Leonard & Hungry Paul

Leonard & Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession 

What a charming and wonderfully heart-warming book this is. 
It charts the very ordinary lives of two very ordinary friends. The characters’ lives are normal, there is nothing flashy or ostentatious about any of them, and that in itself is a breath of fresh air. It is the books attention to detail of everyday family life that gives it its unique charm. The lifelong friendship between Leonard and Hungry Paul is uncomplicated and simple. You wish them, in fact you wish all the characters, nothing but success and when things do come together for them you feel pleased and content.
You get drawn into everyday life at ‘Parley View’, Hungry Pauls family home, and it is so well written it is like looking through the front window of your own family home and shouting ‘this is me, this is my life!!’ such is the normality. Ultimately, this is a story of normality, given the daily news we have to endure, normality is good, it is comforting and reassuring. There isn’t much drama within the story, no twists and turns or dramatic cliff hangers which conveniently fall at the end of each chapter. There is just a group of people doing everyday things, and that is nice. It made me feel that my life is actually ok, I am doing alright, I am actually living a normal life. We see so much of the ‘Instagram perfect life’ that people are striving to accomplish which in reality is so unachievable it is nice to just have that little pat on the back to confirm you’re doing ok, and that is what this book gave me. This book is a prime example of writing that doesn’t need big action scenes to make it enjoyable and the way you are absorbed into their lives and them into yours is subtle and delicate. 
All told, I loved this book for its simplicity. It is heart-warming, gentle and relatable. It is the perfect book to let yourself get lost in for a few hours, go and spend some time with a couple of friends, you won’t regret it.

A Tudor Delight

Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen
& Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn, A Kings Obsession
& Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen
Alison Weir

There is not much Alison Weir can’t tell you about the Tudors. So, when I found out she was writing a series focusing on the six wives of Henry VIII I was intrigued. The first book in the series is about the life of Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s Spanish Queen. Weir weaves her magic and brings to life the Tudor court and life of the devout Queen. Life is going well for Katherine, she has been happily married to the King for many years and is beloved by her subjects, but there is on gaping hole in her life, she hasn’t provided Henry with his much longed-for son and heir. Despite giving birth numerous times, to both boys and girls, there is only Princess Mary that has survived infancy. For Henry, this is a deal breaker and he needs a way out from his marriage. This sets in motion the events that changed the face of this country forever. Weir is excellent in not only telling us of the unfolding situation with Henry’s break with Rome but also how Katherine felt about her newly found status. Weir’s Queen is resilient and steadfast and despite being usurped by a younger woman she remains pleasant and kind to her love rival. For this I liked her and even though I knew the outcome for Katherine I felt for her as she finds herself being removed further and further from the court. 
The second in the series naturally focuses on Anne Boleyn, an often much maligned figure but for me I felt that Weir corrects this. Anne is often seen as a harlot, a promiscuous and incestuous woman whose sexuality knew no bounds. But how much of that, if any of it, is true? I had my doubts, although if I am being honest I have always known that Anne was more innocent that guilty. Whilst the culprits are alluded to, Norris, Smeaton etc. I at no point felt that Anne was guilty as charged and neither were they. In Weir’s writing, you can feel Anne’s desperation to provide the elusive male heir and her angst with each failure. You can also feel the impending doom that grows as the story goes further along. Her execution is written with such clarity that you can almost feel yourself with Anne as she walks to the scaffold. It is also heart wrenching, when her execution is delayed you feel her despair and almost weep with her. Whilst I do feel Anne is given a bad rep, her attitude towards Queen Katherine and Princess Mary leaves a lot be desired. She yearns for both their deaths and tries to persuade Henry to put his own daughter to death, thankfully, he resists. Weirs writing is so good in this book that I almost forgot the inevitable outcome, I was so absorbed that I felt the ending was going to be more favourable to Anne!

The third instalment sees young country gentle woman Jane Seymour arrive at court to serve her beloved Queen Katherine and later the despised

Queen Anne. At no point did she envisage she would become Henry’s next Queen in his relentless quest for a son. Luckily for Jane she is the one that finally brings Henry his greatest desire, a prince to succeed him as king. Sadly, this comes at a cost for Henry as Jane passes away following the birth of the baby prince. For me Jane is not as likeable as I thought she would be, she feels guilty over her role in Anne’s downfall and this is almost too much, she has her hearts desire but is forever questioning and bemoaning the means of how she won the crown. I found her irritating and whiny and someone who was never really satisfied with her lot. Her family on the other hand rose greatly and their appreciation was genuine and appreciated.

My only criticism with this novel and the following instalment about Jane Seymour is that there is a lot of retelling of Queen Katherine’s divorce and Anne’s fall from grace. Albeit from different perspectives but you don’t really learn to much until the previous stories have been told. That said, I would still heartily recommend these books for anyone who loves historical novels and especially the Tudors. Alison Weir will never let you down.

Why Do We Read?

Reading, what makes us pick up that book and devote hours on end to its written words? What makes us invest that time and money in to a new book? Is it the glossy cover? That certainly makes me pick up the book in the first place. The synopsis? Well that is the biggest reason for buying the book. Or, is it the overall experience of reading?

Books are magical realms, regardless of genre, that hold a new world to escape to and somewhere you can spend a pleasurable few hours. To be honest, there are many reasons why people of all ages read. Students read to gain a better understanding of their topic, some read to escape the stresses of everyday life and others read simply for pleasure. Following a recent Twitter poll 52% of voters read for pleasure and I admit, I fall into this category as well. I can think of no better way to spend a couple of hours than visiting my local bookshop to trawl the shelves looking for a new read. Whether that is a new read by an already beloved author, I love it when I find the next book that is part of a series I have been reading. Or, a new gem by an undiscovered writer which can lead to a whole new world of books.

The overall reading experience is one to be enjoyed and savoured. From the initial purchase to settling down in your favourite reading spot with a new book that holds all the promise and excitement that only a new book can give you. Reading is a pastime that can devour you. As you prepare to devote your time and invest in the lives of the characters you can quickly be sucked into a world created by the author. These feelings follow you right through the story to the very last page and the very last full stop. I have felt exhilarated, devastated and stimulated to learn more from the books I have read. Finally, when you have come to terms with all these feelings and have tried to gain a little perspective, you can do it all over again with a brand new read!!

I would love to hear about your reading experiences. Which book has had the biggest impact on you? Do you have a favourite reading spot? Do you have a ritual for when you read?

My current read.

Thanks for reading!!