Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Book Review: The Other Countess by Eve Edwards

Summary (from Goodreads.com)

It's 1582 and eighteen-year-old Will Lacey's family is in trouble. After years of wasteful spending, his late father has run Lacey Hall to near ruin. Tasked with marrying his family back into fortune, the new Earl of Dorset is all set for a season at court to woo not just the Queen but potential brides with his jousting skills. But when Ellie – a strong-willed girl with nothing to her name but a worthless Spanish title – catches Will's eye, he faces a bigger battle than he could ever have anticipated.

When I read the blurb of this book at the library, the debut novel of Eve Edwards, I knew that it was the kind of book that I would love. To be immersed in the Tudor world filled with intrigue in the courts of Queen Elizabeth I mixed together with love at all odds…. What could be better?

It turned out that I was right in the end and I couldn’t tear myself away from it. Everything about it was so lovely and well thought out with characters that I warmed to and believable and witty dialogue.


It was the characters in the book that made this book so gorgeous and stand far above the countless predictable 'will they, will they not' historical romances. Even though the book is told in the third person, different chapters follow the lives of the main characters in the book and we are given an insight into the point of view of these characters through this.

My favourite character was the heroine Ellie or Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime, who owns a worthless Spanish title inherited from her late mother. She is a sensitive and sweet girl with a fun filled nature but with a feisty and strong willed spirit that comes out in her at times along with a tendency to be very defensive of herself when she is offended. Unusually for girls like her at that time she is very learned and well educated in the languages of Greek and Latin to much amusement and suspicion at court, where unmarried young ladies are sought after for their dowries. Her father is an alchemist who is obsessed with his work and often doesn't care to think of how his quest to find gold affects his daughter and the kind of life she is condemned to because of it. I sympathised with Ellie on this and sensed her frustration in her fruitless attempts to open his eyes to how the world views him and his work. Since she is a pretty young lady made destitute by her father's lifestyle, Ellie is also very vulnerable of being pursued by young men offering her their protection. Yet through all her ill fate and spoilt reputation she manages to stay true to herself and.

Will, the eighteen year old Earl of Dorset who is burdened with the responsibility of restoring his family's lost fortune, frittered away by his late father . Knowing that the future of his mother and younger siblings is in his hands, he must win the favour of the Queen and endeavour to impress young ladies suitable for matrimony. At the beginning of the book aged just fourteen, Will was a character that it was difficult to like because of his cruel manner and hostility towards Ellie and her father. Believing him and his alchemy practices to be the cause of his family's financial ruin, he throws them out of the household penniless. Yet, given the circumstances of his father's recent death, his actions can be forgiven a little. It was nice to see Will grow as a character throughout the book and see his true personality that was hidden under the fears and worries of his duties and responsibilities. Through the later stages of the book, he was the kind of young gentlemen that every girl would dream of; caring and chivalrous with a playful and witty sense of humour. I'm sure that lots of readers have fallen head over heels in love with him!

Besides Will and Ellie there are other sideline characters such as Lady Jane Perceval, who isslightly vain rich heiress but through her friendship with Ellie, a loyalty grows between them and I liked seeing in the development in her character. I'm looking forward to finding out more about Jane's story in the sequel to The Other Countess, The Queen's Lady. There is also James and Tobias (Will's younger brothers) who bring a touch of lighthearted fun in their comical brotherly teasing. I loved how each of the characters (including the minor ones) each had a story of their own which followed through the book to create a strong plot and memorable cast of characters,

More about the plot

When Ellie is staying at court with her father (who is working under the patronage of Lord Mountjoy) four years after her last encounter with Will, they meet again. A little afraid of Will to start off with, she soon realises that he doesn't recognise her for the girl he hates and resents and warily tries to enjoy his attention before he finds out the truth about who she really is.
Despite their past and feuds between their families, their relationship blossoms into affection and friendship that desires to grow. However, the rules of society forbids them to ever be together and Will has his duty to his family to think of. Ellie has nothing to offer him but his potential bride Lady Jane has the money that can save Lacey Hall and for his family to live in comfort again. Can they learn that love brings greater fortune than gold?

I felt that the book was well paced and the love between Will and Ellie grew at a natural pace and it wasn't a 'love at first sight' romance, which made their relationship seem more realistic. The bond and vibe that they shared was so lovely and they really brought out the best in each other, they're my favourite couple now!
Setting and descriptions
Not just a romance, Edwards brings life under the reign of Elizabeth to life with beautiful and enthralling descriptions that highlight so many delicious details for the reader to devour. They are the sort of things that you wouldn't know from reading a non- fiction historical information book from all the fine details of Elizabethan fashion to jousting tournaments. At court we meet real life people such as the infamous Sir Walter Ralegh (there was a different slant on his character that I found interesting and probably more realistic than the dashing descriptions of him in other books) and the Queen herself. Besides hearing about the rich and famous, Edwards gave an insight into the lives of the commoners in the village near Lacey Hall and how they find their 'perfect match,' creating a contrast between the two lifestyles.  Real issues such as religion and politics also have a mention in the story which really adds an extra dimension to the world that goes beyond the main characters.

Verdict: The Other Countess was a delightful and sweet historical romance with captivating and vivid descriptions that I found myself lost in for hours... I adored it! The characters are easy to relate to for a modern audience and they now have a special place in my heart.  Be prepared to be swept off your feet by this irresistible tale and into the Elizabethan era and savour every moment of it!

The sequel to The Other Countess, The Queen's Lady is being released in February 2011 and I can't wait to read it. I have a feeling the Lacey Romance series is going to become one of my favourites.

Make sure you visit Eve Edward's website for the fabulous book trailer, historical information and other great content. She is also running a competition to win a copy of The Other Countess which closes at the end of September so don't miss your chance. See the website for more details about how to enter.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Bookshelf Love!

Since we all love books, we must have a place to put our treasures and thankfully we have the handy bookcase. There are so many types of bookshelves and I'm sure that you all have a great variety. They can be cluttered, neat, bursting out of the side, well arranged, sparse, stylish, cosy and homely or stylish and modern.... The list goes on!

I actually think that looking at a person's bookshelf can tell you quite a lot about their personality so later this week I'm going to post a few photos of my bookshelf and the books I have.

I searched on Google images for bookshelves and found some interesting types.Take a look:

The one in the top right has to be my favourite out of all the featured booksheves, it's ordinary and has good
and partical storage... with a twist! The little seat to lie down in would be perfect to snuggle up in with pillows to make it more comfortable and a blanket for cosiness. Perfect Winter hibernation spot!

Apparently you can really walk in the circle bookcase, once you've got the hang of it, it will burn off the calories whilst reading but it might make you a bit dizzy...

The bookshelf on the far right is like a massive bookshelf bench. They should have them at libararies, you could have a readathon on them!

What do you think of these bookshelves and which is your favourite?

Stephanie <3

Sunday, 29 August 2010

100 Followers- THANKYOU so much to all my loyal readers!

I woke up on Saturday morning and found that I had reached over 100+ followers!  Thank you so much to all my lovely readers, I'm honoured that you want to read my blog.
When I first started this blog back in January, I never thought that much would come of it and it was only when I first discovered the book blogging community three months ago that I started to post properly and regularly. Everyone has been such a help to me and I have discovered so many brilliant blogs through the weekly Book Hop.

To say thank you, I will shortly be holding a giveaway, although I have yet to decide what book that will be (but it will probably be YA historical as that is the main genre I review.) Look out for a post on it!

Stephanie <3

Friday, 27 August 2010

It's that time again! Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday

A Very Big Welcome

Welcome to any visitors who got here through the weekly Book Hop (a Book Party) organised by Jennifer @ Crazy for Books or Follow A Book Blog Friday hosted by Parajunkee's View 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/or Parajunkee's View, answer the weekly question (for the hop) on your blog and get hopping around and following all the blogs!

This weeks Book Hop question is one that I suggested to Jen (thank you so much for choosing my question to be featured!) : Do you use a rating system and if so, what it is and why?

My answer:  I find that rating systems like 1-5 are very diffcult to use as I find it hard to judge each book against another as they can be fantastic in their own different ways. Most of the books I read would end up being 4 or 5 stars! Instead, I like what I think of the book to shine through in my reviews, which tend to be quite detailed. For those people who like to have a quick way to see what my opinion of the book is, I have introuduced a short 'verdict' paragraph summing up my thoughts. However, I am thinking of introducing a rating system  in the future out of 10 for each aspect of the book such as plot, characters ect. This would be clearer, fairer and more accurate way of doing things.

I look forward to reading all about your rating systems, there are so many unique ones out there, which is why I submitted the question to be used for the Hop.

New posts this week, take a look:

Book Review: Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie Louise Jensen
Waiting on Wednesday: Cate of The Lost Colony
Jane Austen Challenge 2010
Book Review: A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

I am currently reading: The Other Countess by Eve Edwards

I hope that you enjoy taking a look round my blog and. I'd love to hear from you, so please feel free to drop me a comment! If you like my blog, please follow, I'd really appreciate it and don't forget to leave a link to your blog in a comment so I can check it out :D

Thank you for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Stephanie <3

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Book Review: Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie Louise Jensen

"I’d always been fascinated by the tales of the new country. I was given to visions, to glimpses of the future. All my life I’d seen pictures of a strange place, a country I didn’t recognize. The tales I’d heard of Iceland matched the pictures in my mind. I was meant to go there one day. I knew it with absolute certainty. It was my destiny. Inescapable and unchangeable.”


'Following an attack on her family, fifteen-year-old Thora is enslaved by a brutish Viking chieftain, Bjorn Svanson. A healer and a midwife, Thora is valuable. She also has visions of the future ...and in one she foresees Svanson's death. When her prediction becomes reality, Thora recognizes that another of Svanson's slaves is a man she has seen before-a man from recurrent visions who is destined to be part of her future. Assuming Svanson's identity, the slave and Thora use the dead man's ships to escape. Their destination is Iceland, the then uncharted 'land of fire and ice'. To succeed they must first win over Svanson's crew, and their journey is fraught with hardship and danger. But their troubles are only just beginning. Soon, newcomers are among them and someone is stealing from Thora's medicines to cause terrible harm. Under suspicion herself, can Thora unmask the real culprit and clear her name? And can Thora and the man now known as Bjorn ever really hope that their pasts won't catch up with them?'
Succeeding in stealing the Svanson's ship and duping his drunken men, their journey is only just beginning but Thora beings to care deeply for the man who she only knows as Bjorn and realises that she is in love with him and she can sense that he feels the same. However, fate twists so that it is impossible she and Bjorn can be together. As she and the other travellers on the ship set about making their home in the harsh new land of Iceland, can she put the past behind her and enjoy her new life while she and Bjorn live in the same household but are separated forever?


What I loved most about this book was the main character Thora, seeing the journey and hardships through her eyes kept the book so fast paced and exciting and emotional at points. She is a gifted healer and midwife that is greatly valued by the community set up and I found it very interesting to learn about the plants she has to gather to use as medicine. Although her love for Bjorn that she must keep hidden for her sake and his is a constant burden and torment to her, she always remains strong. One of Thora's features are her constant visions from her Gods, which hit her suddenly and seem to always come true, sometimes proving useful but also bring pain knowing that a terrible event is going to happen.

Through her actions she proves herself to be a very brave and spirited girl always looking to help others and from the first chapter I liked her immediately. This was very important as the book leaps straight into the action of the story, with Thora's life being turned upside down in the first chapter and for the reader to sympathise with and care about what happens to her, they must like her.

The setting of Iceland, a new and unexplored world for the people of Denmark in those times and the Viking characters made the book all the more enjoyable to me. Even though I have never read a historical book about Vikings, I know that people sometimes associate them with longboats and battles so it was nice to read an interesting take on a small community struggling to survive in the land of 'fire and ice.'  A successful catch of fish and how many animals survived on the sea voyage was the difference between life and death in the book. Through Thora and the woman slave's chores in the household, I also learnt a bit about everyday life.

The plot was always introducing something new to keep you hooked and had many unexpected major twists at the beginning of the book that would influence Thora's life in Iceland for a long time to come. The way Marie Louise Jensen developed the distinct voice of Thora made such a difference and I shared her emotions all the way through the book, wanting life to have a happy end for her.
The ending implied things rather than reassured me that events were definitely going to happen which at first left me feeling a little disappointed until I discovered that a sequel is being released in January 2011 called Sigrun's Secret.

I have read all of Marie Louise Jenson's previous novels but I think this, her newest, is her best so far. The sense that I was there witnessing the story in Thora's world was created through descriptions that jumped out the page and into real life.

Verdict: Daughter of Fire and Ice is a compelling and vivid account of an attempt to start a community in the unexplored world of Iceland narrated by a sensitive yet feisty and persevering heroine matched with a handsome and wise hero. With a fast moving and emotional plot featuring survival, fear, joy and romance that cannot be, I would recommend Daughter of Fire and Ice to anyone fascinated by the past, romance fans or are just looking for a book with memorable and lifelike characters.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Cate of the Lost Colony

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking The Spine, where bloggers post about upcoming book releases they are eagerly anticipating.

My can't wait to read book for this week is Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein:

The greatest unsolved mystery of American history--what happened to all the colonists who landed on Roanoke Island in 1587? This novel traces the fortunes and misfortunes of one Cate Archer, banished to Virginia by a jealous Queen Elizabeth because of her dalliance with Sir Walter Ralegh. What will be her fate in this dangerous New World?

Seamlessly weaving together fact with fiction, Lisa Klein's newest historical drama is an engrossing tale of adventure and forbidden love—kindled by one of the most famous mysteries in American history: the fate of the settlers at Roanoke, who disappeared without a trace forty years before the Pilgrims would set foot in Plymouth.

I love books set in the Tudor era and have read many about Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh and courtiers and also books about voyages to and exploration of The New World so this book sounds like a perfect mix of setting, romance, drama and real historical figures.

Covers: I found that they were two covers for Cate of the Lost Colony and I think that one is an ARC cover and one is the final cover that was changed before the ARCs were printed as the covers are the same on Amazon UK and US.  

 Initially I preferred the top cover because of the close up of the girl's expression which was clearer and the white swirly writing. I also think it would appeal more to teenagers than the cover the left. However, the cover on the left is growing on me as I like the details of the dress and the illustration of the ships gives a better idea of the story and makes it look more like historical fiction. It also looks like more work and thought has been put into it. Which one do you prefer?

One thing I have noticed about YA historical fiction is the trend to have full face covers like the one on the left. I quite like full face covers but having them on every cover can be a bit repetitive and boring. What do you think about that?

Cate of The Lost Colony is published by Bloomsbury and will be released on the 12th of October this year- definitely something for me to look forward too! If you would like to read an ARC review of it, visit this link to Rebecca's Book Blog.

What are you Waiting on Wednesday for? I'd be happy to check out your posts too and I'd love to hear if you like the sound of this book or have added it to your wish list!

Stephanie <3

Monday, 23 August 2010

Jane Austen Challenge 2010- late but better than not at all

When I noticed that Anne Bennett from Head Full of Books was taking part in the Jane Austen Challenge held at The Life and Lies of an Inanimate Flying Object, I couldn't resist being a late joiner either!

I'm a Jane Austen newbie so I thought this would be a good challenge to introduce me to her novels, which I have out from my school library over the summer amongst all my other books. To complete any level on the challenge, I also have to read too Jane Austen rewrites, prequels, sequels and spoofs.

The levels and rules are:

--Anyone can participate.Sign up here:

**Newbie 2 books by J. Austen, 2 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
**Lover 4 books by J. Austen, 4 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
** Fanatic 6+ books by J. Austen, 5+ re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)
--Challenge books can overlap with other challenges.

Given the late stage of the year, I am going to aim for the 'newbie' level and the books that I am picking are:
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Emma
  • I was Jane Austen's Best Friend (already read and reviewed)
  • Lydia Bennett's Story (a sequel to Pride and Prejudice

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Book Review: A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson- Stephenie Meyer's favourite

A Company of Swans: listed among Stephenie Meyer's favourite books

Blurb summary:
For Harriet Morton, ballet is the only escape from her dreary home and strict family. Then a Russian ballet master comes searching for dancers....
Defying her father, Harriet runs away to join the ballet on a journey to the Amazon. In a grand opera house, deep in the heart of the wild jungle, she performs Swan Lake- and falls in love with a mysterious British exile. But Harriet's father has tracked her down... and her new life is under threat.

My summary:

In 1912, nineteen year old Harriet Morton is living with her father, a narrow minded and crotchety Professor at the University and her money-tight and strict Aunt Louisa in a dreary and oppressive household. Her one joy and escape from her controlled life at home is her ballet lessons, which her Aunt Louisa thinks are a waste of money. Then, when a Russian ballet master comes to watch Harriet's ballet class, she is singled out to be invited to become part of a ballet company performing in the Amazon. Harriet knows it is her one chance of getting away from the tedious life that her Aunt and the Tea Ladies have planned for her but knows her father would never approve. She loses hope of ever joining the company until she meets a bespectacled boy called Henry at an outing with the Tea Ladies to a dilapidated Yorkshire mansion. He begs her to find a mysterious man he calls The Boy who he is certain is in the Amazon and belives can save the neglected house. Unable to refuse this affectionate and earnest boy, Harriet takes the chance to follow her dreams and pursue her happiness.

My thoughts:

I have read a few of Eva Ibbotson's adult books (that are now marketed at teenagers) before and A Company of Swans created a just as or even more enthralling world  than her other books.
One of my first thoughts when I finished the book was 'what an intricately designed and very real world I was just left.' Through the meticulous description of the relationships between the large cast of characters, the flora and fauna of the Amazon jungle, the art of ballet and detailed plot, Ibbotson's writing created a world of a particular group of people and their connections that I fully believed was possible to have  existed.


In this novel, there was an interesting array of characters from varying backgrounds and distinct personalities. What made the characterisation so strong for me was the secondary/supporting characters, which I find can often make or break the book and be the difference between a flat book and words that come alive.  We meet the do-gooders, the eccentric tea ladies who make Harriet's life a misery, endearing but odd little Henry who wants to be an explorer in the Amazon, the French beauty Marianne who befriends Harriet, Simonova, the prima ballerina of the company, Harriet's cowardly and awkward suitor who studies insects and many more.

The protagonist Harriet-  Harriet is a determined and emotional character, but can appear to be a bit wishy washy. She is very kind, graceful and loyal and also clever. In appearance, is described as looking plain and a bit serious but 'grave looking eyes'  with brown hair. However, her 'plainness' actually becomes her charm. When it comes to dancing, Harriet is always very passionate and extremely hard working to catch up for her lack of experience and prestigious training. She also loves the wild Amazon and learning about the names of the hundreds upon thousands of species of animals and plants. I found Harriet likable, especially when she came out of her shell but I felt that she was a bit too unflawed: she always did the right thing, said the right thing and nearly everyone liked her.

The male lead Rom- Rom is a rich and dashing rubber plantation owner who I won't reveal too much about because I don't want to spoil the story. I thought that his relationship with Harriet was lovely, especially the need to protect her  and his treasured feelings for her were very well conveyed and showed that he always thought of what was best for her.

Setting and themes

I loved the idea of using the Amazon for the setting, it was the perfect place and I've never come across a book set there before and I'm not sure if there are any other books set in the mainly unexplored Amazons in the 1900s. It made the book more unique and was fantastic for plot opportunities and descriptions, fitting in with the whole book perfectly.

Quite a lot of the book was set in the theatre where Harriet and the Dubrov ballet company performed and the way ballet was woven straight through the plot and not just as a theme was lovely . The descriptions of the ballet performances were magical and at some points, I found them more compelling than the romance itself.

The setting and themes made sure that there was something for everyone to particularly enjoy whether a ballet lover, someone with a keen sense of adventure and exploration or a romance fan.


As I mentioned previously, the plot of this novel was very intricate and followed the lives and relationships of a lot of characters but still kept the romance central. I found that the plot was very well paced, which gave time for you to absorb the unfamiliarity of Harriet's world. Ibbotson thought out this book very well and there were many small details at the beginning of the book that fell into place at the end. Her planning and skill also shows in the fact that something that could have turned into a complicated tangle fell into place effortlessly. The only pitfall of the plot was that some of the times Harriet and Rom were able to spend time together were slightly too coincidental but the beauty  and cleverness  of the storyline far outweighed that.

Verdict: This refreshingly enchanting story and light hearted romance set in the Amazon that verged on the fairy tale like was such a beautiful book with wonderful descriptions and the added magic of a ballet theme. 

More: A Company of Swans was published in 1985 but went out of print for many years, the newest edition being printed in 2008. I was very surprised that a book as enjoyable and wonderful as this went out of print, however I have noticed that this often happens with undiscovered but brilliant books.

Here are the old covers for it:

I think that the right hand cover portrayed the ballet side to the story really well but I don't think that itwould appeal to such a wide audience as the modern re print and it makes it look as though the story is just about a ballerina.

What I like about the new cover is that it somehow manages to combine all the elements of the storyline on one cover. Harriet's personality is captured just right in the expression on the face of the model and the way her hair is pulled back from her face and up hints that she is a ballerina (along with the title of the book.) The swirls and other decoration symbolise the vibrant colours and beauty of the Amazon as well as the magic of the book and I find the butterflies to symbolise Harriet growing up into a young woman.
It's one of my favourite covers on my bookshelf, along with the other similar designs of Ibbotson's other books.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Book Blog Hop and Follow Friday

A Very Big Welcome

Welcome to any visitors who got here through the weekly Book Hop (a Book Party) organised by Jennifer @ Crazy for Books  or Follow A Book Blog Friday hosted by Parajunkee's View 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/or Parajunkee's View, answer the weekly question (for the hop) on your blog and get hopping around  and following all the blogs!

This weeks  Book Hop question is: How many blogs do you follow?

My answer: I just did a quick count on my dashboard (I haven't tried Google Reader yet but I'm planning to do that soon) and I'm following 51 blogs at the moment. That isn't many at all compared to everyone else but although I try to follow someone in return if they follow me, if I don't think that the types of books they review are for me then I don't because it can be misleading for the blogger too.  One thing I do too is take a good look around the blog first, read a few posts, look at pages and reading lists before I hit follow instead of only doing it in the hope of them following back. Also, as I'm following a smaller number of blogs, I can make more quality visits. However, I hope that my blogroll will grow in this weeks Hope and Follow Friday!

I hope that you enjoy taking a look round my blog and. I'd love to hear from you, so please feel free to drop me a comment! If you like my blog, please follow, I'd really appreciate it and don't forget to leave a link to your blog in a comment so I can check it out :D

Thank you for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Wildwing by Emily Whitman

When I first started reading book blogs I noticed that the 'Waiting on Wednesday' feature (which is held at Breaking The Spine)  was very popular and although I liked the idea, I didn't know much about new releases but now I have found an exciting list of YA historical fiction books that are going to be released soon.

My 'can't wait to read' unreleased book this week is Wildwing by Emily Whitman:

When Addy is swept back in time, she couldn’t be happier to leave her miserable life behind. Now she’s mistaken for Lady Matilda, the pampered ward of the king. If Addy can play her part, she’ll have glorious gowns, jewels, and something she’s always longed for: the respect and admiration of others. But then she meets Will, the falconer’s son with sky blue eyes who unsettles all her plans.

From shipwreck to dungeon, from betrothals to hidden conspiracies, Addy faces the intrigues of a castle where she’s not the only one with a dangerous secret. When she discovers the truth, Addy must take matters into her own hands. The stakes? Her chance at true love—and the life she’s meant to live.

This book sounds like my favourite genre historical fiction with a hint of romance and a little bit of fantasy mixed in, which I have never really tried but I like the sound of. The cover is also beautifully striking, I love the contrast of inside and outside of the frame. I found a brilliant blog post all about the cover shoot here if you're interested.

Wildwing is being released on the 21st September and I will definitely read it!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Book Review: Shakespeare's Apprentice by Veronica Bennett

'My love can never marry a player," said Sam. "But she loves me because I am a player.'

Sam Guilborne, a farmer's son is an apprentice actor in Shakespeare's theatre company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, in London Lucie Cheetham is the niece of Lord Essex, a favourite courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Like Romeo and Juliet, Sam and Lucie should not have met, never mind fallen in love. Can their story have a happy ending?

My  review and thoughts


As the title of the book suggests, this book is primarily about a boy called Sam on his journey to becoming a young man whilst he is Shakespeare's Apprentice in the theatre company of The Lord Chamberlain's Men. When we first meet Sam a few years into his apprenticeship, although he loves the world of acting he is fed up and frustrated of playing only small parts in plays whilst his strikingly handsome friend William gets the spotlight. Meanwhile it is a tumultuous period for The Lord Chamberlain's Men with its biggest and most influential patron, Lord Essex causing trouble and losing the favour of the Queen, not to mention the fact that they are about to lose the theatre they perform in. Then, in spite of social divide, steadfast Sam wins the affections of the beautiful Lady Lucie Cheetham and they find in their secret affection for each other something that is lacking from the remarkably different lives that they lead, Lucie, the nice of Lord Essex and Sam a humble player.
Their love is impossible, their social divide is too great but they are determined to find a way to be together, even when Lucie and her family are at risk of calamity from the dangerous and reckless behaviour of Lord Essex who is displeasing the Queen. A Lady would never be able to marry a player, but can their love overcome any obstacle?


This book sounded interesting because I wanted to find out what life might have been like for an apprentice in Shakespeare's theatre company and this book definitely gives you an insight into this and there were many things that were new and I had not heard of in other Shakespeare based books such as the dismantling of the Theatre they performed in and its move to Southwark, which kept the book fresh.
I also liked the sideline story of the Lord Essex and the Queen's displeasure with him, which was fascinating and the way that the love story between Sam and Lucie was wound around it was very clever.

Although the plot was a good idea, I felt that the middle of the book dragged on for a bit, with a three year time span where not much happened and although this gave time for the relationship between Sam and Lucie to grow and seem more realistic they weren't able to see or correspond with each other much.
Also, some of the characters seemed a little bit one dimensional, especially Lucie as I would have liked to know more about her character's life and for her to have more of a definite personality.

My verdict: Shakespeare's Apprentice gave an interesting insight into the life of an apprentice in Shakespeare's theatre company and was a very sweet and lighthearted romance that could have done with a bit more depth.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Shelfari Young Adult Historical Fiction Group

I joined Shelfari when I first started this blog so I could get a bookshelf widget for my sidebar but only just discovered the book community there and all the different groups when I was searching for some newly released YA historical fiction books and found a new Shelfari Young Adult Historical Fiction group. I'm now a member and look forward to discussing YA hf including the books I review here and possibly (I hope!) maybe a guest review post.

If you like reading YA historical fiction, then I suggest you take a look at the group and some of the threads created there on this link . If you want to participate in discussions and become a member of the group, you will have to sign up for a Shelfari account.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Book Hop (6)

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, answer the weekly question on your blog and get hopping around all the blogs!
This weeks question is: How many books do you have on your to be read shelf?

My answer:  I don't have a shelf dedicated to my 'to be read' books but I have about six in my bedroom now, some of them sit on my bed side table. Apart from those books I have about 40 of The Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent Dyer (my Mum's collection) taking up three quarters of a shelf and I have only read about 10 so far because of my other reading too. However, my mental list of TBR books is a lot longer!

I hope that you enjoy taking a look round my blog and. I'd love to hear from you, so please feel free to drop me a comment! If you like my blog, please follow, I'd really appreciate it
and don't forget to leave a link to your blog in a comment so I can check it out :D

Thank you for hopping by and have a great weekend!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Character Connection- Robin Humphries (The Chalet School)

A drawing of some of the Chalet school girls
(I cannot find a picture of Robin on the Internet)
In my first Character Connection post, I talked about Jo Bettany who is the protagonist of The Chalet School series by Elinor.M.Brent Dyer. This week’s character is ‘The Robin’, who Jo looks upon as a baby sister and the two are very close.

Robinette Humphries comes to The Chalet School (a girl’s boarding school in the Austrian Tyrol mountains near Innsbruck) when she is six, soon after her Russian mother passed away with tuberculosis. As Robin inherited her mother’s weakness and frailty, she must be protected to make sure that the disease that killed her mother doesn’t strike her too. So, whilst her father, Captain Humphries travels around on business, Robin is sent to The Chalet School where the air is fresher and clearer so that she can grow stronger until all danger of tuberculosis is over in her late teens.

Robin is such an adorable little character who I couldn’t help but love, with a sweet and loving nature that doesn’t grow spoilt even when she is petted all the time. At first when she arrives at the Chalet School, she can’t speak much English as she spoke French at home, which is very cute and as Jo looks after and befriends ‘the baby,’ she pronounces her name as ‘Zoë.’

Here is a few sentences from the chapter where she first arrives: ‘

The whole of the day was devoted by the girls to the Robin, with whom they all fell in love once. She was a dear little girl, very happy and sunshiny, as her father had said, and very shy.

Robin is often called Engelkind (in German), meaning Angel child by the local Tyrol residents. Her singing is also described as that of an angel, especially when she is singing the song that her mother sang to get Robin to sleep, which is called The Red Safaran.

Here is a description of her from Jo of The Chalet School:

Such a lovely baby face! With curly black hair clustering over her small head, and long black lashes resting on her rosy cheeks, which were tear stained.

As I mentioned before, the Robin and Jo become like sisters because she stays with Jo and her elder sister (the head mistress) Madge during the holidays. The two are devoted to each other and Robin is very subdued when she can’t see Jo much and gets extremely worried when Jo- who is also a fragile girl- falls ill. Jo is also very protective of Robin, always fearing tuberculosis and one time, not eating or thinking of anything else while there is a threat for Robin.

I love the Robinette, Robin or the Robin (however you like to call her!) with her tragic story of her mother death and her struggle with keeping away the threat of it infecting her too. Although she is almost too cherub like for real life (but not all the time!), that is part of her charm.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Book Review: Loving Will Shakespeare by Caroleyn Meyer

'Agnes Hathaway longs for love- but she’s well past the proper marrying age and still stuck living with her brothers, sisters and nagging stepmother in a crowded cottage. Her best friend has a family of her own, and even Will Shakespeare, the neighbour who always made her laugh, is away indefinitely. There seems to be no end to her misery.

Then, suddenly, Will is back. No longer a cute boy who entertains Anne with silly pranks, he is tall and handsome, and his innocent flirtations are taking a serious turn. Although he is much younger than she is Anne can’t get him out of her mind. Could Will be the man for her?'

My review and thoughts

 My Summary

On the very first page, there is a letter from Will to his wife Anne in 1611, which serves as a springboard and introduction for the story.
When Anne’s mother dies from a plague that sweeps her countryside village, her life takes a turn for the worse when her father decides to marry again despite Anne believing that she, her father and siblings and father can survive alone. In a Cinderella like way, her ‘evil stepmother’ Jone is verbally abusive and treats Anne badly. Growing up, Anne tries to escape the misery of her home life with her comforting best friend and various secret suitors. However, the person that makes Anne laugh the most is young Will Shakespeare who she has known since he was born. Entertained by his boyish pranks and attempts at gallantry and court manners, life is brighter when he is at his home in the village. As life moves quickly on, Anne seems to be left behind as her friends get married whilst she stays trapped at home. Sailing past the proper marrying age, Anne becomes desperate and lonelier than ever, having to cope with nightmare marriage threats from her stepmother and the prospect of being a destitute old maid. However, when Will Shakespeare returns home to learn the glove making trade from his father, Anne is drawn to him and he seems to return her growing love for the now not so little Will. Their blossoming passion for each other makes Anne feel cared for and cherished, which is something that she lacked before. The only problem is that Anne is eight years older than him and their love is frowned upon by some people in the village and that the two have different dreams. Will wants to playact and write scripts for London’s theatres whilst Anne longs for a cosy cottage where she can bring a family up with Will in a loving and happy environment. Are Will and Anne too different to be happy together?

Why I wanted to read the book

I have read a few of Caroleyn Meyer’s books before such as Beware, Princess Elizabeth and Mary, Bloody Mary. These were so well written and the character’s emotions were portrayed cleverly so that it made me feel that I knew the thoughts and feelings of famous historical young women at different times of their life so they were not just flat characters in a history book. I also liked the way that they opened doors to thinking about if the way we see the character is a misunderstanding and they were a different person to what historical events make them out to be.

So, when I saw her book about Shakespeare as a boy/young man, I wanted to find out more about the famous play writer whose work I have studied at school but whose life I didn’t know much about. Also, when looking up about his wife, I was intrigued to find out why Shakespeare spent most of his marriage away from his wife and children in London and also only left his second best bed to his wife. Was this a private joke or a symbol that his wife was second best? No one will ever know for sure but I wanted to see an interpretation of Will and Anne's story.

 Writing, Characters and Flaws

I thought that Caroleyn Meyer’s descriptive writing painted a clear picture of what life was like for a young women in a Tudor village who wants to escape the social restraints of her time to live her own way and escape from her miserable home.

I could relate to Anne, who was a feisty young girl woman throughout the book and I admire her for what she endured with courage.

Meanwhile, Will was the type of young man that many young girls could fall in love with, kind, humorous, a master poet and love letter writer, gallant and (according to Anne’s descriptions), handsome. However, as the story was told in the first person by Anne, Shakespeare's thoughts, feelings were very hazy and unclear.

However, I felt that at some points in the book even the main characters were a bit flat and lifeless (apart from Anne, who was consistently real)  and some of the minor characters were not described enough to imagine what they looked like..

I enjoyed the bittersweet romance between Will and Anne that grew from childhood friendship but felt that although the book was based on a good idea,  as it spanned over nearly all of Anne’s life it turned into a bit of an account of everything that happened in her life with one short chapter covering a month to a couple of years. Once the romance between Will and her started to blossom, the pace picked up a bit and it became more interesting but I felt that the end of the book, which the whole book had been building up to in anticipation of a happy ending was slightly rushed.

 Meyer’s vivid writing kept the story alive and interesting with imaginative events happening in Anne’s life even though she did not have much historical information about her character. She managed to create an engaging 'he loves me, he loves me not' tale with Elizabethan themes flowing through.

If you are looking for lots of detail about young Will Shakespeare, then you will be disappointed by this book but if reading about the struggles and thoughts of a rebellious yet kind-hearted young ‘yeomans daughter’ living in rural Elizabethan England appeals to you, then you will enjoy this book despite some of its flaws.

Here is a link to an interesting blog post on Becky's Book Reviews comparing this and another book with a completely different take on the characters and events that was published around the same time.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

My first award- The Versatile Blogger: Thank you!

I am very excited to be posting about my first award, The Versatile Blogger! To my surprise- and happiness-  I received this from The Crazy Book Worm just a few hours before I set off  for holiday and upon returning home, found that I had also been awarded it from A Tapestry of Words.  Thank you so much to both of these fantastic bloggers who really made my day, I recommend that you check out their brilliant blogs for yourself!
It's such an encouragement that people like and enjoy reading your blog enough to pass on an award to them. To the blogs I have nominated- congratulations and enjoy it!

Here is how the award works:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

7 things about me:

· My first favourite author was Enid Blyton and I have about 100 of her books from a second-hand bookshop
· I love kayaking and canoeing as well as water slides
· I’m learning German
· I adore strawberries and ice cream
· I have a collector’ Victorian dolls house which I collect miniatures for (see photo)
· I have a collection of snow globes and china dolls
· I have a few short stories published in a competition anthology in the Young Wrtiers section

Here are the wonderful and worthy blogs I am passing the awards on to (in no particular order.....):

I have found so many fantastic book blogs through the Hop and other links but many of them already have this award so I have tried as much as possible to pass on the award to bloggers who have never received it (no post on their blog) before.

1) Jess Hearts Books
2) The Beaucoup Review
3) The Mile Long Bookself
4) This Miss Loves To Read
5) The Fourth Muskateer
6) Rihannah Reads
7) Steph The Bookworm
8) Amy’s World
9) Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
10) Bippity Boppity Book
11) Queen of Happy Endings
12)  Bookalicious Ramblings
13) Books Are A Garden
14) Princess Bookie
15 ) Historically Obsessed

If I have passed the award onto you and you have received it before, enjoy it and maybe you could do another post with worthy blogs that you have discovered after you received it before.

I would love it if your blog was nominated for the award and you joined in with a post, it you left a link to it in the comment section

P.S Now I am back from holiday, reviews of books I read whilst away will be posted soon :)