Book Review: The Five - The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper - Hallie Rubenhold

Book Review: The Five – The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper – Hallie Rubenhold

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

I saw this book advertised and thought it looked intriguing after seeing it on a YouTube channel – a few days later it appeared as an Audible deal so I snapped it up for £1.99 and I’m so glad I did.

The focus in history is always on Jack the Ripper. Who was he? What was his motive? What did these women do to cross his path? There was hardly a mention of them women, who they were and what happened in their lives. I’ll admit that like most people I hadn’t considered more than what I was told.

Learning about these women, about their lives, families and their circumstances was fascinating. The lengths that Rubenhold has gone to to research their stories is incredible and this deserves all of the awards it has won. The book is more than just life stories, we can look at Victorian society and the ever changing landscape of the industrial revolution and the people who were struggling to get by.

I had no idea about the level of addiction at the time for normal everyday people and the impact this had on women in particular. It also humanised these women, that they simply fell into hard times and paid the ultimate price. The suggestion that they were prostitutes were mostly unfounded and another hit at the ‘downtrodden women’.

Of course this is embellished for the book, there is no way of knowing what the women were thinking or their exact movements but this doesn’t take away from the information we are given. I am awestruck by Rubenhold’s ability to really draw us in to these women’s stories and feel for them.

Without a doubt this was a 5 star read for me. Seeing this other side of history feels like we are giving some kind of voice to those women who have been ignored in their own deaths. An excellent book and I would also highly recommend the audiobook.

Six The Musical

Six The Musical!

Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.

Most, if not all of us, have heard the rhyme about the six wives of Henry VIII, but if they could tell their stories then what would they say. Thankfully we no longer need to imagine thanks to the new hit musical, Six.

I have to admit going into this that growing up I was a bit of a geek when it came to the Tudors. I read everything I could about all six women because I found it so fascinating – although Henry I wasn’t that fussed by – my child’s mind he seemed mean, as an adult I could definitely use stronger language.

So when I happened to see a clip about the musical I messaged my friend saying it seemed cool and thank the universe it was on in Southampton which is a 40-minute train journey from us – result!

Catherine of Aarrgon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleaves, Kathrine Howard and Katherine Parr. No doubt you’ve heard their names in a history lesson. While they’re known as the six wives of Henry VIII but what were their stories.

This is a punchy, feminist story of six women taking back control. In a musical that feels more like a gig, each queen sings her heart out in a talent show style format (that I was not expecting!).

I saw the show over a week ago and have had the soundtrack on repeat. Their stories have been bought into the modern age with the laughs too! The fun of this musical is key.

At 1 hour and 5 minutes, it’s the shortest musical I’ve seen but this fit perfectly, I think any longer would have dragged. My personal favourites were Ex-Wives, Don’t Lose Your Head, Haus of Holbein, All You Wanna Do and Six.

The only adjustments I’d make (if any) are that I’d like to have seen more of Anne Boleyn’s intelligence. She’s portrayed as a little bit ditzy and was actually fiercely clever. That said, she was still my favourite in the musical!

I am really hoping I can get tickets to go and see Six again during their London run. This was an absolutely stunning musical with humour and heart. I’ll be avidly following what happens next! If you haven’t seen it or want to see it again the website is here AND, as I found out, you can listen to the cast recording via streaming or buying a copy. I’ve also popped a teaser below!



April Favourites!

We’re at the end of April already! It’s been a fairly quiet month for me in terms of buying/reading (click here to find out why) BUT I still have a few favourites for you!



Anne Boleyn The Final 24 Hours 

I absolutely love learning about the Tudors, I love factual books, fiction and fine Anne Boleyn one of the most interesting Queens. I bought this on my kindle and read it on my phone within 24 hours. A very different take on events looking not just at Anne, but also other key people at this time. Definitely a good read for any other Tudor lovers.


Cheer Up Love – Susan Calman

I’ve really wanted to read this for a while, I hadn’t known Susan as a comedian so I didn’t really know about that aspect of her but this was a really interesting look at depression and her experience with it. I really appreciated her honesty and humour. Definitely a recommended read.


Supergirl Rebirth 

I haven’t picked up much of the DC Rebirth and I was really pleasantly surprised. Supergirl is awesome! She’s a really cool lady and I enjoyed the story, looking forward to picking more of these up.


Hard Times – Paramore 

THEY’RE BACK, THEY’RE BACK, THEY’RE BACK. Legitimately danced to Sainsbury’s to this song. I’m so excited to hear the new album and the evolution of Paramore.

Rebel, Rebel – David Bowie

When I was younger I wasn’t that into Bowie, but since my university opened the Visconti Studio (Tony Visconti worked on a lot of Bowie’s albums) and my boyfriend started working there I’ve been listening to a lot. I’ve had this on repeat.

With or Without You – Emma Blackery 

This has been stuck in my head since I first heard it.

Say You Won’t Let Go – James Arthur 

I’ve had a rough month and Ali has been absolutely brilliant, this song reminds me of him.



Game of Thrones

I. am. obsessed. I’m half way through season four and I have no doubt I’ll get to the end of season six in time for the new series.

Tribute to Carrie Fisher

I was heartbroken when Carrie died back in December, I was lucky enough to meet her and cried many tears after her death. The celebration of her life at Star Wars Celebration this year was wonderful and left me sobbing.

Emma Blackery

I’ve been a fan of Emma’s channel for a few years and this month she’s doing a challenge and doing really well. Killing it as always.

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman


A Woman stole your heart when you didn’t know it could mend, 

Her heart is now broken and you can fix it if you never tell a soul as well as saving a child. 

As this novel is about to fill our cinema screens, I wanted to share with you my review of the breath taking, heart breaking novel by M.L. Stedman.

Set just after  WW1, war hero Tom Sherborne wants a quiet life after what he has seen. With a heavy heart it is just short of a miracle when he finds not only his perfect job on the isolated island of Janus, but also a young and fiery Isabel. After exchanging letters Tom and Isabel marry as he takes her back to Janus to join him in the lighthouse and start their own paradise on the island. When a boat arrives on the island holding a dead man and a tiny infant the couple don’t know what to do. While Tom is adamant he must stick to the keepers code Isabel , heartbroken by the death of her stillborn son and two miscarriages, and sure the child is an orphan. The couple begin to realise that while their paradise is a world away, they cannot hide forever.

This novel absolutely warmed and shattered my heart all at once. I honestly can not remember a book that has touched me in this way before, even my favourite The Storyteller didn’t make my heart ache this much. I knew nothing of this book before I found it in my local Tesco’s and I was hesitant to pick it up, but I am so glad I did. The blurb warns you that it will break your heart but I was sceptical. That said, I am yet to read a review in which the novel hasn’t brought the reader to tears by the end. I’ve read reviews beforehand saying that they couldn’t stand Isabel and I could see why some would hate her, but I just couldn’t. I don’t know if it is because I’m a woman, because of my own maternal instincts, but I understood Isabel. I understood why she did what she did. The pain of losing her children broke her and changed her in a way no one could explain, because think about it, wouldn’t it change you? I can also understand Tom’s dilemma and the decision he makes, and maybe it’s not the right one but in his shoes I doubt anyone knows what they would really do.

The novel has a very real sense of the implications of war and the fragile nature of human life. Although we never hear about Tom’s time as a serving soldier to graphically you don’t need to because it is not the dead who will shatter you heart it is the living who are left behind. On land there is an eerie sense of the hardships of war, of the men who came home but never really came back at all, the mothers and widowers who refuse to believe their boys are really dead. Stedman also bravely touches on the subject of racism after  war, when an innocent life is lost because of the decisions of the few. In my opinion, this was incredibly important because we rarely see this side written about and also because it shows the hurt of a whole community and also the sacrifice of Australia in WW1, something that is often overlooked.

One of the main reasons I loved it though was because I wasn’t in a rush. This wasn’t a thriller but it made you want to read on at your own pace. After saying this, however, this does not mean that I couldn’t put it down and even though I peeked later on at one point I soon forgot what I had read because you get so absorbed in the novel. The imagery of the surroundings is beautiful and I could hear the characters inside my head. The way I can decide if it is a novel worth passing on is if the characters live on in my head, if they become alive and Stedman has certainly done this. I think about living in a lighthouse, about Tom and Izzy and I dream about Australia, so on that basis I can give you a five-star rating!

The Light Between Oceans – M. L Stedman (debut novel)

***** – It may have broken my heart but I love this novel to pieces already!

Published by Black Swan

Book Review: The Baby Laundry for Unmarried Mothers – Angela Patrick with Lynne Barrett-Lee


I became interesting in this subject after watching a TV show called Lost Families on UK’s ITV 1,  a show trying to reunite families with their loved ones, often due to a child being adopted. As I watched again and again, the same story was repeatedly coming up. A young woman getting pregnant between the 1930’s to the 1970’s (ish) and being sent away in shame and disgrace or removing themselves to mother and baby homes, run by Nuns to give birth alone, spend mere weeks with their children (who were desperately loved by their mothers in the majority of cases) and being put up for adoption often leading to years of guilt and heavy secrets for the mother.  I was walking around my local library and I saw this blurb…

‘I’d been denied saying goodbye to my baby,

denied that last chance to stroke his cheek and feel his fingers grip mine,

to kiss his tiny mouth in loving farewell’

That alone is heart wrenching. The year is 1963 and a young nineteen year old girl is forced to wear a fake wedding ring, to go alone to a convent run by so called ‘women of God’ (which made me seriously consider why people don’t think religion is about power), to endure a horrendous labour with no comfort and no idea of what was going on, then to fall in love with her perfect little boy Paul only to have to give him away and why? To avoid stigma and ultimately to make sure she did not disgrace her family in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Although Angela forgave her mother and step father (after the death of her own beloved father) her story made me feel uneasy.

However it haunts me that throughout in all aspects of things going wrong or Angela feeling pain, she repeatedly asks God if he has forgiven her yet, desperately praying for her personal hell to be over, for her sins to be forgiven. To me, this in itself is pretty alarming here is this young intelligent woman, with a job in London and what seems to be a loving family (even though some love cannot be expressed) who does what she needs to do in societies eyes but ultimately pays the price her entire life because of wondering what God would think? It just proves that too me religion is so dangerous and don’t even get me started on these lovely nuns! Sister Act they were not, women were forced to work in heavy labour jobs until the day they went into labour, not laughing, no smiling, insulting these vulnerable women, leaving the babies all night long with no feeding and no changing, no holding the babies and god forbid you give your own child a kiss goodbye!  Even after leaving the nuns behind, Angela is terrified and heartbroken after leaving her son , she is later sure that being unable to conceive is God still punishing her for having sex before marriage!

Angela does move on, although never forgetting Paul, happily marrying and having a ‘miracle baby’, her daughter Katherine. Although the joy that pours from these pages when Paul finally gets hold of his mother is euphoric, it really makes you ecstatic even though you know it will happen! This story has made me realise the true bond of mother and child. I do not have children myself, although I desperately wish to have them in the future, it seems strange to think that within the next ten years if I am lucky I will have my own child.

It’s so clear that Angela truly loved this tiny baby boy the agony she must of had to endure hearing him crying and not being able to say goodbye.  It is both sad and beautiful, we know from the blurb  that Angela will find Paul again, for the reunion she dreamt of for thirty years, but in the thick of it you forget that, you feel her pain. This is a valid part of history that cannot be forgotten we must learn as a younger generation from these poor women and children’s stories and make sure that it never happens again.


This book is truly unique, heart breaking and inspiring❤


I give it 5 stars.

Review originally posted in 2012.


Sunday Seven: My Seven Favourite Things About Up North

I’m writing this post tucked up in Ali’s grandparent’s living room in Durham. We try and make the trip as often as we can, hopefully yearly and I absolutely LOVE it up here. Despite the fact I’m always cold there’s so much about being in the North that I love, here are just 7 things. IMG_2337

The Angel of the North

Isn’t she beautiful? An iconic part of the North and strong as hell, just like the people who surround her.


The People

Miller’s are good people. I love spending time with Ali’s family and everyone up here is lovely. It also makes me happy as I have family that came from Newcastle so a little bit of me is from here too.


The Buildings

I love taking walks around Durham and Newcastle because the buildings are absolutely beautiful, look at this street. There’s also castles and loads of different bridges around too so you can really admire the changing times.


Ali’s Gran’s cooking

Ali’s gran makes excellent cakes, this weekend we’ve been treated to chocolate cake with jam and cream. I’ve been taking notice so hopefully I’ll be a cak baking expert soon.



There’s something about this city that is magical. We took a long walk yesterday (despite my back protesting most of the way) and there’s so much to see and so many cute shops, the castle, museums and restaurants.



There is so much history up here, this is a super old picture (back when I was still at school!) of Ali and I at Hadrian’s Wall, a big set of Roman ruins. There’s also Beamish museum which is a live action museum, train museums. Basically if you like history there’s a lot to do up here.


Being called Pet 

This is, and always will be, one of my favourite parts of coming up north. I love being called pet by Ali’s gran, it makes me feel all cute and adorable.

Have you been up North or do you live up here? What are your favourite parts?