Book Review: Rhett Butler’s People

Rhett Butler's People

Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig

My review
rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCraig is an authorised sequel to Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, which is a personal favourite, as is another authorised sequel by Alexandra Ripley called Scarlett. So when I saw Rhett Butler’s People I instantly knew that I had to buy and read it!

For three reasons I was a little disappointed. Although the title is not misleading, which is a credit to the author, Rhett Butler’s People isn’t really about Rhett and Scarlett. Whilst it touches on the main events of their (well known) story, I thought it would be a retelling of the original story, but from Rhett’s perspective. This book is mainly about Rhett’s childhood and then the people in his life as an adult. A large portion of the book is told from their point of view and is about their lives. I wasn’t expecting that, but I managed to get over it fast.

The second reason I was disappointed was because the story concentrates on the American Civil War far too much for my liking. I wasn’t interested in that side of the story at all and found it dragged the story down. (I’ve never enjoyed reading about battles or wars of any kind.)

Putting those two disappointments to one side, the book was good. Once I accepted that the book isn’t really about Rhett and Scarlett, I became riveted with some of the storylines, especially those which tugged at the heart strings. And it did expand on the original story to some degree.

I found the writing to be readable and in parts, absorbing. The characters were well written and had depth. The settings were realistic. Overall, a good read, but I would have liked the war to be in the background. It would have made a huge difference to my review, which as it stands is quite puny. There isn’t a lot more to say, because the book didn’t “speak” to me as the previous two did, which is a shame.

But what about the third reason for my disappointment? Donald McCraig chose to ignore the other sequel called Scarlett, therefore making up a different sequence of events after the “I don’t give a damn” moment. As his book is an authorised sequel, as was the book written by Alexandra Ripley, I felt he made a bad move when he made that decision. For me, it was tragic and a complete let down and I’m afraid to say that Rhett’s Butler’s People will not be given a place on my “favourites shelf” as a result.

Book Review: The Boleyn Inheritance

The Boleyn Inheritance

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

My review
rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Boleyn Inheritance is the sequel to a book I reviewed last week called The Other Boleyn Girl. Both books are fiction based on the court of King Henry VIII.

The sequel is written differently from the first book. At first, I didn’t like the change all that much, but I soon fell into the “voice” of the writer and the personalities of the characters and found myself totally absorbed. In a lot of ways, I found The Boleyn Inheritance to be better than The Other Boleyn Girl. I enjoyed both books, the storylines are realistic (which they should be as they are based on history) and sometimes quite gruesome, but The Boleyn Inheritance had something different that made it stand out, for me.

The difference, in my opinion, was the clear personalities that came out in the writing. Three women, three personalities, three situations that entwine. I felt like I was reading the personal diary of each woman, which made the experience more enjoyable (and shocking). And, because I was looking down on these women from above, but also seeing what was happening from within their minds, I was captivated.

One of the women was in both books. In the first book, we saw her as a conniving, sneaky bitch. There was no way you would trust her with anything, especially your life. Yet in the second book, this same woman came across as sweet and innocent, but feeling mistreated (and this was why I didn’t like the book to begin with; I found it confusing). But then I realised that when we (all humans) do something wrong, we always try to justify our actions and find reasons why what we did wasn’t as wrong as everyone believes. We don’t see ourselves as conniving, sneaky bitches (or bastards). We see ourselves as an innocent by-stander, as a person who has been wronged and mistreated, as a person who is misunderstood. When I realised this, I was able to accept the difference in the personalty and this allowed me to appreciate the story a whole lot more.

There was repetitiveness in each of the storylines, but I believe this was done on purpose to drive home the personalities and the reasons for the women’s actions. Although this did annoy me at times, I tried not to let it spoil the book. We all have our little habits that we are unaware of (most of the time), but other people find annoying. I like to believe that the repetitiveness was showing this to a small degree.

Again, the book is fiction but I know the timeline is as accurate as it can be when compared to the real events (I did some research of my own to check). The author has used creative license to build a story around known events. I think she did a good job and have enjoyed reading both books. If you like historical fiction, then I recommend them.

Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

My review
rating: 4 of 5 stars

I belong to a reading community called Goodreads – you may have noticed their widgets in the right sidebar announcing to the world what I’m reading and what I have read. Part of this community is having access to book reviews. I thought it might be a useful tool when trying to decide what I’m going to read in the future and for finding authors I haven’t read before. However, I find that readers are critical creatures and they throw many daggers without feeling anything remotely remorseful. Some of the comments are disturbing. Some are just plain stupid. Others are trying to outdo the rest of them. This leaves only a handful of comments that I might “listen” to. It’s almost as if it is fashionable to rubbish every book picked up by a human hand; and by “rubbish” I mean be as nasty as possible. And, because of this, I find the reviews not in the least bit helpful and have decided to ignore all of them (except those written by a select few, my friends). I will continue to use Goodreads as I like being able to have a permanent record of the books I’ve read and what I thought of them.

Anyway, I finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory yesterday. It is fiction based on the court of Henry VIII. The important word in that last sentence is “fiction”. I think a lot of people tend to forget that this is NOT a biography, it is only a story. The author has taken some well known events, such as the beheading on Anne Boleyn, and then has decided which version of events she wanted to write about and built a story around them.

Reading this book made me want to research the true events and, from my quick research, I discovered that the timeline was as accurate as it could be because no one knows exactly when the Boleyn sisters were born or if Mary’s two older children were in fact the king’s. They are not sure which sister was the eldest. There is a rumour that Mary had another son. There are conflicting stories about most of the period so the author of this book has made a decision and stuck with it. I commend her. She has made an interesting story out of muddled events. I know that she has used creative licence in many places throughout the book to fill in gaps and smooth out uncertainties. And I commend her for that too because she did a good job.

The Other Boleyn Girl is a good story. It stirred my curiosity enough to make me research the real people. There were parts that felt a bit long winded and repetitive, but there were a lot of years to get through and these sections (or scenes) were short. When I wasn’t reading, I found myself thinking about the characters and setting, and looking forward to seeing what would come next. I enjoyed the story enough to pick up The Boleyn Inheritance (the sequel) immediately after finishing the book and continued reading (which is something I never do as I prefer to have a short break, at least, between volumes).

History buffs will only enjoy this book if they remember it is fiction. If they want the facts then they should be reading non-fiction. Everyone else will have mixed reactions, because as humans we all have different tastes. I enjoyed the book and will recommend it.

And…the sequel is shaping up to be better!

The Reading World

Since becoming a commuter, I have discovered something about my reading habits that I didn’t know beforehand. Previously, I read a lot of young adult fiction (and even books for younger readers). I thought I did this because I enjoyed this type of book the best, but I have discovered that I was wrong in my thinking.

Now that I have a two hour time slot set aside for reading each afternoon (five days a week), I no longer find myself gravitating towards books for younger people. I’m picking up, and enjoying, books for adults. I realise that I read the other books for two reasons: 1) I do enjoy them, and 2) it was more likely I’d finish the thinner book for young people than the thick book for adults because I didn’t have time to do a lot of reading.

Time was the issue, not my preference of book.

I also believed that I had an issue with concentration, but the last month or so has proven that totally wrong. When choosing a book to read, I find myself looking at my bookshelf with new interest. There is plenty of time to read now and I want to make the most of that time. I want to read all the books I’ve collected over the years. Those books teased me into buying them for whatever reason and now I have the time to consume and enjoy them. It’s brilliant! Whereas if I had tried to read those thick books when I first bought them I would have rushed them and found fault with all of them because of the time restraints. I am a slow reader and I would have been frustrated.

600 pages would have taken me three or four months to read. No wonder I didn’t enjoy them. Now they take me just over a week. That’s a huge difference. I’m enjoying new stories all the time, new characters, settings, plots, genres. At the risk of repeating myself, it’s brilliant!

Book Review: The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My review
rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is an extension of a previous post I called Is It a Novel or Non-Fiction?

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown received a lot of reviews when it was first published and as a result potential readers will find a vast variety of opinions on this book. I’ve read humorous ones, defensive ones, “from the heart” ones and down right rude ones, but in the end I decided that the only opinion that matters is my own and in order to have an opinion I had to read the book.

I saw the movie when it first came out, but in all honesty I couldn’t remember much of the storyline. I knew it was something to do with The Knights Templar, The Holy Grail and conspiracy. Beyond that, my memory had cast the rest into oblivion. These days, my brain does that a lot so that isn’t an indication of what I thought of the movie.

Anyway, despite what people say I felt the storyline was good, plausible. It was well developed and, for the most part, fast paced. Whether the details were factual or not doesn’t concern me, because the book is fiction and the author made me believe that they could be true and that is all that matters. The characters were realistic, although I felt they talked too much at crucial times (especially in life and death situations), which was annoying. All in all, I enjoyed the story.

But…

What let this book down for me was the overly long non-fiction aspect of the story. I was reading a story and didn’t want history lessons thrown in every few pages. I could handle the short ones, but some of them were pages long and I found that more than a little annoying. In fact, after the first hundred or so pages, I stopped reading them. I didn’t lose touch with the storyline because of this.

The author would have been better off writing a story and leaving the research out of it. He might have thought he was enhancing the story by including so much detail, but for me, it ruined the entire book. Without the research, this book would have been a fast paced, page turner.

I find myself wondering if his other books are the same. If so, I don’t think I want to subject myself to more history lessons. It is such a shame, because I think the storylines (on their own) would be great.

Is it a novel or non-fiction?

At the recommendation of someone who is very dear to me, I am currently reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The person who recommended it couldn’t praise it high enough, so I had to find out if I agree with the praise.

I’m almost a third of the way through the story and I can see why it earned praise from this special person of mine. He doesn’t normally read novels as he prefers to learn while he reads. This means he’s very much a non-fiction reader. The Da Vinci Code is right up his alley as there are huge chunks of “reference book” type information (or there has been in the portion I’ve read). Hence, he felt as if the novel was teaching him something so he enjoyed the story immensely and didn’t see it as a complete waste of his time.

I, however, find that “reference book” information to be dragging the story down. I love novels! Although some of the information is interesting (especially the stuff on PHI), I feel as if the author is trying really hard to share his research results. Hey look, I found out all this information in order to write the book and now you have to suffer reading about it too!

Honestly, from my point of view, including obvious research material with the story was a bad idea as the story is jolted and interrupted by the research. I, for one, find it difficult to become involved in what’s happening and this is generally how I measure a good story. If the same information was dealt with less obviously, I think the novel would be much better. I’m getting to the stage where I’m seriously thinking about skipping over the research sections and just reading the story. If my overall experience suffers because of it…so be it!

I’ll do a proper review when I’ve finished the book.

Book Review: The Love Knot

The Love Knot The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it took me longer than usual to read this book, there’s a good reason for it. The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick is a historical romance and the author has used a style of writing that fits with the era of the story, which is the 12th Century. Because of this, it meant I had to read slower than normal in order to grasp the meaning of the words and take the story in. This sounds like a hindrance, but it wasn’t. Apart from the fact that, like everything, it only took a short time to get used to the writing style, I found that it gave the story more authenticity.

I have always enjoyed a good romance story and this was one of them. A true romance, in my opinion, has a real story behind it. Something that is interesting with characters that you would want to befriend in real life. I tend not to read the sloppy romance that has no substance to it and is filling with cardboard cutouts that are meant to be characters because those types of books are simply not interesting enough to keep my attention. The Love Knot was far from being sloppy and the romance thread was only a small part of the story as a whole. I really enjoyed it.

The thing I especially liked about this book was the history. I’ve always had an interest for castles and knights and everything that goes with it, so I didn’t start reading this book with no knowledge of the period. However, as the story progressed I found that I was not only interested in the romance blossoming between Oliver and Caitlin, I was interested to learn more about life in the 12th Century. It was clear that the details had been thoroughly researched by the author and that goes a long way with me. It helped me settle into the story and “see” the surroundings through eyes that have not been tinted with a rose colour, which so many medieval type stories are these days. The author showed the dirt, the hardship, the death, the pain, but she also showed how the people of those days were able to find contentment with what little they had. I appreciated that.

The Love Knot is a story worth reading. I recommend it and I’ll be keeping an eye open for more books by this author.

Dragonfly

DragonflyLast week I finished reading Dragonfly by John Farris, but I didn’t have time to write a review until now.

On the front cover of the book Stephen King is quoted to have said that nobody writes horror better than John Farris. A blurb like this gives the reader high expectations, so I was a little disappointed to discover that the book isn’t even horror. If I had a point system for rating books, points would definitely be taken off for that bit of misleading information alone. So let me begin by saying that despite what you may have been told elsewhere Dragonfly is not a horror story, it is a mystery romance.

Now that has been clarified, let’s move on.

The opening scene grabbed my attention and the following scenes kept me interested. The story and characters are well defined. The author’s style of writing is readable; I felt comfortable and could easily become absorbed in what was happening, which I feel is important. I liked the characters and felt attached to them in some ways, so I was eager to learn what the future held for them.

My only real grievance with this book was that I felt it was much longer than necessary. To me, this means that the “middle” lacked something. Actually, it was the last quarter of the book that could have been condensed, in my opinion. I got to the stage where I went passed caring and eventually just wanted the book to end. There’s a difference between putting your characters through the wringer and just not knowing when to stop. What I think happened was that the author had so many threads to tie up that it took a lot longer than he planned to provide the necessary resolutions, which spoiled the book.

Despite that, the book was enjoyable and I would try reading something else written by the author.