Imperium and Lustrum

Imperium - Cicero Trilogy 1 (Paperback)ย  ย  ย ย Lustrum - Cicero Trilogy 2 (Paperback)

By Robert Harris

Published: 4th September 2006 and 8th October 2009

By: Hutchison

Rating: ๐Ÿ‘‘ ๐Ÿ‘‘ ๐Ÿ‘‘ ๐Ÿ‘‘ ๐Ÿ‘‘ ๐Ÿ‘‘ ๐Ÿ‘‘ ๐Ÿ‘‘

Synopsis:ย The first book in the trilogy, Imperium, deals with Cicero’s rise through his prosecution of Verres, his pursuit of consulship and the beginnings of his dealings with one of his greatest foes, Catilina. The second book, Lustrum, sees Cicero juggle his consulship and go head to head with Catilina, the consolidation of power shared by the trifecta of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus and the cutting loose of the ridiculous but highly dangerous Clodius.

๐Ÿ’œ What I loved ๐Ÿ’œ

I’ve probably mentioned before that this is my favourite era of ancient history. It’s so relentlessly fascinating so I’m glad Harris was able to do it such justice. Luckily, Cicero is so accessible through the mountains of writings he left ย and his unmatched rhetoric and Harris paints a well-rounded character who is just and principled but still has human vices. The giants of history: Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus (among others) become human and step out the pages of history books, warts and all. And of course, the traditions (and failings) of politics seem unsettling familiar as they are governed by ego, self-interest and pandering to the lowest common denominator.

๐Ÿ’€ Bad Bits ๐Ÿ’€

Given the time period, there are no main characters who are female. We see hints of strong female characters with Terentia (Cicero’s wife) and Aurelia (Caesar’s mother) but they are never fully explored. It would have been great to have seen more of their reactions to the Clodius scandal at the Bona Dea (Clodius infiltrates a women’s only ritual – it’s pretty funny!)

๐ŸŒŸ Cherished Characters ๐ŸŒŸ

It’s hard to choose as I feel I know all these ‘characters’ so well. Cicero’s legendary words and oratorical skills, Caesar’s audacity and intelligence, Pompey’s opportunism and Crassus’… money? I’ve never liked Crassus…

๐Ÿ™ Magic Moments ๐Ÿ™

The entirety of the Catiline conspiracy. Cicero’s finest hour!

๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿณ

Gold bear award

The Hobbit

The Hobbit (Hardback)

By J.R.R.Tolkien

Published: 21st September 1937

By George Allen and Unwin

Rating: ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒย ๐Ÿฒ

Synopsis: Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, happily living an unremarkable life in the Shire when he bumps into theย wizard Gandalf. Soon, he is hosting aย tea party for 13 dwarves and the wizard and planning to steal the precious hoard of the great dragon, Smaug.ย Disgruntledย Bilbo tries to usher out his guests as soon as possible but soon finds himself caught up in their adventure as theย expedition’s official ‘burglar.’

๐Ÿ’œ What I loved ๐Ÿ’œ

I first read The Hobbit when I was 10 and it has stayed as one of my all time favourites. My brother highly recommended it to me and my mum warned me not to read it (she can’t stand Tolkien, the philistine!) but I’m so glad I took my brother’s advice. The story is pure adventure from start to finish. Tolkien creates worlds like no one else; every song, every character, every place has a rich backstory for you to emerse yourself in. Don’t even get me started on the majestic depth of the languages he created!

ย I don’t find the story drags at all throughout the book (which I find happens occassionally in Lord of the Rings – don’t hate me! I still think it’s amazing!) and Bilbo excells as the voice of reason amongst desperate, vengefulย or greedy men, dwarves and elves. The real highlight for me is the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ chapter where we are firstย introduced to Gollum and he and Bilbo go head to head in a riddle contest. It’s amazing how something so mundane sounding could have me literally chewing my nails in suspense but Tolkien cracks it completely!

๐Ÿ’€ Bad Bits ๐Ÿ’€

If Iย had to be super super pernickity, I would say that there are probablyย just too many dwarves for you to feel a real emotional connection toย anyone of them individually (except perhaps Thorin.)ย 

๐ŸŒŸ Cherished Characters ๐ŸŒŸ

Bilbo: The heart of the story. Bilbo is definitely a reluctant burglar, but damn, he gives it his all when thrown into that situation! He is loyal, brave and above all wants peace and prosperity for everyone, be they dwarves, elves or men.

Gandalf: The head of the story. Let’s face it, reclaiming the Lonely Mountain is Gandalf’s plan and he is the one that sets it in motion. He is shrewd, witty, has an arm length’s list of useful contacts and sees the heroism in Bilbo, long before he himself is aware of it.

Gollum: The villain? Gollum is such a fascinating creature. He lives on a lakeย in the Misty Mountainsย and likes to strangle and eat any unwitting goblins who come his way. He is pretty repulsive when we first meet him, intending to murder and eat Bilbo and contanstly talking to himself. But when Bilbo sees him sobbing over the loss his one love, the ring, we feel the same pity that Bilbo does.ย Who is this creature who lives isolated in the dark whose one precious possession is nothing more than a hunk of metal?

๐Ÿ™ Magic Moment ๐Ÿ™

Theย whole ‘Riddles in the Dark’ chapter. It’s just spectacular.ย ย 

๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿณ

Gold bear award

Dracula

Dracula - The Penguin English Library (Paperback)

 

by Bram Stoker

Published: 26th May 1897

by Archibald Constable and Company

Yippee โ€“ Thereโ€™s also a 49 p Kindle edition!

Rating: ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

Synopsis: The seminal work on vampires introduces us the to the daddy of them all; Dracula. Jonathan Harker is a lawyer who travels to Transylvania to oversee the Count’s legal practices. At first pleased with his host’s manners and courtesy, he soon learns he is being held captive byย his peculiar patron. When Harker narrowly escapes back to London, he hopes it is the last he’ll ever see of the unearthly Count…

๐Ÿ’œ What I loved ๐Ÿ’œ

Vampires are now so ingrained in the collective human psyche that it feels like there is not much more to know about them (I loved Buffy as a child so am quite versed in vampire lore) or they’ve been diluted and just aren’t scary anymore (looking at you Twilight). However, I was pleasantly surprised that I actually found Dracula to be quite chilling and really enjoyed it as a thriller. You actually feel dread and frustration when you know exactly what is plaguing the characters but they themselves are so oblivious to it!

๐Ÿ’€ Bad Bits ๐Ÿ’€

I can’t think of anything that jumped out to me but I do wish the women had had a bit more to do rather than be victims! Of course, that’s looking at it through twenty-first century eyes, and I appreciated that Mina made a concerted effort to place herself within the action butย I just wished there could have been more!

๐ŸŒŸ Cherished Characters ๐ŸŒŸ

Van Helsing couldn’t have been more different from his movie version! I like this one more; in my mind he is like a jovial old Father Christmas who kicks arse and beheads vampires in his spare time. Old school.

๐Ÿ™ Magic Moment ๐Ÿ™

“But my very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over the dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings. At first I could not believe my eyes. I thought it was some trick of the moonlight, some weird effect of shadow, but I kept looking, and it could be no delusion. I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones, worn clear of the mortar by the stress of years, and by thus using every projection and inequality move downwards with considerable speed, just as a lizard moves along a wall.

What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature, is it in the semblance of man? I feel the dread of this horrible place overpowering me. I am in fear, in awful fear, and there is no escape for me. I am encompassed about with terrors that I dare not think of.”

I just thought this part was so immensely creepy and Harker’s realisation at his predicament is a catalyst for him learning more about the Count’s paranormal ways.

ย ๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿณ ๐Ÿณ

Gold bear award

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J. K. Rowling

Published: 8th July 2000

By: Bloomsbury

Rating: ย ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿฒ

Synopsis: The fourth book in the Harry Potter series sees Harry having one of the best summers of his life at the Burrow and at the Quidditch World Cup. Of course, things soon go awry when Voldemort’s brand, the Dark Mark, is seen searing across the sky and rampaging Death Eaters cause chaos after the final match. The Hogwart’s students’ fears are soon put aside when they learn their school will be hosting the first Triwizard Tournament in 202 years with students from Hogwarts, Beaubatons and Durmstrang competing. The three champions from each school are selected by the Goblet of Fire: Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum. Mysteriously, the Goblet then produces one more contender, Harry Potter. Locked in a magical contract, Harry must use all his guts and guile to complete all three arduous tasks whilst trying to solve the conundrum of who put his name in the Goblet of Fire. ย 

๐Ÿ’œ What I loved ๐Ÿ’œ

Things begin to get serious in the Goblet of Fire. Murder is abound, ugly prejudices rear their heads and jealousy and mistrust are rife. But Goblet also retains some of carefree aspects of the first three books to keep the dourness at bay and that’s why Goblet is my second favourite (after Prisoner of Azkaban) in the Harry Potter series. Darkness and danger simmer under the surface throughout Goblet: Harry’s disturbing visions of Voldemort, the sinister deed of Harry’s name being put in the Goblet and the disappearance of Ministry worker, Bertha Jorkins. These are deftly quashed by the excitement and relative safety of Harry completing Triwizard tasks. We know that nothingย that life threatening can happen to Harry in the tasks while Dumbledore oversees all three of them and we celebrate with abandon at each of Harry’s triumphs.

That is why the savagery and the serious threat to Harry’s life comes so jarringly and overwhelmingly at the end of the book. You are knocked just as off kilter as Harry is and need the chapters at the end of the book to process what has happened and recuperate as he does. And that’s what I love about this book; the duality. Harry is still dealing with his teenage school life: who to ask to the Yule Ball, arguments with Ron and Hermione and mastering charms and hexes. At the same time, a building wave of adult issues come gushing down upon him: his own mortality, the media turning against him and the death of a friend.

๐Ÿ’€ Bad Bits ๐Ÿ’€

I love Hermione. I will defend her to the death. That said, ย I find SPEW just as exasperating as Ron does! Similarly, Winky seems to irritate every nerve in my being (I think it’s the constant sobbing and floundering around morosely.) More Dobby, less Winky please!

Again this is very short as, as with Azkaban, there is very little I dislike about Goblet.

๐ŸŒŸ Cherished Character ๐ŸŒŸ

We know from Prisoner of Azkaban that Cedric Diggory is a good guy. He tries to call off the quidditch match when Harry falls off his broom, despite having caught the snitch and winning Hufflepuff a much needed confidence boost. Despite being tall, handsome and clever, he shows no vanity and sheepishly brushes off the praises of his doting father. He represents the ever-maligned Hufflepuff and exemplifies their virtues of toil, altruism and fidelity. He and Harry go toe-to-toe at the tasks but always show each other respect and assist each other where they can. Friendship even begins to bud at the end. We can only imagine what could have been.ย 

๐Ÿ™ Magic Moment ๐Ÿ™

When confronted by the sphinx in the third trial:

“Then she spoke, in a deep, hoarse voice. ‘You are very near your goal. The quickest way is past me.’ ‘So… so will you move please?‘ said Harry, knowing what the answer was going to be.”

Oh Harry! This is why I love you. Ever the optimist!

๐Ÿป ๐Ÿป ๐Ÿป

Of course, Goblet of Fire is worthy of a Gold Bear award!

Gold bear award

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry-Potter-and-the-Prisoner-of-Azkaban

by J.K. Rowling

Published: 8th July 1999

by Bloomsbury

Rating: ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ๐ŸŽƒ

Synopsis: The third book in the Harry Potter series sees Harry returning to Hogwarts looking over his shoulder. Seemingly haunted by the ill-omened ‘Grim’, Harry tries to focus on dodging dementors, helping Hagrid and quality quidditch. It doesn’t help however, when Harry learns notorious mass-murderer and Voldemort’s right hand man, Sirius Black, is out to complete the job Voldemort failed 12 years ago…

โ™ฅ What I lovedย โ™ฅ

Prisoner of Azkaban has long been my favourite Harry Potter book and when I decided to re-read the series I remembered why. So many of my most beloved aspects of Harry Potter are introduced in this book: The Marauder’s map, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, patronuses, Hogsmeade, the Firebolt, It’s also the introduction of some big characters in Goblet of Fire with Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang both facing off against Harry in quidditch (and who doesn’t love Pigwigeon?!) It also has the big twist at the end which sent my 11 year old brain into a tail spin. The pacing of the book is spot on and there are a myriad of new settings (snowy Hogsmeade, the plush rooms of the Leaky Cauldron, and the musky divination room) as well as some unsettling feelings emerging: guilt, jealousy and a the need for vengeance.

๐Ÿ’€ Bad bits ๐Ÿ’€

Are there any bad bits to Prisoner of Azkaban? I really don’t think so. I’ve thrown the question around in my mind, picking up and discarding ideas and tried to come up with something. I managed the spectacular number of 2. 2 things I didn’t think were quite as brilliant as the rest of the book.

  1. The time turner – When I read this as a child, the implications of Hermione being able to manipulate time had no baring me. She used to get to the her classes! Good for her! And oh, it came in handy in the end to save Sirius – that’s lucky! It still doesn’t really bother me that much but my friends point out how conveniently the time turner turns up for one book and then is never seen or mentioned again. Hmmm. Oh well!
  2. I don’t know. The dementors are kind of like ring wraiths I suppose? That’s the best I could wrangle out!

๐ŸŒŸย Cherished Character ๐ŸŒŸ

Part of the reason I love Prisoner of Azkaban so much is it introduces my all time favourite Harry Potter character: Sirius Black. But, since he only appears towards the end of the book, I’m going to choose Hermione. We’ve always known Hermione is a know-it-all teachers pet but here we begin to see all the facets of her personality. She shows her logical and practical side, dismissing Professor Trelawney’s wild and oft-erroneous predictions. But her ever compassionate nature shines through when helping Hagrid with the Buckbeak case. She even makes the hard choices even if it means risking her friendship with Ron and Harry by telling Professor McGonagall about the Firebolt. We could all stand to be a little more like Hermione and I truly believe she is a literary heroine on par with Lizzie Bennet and Jane Eyre.

๐Ÿ™ Magic Moment ๐Ÿ™

‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’

Prisoner of Azkaban is definitely worthy of my first Gold Bear award!

ย Gold bear award