The Death of Robin Hood #BookReview

T H E   D E A T H   O F   R O B I N   H O O D 

(T H E   O U T L A W   C H R O N I C L E S #8)

Angus Donald 

TDORH

 

My Rating : 5/5

The Blurb :

‘I charge you, Sir Alan Dale, with administering my death. At the end of the game, I would rather die by your hand than any other’

England rebels

War rages across the land. In the wake of Magna Carta, King John’s treachery is revealed and the barons rise against him once more. Fighting with them is the Earl of Locksley – the former outlaw Robin Hood – and his right-hand man Sir Alan Dale.

France invades

When the French enter the fray, with the cruel White Count leading the charge, Robin and Alan must decide where their loyalties lie: with those who would destroy the king and seize his realm or with the beloved land of their birth.

A hero lives for ever

Fate is inexorable and Death waits for us all. Or does it? Can Robin Hood pull off his greatest ever trick and cheat the Grim Reaper one last time just as England needs him most?

My Review : 

I am so sad that I have come to the end of The Outlaw Chronicles. It is one of the best historical series that I have come across.  It is beautifully written and the pacing through out is remarkable.  Angus Donald has done a remarkable job in bringing the legend of Robin Hood to life.

There is of course a huge spoiler in the title of this book. The novel does indeed chronicle the final days of Robin Hood and his very reduced band of “merry” men. Those who have followed the series, such as myself knew this day was coming. I just wish I had been more prepared.

As with all the books in this series the tale is told through Sir Alan a Dale who became one of Robins men when he was a boy. Alan is old now, his strength is failing and but his memories of his Lord, the Earl of Locksley still burn brightly.  The elderly Alan now resident in a Monastery is now dictating his tales to the Abbot who is as enthralled with Alan’s tales of  loyalty, tragedy, battles, blood, intrigue and overtly friendship, as we all are.

During the course of this book the loyalties of all involved are challenged. Robin is calculated and as cunning as ever, causing those who are close to him to question his motives. Alan though, as ever, remains by his Lord’s side.

I was dreading the ending. I did not want to say goodbye just yet to these wonderful characters. The ending inevitably caused me to become misty eyed. It was wonderfully heartbreaking.

Hero’s Fall Legends Live Forever

Angus Donald has made a fictional tale feel very real.

A legendary tale that will indeed life forever.

The King’s Assassin #BookReview

T H E   K I N G ‘ S   A S S A S S I N 

(T H E   O U T L A W  

C H R O N I C L E S   # 7 ) 

Angus Donald 

KingsAssassin

 

My Rating: 5/5

The Blurb:

AD 1215: The year of Magna Carta – and Robin Hood’s greatest battle

The yoke of tyranny

King John is scheming to reclaim his ancestral lands in Europe, raising the money for new armies by bleeding dry peasants and nobles alike, not least the Earl of Locksley – the former outlaw Robin Hood – and his loyal man Sir Alan Dale.

The call to arms

As rebellion brews across the country and Robin Hood and his men are dragged into the war against the French in Flanders, a plan is hatched that will bring the former outlaws and their families to the brink of catastrophe – a plan to kill the King.

The roar of revolution

England explodes into bloody civil war and Alan and Robin must decide who to trust – and who to slaughter. And while Magna Carta might be the answer their prayers for peace, first they will have to force the King to submit to the will of his people . .

My Review: 

The King’s Assassin is the seventh and penultimate book in Angus Donald’s wonderfully gripping Outlaw Chronicles.

England is being squeezed dry while in the grip of the ruthless King John. Taxes to fund the Kings relentless war in France is causing dissent throughout the country and the rumblings of a civil war echo around strongholds.

Alan of Dale despite fighting loyally for a King he despises finds himself having to defend his home and son Robert from the hands of King John’s Sheriff of Nottingham. One night after arriving back to England from the war, Alan is a guest in his Lord’s home,  the Earl of Locksley, the notorious Robin Hood. Alan is present while his Lord entertains two noblemen from the north who have rebellion in their souls and a plot to assassinate the King. Robin dismisses the plot and vows to have nothing to do with it, however Alan who is having to defend his manor from the King’s men finds his ear more inclined to the plot. Will Alan of Dale kill God’s anointed king?

I really enjoyed reading this book. One of the things I have enjoyed most about this series is the mixture of fiction with fact. Angus Donald is a master of weaving his tales into history so much so I was almost convinced that the Earl of Locksley’s name must be on the Magna Carta somewhere, one day I will have to take a look.

If you have read the previous books you will be aware that the narrator is Alan of Dale who is recounting the tales of his Lord, Robin Hood while in his twilight years. In this book however Alan has aged quite considerably and is now resident in Monastery. A Monk who Alan taught to read and write has now taken up the mantle while Alan dictates his tales.  In previous books I have really enjoyed these little insights into Alan’s life as he has got older. Now the Monk has taken over this also writing down what Alan is doing and how his life is in the Monastery. It is a nice touch, it makes Alan feel very real and it makes me feel a little sad that Alan is unable to write his tales himself anymore.

I personally felt as though this was one of my favourite books in the series as it has set up the next book nicely. Introducing some interesting new characters and reacquainting us with some others we would have sooner forgotten.

Emma and I

emma and I

E M M A   &   I 

Shelia Hocken 

My Rating: 4/5

The Blurb: As a girl, Sheila never let her gradual descent into blindness prevent her from trying to do everything a sighted person could do. Then at 17, unable to see to find her way around the house she grew up in, she found herself dreading her future in an ‘ever darkening vacuum’.

But then the remarkable Emma enters her life, and Sheila begins a journey that brings her the independence, love and happiness she never dreamed possible.

Emma and I is the moving and inspirational story of the unique bond between Sheila and her dog, and shows that, sometimes, miracles do happen.

My Review:

My mother read this book about 12 months ago and recommended that I read it. To be honest I was a bit reluctant as I am not into animal stories however it was not what I was expecting.

Shelia the author of her own story is truly an inspirational human being who I have nothing but admiration for. Born to a blind parents Shelia never considered her life to be abnormal.  Shelia lived the same as everyone else only she learnt to do things in a different way, she even cooked. One story that made me smile was after she left home and moved in with her friend. Her friend brought two mice and when she was away Shelia would feed them. One day though Sheila felt something soft on the work surface and believed it was one of her friends mice, so she caught it and put it back in the cage. When her friend returned home she had a shock when she saw three mice in the cage instead of two. Shelia’s independence grew after being paired with Emma, a chocolate brown Labrador.

Reading about Emma’s exploits though is at times both amazing and humorous. Emma would do things and you were left wondering how she did it? Even Shelia was left in awe at times. Emma was truly a remarkable Guide Dog.

Throughout this book Shelia openly conveys her hope and her despair, it is a roller coaster of emotions at times for the reader. I did however really enjoy reading this book and reading about how adaptable Shelia was to the circumstances in her life has helped me re-evaluate things in my life. It is a wonderful inspirational memoir and puts things into perspective. I recommend that everyone who is feeling a little low read this.

Book: 16/60 on the 101 List   9/25 – For 2017

West End Girls

West End Girls

W E S T   E N D   G I R L S

JENNY COLGAN

Rating : 3 / 5

Blurb

The streets of London are paved with gold …allegedly. They may be twin sisters, but Lizzie and Penny Berry are complete opposites – Penny is blonde, thin and outrageous; Lizzie quiet, thoughtful and definitely not thin. The one trait they do share is a desire to DO something with their lives, and as far as they are concerned, the place to get noticed is London. Out of the blue they discover they have a grandmother living in Chelsea – and when she has to go into hospital, they find themselves flat-sitting on the King’s Road. But, as they discover, it’s not as easy to become It Girls as they’d imagined, and west end boys aren’t at all like Hugh Grant …

My Review 

It took me a stupidly long amount of time to complete this book for several reasons. One reason was I just could not find time to read. When I did find time to read, this book did not excite me enough to want to pick it up and carry on reading.

I was quite disappointed by this book as I usually enjoy Jenny Colgan’s offerings a lot more. I found the two lead characters, twins Lizzie and Penny irritating. The supporting characters were not engaging and there appeared to be a lot of words for what turned out to be quite a mediocre tale. It may have just been how I was feeling and I have projected this onto the book. Despite my criticisms however there were some nice touches which boosted up my rating.

Even though both sisters end up exactly where you expect them to be roughly 4 or 5 chapters in, at the end of the book, I kept reading because there were little unexpected glimpses of light. Both sisters though twins are very different to each other. Lizzie is very grounded and Penny is a bit, well, very into herself. If this book had focused just on Penny I don’t think I would have finished it. Even though I found Lizzie just as irritating in parts I did want to know what would happen to her.

I really enjoyed the underlying story which involved the twins father. I wish that had been explored a little bit more. I also like the twins mother a lot but she rarely made an appearance in the story. I wonder if Jenny Colgan has considered doing a spin-off with the twins mother?

I will not recommend this book and I have tried to make this review spoiler free so you can make up your minds.

Some Tales are worth Re-Telling

Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular Fairy Tales to be adapted and reworked into many forms, whether written or visual. It is of course one of my favourite stories of all time, though I am constantly surprised that many people are unaware of the origins of this common fairy tale.

It is a common misconception that the original tale was penned in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Bardot de Villeneuve entitled “La Belle et la Bete”.  It was abridged later in the 1700’s by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont who turned it into a cautionary tale for young maidens. Due to her lack of reference to the original author she is often given the credit of penning the fairy tale.

However, the tale of Beauty and the Beast predates the 1700’s and can actually be traced to Greek/Roman Mythology, in a surprisingly little known tale of Psyche and Cupid. This may have something to do with the fact that Cupid is often depicted as a baby with a fondness for arrows. This was a mistake that occurred round about the 15th Century when Cupid’s image got confused with Putto and they became indistinguishable from each other.

Cupid comes from the Latin Cupido which means desire and was actually the god of erotic love  – Slightly disturbing that images of baby now resemble this, don’t you think? Anyway I digress.

This story though common in the ancient world now only exists in Apuleius’s The Golden Ass.

The Story of Psyche and Cupid (in brief)

A King and Queen have three daughters, one of which has unearthly beauty, guess who that was? Her name was Psyche (which means life or breath in ancient Greek).  Psyche’s beauty was so astounding that Venus grew jealous. Venus was angry that people were comparing Psyche’s beauty to her own that she ordered her son, Cupid to use one of his arrows of desire to force her to fall in love with a monster.

Cupid went to the earth to carry out his mothers will however he was so taken by Psyche’s beauty that he accidentally shot himself. From that moment he only had eyes for Psyche. At around the same time Psyche’s parents cannot find any mortal man to marry her so they seek the advice of an Oracle. The Oracle informs them that it is Psyche’s fate to marry an immortal lover, a monster who no god or human can resist. Her husband was waiting for Psyche at the top of a mountain.

Psyche accepted her fate and is swept away by Zephyr to a beautiful valley and in the centre is a magnificent palace which could only have been built by the hands of the gods. Psyche accepts that this is her home, a sentiment echoed through the halls by a faceless stranger. His only request id that his face remains a secret. The stranger visits Psyche at night and makes love to her. Despite his tenderness Psyche is haunted by the Oracles words, that he is a monster.

Psyche’s two sisters are eventually allowed to visit her and are jealous of her beautiful home. They convince Psyche that she needs to discover the identity of her husband. Psyche looks upon her husbands face and Cupid is so distressed at his wife’s betrayal that he flees the palace.

Psyche chases after her husband and spends many days searching for him before she comes to the Temple of Cere’s. Cere’s instructs Psyche to surrender herself to Venus. Venus gives Psyche three trials to overcome. Unbeknown to Psyche, Cupid is their providing her with much needed aid. Eventually Psyche is so upset by the trials she has to overcome that she opens a forbidden box and succumbs to Stygian Sleep. A sleep so strong she is considered the living dead.

Cupid has had enough of being separated by his wife and flies to her rescue. Lifting her sleeping form to the heavens, Cupid begs Jupiter to talk to his mother and make her lift the sleeping curse. Venus eventually agrees to lift the curse and as soon as Psyche wakes she is transformed into an immortal allowing her to be properly wed to the god Cupid.

The End

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day. As you know by the whole Booktober Challenge – I love Books. This is the only day in the whole of the year (nearly) that I wish I was young enough to go to Primary School. If you have no idea why, it is because today all primary school characters get to dress up as their favourite book character. How wonderful. I would of course do this but I am not sure it would go down to well at work.

As well as dressing up as your favourite book character – by the way I would so dress up as Where’s Wally (Waldo)? World Book Day is used to empathise the importance of literature in the the lives of our children and young people, to promote reading and creative writing.

So, in honour of World Book Day, I am going to give you a list of some of the books I am planning to read during 2017.

The What Is Hoped For Reading Shelf

THE BIBLE – I am Currently Reading this – a little everyday. I am now on Deuteronomy. Apparently if you read 3 to 4 chapters everyday you will complete it within a year. I will let you know.

WAR AND PEACE – I have owned this book for a number of months now. I just can’t bring myself to read it. I am not a huge fan of Russian Literature but I really need to give it another go.

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, S J Watson – Mother gave me this book to read ages ago. The problem is my reading time is before I go to sleep and the title scares me.

THE DEATH OF ROBIN HOOD, Angus Donald – The last book in the Outlaw Chronicles and I admit I am putting it off. I don’t want to say goodbye to this series just yet.I have loved it so much.

THE DANDELION YEARS, Erica James – I was given this book last year, recommended by a work colleague. Really looking forward to reading this.

THE LITTLE HOUSE, Philippa Gregory – Another recommendation.

If you have any other recommendations for great books let me know.

That Place Between Sleep and Awake

There are many places that exist only in our dreams. Those talented enough find the words and allow those places to come alive through the pages of their novels. The worlds then breath, evolve and stay existence through the imaginations of all those that read them.

One of those worlds is Neverland…

Neverland though is often used a metaphor to describe a place of childish escapism. Home of the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell and Peter Pan. A place where Indians live, Mermaids play in a lagoon, Pirates frequent the sea and a solitary crocodile makes the noise of a ticking clock. There is a secret tree house, a cave that is shaped as a skull and is also home to various mythical creatures.

disneyneveland
Found this on Google. Just love the detail in this picture.

Some of these places where added by Disney and are not mentioned in the original screenplay/book. Though as a child who would have not wanted to experience some if not all those things?

Every adaptation, sequel, prequel, reinvention of the story Peter Pan has transformed Neverland into something new, exciting and wonderful. A place that could only ever exist in the imagination of  those with the creativity to make it tangible. Very close to how Barrie describes or even doesn’t describe Neverland.

Barrie described Neverland as existing only in the mind of a child. Each child’s perceived place is nearly always an Island and slightly different to each others, yet close enough to make adventure. Every land though has one thing in common, there are no boundaries.

The exact location of the island is somewhat vague and ever so slightly ambiguous. Peter tells Wendy the way is “the second star to the right and straight on till morning”. However, Peter has a habit of saying whatever just comes into his head. The children claim they found Neverland as it was looking for them. One description Barrie writes, is of it being near to the stars in the Milky Way and that it is reached only at the time of sunrise. It hints at the fact of being both real and un-real at the same time.

“The place between asleep and awake” is used by Tinkerbell in the movie Hook to describe her love for Peter. Personally I think it is also the perfect phrase to describe Neverland. It is place that feels very real yet is ever so slightly out of reach.