Saturday, 31 May 2014

Book Review: The Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris (Hannibal Lecter #2)

The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter, #2)The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everyone is at least familiar with Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of the infamous Hannibal Lecter. I must be one of few people that hasn't seen The Silence of the Lambs however I am watching Hannibal on Sky at the moment.
So I went into this picturing the wonderful Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal, and Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford. However Jodie Foster was and always will be Clarice Starling.
What I didn't realise was that this wasn't the first in the Hannibal series. It is definitely the most famous, but I wasn't aware Red Dragon came before. Not that it matters because Thomas Harris writes his characters with such conviction and confidence.
The world of Quantico is so familiar now in different TV shows and films that it's easy to slip into this world of behavioural analysts, murderers, senators and policemen. It's well written, and every time Clarice meets Lecter you can feel the tension between them. Your skin crawls every time Hannibal speaks.
I don't want to give anything away, so I'm just going to encourage you to read this! Do it! Lose yourself in the infamous characters, the gritty dialogue and thrill of the chase.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Sing When You're Winning

Me and Choir rehearsing at the church.
I have been running Weston Rhyn School Choir since January 2013. Ever since we started we have been going from strength to strength. This school year, ten girls turned up at the school hall for my first choir lesson. Already I knew we had something special. I had a close knit group that supported each other and cared for each other. Their voices blended well together when they sang, and there was this display of comradeship that I didn't have the previous academic year.
In December 2013 we were asked to perform for St John's Carol Service. There was some upset and nerves, but what really amazed and inspired me was their kindness towards each other. They held each others hand, they all rallied around each other.
Just before the Easter Holidays we performed to parents, to raise money for a minibus for a backstage trip to Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury. All we needed was £40, we raised a staggering £113! As ever I am continuously thankful to the wonderful parents and extended family for their support and encouragement. Whenever help is needed they are always at hand and nothing is too much trouble.
With our Easter performance came some more good news. We were to perform at Weston Rhyn Music and Arts Festival with several other choirs to raise money for the Charlotte Hartey Foundation. I was to don my Maria Von Trapp hat and perform Do-Re-Mi, while I asked one of the older members to sing a solo. Admittedly, there were nerves (mostly mine), but I had no doubt that they could perform to the standard required. Even singing alongside Llangollen Male Voice Choir and Folk/Rock band Not Completely Blonde.
The rehearsal came along, and we performed well, getting used to the acoustics in the large church, getting used to standing on the stage. Then along came the evening performance. At first came exclamations of 'I can't believe so-and-so's here!', 'I can't do it, I'm too nervous', 'When are we going to perform?'
We were given the chance to start the second half, and as we broke for the interval I could feel my nerves creeping in. I kept smiling, encouraged the children to get a drink, relax, chat to the other singers, maybe they could learn something. Then it was our turn to perform.
Me and Choir performing on the night.
I started at the very beginning, which is, according to Julie Andrews, a very good place to start and we sang with a smile and to perfection. We were met with riotous applause and whoops, and I'm not exaggerating. The audience loved us. Then we all departed the stage to let the soloist perform. Again, she was met with applause and support. Lots of other singers came along to congratulate her after she'd sat down. What a fantastic night, with so many fantastic performers and I am proud to include my choir within that.
At the end of the evening I was glowing as several audience members came to tell me how brilliant the choir were. It's lovely to hear their praise and encouragement.
I had choir today, and we've moved on to other projects. But as they sing together, so their love and support for one another I feel that proud glow return. I am truly lucky to be working with such brilliant children and I remind them of that fact as often as possible.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Book Review: Sirens by Tom Reynolds

SirensSirens by Tom Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've wanted to read this book since I saw the TV series way back in 2011. I recommended this to my Book Club, but alas, it didn't get picked.
So with a grand total of £60 in Amazon vouchers for my birthday I ordered up all the books that I wanted to read.
As a Care Assistant, health care does have an interest for me. I'm interested to see how other medical professionals view us. I've also always had a love for medical television, such as ER and Grey's Anatomy, but not once have I watched or read something that just focused on EMTs.
Tom Reynolds is a very accomplished writer. He is witty, funny and manages to get his point across without sounding too whiny. Obviously there are a lot of similar cases within this book but it doesn't get repetitive at all. I love how he doesn't talk down to his reader, he explains technical terms but he doesn't simplify them so much that the reader feels idiotic.
One negative thing, is that despite having been an A&E nurse himself, Tom Reynolds has no respect for midwives, GPs, nurses or any individuals involved in medicine, or social services. I can understand his frustration in part, having dealt with doctors who turned up in the middle of a resident's lunch, or didn't really seem to care. But his dislike for them seemed intense. Although to his credit, when he did meet a medical professional he liked and respected he did praise them, it just wasn't very often. He also described a good relationship with the police, which was surprising, but nice to read about, and moaned about the fire service.
I love how he captured the culture of London and the different communities that lived there. He highlighted how wonderful and helpful most strangers can be, while sometimes families seem not to care.
I was overwhelmed with the amount of stories that focused on an individual suffering from drug or alcohol abuse. It seemed a colossal waste of time for him to transport these people who clearly didn't want to be taken to hospital. And the amount of people that they can't save is also a lot more than we mere mortals realise. At one point he states that relatives of patients have high expectations because of how many people are resussitated on TV and I have to agree with him.
I also particularly liked the nicknames that were used, especially 'Nan down'.
Overall a great read filled with warmth and humour, I only wish there were more of his stories to read.

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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Book Review: Pirate King by Laurie R. King

Pirate King (Mary Russell, #11)Pirate King by Laurie R. King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I picked up this book I was super excited. Sherlock Holmes! Pirates! A film crew! What more could anybody want?
Unfortunately, this story lacks a lot. I have never read anything by Laurie R. King before, or any of the Mary Russell stories and I'm not sure I missed out.
Mary Russell in this incarnation, is Sherlock Holmes' somewhat surprising wife. This story is set in the 1920s, where Holmes must be a great deal older than his wife, and he wasn't featured until over half way into the novel, which was a bit disappointing.
Mrs Holmes is a strong female lead. I liked her, and she is definitely one of the stars in my two star rating. She holds her own in a male led world and provides a fluent narrative.
But the other characters were all very one dimensional, and there were far too many of them. Pirate King is about Randolph Flytte an eccentric film director. His film is about a film crew making a silent film version of The Pirates of Penzance, who then get kidnapped by pirates. There are thirteen daughters of the Major General, constables, pirates, and the crew. It's hard to keep track of who is who. Maybe a cast list or a 'credits' would have been beneficiary.
The reason Mary Russell is involved is because of a secretary that has gone missing, who Russell replaces. By the time the book is finished the resolution of this is somewhat cast aside in favour of swashbuckling.
I enjoyed the first half of the book, where the cast are assembled. The insight into the film industry in the 1920s was interesting and the trip on the boat to Lisbon reminded me of Peter Jackson's King Kong.
But overall, it veered off track too much and got lost amongst action and adventure. Maybe if I start at the first book I will enjoy it more, but I'm just glad that this one is over.

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