New Read: First of the Tudors

Having previously enjoyed Joanna Hickson’s Red Rose, White Rose about Cecily Neville, a figure torn between both sides in the War of the Roses, I was really looking forward to trying this, her newest historical novel, First of the Tudors.

In this new novel, Hickson again takes us back to the War of the Roses, however this time we are firmly on the Lancastrian side, as this story focuses on Jasper Tudor. Jasper is the younger son of Queen Catherine and her second husband, Owen Tudor, who has grown up far from the intrigue of the royal court. But as young men, he and his older brother Edmund are summoned to London, by their half-brother, King Henry VI, who takes a keen interest in their futures – bestowing Earldoms on them both which helps to bolster the support around him and his precarious hold on the throne.

Until now Jasper Tudor has been one of those key historical figures that is always there on the perimeter of many a historical novel. So I was thrilled when I heard Hickson had chosen him to be the protagonist for this, and what an excellent job she has done bringing him to life. Jasper comes across as a sensible, loyal, brave and intelligent man, who has a true affection for his fragile king and takes real care in the responsibilities he is given. And he will need all his guile and courage to preserve the throne and his family from the rising threat of their Yorkist cousins.

As well as seeing Jasper through all the political intrigue and hard battles, we also see him as a loving family man. His first, thwarted, love was for the heiress Margaret Beaufort, who had a short and doomed marriage to his brother Edmund, and his devotion to her never wavers. Fortunately he does find true comfort in the arms of Jane Hywel, a Welsh cousin. While Jane is a fictional character, Hickson has cleverly pieced her together from a real name and the fact Jasper did have two illegitimate daughters. Jane is also our second narrator through whom we have a window into the domestic life of Jasper, which helps to make him a more well rounded, believable and likeable character; and their love gives a more personal jeopardy to the war.

Overall, I thought First of the Tudors was a brilliantly researched and written piece of historical fiction, that had me enthralled from the beginning to the end; my only niggle would be I wanted more! However at the end of the book, Hickson’s promises another book from the point-of-view of Jasper’s nephew Henry, so I look forward to that. Great read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or read anything else about Jasper Tudor?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 2/10

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read in 2017 (So Far!)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Best Books You’ve Read In 2017 So Far

It was suggested that we could break this topic down however we wanted – by genre, strictly 2017 releases, whatever! However I have kept it simple, here are my favourite books I have read, so far, this year (in the order in which I read them):

~ 1 ~

If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

***

~ 2 ~

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

***

~ 3 ~

My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell

**

~ 4 ~

Seven Stages by Geoffrey Trease

***

~ 5 ~

The People the Fairies Forget by Cheryl Mahoney

***

~ 6 ~

Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore

***

~ 7 ~

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

***

~ 8 ~

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

***

~ 9 ~

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

***

~ 10 ~

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

***

What are your favourite books of the year so far? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Read: Sandlands

After hearing such wonderful things from several blogging friends about the short story collection Sandlands by Rosy Thornton, I was absolutely thrilled when the author offered me a copy. I put it on my 10 Books of Summer 2017 list to make sure I got to it at last…I can’t believe I waited so long!

Sandlands is a gentle and magical collection of sixteen stories that follow the creatures and people of the Suffolk landscape. Sadly I couldn’t possible mention them all here, even though I loved them all, or this post would be ridiculously long. However some of my favourites included: High House, about the enigmatic Mr Napish feeding a fox rescued from the floods; The Watcher of Souls, about an owl that has been guarding a cache of long-lost love letters; Nightingale’s Return, where the nightingale’s song lures a foreigner home; and The Witch Bottle, that see’s love and a curse echoing through the centuries.

Through the landscape and creatures in these wonderful stories, the author has cleverly linked the past to the present, and generations of lives are beautifully intertwined. I found myself absolutely swept away and I even found it quite hard to put down this collection of tales; full of life, death, nature, animals, and all with a delightful touch of magical realism. Likewise though I was also able to dip into one story at a time when I had a free moment. What worked so well about this collection for me was how these were all individual stories, which I could read one at a time when I had time, likewise though you could keep reading through as the setting links these stories so well, similar to a novel.

Overall, I thought Sandlands was an enchanting collection of short stories, which took me on a journey through the nature, lives and history of Suffolk. I would love to read more by this author. Great read.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Any recommendations for other nature filled short stories?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 1/10

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I’ve Been Meaning to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t

This topic was originally done back in March 2013, long before I began taking part in this meme, so this is a new topic for me. While my list is perhaps not a mile long, there are many series I have been meaning to read for some time but I haven’t got round to, yet! Here are the ten series/trilogies that first came to mind (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

A young adult fantasy series that follows Artemis Fowl II, a criminal mastermind. It sounds right up my street. Sadly no one I know seems to have read it to have recommended or lent it to me.

~ 2 ~

The Cousins’ War by Philippa Gregory

Since watching the BBC’s brilliant adaptation, The White Queen (2013), I have wanted to read this popular historical series, set during the War of the Roses. Fortunately I am hoping to remedy this soon, as back in February I got my hands on five books from the series.

~ 3 ~

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

For too long, Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book in this fantasy trilogy, has been sitting on my Kindle, forgotten! I think perhaps I need more of the books to give me the push I need to start reading, because otherwise this trilogy sounds exactly my kind of thing.

~ 4 ~

Fortunes of France by Robert Merle

Similarly, The Brethren, the first book in this epic historical series, has been sitting, neglected, on my TBR bookshelf. Sadly, shortly after receiving it, I read two not-so-glowing reviews of it which left me wondering if it was for me. Yet the only real way to find out is to read it!

~ 5 ~

The Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan

After loving Riordan’s mythological Percy Jackson series, you would have thought it was a dead cert that I would move on to this series. However I tried The Kane Chronicles first, as I adore Ancient Egypt even more than Ancient Greece, but I was left feeling disappointed with its protagonists. And so this series fell by the wayside.

~ 6 ~

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Similarly, after enjoying The Mortal Instruments urban fantasy series, I hoped to move on to this, a fantasy trilogy, from the same author. For some reason though that hasn’t happened yet.

~ 7 ~

Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

With my love of Arthurian legend and this author, I knew when I heard about this trilogy a few years ago that I wanted to read it. Fortunately back in April, I picked all three books up for a bargain on my Kindle, so I hope to start reading them very soon now; no excuse!

~ 8 ~

Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

Generally I need to read more of Christie’s classic, golden age mysteries! The very few I have read have been about her well loved, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and I know I really must give her equally well loved, detecting spinster Miss Marple a chance too.

~ 9 ~

Peter Grant/Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

This urban fantasy, crime series sounds right up my street, and I have book one, two and five on my TBR bookshelf…so no excuse really. Get reading Jessica!

~ 10 ~

Wolf Hall Trilogy by Hilary Mantel

Finally, but certainly not least we have this award winning historical trilogy, which I have wanted to read since watching the BBC’s amazing adaptation, Wolf Hall (2015). I have the first book on my TBR bookshelf, however I think the sheer length of it might be what’s putting me off starting it.

What series/trilogies have you been meaning to read? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

Cookbooks: May – June 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, here are the new recipes I had a go at during May and the beginning of June (there might have been more if I hadn’t cut my finger badly in May).

I am already a big fan of Jamie Oliver’s hearty, autumnal Happy Frumpy Minestrone. Now the weather is beginning to warm though, I thought it would be good to try the Hairy Bikers’ lighter, more summer friendly alternative:

Minestrone Soup
Hairy Dieters 1 – One-Pan Dishes – Page 35

A lighter version of the classic Italian minestrone soup – full of vegetables: onion, tomatoes, leek, courgette, peas and the ‘super food’ kale. An easy-to-make, healthy and super-satisfying soup. This recipe also makes plenty, so I froze several portions for some yummy work lunches too.
(Actually I enjoyed this so much I have already made it twice)

 ***


Then regardless whether it is hot or cold weather, we love a curry in my house:

Fiery Chicken Madras
Hairy Dieters 2 – More Fab Fakeways – Page 113

A rich, hot curry that is very easy to make, plus it is easier on the bank balance and the waistline too! This is a very simple recipe though, so as well as using chicken instead of beef, I added mushrooms and a lot more onion. I served with plain basmati rice and garlic naan bread; to mop up all that extra spicy sauce.

**


Finally, I regularly have some left over crème fraiche from a family favourite dish, so planning to cook that favourite again it was a perfect opportunity to try something new too:

Beef Stroganoff
Hairy Dieters 2 – Meals with Mates – Page 91

A lower-calorie version of this classic dish, made with half-fat crème fraiche and lots of mushrooms and onions, that makes a smaller amount of good quality steak go further. This was easy to make and absolutely delicious! I served it with basmati rice and some fresh, steamed greens. Definitely be making this again.

***


A smaller amount of recipes tried, but I was pleased with them all. I still have Plant Based Cookbook by Trish Sebben-Krupka to read. Excitingly I also recently got my hands on a copy of Jamie Oliver’s Super Food Family Classics; a copy of which I have wanted since watching the TV show last year.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

What cookbooks are you reading? Have you tried any new recipes?

New Read: Class of ’59

Earlier this year, I really enjoyed nostalgic mystery Indiana Belle by John A. Heldt. So much so I didn’t wait long to pick up this, Class of ’59, the next book in his American Journey series. Which also nicely ticks off the ‘title with a number in numbers’ for the What’s in a Name 2017 challenge.

In summer 2017, Mary Beth settles down for a quiet morning on her vacation in a family friend’s old mansion house in Southern California. Her peace is broken when she discovers a 1950’s attired trespasser in the garden, who seemingly appears and disappears into thin air. That trespasser is in fact Mark, the resident of the same house but in 1959, who had unwittingly time travelled through a tunnel in the basement. Before long they realise the miraculous opportunity they have, so Mary Beth and her sister Piper travel back to Mark for a journey of love, danger and adventure in the age of sock hops, poodle skirts, drive-ins and jukeboxes.

Heldt has chosen to split the narration of this book between four characters, rather than just one or two which I have experienced in his previous books. We see the more adult perspective of the 1950s through the point-of-views of the brokenhearted Mary Beth and all-round good guy Mark. I found both likeable characters and they suited each other well, although for me their relationship did have a slight insta-love feel to it. At the same time we experience the more exciting teenage scene of the 1950s, through the on/off angsty teen relationship between Piper and Mark’s brother Ben. I found these two less endearing but no less interesting.

Again I thought the author, Heldt, brought alive the time and place really well, with the school prom, lovers’ lane, college dinners, fashion, music and a touching encounter with an iconic, blonde bombshell. However even though I enjoyed seeing both aspects of this nostalgic age, I found myself less attached to the characters as I had to spread my attention between four of them and two blossoming relationships, in what is a relatively short novel. For that reason, I didn’t quite enjoy this book as much as the previous, Indiana Belle.

That said though, overall, I found the Class of ’59 was an enjoyable time travel romance, which was a light escapist read for my overworked brain. I still look forward to reading more of Heldt’s novels Okay read.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Any recommendations of other books set in the 1950s?

What’s in a Name 2017 – 4/6 (a title with a number in numbers)

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Dads

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Father’s Day related Freebie

With Father’s Day just around the corner, this is the perfect opportunity to celebrate dads in literature. As with my Mother’s Day Freebie last month, I have divided my list between five of my best and five of my worst dads; the latter of which I am really glad aren’t mine!

***** BEST *****

~ 5 ~

Ned Stark
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin

First, I have gone for Ned Stark from Martin’s epic fantasy series, who impressively has six children with his wife Catelyn. Ned is a brave, noble and honourable man who has raised his children with love, respect and fairness. Sadly though he was just too honourable to last long in this deadly game!

~ 4 ~

Arthur Weasley
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Next, I have chosen Arthur Weasley, the muggle-obsessed patriarch of the Weasley clan from Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series. While his wife, Molly, clearly wears the trousers in their relationship, Arthur is a generous, big-hearted man who is adored by his wife and children.

~ 3 ~

Jo Gargery
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Next up is the simple, strong and big-hearted Jo Gargery from Dickens’ classic Great Expectations. Technically Jo is the brother-in-law to the tale’s hero Pip, but he loves and delights in Pip as if he was his son. Even when Pip really doesn’t deserve it, Jo patiently continues to love him and heartbreakingly bears his many slights.

~ 2 ~

The Father
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Almost making it to the top spot, I have ‘the father’ who is desperately trying to keep his young son alive in the dark, dangerous post-apocalyptic world of McCarthy’s The Road. It is both touching and harrowing to see the sheer lengths he will go to for his boy, and we never even learn his name.

~ 1 ~

Daniel Peggotty
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Top spot however had to go to Daniel Peggotty, the humble but generous fisherman from Dickens’ classic David Copperfield. Peggotty has raised, from a young age, his nephew Ham and his niece Emily as his own. What he lacks in money…he makes up for with a whole lot of love, compassion and an always open door. When his little Emily gets herself in trouble, he leaves all he’s ever known to scour Europe to bring her home.

***** WORST *****

~ 5 ~
Vernon Dursley
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

First, I have chosen Vernon Dursley the rude, bullying ‘muggle’ uncle of Rowling’s famous boy wizard: Harry Potter. This poor excuse for a dad has little-to-no patience or sympathy for his poor orphaned nephew. While, like his wife, he simpers and panders to his own son Dudley’s every whim, which turns him into an overweight, spoilt bully…pretty much a carbon copy of himself.

~ 4 ~

Denethor II
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Next, I have chosen the mad, bad steward of Gondor, Denethor II, from Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. Denethor has two sons, but love for only one. His eldest Boromir can do no wrong, whilst the younger Faramir can never do enough. This severe favouritism leads Faramir to take on a suicidal mission in sheer desperation to finally win his father’s love.

~ 3 ~

Franklin Plaskett
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Next, I have chosen Franklin Plaskett, the father of the eponymous Kevin from Shriver’s chilling novel. While his wife Eva is cold and distant to their son, Franklin is the complete, extreme opposite: blindly loving him and refusing to talk or reprimand him for any wrong-doing. They are both ultimately to blame for the monstrous act he goes on to do.

~ 2 ~

Mr Murdstone
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Also from Dickens’ classic David Copperfield, but in stark contrast to our winning Daniel Peggotty, we have David’s cruel stepfather, Mr Murdstone. An ambitious, selfish man, who manipulates his way into the heart of David’s young widowed mother. Then he tries to forcefully bend her to his will and exclude David from the new family he wishes to build, but he only succeeds in sending her to an early grave; leaving David at his brutal mercy.

~ 1 ~

Tywin Lannister
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin

Top spot had to go to Tywin Lannister, the cold, calculating force behind the rich, powerful House Lannister in Martin’s epic fantasy series. To a mind like his, his children are simply pawns in the game. He forces his daughter Cersei into a loveless marriage, her twin brother Jaime commits regicide for him and he completely shuns his youngest son Tyrion, because as a dwarf he is worthless to him. Bad dad doesn’t really cover it!

What do you think of my choices? What are your best and worst literary dads? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.