Monday, 31 January 2011

Book Review: The Merchant's Daughter by Iris Niven

A photo of the cover. I'm not keen on it at all.
Summary from blurb

Phoebe, the beautiful daughter of a prosperous merchant, learns of his mysterious death and is taken to Rome to be cared for by relatives of her late mother. She is introduced to Rome's high society but the appalling brutality against Christians in the arena sickens her. Her sympathy grows into interest which is sparked sparked into faith when she discovers the secret letters of Ignatius, the martyred Bishop of Antioch. She embarks on a highly dangerous mission to remove the letters to Greece for safe keeping. Adventure, betrayal and unexpected romance bring the story to a dramatic climax and to the dawning of a new day.

My review and thoughts

I was lent this by a lady at my church whose friend wrote it for her teenage daughters. If it wasn't for that, I may never have discovered this book as I only found it on the Internet and being sold on Amazon by typing in the ISBN code (9780720823769) to Google.

In the first chapter, we meet sixteen year Phoebe who is anxiously waiting the return of her father and his goods ship but instead she receives the tragic news of his mysterious death. Before she knows it, she is whisked off to live in Rome with her mother's half sister Priscilla by Priscilla's son Oresta, who is a Roman centurion. Phoebe quickly settles into life in Rome and befriends Oresta's brother Marcus and his young wife Julia. However, when Phoebe sees the cruel and tortuous ways that Christians are treated and killed in the arena she is appalled, especially because she discovered the mother she never met was a Christian. She admires their courage and firm faith even in the face of death and questions about the Christian faith begin to kindle inside her and Marcus.

The story moved along at a good pace because there was always something happening but there was a lot of beautiful description too. The writing was very different to more modern YA books that would be published now and had a more slightly old fashioned style to it, which I liked. Recently, I haven't been reading many books that are set in the third person so that was a nice change too.

Phoebe is a very likable main character who is strong headed and opinionated but very feminine too as she likes fashion and pretty dresses as well. Over the story, she develops a lot as a character as she grows in courage, improves her relationships with other characters and begins to question her beliefs.  I also enjoyed that there is some romance with conflicting feelings for her character, which made the story more lighthearted.

I have learnt a lot about Roman civilisation in my Latin lessons at school but have only read a few books set at that time so I found learning about Phoebe's and her family's clothes, social events, lifestyle  was fascinating. I particularly enjoyed reading about the persecution of the Christian's in Rome and the secret meetings held in the catacombs were very interesting.

I don't think that non- Christians should be put off by the faith theme because there isn't that much detail about the actual Christian faith and more about the persecution and danger of secretly meeting together in Rome.

Verdict: The Merchant's Daughter is a reasonably short book with a strong and likable heroine and lovely descriptions throughout that helped to build up the atmosphere and setting. I particularly loved the Roman setting and the mystery and adventure that the secret Christian meetings bought to the book. It's not the best book I've read this month but I would still recommend it. It would be wonderful to get this book more read and up on the Internet - I'm sure the author would be delighted!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

In My Mailbox 30/1/11 and Recap

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme held by the lovely Kristy over at The Story Siren, where bloggers show the new books they have got this week whether through the post, from the bookshop or their local library.

Here's what I got this week:

From my school library:
Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is the sequel to Chains that was published in the UK by Bloomsbury at the beginning of this month. I really enjoyed Chains ( My first Laurie Halse Anderson book) so I was very excited to be reading Forge.

The Legacy by Gemma Malley

This is the last in The Declaration dystopian series. I've read The Declaration and its sequel, The Resistance but I can't remember much of the plot in it. I'm just going to jump into The Legacy straight away without re-reading though and hope that it will all come back to me!

I reserved both of these at the beginning of the month at the library and there is a long reservation list after me so that's why I'm reading them first instead of all the lovely books that I got for Christmas.

From my local second hand bookshop

Yesterday I took a trip with my mum and brother to The Cottage Bookshop (click to go to my earlier post about it) and picked up three books as well as having a lot of fun browsing all the old girl's school story books that I was really tempted to buy:

The Decleration by Gemma Malley

I wanted my own copy of this book so I can go back and revisit it after I've read The Legacy and you can't go wrong with £3 for a very good condition hardback!
The Night Of The Burning by Linda Press Wulf
 I just read and reviewed Crusade by Linda Press Wulf and loved it so I was excited to find her debut novel where I least expected it. 

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer

I bought this one to read for my Georgette Heyer challenge as it was the only Heyer there but have since discovered that it's the third in a series. Oh well, I guess I'll still enjoy it :D

What did you get in your mailbox this week?


Books I have finished/started reading this week

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master (finished)
Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson (finished)
Exploits Of The Chalet Girls by Elinor M Brent Dyer (started today)

Forge was released at the beginning of this month by Bloomsbury UK and as I loved the first book Chains, I was really excited to get my hands on it. So far, it's a little slow moving but I'm still enjoying it.

Reviews and posts this week

Coverlicious: Annexed by Sharon Dogar
Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin review
Wonderful Wednesdays #1 featuring Heidi by Johanna Spyri
My Thoughts on Rating Systems- to rate or not to rate?

Reviews coming soon

The Merchant's Daughter by Iris Niven
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master
Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Saturday, 29 January 2011

My Thoughts on Rating Systems- to rate or not to rate?

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about rating systems and whether I should use one for my blog. There are so many bloggers who use a numerical/alphabetical rating system often. accompanied by really pretty and creative graphics that are displayed in their sidebars for example flowers or cupcakes along with a description of what each rating means. I love those as they bring a lot of originality and uniqueness to a blog.

When I first started blogging, I decided not to develop a rating system as I thought it would be better to let my reviews speak for themselves and let my opinion shine through in my writing. This is partly because I am a  bad decision maker and also different types of books are  fantastic/not so fantastic for different reasons. There are action packed and exciting reads that might be a five star from me and then a beautiful descriptive book that made me think a lot might also get a five star but they are different in their own way.
However I know that sometimes people want to find out my thoughts on the book in a quick and easy way that helps them decide whether to read the book or not, especially if they are short on time so I implemented a verdict in bold at the end of the review summarising my thoughts. So far, that has worked pretty well for me.

From my perceptive when I read reviews, the rating doesn't really make that much of an impact on me but it is nice to see an opinion concreted more, especially as it can be hard to tell sometimes the difference between what would have been a four or five star review.

I'm thinking of introducing a rating system of either five star rating or a five star with half stars in between. The reason I'm leaning slightly towards a half star rating system is because lately I have been enjoying nearly all the books I've read (through some great recommendations from other blogger's reviews!) and I don't want all the ratings to end up being reasonably high. It all depends on what your perception of a low/high rating is. For some people, three means an average enjoyable read with a few issues but for me, it seems quite low. I'm not sure why but there are plenty of other books with five stars that are more likely to catch my attention.

You're my readers so I'd love to know your thoughts on rating systems and whether you would find one helpful here. I've added a poll below so it would be fantastic if you submitted an answer. I'm open to ideas and suggestions too- what do YOU think? Thank you!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Wonderful Wednesdays #1 (Childhood Books)

This new meme is called Wonderful Wednesdays, which is hosted by Sam at Tiny Library and it's all about spotlighting and recommending some of our most loved books, even if we haven't read them recently. Each week will have a different theme or genre of book to focus on. This is the first week of it running and if you want to participate or find out more, visit HERE!

This week's theme is: a book you loved as a child.

 One of my all time favourites, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett was featured by Sam, so I've picked Heidi by Johanna Spyri.

I can't remember the first time I read Heidi or whether I saw a film version first but the story is beautiful and really deserves its place as a well loved children's classic. For those of you who are not familiar with the story, it centres around a young girl called Heidi's who comes to live with her Grandfather up in the Swiss mountains after she is left an orphan. When she is taken to Frankfurt to be a companion to frail and wheelchair bound Clara, she longs for the green fields and sunshine of the Alps.
It has a very hopeful and uplifting feel to it with the quaint descriptive writing and Heidi's simple but happy and kind nature that has a positive impact on many lives in the book. Grandfather is also a wonderful character. At the start he is a grumpy and lonely hermit who avoids contact with the nearby village as much as possible but he proves that he is a remarkably strong but tender and loving person. Heidi reminds me of the joys of simple living and the story is just so delightfully heart warming. There are also two other books that continue the story of Heidi although they are written by Charles Tritten instead of Johanna Spyri.

What childhood books do you love?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Book Review: Low Red Moon by Ivy Dvelin

Thank you very much to Bloomsbury UK for sending me a finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Low Red Moon will be released in the UK in early February.

Avery Hood is reeling from the loss of her parents–and the fact that she can’t remember what happened to them even though she was there.

She’s struggling to adjust to life without them, and to living with her grandmother, when she meets Ben, who isn’t like any guy she’s ever met before.
It turns out there’s a reason why, and Ben’s secret may hold the key to Avery finding out what happened to her parents…

But what if that secret changes everything she knows about–and feels for–Ben?

My thoughts and review

Avery Hood struggles to come to terms with the recent death of her parents in their home in the forest. She was found at the scene next to her parents but she can’t remember anything that happened that night except some inhuman flashes of silver, as if it has been completely wiped from her memory. Everything she has ever known and loved has been taken away when she is moved to live with her grandmother Renne whom she hardly knows. Raised in the thick Woodlake forest, she misses the deep connection with it and finds it awkward to get on with Renee, who her father never spoke to. At school, nothing is as it used to be but when Avery meets the new boy Ben Dusic, he intrigues her. There is something that attracts her to him in an unusual way but there is something mysterious about his character and the silver that flashes across his eyes makes her doubtful of him. Right from the beginning I was thrust into the action soon after her parent’s murder and the story moves on very fast but at a good pace for the action.

Avery was a likable character and I was able to empathise with her feelings about her parent’s death, problems at school and the possibility of her losing her parent’s house and land.  However, I wish that I knew more about her as she seems not be herself most of the time because of her grief and we don’t find out much about her interests or habits.
Ben was a very mysterious character but his story and background prior to the story and his recent move to Woodlake is explained well and gives a reason for his protective nature towards Avery. Their romance bought a lighter touch to the story although ideally I think that it should have taken more time to develop as that would have been more realistic. I liked how their relationship wasn’t all ‘perfect’ and ‘happy’ and there are still barriers between them such as the secret that Avery knows Ben is hiding from her.

The ending showed the Little Red Riding Hood elements of the story that are less recognisable than in the rest of the book. It wrapped things up nicely and I didn’t expect it but now I realise that considering what it is based on, it is actually quite predictable.
I’m not a huge fan of paranormal romance so I found that there was just enough balance between the world of the supernatural and the realistic world for me.

A small feature that I thought was a cute finishing touch were the little graphics of a forest at the bottom of each page and the word ‘moon’ highlighted in red.

Low Red Moon is a reasonably short and quick paced novel of suspenseful romance mixed in with elements of the supernatural, which kept the setting of the town Woodlake and its background shrouded in secrets and mystery. Although there were shortfalls, I think the story had a lot of potential and I like the originality of the Little Red Riding Hood twist so I would consider reading any sequels that came out although I think it works well as a stand alone novel.

Cover Comments: The cover really stands out on my bookshelves because it is a shiny, metallic red colour. I like the way that the white title is embossed.

I read this book as part of the Out Of Your Comfort Zone Challenge hosted by A Tapestry Of Words. It's out of my comfort zone because I've only ever tried a few paranormal romance books (I read my first one in November) and it definitely isn't my genre of choice. However, it is growing on me though!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Coverlicious: Annexed by Sharon Dogar- hardback V. paperback

Coverlicious is a feature that I post here spontaneously where I feature anything to do with covers from covers I love and cover trends to look-a-like covers and cover reveals.

I've recently read and reviewed Annexed by Sharon Dogar, which is Peter Van Dann's story of his time in the Annexe with his and Anne Frank's family. There is a hardback and a paperback cover and I thought I'd compare them to see which is people's favourite ! Here are the 2 covers:


 I think that the hardcover looks like more thought has been put into it because the window is supposed to be the one in Peter's attic, which is the only one which isn't covered up by curtains. The birds also show how it was the only way he could see into the outside world and watched the tree carefully as it moved through the different seasons and saw the birds come and go. The wire surrounding the author's name is also symbolic of the fences of the concentration camps. Although, the caption makes it look like a lighter read because it sounds as though it is more focused on the romance.

However, the paperback's photo gives a better idea of what the story is about because of the Jewish star. I also like the background of the bridge and the fact that the colours are monochrome apart from the title. If I am not mistaken, the image should be of Peter, however he looks much younger than the age he was when the Franks and his family went into hiding. You can see that through the photo of Peter on the right.

I'm on the fence as to which one I prefer- it's too hard to choose!

EDIT: If pushed, I think I would choose the hardback cover.

What are your thoughts on the cover and which is your favourite?I'd love it if you let me know in the comments section!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

In My Mailbox 23/1/11 - the last couple of weeks!

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where bloggers show what books they have received that week whether it be through post, from the library or bought from the shops.

I  haven't done an In My Mailbox post since before Christmas now so I'm going to show all the books that I've got in January so far. I have bought a few books since then too with my Christmas book voucher but I'm still waiting for them to arrive into Waterstones so they can be collected as the first were damaged when they were sent to the store.

For review:

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master (thank you to Bloomsbury)

I'm a few chapters into reading this one and it's been really interesting to far as it's set in India at the time of the Partition. I'm not taking part in the Debut Author Challenge this year but those of you who are may want to know it is a UK debut this year.

Thyme's End by B.R Collins (thank you to Bloomsbury)

I'll read this one to count to the Out Of Your Comfort Zone Challenge hosted at A Tapestry Of Words and the British Books challenge hosted by The Bookette as it is a mystery thriller, which is a genre I can't say I've ever tried before but I'm hoping will be a pleasant surprise. If you want to branch out and try new genres this year to find out more about your reading tastes then you might want to find out more information on the challenge here and join me in the fun!

Clan Of The Cave Bear by Jean M Auel (thank you to Kate, who is working on publicising the series for a younger audience for the publisher Hodder and Stoughton)

I was contacted by Kate to ask if I would like to review this one to celebrate the last book of the Children Of The Earth series being released after 25 years. I have an idea of what it's about although I'm not entirely sure but I've heard some good things about it.

From the library

Annexed  by Sharon Dogar (reviewed this week here)

Annexed is Peter's story about life in the annexe that he shared with Anne Frank and her family during the holocaust. Despite some issues, it is a very powerful story.

Frostbite by Richelle Mead (finished reading)

I finally got round to reading the second book in the Vampire Academy series and I loved it more than the first book in the series, Vampire Academy. Review coming soon!


The Merchant's Daughter by Iris Niven (finished reading)

I was lent this one by a lady at my church and it was written by a friend of hers for her two teenage girls. It was originally published in 1986 by Marshall Pickering and it was only by typing the ISBN number into Google that I managed to find it being sold on Amazon. It's about a young girl called Phoebe living at the time of the Roman Empire who is taken to live with relatives of her late mother after the mysterious death of her father. Review coming soon!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, 21 January 2011

Book Review: Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Description (taken from the inside book jacket) :

Everyone knows about Anne Frank, and her life hidden in the secret annexe - or do they? Peter van Pels and his family are locked away with the Franks too, and Peter sees it all differently. What is it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, to hate her and then find yourself falling in love with her? To know you're being written about in her diary, day after day? And, what's it like to sit and wait and watch whilst others die, and you wish you were fighting? Anne's diary ends on August 4 1944, but Peter's story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion, the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz - and the terrible conclusion.

My review and thoughts

I love Anne Frank and I've read her diary twice now but not since two years ago and also done a very long school project on her life. So, the premise of Annexed really interested me since I've always wondered what Peter may have felt during the time in the annexe and his feelings towards Anne.

Sharon Dogar has kept everything just as described in Anne's diary but explored Peter's feelings sensitively. Through her writing we are let into Peter's intimate thoughts and feelings that we have no proof existed but it is done respectfully.  The writing isn't complicated  but clear and filled with emotion that seems so plausible to the realities of Peter's thoughts.  It isn't only Peter's feelings about being shut away from the world in the annexe and his frustration that are captured but also the normal thoughts and struggles of a typical teenage boy from doubts about who he is and his self image to worries about girls. It is very hard for teenagers to go through these feelings and stages in a normal situation but to be stuck in one place with the same people during key years of growing up is just so hard to imagine but this is portrayed well.

Despite some controversy about the 'sexulisation' of Anne and Peter's relationship, I think the scenes where they are together are the honest portrayal of how the author imagines they happen.  For me, there was too much focus on Peter's lust, which I felt was very unnecessary and spoiled the other mix of other poignant emotions. I think more emphasis on his fears and other aspects of life in hiding would have made a better impression on me.

The last third of the book, where Peter is fighting for his life in a concentration camp is very harrowing. The fact that Anne, Peter and their family were on the last train to Auschwitz from Holland is just so tragic. After the build up of finding out what Peter hopes and longs for, the tragedy of his situation is just so moving. It is a real reminder of the horrific evils of the Holocaust and how it is not just a historical  event but something that happened to real people and destroyed lives.

I thought that the almost poetic way that the book was told with numerous flash forwards to his time in the concentration camp (or rather the whole novel is a flash back and those are flash forwards) was very effective and original.

Verdict: Annexed is a very interesting and thoughts provoking book that made me want to read Anne's diary again. It is really worth reading but one I couldn't see myself reading it again. I would recommend that people read Annexed only if they have read Anne Frank's diary before as otherwise it may be difficult to understand about the other occupants of the Annexe as they are not really introduced.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Coverlicious: Beautiful Cover Dresses #2 Envy and Splendour by Anna Godbersen

Coverlicious is a feature that I post here spontaneously where I feature anything to do with covers from covers I love and cover trends to look-a-like covers and cover reveals.

In my last Coverlicious post I featured the covers of The Luxe and Rumours, the first two books in the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen. If you missed the first post, here's what I had to say about the cover design of all the series and a summary of the plot (if you read the previous post then just skip down to the purple title!):
I adore these covers- they are just simply gorgeous! Anna Godbersen is so lucky to have such amazing cover art as I have known many fans of the series to have originally picked them up because the covers are so eye catching. I would just love to try on one of these dresses and go to a ball in it for one night. Wouldn't you just feel like a princess in one of them? I have to admit that they would be pretty hard to walk in though let alone dance in but a girl can have her dreams!I have since found out that the dresses are actually inaccurate to the time but even though I think it historical detail is important, especially inside the book, their beauty gives it a good excuse.

Summary of the Luxe series (from the publisher's (Penguin) blog:

Glittering with jewels, brimming with secrets and loaded with eligible young men, The Luxe is the most delicious, tantalising and completely addictive read. Think The O.C. meets 19th century New York. High society, beautiful debutantes, buckets of scandal – in short, it’s just completely irresistible!

I read the series very quickly around Easter time and the divine covers didn't disappoint me. The summary above describes it very well, it really is addictive with characters that I grew to care about. It might not be historically accurate but it's a fun romp in the past and I really enjoyed it.

Envy and Splendour by Anna Godbersen

At first I thought my favourite of the cover was the pink Luxe dress but since my last post, this one has really begun to grow on me. It's really elegant and pretty without being too 'girly.' It does look a little bit like a wedding dress though. However the orange swirls on the cover to the left make it look less so like that.
I also like the position that the model is in as it looks like she is running away from something and glancing back. It gives a really good view of the dress as it sweeps behind too.

This is my least favourite of the cover/dresses. It's not that I don't like purple, it's just that lilac colour and the layers of silk don't go as well for me as the others do. I still like the dress though and in the last post, some people commented it was their favourite one. The model looks so much how I imagine the character of Lina who it is depicting to look like and the dress fits her personality too.  I MUCH prefer it with the swirls on the cover, it gives it a softer and prettier look. That is the only one out of the series that I actually own.

I found a really good video on You Tube featuring the Splendour cover shoot- I loved having a look behind the scenes to see how they reach the final product. It features two dresses: the purple one that you see on the final cover, which is dubbed 'Lovely in Lavendar' and an alternative 'All That Glitters is Gold Dress.'  I would prefer to wear the gold one myself and it fits with the time period better but I think the lilac works better for Lina's character. It's really worth watching it!

Which one do you prefer?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Talk To Me Tuesday: Female V Male Main Characters

Talk To Me Tuesday is a new meme held by the lovely  Melissa @ I Swim For Oceans where we discuss anything and everything literary related in an open form of honesty.

I LOVE this idea for a new meme as discussions are some of my favourite posts on book blogs and including more of them on my blog was one of my goals for this year so I decided to take part. Thank you for hosting Melissa! If you want to join in and link up visit the post HERE on I Swim For Oceans.

This week's question is: Do you have a preference between male and female MCs, and why?

I have to admit that I haven't actually read many books with a male MC (scanning my bookshelves quickly I can only see one) so perhaps I haven't given books written like that a fair chance but I more naturally pick books with female protagonists. I suppose I've always thought that I would understand their thoughts and feelings better. I like reading about girly troubles e.g. friendship or activities e.g. shopping because I have experienced or felt more similar things.
 Also, in my favourite genre YA historical fiction and the boarding school books I've read a lot of, it's quite rare that the main character is a boy so I think it definitely has something to do with the choice available. I find that many children's books that I used to read more had boys as main characters if it was in the action adventure or mystery genre.

For me to enjoy a book, I have to connect with and get to know the main character and if the main character is male, it really depends on their individual personality as girls are often more emotional. The author and their writing plays a part in this too. This really applies to books told in the first person more than the third. For instance I love Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian, which is told in the third person.

I really like books that have the best of both too for example alternating between the point of view of the female protagonist and the male protagonist. This worked really well in No Shame No Fear by Ann Turnball and the two characters narrating had a romance. 

 However, I just finished reading Annexed by Sharon Dogar yesterday, which is the story of Anne Frank's time hiding in the Annexe through Peter's eyes. I enjoyed it  and it was actually really refreshing to read a book from a male perspective.  I haven't found the main character any more difficult to relate to, however much of the book is focused on Peter's feelings at being shut  up in the Annexe and not everyday activities of a 'typical boy.'

Thinking more about this question has made me more open to reading books with a male main character and I just discovered Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman, which is in the first person. Hopefully, I will try it as part of A Tapestry Of Words' Out Of Your Comfort Zone reading challenge.

I think there need to be more books told from the perspective of male protagonists in the YA market and this might encourage more boys to read too. Although I think my favourite books will always have girl main character/s!

How about you?

Monday, 17 January 2011

Book Review: Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa M Klein

Read for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge

Goodreads description

Cate of the Lost Colony
Lady Catherine is one of Queen Elizabeth's favorite court maidens—until her forbidden romance with Sir Walter Ralegh is discovered. In a bitter twist of irony, the jealous queen banishes Cate to Ralegh's colony of Roanoke, in the New World. Ralegh pledges to come for Cate, but as the months stretch out, Cate begins to doubt his promise and his love. Instead it is Manteo, a Croatoan Indian, whom the colonists—and Cate—increasingly turn to. Yet just as Cate's longings for England and Ralegh fade and she discovers a new love in Manteo, Ralegh will finally set sail for the 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.

My review and thoughts

I was really excited that I got this book for Christmas because I had been waiting to read it so long so it was the first one I started after Christmas.

In 1583, young fourteen year old Cate is left a penniless orphan when her father is killed in service to the Queen whilst fighting in the Netherlands. Sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle (and her intolerable cousins), she is not welcomed into their household happily as she is an extra burden in already tight financial status. Soon after, her fortunes change for the better when Cate receives a letter from Queen Elizabeth herself inviting her to become one of her ladies in waiting at court. However, despite her glittering new life, Cate soon learns that life at court isn't as simple as it seems and she doesn't know who she can trust. Her independent nature makes it hard for her to put the will of the Queen before her own, even though it might mean risking her favour at court.  She learns this all too well when her secret romance behind the scenes with Sir Walter Ralegh is uncovered and she is banished to the New World by the Queen as a punishment. I absolutely love reading about Queen Elizabeth's court so Cate serving there was the perfect setting for me and I like seeing how different authors depict what the Queen was like. Klein's vivid descriptions through the eyes of Cate really brought the court to life and I learnt lots of new things about life there.

The new Roanoke Island colony that she is destined for turns out to be nothing like Cate expected it to be: she dreamed of riches, jewels and exotic plants, instead she and the rest of the colonists are forced to endure much hardship.  This is a distinct difference from the extravagant life at court she has experienced for three years, which she is unsure if she will ever know again. Trying to forget the past, she try to help the colony succeed amidst troubles with the natives, sicknesses and hunger.

Cate was a very interesting and complex character who grew and changed a lot throughout the book so that she was a different girl at the end. The development was at a good pace and related to what happened to her, which made it more plausible. She doesn't completely fit in with the other maids of honour at court and is very independent as she likes to make her own choices and stand up for what she believes in. However, she isn't rash or hot headed like characters in other books with similar traits.  Her courage in what she goes through in Roanoke is very admirable and I liked how she rose to challenges such as learning the language of the native Indians.  All this is done with a heart of gold and I am happy with her ending with the book.  The chapters told from her point of view were my favourite as her voice really shined through.

The way Sir Walter Ralegh is portrayed makes him an unlikeable character and it was easy to see that his 'love' for Cate was not genuine.  His side of the story was told through letters and documents of his, which although told what was happening back in England were a little dull and made me want to skim through them so I could find out what happened next to Cate and Manteo.
It was hard to get a true picture of his feelings but I still found that it was fascinating to find out more about the famous historical figure.

Manteo, the Indian who came over to London before returning home was really gentle and sweet.  I really enjoyed reading about his perception of the British and the choices he has to make about his alliance with them. He always did the best to keep the peace without betraying anyone and I found him very wise yet unpredictable, which was intriguing. I would have loved to see more chapters from his point of view!

The fate of the colonists is a mystery so Lisa M Klein was left to her own imagination but for me, the ending of the book was very believable as to what happened to the Roanoke colonists and I was left very satisfied with the way things were wrapped up.  Lisa M Klein clearly did extensive research on the Roanoke Colony and it really paid off for the details included made it very realistic. I liked how she used the original colonist's names and they were listed at the front of the book along with fictional characters so I could tell the difference. Historical fact and fiction was also distinguished between in the author's note at the back and a more detailed historical outline is given.

Lisa M Klein has written an imaginative story about a young girl banished to the colony of Roanoke filled with love, adventure and hardships. At times, it was a little slow moving but I loved finding out more about Roanoke and the mystery surrounding it and I think that both teenagers and adults will too whether they are a historical fiction fan or newbie.If you are participating in the YA Historical Fiction Challenge then this would be a brilliant choice. I have been meaning to read Klein's other books for about a year or more and now I hope I finally will!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Stylish Blogger Award x3 !

Me- a stylish blogger? Thank you so much to the following lovely bloggers: Liddy from YA Reviewz, Zakiya from Butterfly Walking Feet and  Marcie from To Read Or Not To Read for passing this award onto me! I really appreciate it :D
If you haven't heard of them before, I'd recommend you go and check out their wonderful blogs!

7 random things about me I haven't mentioned before
  • I'm addicted to the Canadian TV series Road To Avonlea (just watched the last season because I got it for Christmas.) want to be a journalist
  • Taylor Swift is my favourite music artist
  • I absolutely love period drama series- especially Downton Abbey! It just premiered in the US this week so watch out for it on TV if you live there.
  • I have three guinea pigs called Saffron, Nutmeg and Twiglet
  • I went to Milan and Rome this summer and fell in love with Italy- I want to learn Italian now!
  • I just started to learn how to ice skate

                                                                 I got Taylor's new CDand the Downton Abbey DVD set  for Christmas!

15 awesome blogs that blog about books with style I am passing the award onto: (I've tried to give it to bloggers who haven't received the award before):

Blogs I have discovered recently

Reading World
Call Me Crazy
Books Of Amber
The Sweet Bonjour
The Overflowing Library
Miss Page Turner's City Of Books
Recovering Potter Addict
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

Blogs I discovered a while ago

A Tapestry Of Words
The Beaucoup Review
Jess Hearts Books
Tiny Library
The Crescive Library
Books Are Life
The Fourth Musketeer

Congratulations to you all!

To pass on the award you must write a post about it featuring 7 random things about yourself and 15 blogs you are passing the award onto.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Guest Post from Dori Jones Yang, author of Daughter of Xanadu

Today, I am very happy to welcome Dori Jones Yang to the blog, the author of the newly released YA historical Daughter of Xanadu. I haven't managed to get hold of a copy yet because it's not available in the UK but it's been on my TBR list for a while now and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I hope you enjoy finding out more about Daughter of Xanadu as much as I did!

Here is the link to Daughter of Xanadu's Goodreads page.

 Welcome Dori! :

Hi, Stephanie and friends! Greetings from Seattle.
The powerful and beautiful cover!

January 11 was a big day for me, the publication, by Random House, of my YA historical novel, Daughter of Xanadu. This is a book straight from my heart, and I worked on it for almost ten years. The story-behind-the-story is one of persistence, revision, reimagining, and more persistence. I got knocked down several times, stood back up, stuck to my dreams, and this beautiful book is the happy result. Hope you'll stick to the pursuit of your dreams, too!

Daughter of Xanadu is an adventure story about a 16-year-old girl, eldest granddaughter of the Great Khubilai Khan, who is eager to become the first woman to join the Mongol Army. She gets distracted when she meets a man from a distant, backward land: Marco Polo. Because of him, she begins to see her world from a new perspective. Like many of us today, she has to juggle family expectations, personal ambition, and the desires of her heart.
This novel has an unusual setting: the Mongol Empire in the 13th century. I chose this era because of my interest in Marco Polo, who was the first European to write about China. When he got there in 1275, Khubilai Khan was ruling the largest empire in history from a magnificent palace, wearing robes made of cloth of gold and drinking mare's milk from golden goblets. In just two generations, the Mongols had risen to this lavish lifestyle from their traditional nomadic ways as herders and raiders, living in tents. We think of the Mongols as barbarians, but after they conquered much of the world, they established peace over many lands. That peace allowed Europeans, including Marco Polo, to travel all the way to China and back for the first time. What they learned in China helped prepare Europe to surge ahead.
Researching the Mongol era was fascinating for me. I read a lot of old books, including the ultimate source book, The Secret History of the Mongols. The most fun was traveling to Mongolia, where I stayed in a ger (yurt), drank fermented mare's milk, rode camels, and watched Mongolia's national games of horse racing, archery, and wrestling. I also managed to locate the ruins of Xanadu, site of Khubilai Khan's summer palace ' an off-the-beaten-track discovery.

I hope you'll enjoy Daughter of Xanadu. It's available in North America only right now, but my agent is working on getting a UK publisher. To find out more about the book, please visit me at Thanks!

P.S. I love that 2011 YA Historical Fiction Challenge. Go for it!

Thank you Dori! Daughter of Xanadu would be perfect for participants of the YA Historical Fiction Challenge. The Mongol Empire setting sounds really fascinating, it and I think the originality of the setting will really appeal to fans of historical fiction.

If you're interested in Daughter of Xanadu, be sure to visit Dori's website HERE to find out more and I also really recommend that you take a look at the book's fantastic trailer HERE!

*Apologies for some earlier spelling mistakes- now corrected!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Book Review: Out Of Shadows by Jason Wallace

From the blurb:

The war is over. But there's one last battle to fight.

Zimbabwe, 1980s

The fighting has stopped, independence has been won and Robert Mugabe has come to power offering hope, land and freedom to black Africans. It is the end of the old way and the start of a promising new era. For Robert Jacklin, it's all new: new continent, new country new school . And very quickly he is forced to understand a new way of thinking, because for some of his classmates the sound of guns is still loud and their battles still rage on... white boys who want their old country back, not this new black African government. Boys like Ivan. Clever, cunning Ivan. For him there is still one last battle to fight, and he;s taking it right to the very top.

My review and thoughts

I was initially interested in this book when I read the blurb when discussing the books nominated for the Teenage Booktrust Prize at my school book club, which I joined in September. I have wanted to find out more about the South-African apartheid and its effects for a while and this seemed like a good way to do that. It begins in 1983, at the beginning of the Rhodesian Bush War and Robert Mugabe is prime minister, making it a very interesting setting.

At the beginning of the book we meet thirteen year old Robert, who is a young boy whose family have moved to South Africa from England just after the war. He is sent away to one of the most prestigious and expensive boarding schools in the country, away from his family and everything that he has ever known. It is told in the first person through Robert's eyes and I found it very easy to emphasise with his unhappy feeling of home sickness and loneliness in a strange place unknown to him. The boy's boarding school world turns out to be living hell and he struggles to adapt to a place filled with unjust racial and social tension where the older boys are not afraid to torture the younger ones like him. Robert quickly makes friends with another victim, a black boy called Nelson Ndube. The two vow to protect each other like brothers but Robert struggles to muster the courage defend his new friend from the constant racist bullying. When the seemingly cruel and manipulative Ivan suddenly takes a different turn with Robert, he seizes his chance to become one of a group of 'tough boys' who become the bullies that they used to hate as they move further up the school. Robert made some bad decisions that shape his life at time school but this is very understandable in the harsh school environment where the instincts are to protect yourself.
The story follows him as he grows and matures over the years into a young man until he eventually comes to question what he has become involved in and has to make some tough choices.

There are points in the story where events seem to be shocking to be true and that's what makes this book fast paced page turner that deals sensitively with raw human emotions and prejudices. The writing is extremely powerful and the accounts horrifying and for that reason, I think that others will love it but I didn't particularly enjoy it. Despite this, it still left me with a lot to think about.

Note: Out Of Shadows is marketed as a YA book but I think it leans more towards an adult book and will be enjoyed by both. I would also say that it is not suitable for children under 12 or 13 because of the bad language and violence.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

2011 Challenges: 50 Books In A Year and Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I've decided to take part in two more challenges for this year:

50 Books In A Year Challenge

50 books doesn't sound like a lot compared to a lot of book bloggers who read 100+ in a year but it will be a good challenge for me to aim for that number as I literally have so much schoolwork going on at the moment.

About the challenge:

The goal of the challenge is to read 365 books in the year 2011 whatever genre or format they are. If you'd like to find out more or sign up visit the host blog Zimlicious HERE!

Read Outside Of Your Comfort Zone Challenge

Isn't this challenge button just adorable!?
I am so glad that the lovely Danya from A Tapestry Of Words (one of my favourite blogs!) started this challenge. Towards the end of this year, I recieved a few review copies that were out of my comfort zone but I actually suprised myself when I ended up enjoying them so I want to branch out in my genres more this year to discover more great books and learn more about my reading tastes.

Here's what Danya says about the challenge:

I think most of us like to stick with certain genres of books, but every once in a while, it's good to explore something we might not normally read. Expanding your reang horizons leads to finding more great books and learning more about your own reading tastes.
This challenge encompasses any and all genres; the point is to pick some books you would ordinarily pass by or shy away from. Never liked history class? Pick some historical fiction. Uneasy about werewolves? Read some paranormal books. They do not all have to belong to the same genre - the goal is just to stretch your reading choices a little!

1-3 books: Peering Out the Window
4-6 books: Opening the Door
7-10 books: Standing on the Porch
11-15 books: Walking through the Neighbourhood
16-20 books: Exploring the Unknown

I going to aim for the 'opening the door' level for the moment.

The kind of genres that are outside my comfort zone are paranormal andchick lit/fluffy romance. I'll be reading the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead for this challenge and I'll pick the others up as I go along as I'm not sure about them at the moment.

If you'd like to join this challenge or find out more visit the sign up post over at A Tapestry Of Words HERE!