’t do something and do it well just because I lack a penis. And it is not acceptable for anyone to say or imply that because of that lack of a penis I am inferior in any way. Yes, I admit because I lack that particular appendage there are certain things I can’t do: produce sperm or pee standing up. But at the same time just because I have ovaries and can push a human being through a very small part of my body does not make me superior to any man. We are equal (or at least we should be), we can both do some pretty, equally amazing things. That’s enough for that particular rant - time to move on to the next stage of my rant.
I’m on holiday from work at the moment and I’ve been spending quality time having a Grey’s Anatomy marathon. I’m up to season four. I’ve just watched the episode in which Dr. Bailey, Christina and George must treat a white supremist with a huge swastika tattooed on his stomach. The storyline was beautifully portrayed; with Christina quitely stating her stepfathers parents were killed in auschwitz and Dr. Bailey telling her that they were going to rise above it and be the better people. They were going to treat this man because if they didn’t it would make them no better than he was. Now, me, I would be inclined to let him die and rot in the firey pits of hell - but that’s just me. Racism. Can’t stand it. Most importantly, I don’t understand it.

I don’t understand how anyone can hate another person based on the colour of that person’s skin or think that a person is inferior because of the way they look. We’re all the same on the inside. At least that’s what I was raised to believe: I am no better nor any lesser than anyone else based on skin colour. Which leads me to the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Firstly, I knew nothing about this book. Zilch. Zero. Zippo. So, I googled it. And I found out that Harper Lee is a woman, is still alive and was best friend’s with Truman Capote who wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s - all of which make her incredibly cool in my eyes.

Anyway, To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of a man, a lawyer, who is defending a black man accused of raping a white girl. The book is set in the 1930s and is told in the first person by the lawyer’s six year old daughter. I thought this was an interesting way to tell an incredibly, sad, intriguing story of society in this time, but then sometimes the truth can only be seen through the eyes of children: through the eyes of the innocent. Portraying a time in history when racial discrimination was still at a peak, the book shows how Scout (the daughter) and her brother are, at times picked on because of their father’s defence of the man, and also their perceptions of what they believe the situation to be. One part of the book that really stood out for me was when one of Scout’s teachers was teaching about Hitler and the persecutions of Jewish people and was stressing the point of how wrong this is and then later Scout overhears this teacher saying that black people should remain segregated and in general just being discriminatory. Scout, in her innocence, tells her father that she doesn’t believe this is right.

All in all I enjoyed this book, although it did take awhile to get into and for it to get to the part of the actual crime and to explain it to the reader, but over all it was an intelligently written exploration of the way we, as humans treat each other.

The Lucky One - Nicholas Sparks

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks tells the story of Logan Thibault an ex-marine returned from serving in Iraq. Thibault is embarking on a walk from Colorado with only the company of his faithful German Shepard. He’s searching for the woman in the photograph he found in Iraq, the photograph he’s sure kept him alive while serving. The photograph he considers his lucky charm. He does indeed find the girl. They embark on a tentative - and at times slightly lacking in trust relationship. It’s a kind of love at first sight story with just a touch of harmless stalker voyeurism thrown in for good measure but even so it’s a tender, sweet love story.

I’ve read quite a few of Nicholas Sparks novels and they are, if I’m honest my guilty pleasure. They are, to me, the literary version of a chick flick. The model for the majority of Sparks’ novels are basically the same: tortured, damaged boy meets girl, falls for girl, manages to royally mess things up, loses girl, gets girl back. They’re great for a hopeless romantic like myself. But with in saying that I felt that the characters in The Lucky One were quite one deminsional and predictible: there’s the tortured, quiet, handsome, slightly dangerous looking, chivalrous solider, the beautifully jaded single mother with the ever so slightly perverted physcho ex. But despite all of this, I found this to be a light fluffy, romantic (if not unrealistic) read that called to the hopeless romantic in me.

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

I’ve been trying to convince myself to read this book for a while now. I’d walk into a book shop and hold it in my hands, flip through the pages. I’d heard so many rave reviews about it but I was still hesitant. It was the subject matter that made me cautious - see the story is told by a 14 year old girl, who in 1973 is raped, murdered and dismembered by one of her neighbours. Once her spirit leaves her body she narrates the story from heaven, watching as her family fumble apart trying to get on with their lives. I can sit through cheesy horror movies with blood and guts hanging out everywhere and not be overly fazed but rape and murder terrifies me. It scares me like nothing else and rape of a child? I can’t cope with that. So, hence when I finally made the decision that I was going to buy that book and stood staring at it, I decided I’d read the first chapter right there and then in my local Waterstones. I put that book right back on that shelf. The first chapter was wonderfully written and I have a very good imagination. Those two combined and I knew every feeling Susie Salmon had as her neighbor, George Harvey violated her, as she pleaded for her life and he finally stole it from her. I walked away from the book.

A few weeks later someone from the pub I work in gave me a book as a gift. Guess which book it was: The Lovely Bones. I couldn’t say no to a gift of a book. I took it home and put it on the bookshelf which I’d recently bought and from there it stared at me, telling me to read it. I finally did. I couldn’t have a book on my shelf which had never been read, it wasn’t right. I pushed past my fears and delved in and once I got into it, The Lovely Bones was a beautifully written, heartwrenching tale of a girl with so much hope for life only to have that hope ripped away.
Susie Salmon watched from her perch in the gazebo of her own personal heaven as her beloved sister grew into a woman, struggling to break free of the shadow of her dead sister and at the same time honour her sister’s memory by helping her father find Susie’s killer. She watched as her parents grew further and further away from each other, as her father became obsessed with finding her killer, as her baby brother grew into a polite, sweet teenager who, as a child saw her as his imaginary friend.

I would highly recommend this book but would advise anyone looking to start reading it to have a box of tissues handy. This book is heartbreaking, tear inspiring, beautiful and happy all at once - definitely one of my new favourites.


Still life with bottle is a wittily constructed history of Whisky and Scotland, which also endeavors to explain to the reader the reasonings behind why Scotland hates England so much.

Ralph Steadman travelled the length of Scotland visiting distilleries exploring the importance and place of Whisky in Scotland’s heritage. He considers the art of blending and creating a brew (even goes as far as to tell the reader how to achieve the same desired result) and ponders the question and provides a few theories of when and how man first stumbled upon the mere idea of creating a perfectly fermented brew.

His unique take on the art of Whisky making and history makes for an intriguing read and while the prose is wittily and intelligently written it is the illustrations which really bring the book together and make it a real treasure.

Nothing short of beautiful and occasionally graphically gory, anyone could sift through this book and marveling only at the artwork, flick through it and still pick up on the main ideas of the prose. I would have loved a few more days to pore over this book but I had to return it to it’s rightful owner (a customer from the pub I work at let me borrow it). I’d never actually really heard of Ralph Steadman until I was introduced to this book, so I decided to look him up on the internet (oh the joys of the internet) and was intrigued to discover that Ralph Steadman is the man who illustrated one of my favourite childhood books: Alice in Wonderland. Turns out I was a fan and didn’t even know it.

The Secret Life of Bees (the book)

As I had kind of already predicted, I prefered the book version to the movie. The characters were developed more. The movie had changed around the plot in certain parts which actually made not a whole lot of sense. The book provided a more indepth study of the character and their relationships and more insight into why they were the way they were and their thoughts, dreams and feeling.

The relationship between Lily and Zach was much more developed and intriguingly more complicated than it was portrayed in the movie, there was a deeper friendship, kinship and tenderness than could be portrayed on screen.
Lily’s father was also more of a three dimensional character in the book. He was portrayed as struggling between loving his daughter in his own way and hating her. To him, Lily was a constant representation and reminder of the woman he loved and had hurt him, betrayed him and left him. Lily was also the person who ultimately took away the love of his life forever.
Overall, the book was an inticately woven, character driven, beautifully written, touching story of growing up and overcoming discrimination and accepting who you are and what you may become.

Azincourt - Bernard Cornwell

When a customer (at the pub) handed me a copy of the faction (fiction based on fact) book, sternly told me to read it, then moved on to tell me it was about Agincourt, I stared at him blankly. Agincourt? What was Agincourt or Azincourt I asked. Turns out it was a battle in a war known as the hundred years war in which two family houses fought it out for the right to be the ruling monarch of France. Agincourt was the battle in which the English was victorious even though they were extremely outnumbered.

It is also the origins from which the two fingered salute comes from. It derives from the gestures of longbowmen fighting in the English army. The French claimed they would cut off the the archer’s shooting fingers once they had won the battle, but the victorious English, at the end of the battle displayed their hands with their fingers still intact as a taunt to the French.
So, with all this new found knewledge, I tentatively started reading. There was a lot of rape, murder and pilage. And that’s just in the first chapter.

When we first meet our hero, archer Nick Hook, he’s plotting murder. It doesn’t quite go as he’s planned and once he’s moved on from that failed attempt, he witnesses the killing of so called heretics and fails to save a young girl from being raped and murdered. This young girl continues to haunt him throughout the story.
Hook does later on manage to save another girl, this time a French nun from being raped and ultimately murdered. This girl turns out to be his penance and his saving grace as well as his love.
While I enjoyed this book and the descriptions of the battles and war were beautifully constructed, I felt that the characters were left underdeveloped and there were situations which were not payed off. But if the reader can look past this, Bernard Cornwell’s Azincourt is an intelligent fiction retelling of the battle of Agincourt.

Leeds Castle

Leeds castle is a beautiful English castle steeped in history, set on an island surrounded by a body of water, built during the reign of Henry I, William the conqueror’s son, on an island in the River Len, Leeds Castle has an incredible history of being a royal residence, then becoming a private residence which was handed down by inheritance and purchase. Before finally being sold in 1926 to the American heiress, Lady Baillie who after her death left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation.

Eleanor of Castile, King Edward I’s queen, bought the castle in 1278 and started the long standing royal ownership of the castle. Eleanor died in 1290 and when Edward married the French half-sister of Phillip IV, Princess Margaret, they spent their honeymoon at the castle and Edward later granted the castle to his new queen, beginning the tradition of the castle being retained by the queens of England after the King’s death.

Henry IV gifted Leeds Castle to his second wife, Joan of Navarre. In 1419, Joan of Navarre was imprisoned, by her step son, Henry V, in Leeds Castle and charged with plotting the King’s death by witchcraft by the ‘most high and horrible means’.
Between 1517 and 1523, Henry VIII ordered major alterations on the castle to turn it into a magnificant royal palace for King Henry and Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. In what is now known as the Catherine of Aragon room, there was once a fire place displaying the royal arms entwined with lovers’ knots.

The Maiden’s Tower which stands seperate from the rest of the castle is a late-tudor structure which replaced and earlier medieval building. Henry VIII’s rebuilding work of the castle included the tower being reconstructed to accommodate the queen’s ladies in waiting. The Maiden’s Tower was where we commenced our tour and also where we had the opportunity to taste test some Henry VIII’s style mead, which is a kind of syrupy, honey flavoured wine.

The White Cliffs of Dover

Vera Lynn once sang: ”There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover….” Well, there weren’t any bluebirds while I was there but the cliffs were definitely a sight to be seen.

I’m not quite sure what I expected from the White Cliffs of Dover, many people had told me I wouldn’t be able to see much because the cliffs can only be seen from out at sea. So, I was pleasantly surprised when the bus drove up and there staring back at me were the massive white cliff faces of the White Cliffs of Dover with the magnificant Dover Castle perched upon them. Dover Castle was used in the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl” as the location for the Tower of London, where Anne Boleyn was held captive.

Dover Castle is also where Winston Churchill sat and looked across at France during the second world war.
The cliffs face Continential Europe, more specifically France and before air travel they were the first and last sight travellers saw when coming and going from England. Standing on the beach and looking across the English Channel, we could see France, which was a bit of a thrill.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral set in Canterbury in Kent, is where St Augustine and his fellow missionaries based their work of bringing christianity back to England in the 6th century. It is also the place in which Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket was murdered on 29 December 1170 by knights of King Henry II. The sword stroke was apparently so violent that it slice he crown off his skull and shattered the blades tip on the pavement. A shrine to Thomas Becket stood at the spot where he was murdered until it was demolished in 1538 on orders of King Henry VIII. A candle now stands in that same spot.

The Cathedral itself is a beautifully built mixture of both Roman style and French Gothic style architecture, as it was built and rebuilt in different periods. Once a Catholic Cathedral, it became Anglican with the Reformation of England during the Tudor period.


I’m going to be perfectly honest; I’ve always wondered what the fascination with Stonehenge is. I understand that it’s interesting in the terms of how the stones actually got there but in my mind they’ve always been just stones - not worth going and paying to see.

While I still stand by that: I refuse to pay to see them. I did in fact see them as we drove past on our way to somewhere. We stopped at the car park and I jumped out and took the obligatory photo and to be fair, I still wasn’t overly fussed. But then on the way back we went past again and the sun was just setting and I got a photo which I think is just incredible. When I saw the stones at that time of day when there were absolutely no tourists or people surrounding them, I could almost imagine people going there thousands of years ago and performing whatever ceremonies they performed and it was in that moment that I truly saw them as beautiful: not because of all the hype, the history or the tourists but just because they were simply there and it was peaceful and serene and a simple beauty which I could appreciate.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London:
On Monday I visited the Tower of London for the fourth time with a a friend. I must confess I have a strange fascination with the tower. Perhaps it’s because it’s a huge medieval castle in the middle of the city or because of it’s bloody ‘off with your head’ history. My favourite parts are:

The White Tower: -
I just couldn’t stop taking photos of it. The White Tower is the oldest building within the tower’s walls and was begun in the reign of William the Conqueror. Between 1190 and 1285, the towered walls and moat were constructed circling the tower. It reminds me of the towers and castle I’d only ever seen in Fairy tales.

Traitor’s Gate: -
Traitor’s Gate was the water entrance to the tower and was used to bring famous or important prisoners such as Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) along the Thames, passed the spiked heads of traitors and into the Tower’s walls. Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ill fated second wife was brought by barge into the Tower through traitor’s gate first for her coronation and then to await her execution.
The timber framing above the archway was constructed in 1532 as part of a rush to renovate the Tower for Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 1533.

The Queen’s House: -
The Queen’s House is another part of the tower that I couldn’t stop taking photos of. Built in the 1530s in preparation for Anne Boleyn’s coronation, it is also where she was held prisoner for 18 days before her execution. The Queen’s House was also used to interrogate Guy Fawkes and it was here that he signed his confession. The Nazi leader Rudolph Hess was also imprisoned here.

Tower Green/Memorial: -
This was the place where the beheadings of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey took place away from public view. It’s just fascinating to me that I was standing in the spot where 473 years ago three of England’s illfated Queen’s lost their lives - two of whom were Henry VIII’s wives and one who was only Queen for nine days.
There is no evidence of the green’s bloody history, just the beautifully created memorial, created by Brian Catling, holding each of the victim’s names. Carved into the memorial is this passage: Gentle visitor pause awhile, where you stand death cut away the light of many days, here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life, may they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage, under these restless skies.

My Best Friend's Girl - Dorothy Koomson

My Best Friend’s Girl - Dorothy Koomson

What are the limits of how far you would go for your best friend? How far would you go for them? Imagine you’ve known this person for years and they’re as close to you as any family could possibly be - maybe closer. Now imagine that this person you know so well kept a secret from you for three years - a secret that some would say is unforgivable.
Kamryn and Adele have been best friends since university, nothing could come between them. Or so they thought. Until Adele broke the unspoken girl code and slept with Kamryn’s fiance, Nate. To make the betrayal even more stinging they concieved a child together. When in a drunken night Adele accidently let the truth slip out, Kamryn walked out and vowed never to see Adele or Nate ever again.

Two years later, Kamryn’s life is upheaved when she recieves a letter from a dying Adele asking her to visit her in hospital - a visit which results in Adele begging Kamryn to adopt her daughter, Tegan. Can Kamryn look passed the betrayal and care for the little girl she once adored - can she look at Tegan and not be reminded of Nate?
This book is heartbreaking, funny and sweet all at once. It takes on the issues of betrayal, death, adoption and portrays and handles these issues with grace. Beautifully written and utterly believable I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a touchingly sweet and light read.