Robert Harris

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Mid Year Freak Out Tag 2017

Published July 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone! Now I don’t normally do tags but I’ve seen this one hopping around blogs and book tube videos and it just looked too fun not to participate in. Here are my answers!

1.) The Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year

Aaagh, this is so hard already! According to my GoodReads stats, I’ve awarded twenty books five stars this year so far and there were quite a few contenders for the crown. I’ve gone with The White Road by Sarah Lotz however as it’s a book I’m still thinking about months after reading it. SO GOOD.

2.) Your Favourite Sequel This Year?

Tastes Like Fear is the third book in the Marnie Rome series by Sarah Hilary. I could quite easily have picked the fourth book as well but again, if I only had to pick one, this would be it. I loved the plot of this novel and don’t even get me started about how amazing the characters are.

3.) A New Release That You Haven’t Read Yet But Really Want To?

There are so many fantastic books on my TBR but this one in particular I’m really looking forward to getting to. It was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year and I’ve only heard great things about it!

4.) Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half Of The Year?

Regular visitors to my blog may not be surprised at my choice! If I had to choose ONE author over all others, it would be Stephen King every single time. This new novel is a collaboration with one of his sons, Owen King and I literally cannot wait. Although I’m going to have to as I’ve banned myself from buying anymore SK’s in hardback which means I’m going to have to wait for the paperback release. SOB 😦

5.) Your Biggest Disappointment?

This is a very recently finished graphic novel for me and SUCH a disappointment. I was really hoping I would love it and if it hadn’t been so short, I would probably have DNF’d it to be honest. I will be doing a Mini Pin It Review with more of my thoughts about it at some point.

6.) Biggest Surprise Of The Year?

Conclave by Robert Harris. I wasn’t expecting to like this book at all after being disappointed with a previous read by this author. I was so shocked and pleasantly surprised when I thoroughly enjoyed it! Who knew that the process of electing a Pope could be so thrilling?

7.) Favourite New To You Or Debut Author?

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is a novel based on the real story of Lizzie Borden whose father and step-mother were murdered with an axe, allegedly by Lizzie but other culprits are also suggested. It’s macabre, shocking, disgusting and AMAZING. I will now read anything Sarah Schmidt writes!

8.) Your New Fictional Crush?

To be honest, I don’t really get fictional crushes. If I had to choose someone that makes my heart beat slightly faster when I’m reading however, I’d have to go for Roland Deschain from Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower series.

9.) New Favourite Character?

Can I cheat and have two?! Robbie and Emily from Together by Julie Cohen were adorable and I loved reading about their relationship.

10.) A Book That Made You Cry?

The Snow Child was a recent re-read for me and really affected me on a personal level this time round. I actually upped my rating to five stars (from four stars previously) after I had finished. It’s such a stunning story and you can never go wrong with a bit of fairy tale!

11.) A Book That Made You Happy?

I don’t read very many “happy,” books, I’m afraid I tend to verge towards the darker, more depressing tomes but reading The Essex Serpent recently made me so happy. The writing was out of this world and the plot and characters made me feel like I was in bed all cosy with a hot cup of tea.

12.) Your Favourite Book To Movie Adaptation That You’ve Seen This Year?

I haven’t actually watched a book to film adaptation recently, I always worry that it’s going to be nothing like the novel! I did recently re-watch Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone which is always excellent!

13.) Favourite Book Post You’ve Published This Year?

I found this question so tough! I never know how my blog posts are going to be received – sometimes I write one that I think is really good and I don’t really get a response then I write one I’m not so happy with and I get a really brilliant response. One of the reviews I most enjoyed writing this year was The Birds by Daphne du Maurier for my Short Stories Challenge. It’s easily one of the best short stories I’ve ever read.

14.) The Most Beautiful Book You Have Bought/Received This Year?

Again, there were a few contenders for this crown! I’ve been lucky enough to receive/buy some really gorgeous books this year, my Penguin Clothbound Classics come a close second but I had to choose Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. It looks even better in the flesh and I can’t wait to get to it.

15.) What Are Some Books That You Need To Read By The End Of The Year?

This has been on my TBR for the longest time and I really need to get to it by the end of this year. I will, I will!

I got this book for my birthday after wanting it for ages. I’ve heard some terrific things and it needs to be read.

Another book I’ve only heard great things about and it’s just crying out to me at the moment from my shelves!

Non-fiction feminism? Yes please! Will. Read. Before. End. Of. Year!!!

So that’s my answers, thank you so much for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed my choices. Let me know in the comments if you agree with me or tell me what you might choose yourself. I’d like to tag my sister Chrissi Reads to do this tag as I think it’s something she would enjoy and anyone else who would like to do it, consider yourself tagged!

 

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Conclave – Robert Harris

Published July 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
Unputdownable’ Guardian
‘Gripping’ Sunday Times 

The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

What did I think?:

I approached this new novel by Robert Harris with slight trepidation I have to admit, having not had the greatest experience with one of his previous novels, An Officer And A Spy, which was also a Richard and Judy Book Club pick here in the UK a little while ago. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the writing, I did think it was very cleverly done and I ended up giving it a three star rating but unfortunately it didn’t blow me away. So when I saw the most recent Richard and Judy Summer Book Club list and saw another Robert Harris novel on there, I did feel a little bit wary and wasn’t really looking forward to it. Well. How wrong was I?! I was really shocked and delighted to discover that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it definitely makes me more eager to read some more of the author’s work, something I was not considering before this. It’s also why I always advocate giving an author a second chance, just because one book doesn’t particularly work for you doesn’t mean that another won’t be exactly the opposite.

I’m starting to ramble and digress slightly so let’s get back to what Conclave is all about. Conclave follows our main character, Cardinal Lomeli whom, as Dean over all the other Cardinals is tasked with leading proceedings when a current Pope passes away in order to choose another one. The whole procedure is shrouded in secrecy with the hundred-odd Cardinals being sequestered away, completely cut off from the outside world and forbidden to discuss the process in any huge detail with each other as they cast their votes, time and time again until a majority is announced that elects a new Pope.

Now you might think that this all sounds quite dull but believe me it’s not. Robert Harris manages to make the election process of a new Pope thrilling, mysterious and completely page turning as we learn about the main contenders for the big job as the holiest man on Earth and also rocks the boat slightly when Cardinal Lomeli discovers some inside and very damaging information about a couple of the contenders that threatens their journey to becoming the Holy Father. Alongside this is the arrival of a new Cardinal that is completely unprecedented by the others, and is a person the previous Pope chose to elect in complete secrecy for reasons unknown to apparently everyone. This is a story about religion, the loss of faith, the changes in Catholicism over the years, men’s pride, extreme ambition, what makes a good/bad man and the fight between duty and desire.

I was actually raised Catholic (although lapsed now!) and went through the whole process – church every Sunday, First Communion, Confirmation etc and although I was intrigued by the premise of this novel, I didn’t ever believe that reading a story about the election of the Pope could be so compelling. As I mentioned previously, I was completely taken aback by how much I enjoyed this novel and how surprised I was, especially in the directions the author chose to take the narrative. It’s a fascinating insight into Catholicism and faith but also with an amazingly human edge with real, flawed characters that you can really understand and believe in. You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy this novel at all but if you have any interest in how the process might work and enjoy a damn good mystery, this book is definitely for you. It takes twists and turns that you might never have imagined and I thoroughly enjoyed every word of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

An Officer And A Spy – Robert Harris

Published July 6, 2014 by bibliobeth

18395002

What’s it all about?:

January 1895. On a freezing morning in the heart of Paris, an army officer, Georges Picquart, witnesses a convicted spy, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of twenty thousand spectators baying ‘Death to the Jew!’

The officer is rewarded with promotion: Picquart is made the French army’s youngest colonel and put in command of ‘the Statistical Section’ – the shadowy intelligence unit that tracked down Dreyfus.

The spy, meanwhile, is given a punishment of medieval cruelty: Dreyfus is shipped off to a lifetime of solitary confinement on Devil’s Island – unable to speak to anyone, not even his guards, his case seems closed forever.

But gradually Picquart comes to believe there is something rotten at the heart of the Statistical Section. When he discovers another German spy operating on French soil, his superiors are oddly reluctant to pursue it. Despite official warnings, Picquart persists, and soon the officer and the spy are in the same predicament.

Narrated by Picquart, An Officer and a Spy is a compelling recreation of a scandal that became the most famous miscarriage of justice in history. Compelling, too, are the echoes for our modern world: an intelligence agency gone rogue, justice corrupted in the name of national security, a newspaper witch-hunt of a persecuted minority, and the age-old instinct of those in power to cover-up their crimes.

What did I think?:

An Officer And A Spy, by British writer Robert Harris, is only the second book I have read from this author, the other being The Fear Index which I wasn’t very keen on. Richard and Judy have picked Robert Harris’ most recent novel for their Summer Book Club 2014 here in the UK, so I was prepared to give the author another try as I trust their recommendations. This novel is primarily historical fiction, however it is based on a real historical event which I have to be honest, I didn’t know too much about. It tells the story of a Jewish gentleman called Alfred Dreyfus whom, when the story opens, is being publicly humiliated in front of an angry crowd for being convicted as a spy and traitor to the French people. Our main character, Georges Picquart, plays a small part in his conviction and subsequent lifetime confinement on Devil’s Island, but is surprised after the event to be offered a promotion to Colonel, leading the “Statistical Section” of the military which happens to be the intelligence unit that discovered and presented all the evidence on Dreyfus.

Picquart isn’t exactly thrilled to be working in the intelligence sector, something he hadn’t envisioned himself being a part of, but soon gets stuck into the job and finds he is rather good at it. Perhaps too good. He soon discovers evidence of another spy working from the French side and passing intelligence to the Germans, and strangely enough, he soon uncovers certain things that suggest Dreyfus might actually be innocent. However, when he passes this information along to his superiors, instead of being rewarded for his diligence, he is told to cease all investigations into the accused party and basically “to let sleeping dogs lie.” Picquart’s conscience cannot do this, even to a man he didn’t necessarily like all that much, and he continues to accumulate evidence, albeit more covertly than before. But Picquart is playing a deadly game with the military, who are desperate to ensure that possible mistakes that were made should never come to light. He must search his conscience, and decide whether he is willing to give up everything he has ever worked for to ensure that justice is done.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t know too much about this historical event, and found the details absolutely fascinating, which made me want to read into it a bit further. It is obvious that Robert Harris is a skilled writer, and with this novel he did make me keep wanting to read on as the suspense and pace heightened. Unfortunately, for me it was missing something, and I can’t really explain what it was! The story was certainly enjoyable enough and it never felt tedious or over-exaggerated. I really enjoyed the parts when Picquart was reading the letters from Dreyfus to his wife whilst imprisoned on Devil’s Island as I felt it brought some real humanity to the novel. This is especially true when the reader learns of what he goes through while he is there, having little access to natural light, having no other company apart from some fairly brutal and malicious guards that keep him chained up etc, particularly if this specific man is innocent of all charges against him. I also warmed to the character of Picquart a lot more when he started growing a conscience and fighting for the rights of the condemned man. As a personal read I probably wouldn’t read it again, but would definitely recommend it to fans of Robert Harris or those that enjoy a good espionage read.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art