Saturday, 31 July 2010

Books for my summer week away

Tomorrow, I will be away for a week camping with my family, so unfortunatly there will be no posts until I return. So, I thought I'd tell about the books that I'm taking away with me as I should have a lot of free time to read :)

Books I am taking away with me:
  • Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie Louise Jenson
  • The Fool's Girl by Celia Rees- this one is a new release!
  • The Red Queen's Daughter by Jaqueline Kosolov
  • Shakespeare's Apprentice by Veronica Bennett
  • Loving Will Shakespeare by Caroleyn Meyer

Other books to read this summer that I have on my bookshelf:

  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • The Keeper's Daughter by Gill Arbuthnott
  • A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
  • Witch Child by Celia Rees
  • Ivy by Julie Hearn
What books are you reading/looking forward to reading for the remainder of the summer?


Friday, 30 July 2010

A very late Character Connection (2)

Kitty Charing from the Regency Romance Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

To give you a bit of background information on Kitty's character, I will include a synopsis of the book:

Young Kitty Charing stands to inherit a vast fortune from her irascible great-uncle Matthew--provided she marries one of her cousins. Kitty is not wholly adverse to the plan, if the right nephew proposes. Unfortunately, Kitty has set her heart on Jack Westruther, a confirmed rake, who seems to have no inclination to marry her anytime soon. In an effort to make Jack jealous, and to see a little more of the world than her isolated life on her great-uncle's estate has afforded her, Kitty devises a plan. She convinces yet another of her cousins, the honourable Freddy Standen, to pretend to be engaged to her. Her plan would bring her to London on a visit to Freddy's family and (hopefully) render the elusive Mr Westruther madly jealous. Thus begins Cotillion, arguably the funniest, most charming of Georgette Heyer's many delightful Regency romances.

Young and pretty Kitty is a slightly selfish girl sometimes but this is made up for in her usual loveablely charming and generous nature. At first, Kitty is very unfashionable, living with her old Uncle who adopted her and tending to his needs but although she loves him, she wants to leave the house on a break for once in her life. Adding to this is his plan for his fortune to be Kitty’s dowry, which brings all her cousins visiting and proposing to Kitty. So, as she is very cunning and convinces her cousin Freddy to pretend they are engaged so that she can escape from her grumpy adoptive Uncle and visit London for the first time.This is  very different and somewhat difficult experience for Kitty, who has been raised in countryside seclusion with a dependance on literarure and she tries to learn to be independant and discover that her perfect love is very different from the stories she reads.

The conversations between her and Freddy (and their relationship) can be very funny, especially as Kitty is very new to London Society. Her kind nature leads her to helping people along the way such as her impoversished but beautiful friend and  her cousin who is fearful of his overbearing Mother and is afraid to tell her of his secret love.

I could not help liking Kitty and how she grew as a character in the book. If you would like a character that escapes Regency Romance novel heroine pre-conceptions then read Cotillion for a breath of fresh air.

Book Hop (5)

A Very Big Welcome

Welcome to any visitors who got here through the weekly Book Hop (a Book Party) organised by Jennifer (a BIG thank you!) @ Crazy for Books( so that book bloggers can share their blog with other book lovers and also find a new blog to 'follow.' To get involved all you have to do is post your blog link at the bottom of the 'linky list' on Crazy For Books and post about 'Your favorite new-to you author this year.'

My answer: My favourite author that I have discovered this year is Georgette Heyer, who writes Regency Romance novels which are very witty with lots of diverse heroes and heroines.    I have only read several so far but there are around 50 of them so many are on my TBR list.

I hope that you enjoy taking a look round my blog and find a post that you enjoy reading. I'd love to hear from you, so please feel free to drop me a comment! Also, I am happy for you to leave a link to your blog in  a comment so I can easily visit it.

Last week, I reached 50 followers (YAY!) so thank you to everyone! I have had a great time looking at everyone else's blogs and look forward to reading more of your posts on my feed.

Happy hopping!                                                                                                                    

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Book Review: Swallowcliffe Hall by Jenny Walters

Blurb of book (I chose to use it because I think it has been written really well and I love it!) :

'Polly Perkins can hardly believe her luck when she is taken on as an under-housemaid at Swallowcliffe Hall. At first it's all Polly can do to keep up, with endless fires to be laid, carpets to be swept and beds to be made - never mind when guests arrive from London for a country house party. Will she ever feel at home in this grand old house, full of whispers and ghosts from the past? But friendship and comfort are found in unexpected places and Polly slowly begins to find her feet - until a tragic secret leads her to question everything she's ever believed. Could the elegant life of Swallowcliffe Hall be nothing more than a glittering sham?'

My review and thoughts:

I first read this book, which is the first in the Swallowcliffe Hall trilogy about 2 years ago when I was researching Victorian servants and it has remained one of my favourite books since.  I was writing a story myself at the time about a young Victorian servant and was quite disheartened to discover that many of the same events were the same as the ones I had planned to write about!

Polly, who is 14 when she first walks through the imposing gates of Swallowcliffe Hall to become under-housemaid, having  left home to help support her younger siblings and mother because their father was drowned at sea. As it is 1890,  the fashion for extravagant entertaining has reached is peak and fancy guests are always arriving for dinner parties, while the servants scurry around catering for their every need. After having worked at the village vicar's house, Polly expects the hard work but not the spiteful tricks, accusations and other hardships that she has to endure. At first she is pleasantly surprised and in awe of the grand house, which the other servants find rather amusing.  However, slowly, she gets used to the work and makes friends, especially with the beautiful 'butter haired' parlour maid Iris and others that she is not supposed to speak with.

Told through Polly's point of view, her story enthralled me as her unique voice lifted off the page and she soon became very real in my mind and I imagined how I would feel in her place as she is only a year older. Her voice was very informal and chatty and the way she described the details of her new life at the Hall was very lively and not at all like a dull historical account.
The opening of the book was very strong and got straight to the point and the action in the story, as Jenny Walters says on the book's website that she cut most of the first chapter out in order to achieve this effect of 'drawing in.'  I love it so much that I am going to include the first few paragraphs in this post below:

'I stood on the doorstep to the grand house, my heart thumping so hard that it was fit to jump out of my chest, raised the knocker and brought it down with a clap that echoed round the empty courtyard. A couple of pigeons pecking at crumbs fluttered up into the air, such a great noise in that  quiet place startled me,too, though I had made it myself. For two pins I would have taken up my basket and ran all the way home, but there could be no turning back: the new year had begun and with it, a new life for me. I had arrived to start work as under housemaid at Swallowcliffe Hall- if only someone would let me in.'

 Characters- The characters were all very authentic with natural flaws to their personality and I loved the range of characters in the book from Miss Harriet (the youngest daughter of the Vye family who live at Swallowcliffe Hall) who doesn't want to be lady like and sew but instead to be free to the stern on the outside but ind hearted Housekeeper.
Polly was very easy to relate to as she was just a 'normal girl' who goes through things that girls today of her age can relate to such as growing up, developing friendships and falling in love for the first time.

 Historical description- Through the experiences that Polly has and her description I learnt a lot about life as a Victorian servant and the world 'below stairs' that I had not discovered in research. In reading it, you will find about social hierarchy, Victorian manners and decorum, households and methods of house-keeping, the roles of servants, workhouses, the constraints put on love and courting as a servant and fashion. To add to the historical setting and detail, at the beginning at each of the chapters, there was a short snippet from a Victorian Publication such as a manual on 'Mrs Nickleson's Guide for a Household Servant.' I found them incredibly interesting and set the scene for each chapter and sometimes hinted at what it was about.

Although, I don't think that any book is perfect, I can't really fault Swallowcliffe Hall, except to say that I don't think that ll of the cover should be in a sepia tone as although it creates an aged effect, I feel it should be a bit brighter to make it more appealing.

I loved Polly's story of finding your place, friendship, mistakes, sad and trying situations and a growing friendship turning into first love. Now, I have read it several times and although it is not an amazing literary work, it has really inspired some of my historical fiction short stories.

A series
There are 2 other books in the Swallowcliffe Hall series, which follow on from the story in different time periods: WW1 and WW2. The next one features Grace, who is Polly's daughter telling her story at the Hall and there are some clever links and a surprise in the last book which links to a question that is never clearly answered in the first book.

If you like the sound of this series, there is an amazing website for it with lots of extract, information, inspiration for the story background and interactive pages. Here's the link.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Teaser Tuesdays (4)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along and have fun! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read

• Open to a random page

Share (preferably 2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

My teaser this week is from No Shame, No Fear by Anne Turnball, which I reviewed this week and I hope that if you read the review and liked the sound of it, this will help you to get a flavour of the book. I have included extracts from both of the main character's pint of view to give a clearer picture of the themes of love and religious faith.

Extract from the character Susannah's point of view:

'When would he come again? I could think of nothing else for the rest of the day; in my imagination I relived our conversation, saw his hands close to mine as we both kneeled to stroke the little dog, heard his voice, his questions, every word he'd said.'

From Will's point of view:

'And now I had found a faith that challenged me to overturn my life. I had been shown a new way to live, and, no matter how difficult and dangerous it might be, I knew I had to meet that challenge.'

Monday, 26 July 2010

Reading Challenges Summer 2010

After looking around at other people's book blogs, I noticed that many were taking part in reading challenges so I decided to take a look at them and decide which ones I would like to participate in. I have decided to join one as unfortunately I do not have as much time to read this summer as I would like:
Historical Fiction Challenge 2010

I love this challenge button!
This challenge is held by Royal Reviews with help from Alaine at Queen of Happy Endings from 1st January 2010 to the end of December so there is still plenty of time left. As you can tell from my reviews, I read a lot of historical fiction books normally so it would be nice to recognise this by taking part in the challenge and finding out about more hf through other bloggers taking part.

There are 4 levels to this challenge:

-- Curious – Read 3 Historical Fiction novels.

- Fascinated – Read 6 Historical Fiction novels.
-- Addicted – Read 12 Historical Fiction novels.

-- Obsessed – Read 20 Historical Fiction novels
I am just going to aim to read as many as I can in the time and see where I get to but if I counted all the hf books I've already read this year then I will have definitely reached Obsessed by Decemeber! Also, I am not going to list the novels I'm going to read in advance here as I do not know yet so I will update in my reviews of the hf books that I read and wrap up in a list in a post at the end of the challenge.
Here is the link to the challenge welcome post if you are thinking of joining in yourself, whether you are a book blogger or not:  For those of you are not inclined towards reading historical fiction there are other great challenges for a variety of genres listed there too.
Look out for more soon!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Book Review: No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnball

My Summary:

'He is not for thee Susannah."

"Don't cry, we won't be parted, I promise.' - Will

No Shame, No Fear is set in England 1662, just after the civil war and there are many disputes over religious faith and culture.
Susanna is a young Quaker girl who has left her home in a small countryside village to go to work as a servant in the town of Hemsbury after her father is in jail for his Quaker beliefs and the bailiffs have raided her home.  In the community, the Quakers are a feared, hated by some because of their different and simplistic way of thinking about their Christian faith
Meanwhile, seventeen year old Will has just finished his studies at Oxford and is returning home, where his father is trying to arrange a suitable apprenticeship for him in London using his wealth and influence.
By chance, the two meet and Will is intrigued by Susannah and her welcoming group of Quaker friends whose ways seem strange to him. As his curiosity grows, he spends more time with Susannah and a secret romance blossoms between them. Will, knows that his father, an Alderman would oppose to him mixing with a young Quaker girl and getting involved in the illegal Quaker meetings, as well as his sudden change in behaviour. With society, family and even the law against them, they must fight to what is most important to them and stay true to their love. Is it strong enough to overcome the many obstacles that stand between them?

My thoughts and review:

What I loved most about this book was the way that each chapter was told from an alternating view point so that you got to know each of the characters of Will and Susannah really well and gave me a deeper understanding of the rift between their social standing and what ill would be giving up to follow his heart for Susannah. The plain yet language was what made the book so beautiful and it included the Quaker 'thee' and 'though' at some times made the story seem very authentic.
I could definitely tell that the author mus have put a lot of research into writing the book, for I learnt a lot about the manners, dress, food, apprenticeships, households (such as laundering) prison systems and law of the time. The detail of the Quakers, who called themselves Friends was very fascinating and I loved reading about their story of faith though suffering and persecution from Parliament through the eyes of two young people in love. There is no need to worry about the theme of faith and religion making the writing seem 'preachy' for it is not like that at all.

Characterisation- I thought that the character of Susannah was right for the plot and the fact that she was a young Quaker. She was very innocent and has many questions about her faith but is strong inside and brave when it comes to the things that she cares about. However, although I liked her, I think that she could have been given more of a distinct personality.

Will is the character who undergoes the most change in the book after meeting Susannah and getting involved with the Quakers. I got the feeling that although it is hard for him to decide whether to defy his family and society to turn his back on everything he has ever known, he never really fitted into it that well in the first place. He has a lot of courage and is very caring but I must admit that pondering on it, some of the life changes that he chose to make and the changes in him were quite quick.

Anne Turnball definitely got me involved with with story without unrealistic excitement and twists happening in the story all the time but through compelling descriptions and human emotions and suffering.

No Shame, No Fear, had me rooting for the love of William and Susannah and sympathising with the Quakers and their battle with faith in a combination which kept me hooked.

Currently, I am reading the sequel to No Shame, No Fear, which is called Forged in the Fire- off to read it now!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Book Hop (4)

Welcome to any visitors who got here through the weekly Book Hop (a Book Party) organised by Jennifer (a BIG thank you!) @ Crazy for Books( so that book bloggers can share their blog with other book lovers and also find a new blog to 'follow.' To get involved all you have to do is post your blog link at the bottom of the 'linky list' on Crazy For Books and 'Tell everone about what you are currently reading.'
I just finished reading No Shame No Fear by Anne Turball, which is set in 1662 and is about a young Quaker girl called Susannah who leaves home to work in a nearby town and a rich Alderman's son called Will. It is a story of love that shouldn't be in society and a group of people defying the law for their beliefs and standing up to society. I finished it in just over a day because I couln't ut it down so I will be reviewing it soon!

Feel free to let me know you've hopped over by leaving a comment
and I will be happy to visit your blog in the spirit of the hop.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Character Connection (1)- Joey Bettany- The Chalet School series

I recently discovered this wonderful meme hosted by Jen @ The Introverted Reader and thought it looked creative and fun to do and would be interesting to share so this is my first post on it.

Here is what Jen has to say about Character Connection:

We all have characters we love. Let's spotlight these fantastic creations! Whether you want to be friends with them or you have a full-blown crush on them, you know you love them and want everyone else to love them too!

Most of you will probably post about how much you love each character, but this is a great place for the more creative ones among you to let go and have fun! Write a love letter to Captain Wentworth. Write yourself into a scene with Anne and Diana. Draw a picture of yourself in Jamie's arms. The possibilities are endless.
Be sure to post the book's title and author, and be very careful not to give away spoilers while talking about how much you love your characters.
Mr. Linky will be posted here on The Introverted Reader every Thursday.

I really like the idea of making the post into a bit of creative writing to make it more unique but will leave that to explore for another week.
Joey on the front cover of the
 first book in the series
My character this week: Josephine Bettany from the Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Josephine Bettany- or Jo/Joey as she much prefers to be called- is the protagonist of the Chalet School books(at least the first part of the very long series.) If you want to read my post about the series click here.

When we first meet her in The School at the Chalet, Jo she is a young orphaned girl of 12 living with her 24 year old twin brother and sister, Madge and Dick. She is a very frail child and her health is a constant worry to Madge but Joey is still very boisterous and as in in the first chapter: 'possessed at least five times as much spirit as strength, and fretted continually at the restrictions they are obliged to enforce.'

Jo makes the books come alive with her very caring and loyal but wild nature and fiery temper that gets her into all sorts of scrapes when she goes to the Austrian Tyrol with Madge who decides to start up The Chalet School. She has a good moral sense at heart which often shines through but usually acts quite impulsively before thinking. Her personality with a hint of cheekiness was very loveable and she is very much looked up to in the school, especially as she moves up the years and is friends with everyone. I would love to have her as a best friend as she is very loyal and trusting, once she is friends with someone, they are her friend forever and the pranks that she and her friends play sounds like great fun! I also love how Joey has always been treated like an adult in the things that her sister Madge tells her but she is very reluctant to grow up and see friends who were former pupils at the Chalet School marry and have children.

Interesting facts about Joey:

  • She is trilingual in English, German and French
  • She loves history and has a special love of Napoleon
  • She hates maths (especially algebra and trigonometry!!!)
  • She is the editor of the Chalet School Magazine: The Chaletian
  • She wants to be a famous author and LOVES reading a lot
Joey has been likened very much to Jo March of Little Women and I would say that this is definitely true as the 2 characters have a very similar personality, share the same aspirations and talents and of course, their name. I love them both and Joey is a very hard character not to love!

Do you have a favourite character and why do you love them? I'd love any comments :)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Book Review: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Cover 1: The UK Paperback copy
I chose to read Chains because I saw in the library that it had been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the synopsis looked really interesting. Here it is:
'Isabel and her sister Ruth are slaves. Sold from one owner to the next, they arrive in New York as the Americans are fighting for their independence, and the English are struggling to maintain control. Soon Isabel is struggling too. Struggling to keep herself and her sister safe in a world in which they have no control. With a rare and compelling voice, this haunting novel tells not only the story of a remarkable girl and her incredible strength but also of a time and place in which slavery was the order of the day, and lives were valued like weights of meat, or bundles of vegetables.'

My review and thoughts:

The book opens in Spring 1776 at the scene of the funeral of Miss Mary Finch, the elderly owner of Isabel, a young teenage slave girl, her little sister Ruth and also of their mother, who had died of smallpox not long ago. Despite protests that herself and Ruth were freed in Miss Finch's will, her abrupt and unkindly nephew Robert refuses to acknowledge the existence of the will and wants to get rid of the girls as fast as he can to the high test bidder. Soon Isabel and Ruth find themselves sold to the cruel and wealthy Lockton family ,who are English loyalists, and shipped away to New York with the sea separating Rhode Island where they Mum is buried and the only place that they could get near to calling a home. With only each other left, Isabel vows to take care of Ruth, who is a simple but obedient and hard working girl Mrs Lockton, whom Isabel refers to as Madam in the book, treats Isabel very badly, making her work hard from dawn to dusk at her every whim and feeding her very little. Although it may seem that 'Madam' is trying to break Isabel's spirits she is determined to cling onto hope.

Cover 2
Soon after her arrival at the Lockton house, she becomes friends with a young slave boy called Curzon who opens her eyes to what is happening in the American fight for independence war and how the Patriots or 'rebels' as they were called were trying to gain freedom from the British that occupied New York. Owned by a Patriot leader, Curzon knows of the suspicion that has fallen on Mr Lockton and how Isabel could obtain valuable information from Mr Lockton as black slaves are thought of as invisible.
This short extract, which served as an alternative  'blurb' on the back of the book sums up Isabel's feelings about it:

'You want me to be a spy?" I asked. "Are you funny in the head? Do you know what they would do to me?"

Although confused at what she should do, Isabel eventually agrees to help as she believes it may help to gain her freedom, at great risk of dire consequences if she is found out by one of the Locktons.

After this, Isabel is on a dangerous journey and there are many questions that cannot be answered and she wonders whether she often wonders if she is doing the right thing or what side of the war she should trust. However, throughout all the many troubles that she has to face, her strength of spirit carries her through.

Chains was a book that was incredibly detailed and did not gloss over any part of the plot quickly but was very pacy and I couldn't stop reading even if though I didn't want it to end.
For me, the history  of the American Revolutionary War was fresh and new, making it all the more interesting. I especially liked the way that the issue of slavery and the war were combined together as I have read books about slavery on plantations but found this book had more dimension and room for a dynamic plot, which Chains definitely has.

The many themes that cropped up in the book made me stop and think about the, such as racial tension and the invisibility of slaves and the horrors of the way that they were treated.
Cover 3
It also made you think about who were the 'good' and 'bad' side in the war and if there really was one as I know that many Americans grow up thinking that the British were the 'bad' side. However, the book makes you ask the questions: How would you feel if you were a slave and the British offered you freedom? Would you trust them even though the Patriots are the ones fighting for liberty, freedom and Independence? 

Lovely bonuses:

Laurie Halse Anderson includes a wonderful appendix with questions and answers that include these historical topics amongst others. I found it very helpful, particularly with distinguishing fact from fiction in the book as many of the things that Isabel experiences could have actually happened at the time to a young slave girl.

At the top of each chapter were little extracts from sources like newspapers, letters or books written at the time, which I loved because they made the book more quirky and their content and the dated font helped to set the historical scene each time I opened the book to read more.
 The chapters were just the right size, reasonably short but packing in enough emotion, excitement, plot twists and description to satisfy. I found that they were great when trying to get myself to put the book down to go to sleep!

Chains is the first book I have read by Laurie Halse Anderson and I loved it! Her writing style was very engaging as it was written from the point of view of Isabel, which meant that the emotion of her life as a slave really shined through the writing throughout the book. I also liked the way that at the end of chapters/paragraphs there was often a sentence in italics written as though Isabel is talking to herself.

I really recommend it to everyone- you will fall in love with the engaging and page turning story of Isabel's story of courage and strength when she is surrounded by betrayal and cruelty in her life.

Extra: I am looking forward to reading the upcoming sequel to Chains, called Forge, when it is released.


Take a look at the three cover editions above- Which one do YOU like best?

I think that all of them portray the book in a different way:

Cover 2  shows the concept of Isabel being 'chained' to her life as a slave really well and I love the idea of the 2 birds- 1 American and 1 British- however, the colours are quite dull and although it is a cover which speaks out with a powerful message, it is not the most appealing of covers

Cover 3 is very bright and I like the contrast of the red background and the yellow writing.  The idea of Isabel being enclosed in a circle of chains with the pretty decoration around the side is also lovely.

Cover 1 is a cover that uses a photograph, which I think is very effective because the expression on the girl's face makes you want to pick it up to find out what she is thinking/feeling and what has made that happen. The decorative flowers at the edge are a cute edition, as is the quote at the top of the book, which really drew me in (as this was the edition I first saw in the library.

Although I like all of the covers for different reasons the one that appeals to me the most has to be Cover 1 but that is a very hard decision.

What do you think of the covers and which is your favourite?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Teaser Tuesdays (3)

The past week or so, I have been very busy with school work, so I am sorry that I haven't posted as much as I would have liked!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along and have fun! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
 Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

This week's extract comes from the book Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, which was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal, which tells the story of a young slave girl  called Isabelsold to a family with her younger sister Ruth in New York at the time of the Revolutionary War American Independence and her own fight for freedom.

The extract (Some sentences are missing as there is so much to share from the page!):

'Craaack! Lightening struck from the blue sky: Madam slapped my face so hard that it near threw me to the ground............ My cheek burned, but I fought the hot tears and tried to swallow the lump in my throat.No one had ever slapped my face like that, not once in my whole life. Better me than Ruth, better me than Ruth.'

So far I am really enjoying the book and finding it very interesting, especially as it is set in a time and place that I have never read about before as I have mainly read British historical fiction before. Look out for a review on it soon!!!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Book Hop (3)

Welcome to any visitors who got here through the weekly Book Hop (a Book Party) organised by Jennifer (a BIG thank you!) @ Crazy for Books( so that book bloggers can share their blog with other book lovers and also find a new blog to 'follow.' To get involved all you have to do is post your blog link at the bottom of the 'linky list' on Crazy For Books and answer the question: Right this instant, what book are you dying to get your hands on (past, present or future?)
My answer:
I can't wait to read The Red Queen's Daughter by Jaqueline Kosolov, which I have ordered from Amazon but it is coming from the US here to the UK so it is taking a bit longer. It is about Queen Katerine Parr's daughter Mary Seymour who vows to never fall in love because of her mother's imprudent marriage.

I hope you enjoy and have fun reading my posts as they were a lot of fun to write! Feel free to post a link for your blog in a comment to and I'll be very happy to take a look :)

Happy reading (and hopping!)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Book Hop news

Unfortuantly, I won't be posting my link in the book blogger hop this week as I am going away for the weekend so I won't be able to visit any other blogs or answer any comments, so as Jen at Crazy For Books says, I can always join the hop again next week!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Book Review: Raven Queen by Pauline Francis

When I was searching my shelves full of books for a good book I have already read to review here, I suddenly came across Raven Queen by Pauline Francis and flicking through the pages, remembered how much I enjoyed it before. I hope that you like the sound of it!

Publisher description:

This is a powerful historical novel that brings to life an unforgettable story of love, hope and royal duty, from a hugely talented new author. The life of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen, is all too often remembered as just a line in a history book, but this stunning debut novel reveals the full fascinating and tragic story - a tale of treachery, power struggles, and religious turmoil in the Tudor court. Intricately woven and passionately written, "The Raven Queen" is also a sensitive story of love against all odds that will enchant readers.

The Blurb:

I have lived the life of a princess since the day I was born. But it did not bring me what I wanted. I a still trapped.

My beloved Ned speaks of love, freedom, a future. A walk with him in the forest, our raven soaring above us, is my only joy. But my father plans that I will be betrothed to the King and I am afraid. Queens of England have a habit of dying. I have no desire to take the throne., no wish to find myself in the Tower of London.
Wife, Queen- I fear it will bring me to my knees.

Raven Queen weaves a mesmerising tale of love and tragedy based on the life of Lady Jane Grey, all too often remembered as a line in a history book.

I think that the description sums up the book in one paragraph very well and I especially love the part about Lady Jane Grey being 'all too often  remembered as just a line in a history book.' Although, I knew quite a bit about Jane from mentions in other Tudor historical fiction books that I have read, this book really brought her character and the way she felt to life and made you sympathise more with her tragic story because she is like a real person rather than a long dead historical figure. I think that the sample of her writing from in the book on the blurb shows is very strong and makes you want to read more about what happened to her and discover more than just facts about her life.

The book is told from two points of view: Ned (Jane's secret lover) and Jane. This was a very interesting way of portraying the story and gave it more depth. 
Ned is a young man who is condemned to be hung when he steals a loaf of bread and an apple after escaping from prison (he was imprisoned with his father after they were caught attending a Catholic mass.) He and Jane meet when she saves him from being hanged when she rides past the gallows with her maidservant Ellie and bribes the hangmen with money. Despite the danger of the anger of her father who is in London at that point and Ellie's protestations, Jane offers Ned work on her father's estate as a woodsmen. They secretly meet up and find comfort in their forbidden romance together that risks all, not only because of social classes but because Jane is a Protestant and Ned is a Catholic. Ned also shows Jane a glimpse of the freedom from her family, religious argument and the arrangements that she is forced into.
The way that the book was written was very powerful and conveyed the strong emotions of the characters in a way that was almost poetic.  Jane's writing was very eloquent and full of 'heart' that made you think about if felt to be beaten by your parents and forced into a loveless marriage to the King of England.

I also thought that Francis did a very good job of the ending by viewing it in a different  and heart wrenching way that still leaves readers very emotional even when they knew the inevitable ending of the story before they started it. She also included a fascinating author's book explaining why she was inspired to write the story of Lady Jane Grey and how you can find more about her.

Becky Stradwick, Borders said that 'This stunning and lyrical tale will hold readers captive and haunt them long after the last page has been turned.' I agree with this as this was the way that I felt when I had finished the book. It was almost beautifully simple but effective, however not as detailed or as in depth as the similarly themed adult novel Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir (as a reviewer on Amazon said.)

Definitely a must read with an interesting slant on the story of the unlucky  Nine Day Queen.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Teaser Tuesdays (2)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along and have fun! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read

• Open to a random page

• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week, I am going to bend the rules a little and share a few sentances from Mary Hooper's Fallen Grace, seen as I have also reviewed it today.

The first quotes are from the back cover of the book:

"You must go to Brockwood."
"What's that?"
"It's like a wonderful garden, with trees and flowers and statues. When you think about your poor child, you'll be able to imagine him there with beautiful stone angels watching over him.'

The next two are taken from the cover leaf on the inside of the book:

'The train roared, sook and swayed as it rounded a corner, and Grace grasped the window frame and waited until it straightened on its course. Then she pushed open the door to the van containing the coffin and went in.'

They appear in the first chapter of the book, when Grace is taking her dead baby to be buried.

Book Review: Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

I’ve always been a big fan of Mary Hooper’s historical books (which are usually about the lives of ordinary people at the time the book was set but usually mentioning famous people then to keep the book realistic) and I was very thrilled when she came on an author visit to my school. At that time, which was a few months before the publication of the book, I had a brief look at the cover leaf (which was stunning and suited the book so perfectly) and could not wait to read it. As I pre-ordered it, I managed to get it a few days before publication, which was great! Fallen Grace is Mary Hooper’s first Victorian set book (that has always been my favourite period of history) and there aren’t as many young adult historical fiction books set in that time period.

Publisher description:

Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant's body in a rich lady's coffin. Following the advice of a kindly midwife, this is the only way that Grace can think of to give something at least to the little baby who died at birth, and to avoid the ignominy of a pauper's grave. Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound affect upon Grace's life. But Grace doesn't know that yet. For now, she has to suppress her grief and get on with the business of living: scraping together enough pennies selling watercress for rent and food; looking after her older sister, who is incapable of caring for herself; thwarting the manipulative and conscience-free Unwin family, who are as capable of running a lucrative funeral business as they are of defrauding a young woman of her fortune. A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister.

Having read all of Mary Hooper’s other brilliant historical books before, she had a high expectation to live up to and I wasn’t disappointed at all. I found Fallen Grace beautifully compelling with a twisting plot and vivid characters: hard working Grace, the deceiving Unwins (funeral directors) and a kindly young man, Mr James Solent that all brought the book to life. Infact, I thought that it slightly surpassed her other books and shows just how much she has progressed in her writing since she was writing her modern teenage fiction series about a young girl called Megan.

Characters (main and favourites):

I loved the heroine Grace who was vulnerable and tragic enough for the story and the poor living that she and her older sister Lily make but also had a strong will and loyal spirit that clung onto hope even in times when the sisters had barely a penny to rub together. Through all the things that she has to bear, from making sure there is food to eat and money to pay the rent with day to day to dealing with an unwanted pregnancy and the death of the baby, she is a very resilient girl. I think that this was a nice balance as the story of the two originally wellborn girls who dropped into destitution and into the world of severe poverty and hunger in London’s notorious Seven Dial slums could easily have turned into an unbearably sad tale.

Also, she is not like the typical girl who is verging on destitution, as she is well mannered to the people she meets and tries to keep the values that her mother taught her as a small girl before she died. Another thing -which I liked- that Grace tries to keep remnants of their past life such as a pretty hand decorated tea cup, which is worth a good deal of money but she refuses to pawn unless there is no other option.

Another main character is Lily, Grace’s childlike older sister who is unable to care for herself. She was adorable and always tried her best to please Grace and loved having stories told to her at night. Their bond together really made me care about them and as the events in the story (I won’t give any away!) began to unfold, it was impossible to read fast enough to know what happened to them.

Wonderful historical detail:

Mary Hooper’s detailed descriptions of life for the poor in Victorian times and the dangers for young girls on the streets must have taken a lot of research. It was this that outshined her other books, and really made a dramatic atmosphere. I know a lot about the Victorian era, having been interested in it since I visited Osborne House (her holiday home) when I was very little and I thought that the story transported me back to that time really well. Some teenage girls who read this may not know much about life was like for Victorian London’s poor and the way that many people lived in constant dread of been ‘thrown out into the gutter so it would be very interesting for them. I think that some may also be a little shocked about how dangerous it was for young girls around their age and how some were driven to become ‘fallen women’ as Grace describes it.  Furthermore, at one point in the story, we meet Charles Dickens, which is in keeping with Mary Hooper's liking of using real people in her books.
As some of the book was set in a funeral parlour, there were so many fascinating and quaint little details that I learnt about such as the correct mourning etiquette and the fact that mourning wear suppliers told customers that it was unlucky to keep the clothes once the mourning period was over. This made the book uniquely different to any other novels set in Victorian London.

In addition to the wonderful description in the book, at the beginning of chapters, there is usually a small picture such a small newspaper advertisment or an invitation. Sometimes, this also tells you more about Victorian times and added to the character of the book.

Even thought this book is  mainly a historical fiction story, there are also elements of mystery and adventure too so it should appeal to a wide range of different book tastes. There were times when I felt pity, sadness, anticipation, anger, thrill, love and hope in the course of the book and I don’t think that there was anything that I would have done to change it. It was fantastic as a stand alone book that left me feeling satisfied and not wanting more from the characters as in some books although there was also an element of imagining what happened to the characters after the book ended.

Overall it was a rare gem of a book, emotional, full of suspense, thrilling and exceptionally well written.
Even if this book doesn’t sound like your usual style, I recommend that you try it as you might be pleasantly surprised. I know that several other reviewers have said that they would never have read it if they hadn’t been sent an advanced reader copy by the publishers but ended up loving it!

The Video:

This is the trailer for the book, which was filmed at Brockwood Cemetery, just outside of London. I like the effect that it creates  and enjoyed but it was different to what I imagined and I think that it portrays the book to be darker and more eerie than it really is.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Book Review: Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Heyer was one of the authors that was recommended to me by my godmother when I was searching for clean and innocent historical fiction books to read. I was excited that she had written so many books and I can’t wait to read more of her Regency Romances now.

The Plot (my summary)

Arabella is the oldest daughter of a fairly poor country parson. When she gets the opportunity to go and stay with her wealthy aunt in London, she must go to her first Season and enter London society to try and find a good match so that her sisters will have good marriage chances too. However, with no fortune, Arabella’s family knows it will be hard. On the journey, she is bold enough to stop at a large house in the countryside to ask for refreshments. Little does she know that London’s leading man is staying there for a break from the city. Invited in, she tells a little fib (I don’t want to spoil it by saying what it is) that turns into a big deception when she is faced with the snobbery of the Nonpareil. Soon the tale is spreading like wildfire and Arabella, the innocent country miss is soon the centre of attention in London.

Review and thoughts:

Arabella was my first book of Georgette Heyer’s and even though I have read others now and enjoyed them. Arabella is still my favourite. I fell in love with the Austen-esque style of writing straight away but soon forgot about this because the of the storyline and characters.

They made me smile so much and the plot about a young Vicar’s daughter taking London by storm in her first Season as she quickly learns about the ways of high society was just my type- it was the kind of thing that I see myself writing about!

Arabella was a wonderful heroin, not seemingly perfect, as is the problem with some girls in romance novels) as she was innocent and and sweet but also lively with a nose for fun, which made her very likeable. She was very caring and intelligent too and did not stop as would have been expected of a society girl at the boundaries of class when it came to helping someone. Also, her naivety of fashionable society and the little ‘mistakes’ that she made kept the book very lively. I like the way that she is represented on the newest version of the cover at the top of this post as being very thoughtful and elegant- it's very beautiful.

The hero of the book was Mr Beaumaris, the most eligible bachelor in London who made the story come to life with his mischievous ways, teasing of Arabella and the funny little conversations with a mongrel dog. He was handsome and elegant, the London trendsetter whom everyone looked up to with a witty sense of humour.

Arabella is filled with lovely historically accurate details that gave me the perfect introduction the Regency Romance Genre. I have now also read Cotillion and The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, which I recommend too.

I think that it should be on the reading list of every teenage girl (or anyone else looking for an introduction to historical romance.) It was so charming and light, leaving you in such a happy mood- it is now one of my favourite ever books (and it’s very rare or me to say that!)

If you like the sound of the book/want to read it or think you know someone who would like it, I'd be very happy if you left a comment to tell me !  :)

Has anyone else read any clean and innocent (ie. suitable for teens) historical books (or any other reccommendations) that they'd like to share?

Book Review: Abela by Berlie Doherty

Be strong, my Abela.”

These are the last words of Abela’s mother in their HIV/Aids stricken African village, where it seems that to live or to die, to be sick or to be healthy, is just a matter of chance. It takes all Abela’s strength to survive her Uncle Thomas’s scheming to get to Europe, but what will be her fate as an illegal immigrant?

“I don’t want a sister or brother,” thinks Rosa in England, when her mother tells her that she wants to adopt a child. Could these two girls ever become sisters? Is there room in Rosa’s family for an African orphan haunted by lions? Is there room in their hearts?

Abela is a powerful and moving story based on true life from Carnegie award winning author Berlie Doherty writing at her very best.

My review and thoughts:

When I first saw this book in my local book shop whilst browsing the shelves, I didn't buy it at the time but the blurb and the striking front cover made it stick in my mind and I grabbed it straight away when I saw it some time later in the school library! I think that the reason why it appealed to me was that although set in modern times, it wasn't about a lot of the issues that children/teens read about today - e.g divorce- so I wanted to see what is was like.

This story about two young girls:  10 year old Abela, tricked by her Uncle and unwanted and Rosa, who lives in a safe and protected home was wonderful!  Berlie Doherty's writing made it a poignant and readable book that made me think. I think that she addressed the topic very sensitively and put a lot of thought into the feelings, emotions and relationships of the characters. Also, I thought that the beautiful simplicity of the way that the story was told and the innocence of Abela made the book so emotional.

The Story
Abela lived with her sick grandmother once her mother died of aids but her scheming Uncle tricks her into coming with him on a plane to England illegally to try and gain a British citizenship. Once there, she is alone and locked up, feeling homesick for her life back in Tanzania and her native culture. The book takes us through her journey as she is helped by kind social workers.

Meanwhile, Rosa, a 13 year old  English child whose father returned to his native Tanzania and never returned is trying to cope with the fact that her mother wants to adopt a child to be a brother or a sister for her. Secretly, she is very apphrensive and anxious of this but is nervous of sharing this with her mother as she wonders if she is no longer a good enough daughter.

The two stories of the girls are very cleverly linked into one using chapters that tell their story and the contrast between the two girls and their situations is shown very clearly and is incredibly poignant.

Topics that the book addresses
Within the story line there were lots of relevant topics that really got me thinking and wanting to know more such as the problem of aids in Africa, illegal immigration, child trafficking, and the process of fostering and adoption of children in the UK. Yet-don't worry!- these issues were woven into the storyline so I felt that they blended in so perfectly with it and were not too 'in your face' or overloaded with too much information. In the questions that Berlie Doherty was asked by other readers on Write Away (some spoilers so best to avoid unless you have read the book), she said that she felt although there were some serious issues in her books, she thought that literature helps children to understand and explore them.

I  also found out  on the Write Away website that Berlie Doherty's inspiration for the book was when she visited Tanzania and worked with aids victims and their families and also having looked down the route of adopting a child herself.

Summary of my thoughts on the book
Honestly, this story was really heart wrenching and powerfully emotional and left me thinking about it for a few days after I had read it (a while ago now) but I still remember it well now as it made such an impact because it tugs on your heart strings so much. Although this book carries the messages of inspiration, hope and finding out who you are and the love of a family.  I loved it so much that it now has a special place in my heart.

Berlie Doherty said that if she had to name a specific age that Abela is best for, it would be 13 (which means I am exactly the right age) however she also said that it is a book for everyone and anyone to enjoy and I definitely agree with that.

Cover Comparison

My favourite cover is the one on the right, because I think that it sums up the book better with the contrast between the two characters of the girl's whose story it tells and would also appeal to a much wider audience.
However, I think that the left cover would make the book appeal to boys more than girls.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Book Hop (2)

Welcome to any viewers who got here through the weekly Book Hop (a Book Party) organised by Jennifer (a BIG thank you!) @ Crazy for Books( so that book bloggers can share their blog with other book lovers and also find a new blog to 'follow.' To get involved all you have to do is post your blog link ( to a post telling a bit about yourself and how/why you started blogging.) It was great fun on my first week!

My answer:

My name is Stephanie and I started book blogging because I wanted to keep track of what I read in a more exciting way than reviews written in a notepad and came across blogging when searching for a book review on the Internet. Although I started about a couple of months ago, I only started posting properly in the last week or two. So far, I've loved posting, netwroking with all the other book bloggers from the Book Hop and playing around with my new background! I think that it's never too young to start blogging as I hope that my blog shows as I'm only just into my teens.

I hope you enjoy and have fun reading my posts as they were a lot of fun to write! Feel free to post a link for your blog in a comment to and I'll be very happy to take a look  :)

Happy reading!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Summer and Beyond Reading List

Check out my reading list under the page heading 'Reading List' - you might find a book that take your fancy!