New Read: The Queen’s Choice

the-queens-choice

After reading The Forbidden Queen in 2014 and The King’s Sister last year, Anne O’Brien is rapidly becoming one of my go-to authors for my historical fix. Her latest offering is The Queen’s Choice which was released earlier this year.

This time O’Brien swept me back to 1398 to meet Joanna of Navarre (also known as Joan). She is the daughter of the hated Charles II of Navarre and the wife of John IV, Duke of Brittany. Whilst at a wedding at the French court she meets Henry Bolingbroke, the son of John of Gaunt. There is an instant connection between them which grows into true affection during Henry’s exile, but they are torn apart just as quickly when Henry returns to England to confront his cousin, Richard II. For several years life continues for Joanna, during which time she loses her husband and becomes the regent of Brittany for her young son. Then, just as she is emerging from her mourning she receives a surprising and audacious proposal from England: Henry wishes her to become his wife and queen.

Joanna is not a character I have read about before. O’Brien portrays her as a strong, intelligent and proud woman. If you know your history, you will know she does become Henry IV’s wife and the queen consort of England – to reach that though she will have to sacrifice a lot, including: the regency of Brittany and heartbreakingly the custody of her sons. Then, she faces much hostility in her new home as there is a long-standing feud between the English and Bretons. While I could often sympathise for Joanna I could also see how much her pride made situations for herself and those around her ten times worse!

A character I really enjoyed getting to know better was Henry. He was a background character in O’Brien’s The King’s Sister and I recently read a history of him by Chris Given-Wilson. This book reinforced the idea of Henry as a wise, brave and fair man, who had so much potential as a king but sadly never reached it due to arguments with parliament, constant war and finally, poor health. It was lovely to read about Henry on a more personable level – seeing him as a loving husband and father, although O’Brien also portrays him with a fiery temper. I found it particularly touching how Joanna nurses him through his long and painful illness.

Sadly, the death of Henry is not the end of the troubles for Joanna as we also see her trials and tribulations during the reign of her stepson Henry V. And, really that was the issue with this book for me – there was almost too much drama, and doom and gloom. I was left feeling a little bereft by it all. Now I totally understand that O’Brien can’t really help that historically Joanna’s life was full of trouble and so this not a reflection on her skill as a writer at all. In fact, that I felt bereft shows that O’Brien very realistically brought it all to life for me. Just for my personal taste, I just wished there had been a bit more happiness!

Overall, The Queen’s Choice is not my favourite of O’Brien’s books but it is still a well-crafted story of the lives of Joanna and Henry IV; two interesting figures in history. I still very much look forward to reading more by Anne O’Brien. Good read.

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

Have you read this? Have you read any other books about Henry IV and Joanna of Navarre?

New Books: September 2016

new-books-aug-2016

Hello my fellow bookworms, I had such a splurge of new books in August that some books have had to be carried over into this month’s post. Here are those other goodies I have added to my bookshelf:

Dreaming Spires by Laurie R. King

The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

At the end of August, I had another chance to browse in some of my favourite bookshops. In the St. Giles Hospice bookshop I snapped up four books. First, two more of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries which I have been keeping my eyes peeled for, after enjoying The Beekeeper’s Apprentice earlier this year. Secondly, I am always looking to add to my Pratchett collection and this time I found two books; both of which are new-for-me.

The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans

Then at the end of the long Summer break from work, I went to visit my mother who asked if I fancied reading this. I have never read anything by Evans before but the synopsis mentions a big, country house with a mystery; how could I not give it a try?!

Do you fancy any of these? What new book purchases have you made recently?

Challenge: 10 Books of Summer (Wrap-Up)

10 Books of Summer

The 1st September has arrived, which means summer is officially over and I have come to the end of the 10 Books of Summer challenge; hosted by the lovely Cathy at 746 Books. I feel I have had a great summer of reading but I also think I blinked and missed it! So let’s have a look at what I actually managed to read:

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris

The Gospel of Loki

This is the first novel I have read by Joanne M Harris – I was particularly interested in this one because of my childhood love of Norse Mythology and I thought this was a really interesting and refreshing twist on these ancient tales of gods, giants and monsters.

***


The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code

I finally got round to reading Brown’s second thrilling adventure to star Robert Langdon – this time he delves into the history, art and symbols of Leonardo da Vinci and the secrets of the Priory of Scion.

***


Master of Shadows by Neil Oliver

Master of Shadows

Having enjoyed many documentaries presented by historian Neil Oliver I was interested to read his debut novel – I found it to be a detailed and very realistic historical adventure, that swept me back to the bloody downfall of Constantinople.

**


Trouble at the Little Village School by Gervase Phinn

Trouble at the Little Village School

The second novel in Phinn’s charming Barton-in-the-Dale series which continues the touching and humorous tale of a small school and village.

**


Wendy Darling, Volume I: Stars by Colleen Oakes

Wendy Darling

After loving Oakes’ previous novels, I was excited to read this; the start of her new, young adult series. My expectations may have been a bit high, however I did find this to be an enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of Neverland.

**


The School Inspector Calls! by Gervase Phinn

The School Inspector Calls!

As you can see, I didn’t wait long to read the third novel in Phinn’s charming Barton-in-the-Dale series which continues the touching and humorous tale of a small school and village.

**


A House Divided by Margaret Skea

***

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

***

While I finished reading these two great books my full thoughts are still to be posted. Keep your eyes peeled!


Which means I have read …

8/10

I am really pleased with my result this year and while I didn’t finish it I am also a good way into my 9th book: The Queen’s Choice by Anne O’Brien. That means it is only A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin which I haven’t picked up off my list – I am sure I will be picking it up very soon though! Last year, I read 6 books and I was reading my 7th which I was pleased with; especially as it was my first year taking part in this challenge. So I am even more pleased with my progress this year. Bring on next year!

Have you read any of these books? Did you take part in this challenge?

Goodbye August, Hello September 2016

August 2016

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? While there have been a few rainy days, on the whole here in the UK we have been enjoying a few weeks of lovely, sunny weather – just what I needed over my long summer break from work. This break has not only been good for my soul but has been brilliant for my reading too. Here is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 2

In August, I again made good progress through my list for the 10 Books of Summer challenge. First, I read the light and  comforting The School Inspector Calls! by Gervase Phinn; the third book in the Barton-in-the-Dale series. Next, I was swept back to 16th century Scotland reading historical fiction A House Divided by Margaret Skea; her second Munro novel. And, finally I stayed in the past with Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye; a gripping historical mystery inspired by Jane Eyre. My thoughts on these last two books are still to be posted.

That’s 3 more books read off my 10 Books of Summer list and the end of August also means this challenge has come to an end too – I will post a full round up of the challenge later today. I also ticked another title off my Classics Club list by reading the charming, comedy-of-errors Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell; another tale set in a small, provincial town from The Cranford Chronicles.

Alongside these fictions I also read two non-fictions. First, I read an interesting and comprehensive history, The Secret Poisoner by Linda Stratmann. Which delved into the murders and poisons that shook the Victorian world. Then at the end of the month, I finished the thought-provoking, Christian non-fiction The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This is the first choice for my church’s book club which starts in September. My full thoughts on this book are still to be posted.

Pick of the Month: A House Divided and The Circle Maker

That is another 6 books finished in August which is great! I also started reading historical fiction The Queen’s Choice by Anne O’Brien and the classic, adventure The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.

In September, I will be starting back at work with a new Year 5 class. I am also looking forward to attending a Comic Fest and I have tickets to see ‘The Woman in Black’ at a local theatre.

What did you do and read in August? Do you have any plans for September?

New Books: August 2016

New Books - Aug #3

Hello my fellow bookworms, after being so good in July I am now bringing you my second new books post in August, oops! Here are more goodies I have added to my bookshelf:

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

On a recent trip to my hair dressers I had the chance to browse in some of my favourite bookshops. First, in the St. Giles hospice books shop I was pleased to find these two books. I am always looking to add to my Pratchett collection and this is a new-to-me story. And, after enjoying Ibbotson’s lovely young adults novel I have been keeping my eyes peeled for her children’s novels to try.

New Books - Aug #4

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

The Adventures & Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Next, on the same trip I went in the Oxfam bookshop and found another two books. First, I found a nice compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories – I have previously read and loved these but that was on my Kindle; I am now pleased to have a physical copy for my bookshelf. Then, I was thrilled to find Moon Over Soho the second book in Ben Aaronovitch’s fantasy, crime series, because I already have book one and five on my TBR pile.

New Books - Aug #5

Surprised by Hope by Hope by Tom Wright

Finally, in the post arrived a second-hand copy of this Christian non-fiction which is the October required book for my church’s new book club. I am currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson for our first meeting in September.

Do you fancy any of these? What new book purchases have you made recently?

New Read: The School Inspector Calls!

The School Inspector Calls!

Last month, I enjoyed reading, the second book in Barton-in-the-Dale series, Trouble at the Little Village by Gervase Phinn. So much so I didn’t wait too long to continue reading this delightful series with the third book, The School Inspector Calls!

Barton-in-the-Dale’s small village school was in trouble, big trouble. In stepped a new head teacher, Mrs Devine, in her red high heel shoes. Who with her hard work and a fresh approach has not only saved the little school from closure but has now been appointed as the new head teacher for the new integrated school; of Barton and the neighbouring Urebank school. Now, in book 3, we get see the hard realities that face Mrs Devine as she tries to amalgamate the two schools and staff. With absolutely no help from her new deputy head Mr Richardson, a self-important and condescending man, who is smarting from not being appointed as head teacher himself.

Mrs Devine, or Elizabeth as we get to know her outside of school, is a well dressed, smart, practical and kind woman; in stark contrast to her rival Mr Richardson. Her presence has not only brought about positive changes in the school but also in the lives of many of the villagers too. For me she was the obvious choice for the job but the demands of her new role do take a toll and really shake her confidence. I was rooting for her all the way through! Again though we are not secluded to just the changes at school – it was lovely to find out about the changes in the lives of some of the villagers, as I think the author has come up with a lovely, colourful collection of characters.

I found this another comforting read with it’s small school and village setting, some touching insights into the lives of the villagers, and some lovely touches of humour. The humour, for me, came mostly from the children – working in a school myself I have heard many of the honest, touching and often hilarious things children can come out with! In this book we have the children’s funny comments to the school inspector and the rehearsals for the school’s performance of The Wizard of Oz. There are also some very touching and sad elements: with the troubled new pupil Robbie but also love is blossoming and wedding bells are ringing for more than one pair!

The School Inspector Calls! is a touching and humorous tale of a small school and village, and a very comforting read. I have heard that there is a fourth book which I will need to keep my eyes peeled for. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of Gervase Phinn’s other novels?

10 Books of Summer – 6/10

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume I

Wendy Darling

After loving her previous novels, I immediately snapped up a copy of Wendy Darling, Volume I: Stars by Colleen Oakes, the start of her new, young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s Neverland. Sadly however this book languished for too long on my Kindle until the 10 Books of Summer challenge finally gave me that push I needed to pick it up.

Wendy Darling and her brothers are part of a wealthy family who live a comfortable and conventional life in a town house in London. One clear, starry night their world is to be turned upside down when they are visited by a wild, magical boy, Peter Pan. Who, with the promise of adventures, lures them out of the nursery window and up, up away into the stars and on to Neverland! A magical land of turquoise seas, beautiful beaches, mermaids, pirates and the freedom of life as a Lost Boy. Wendy finds herself intoxicated by the place and Peter, and yet she is plagued with misty memories of home and an annoying sense that all is not as it appears.

I liked how Colleen Oakes, the author, has chosen to tell her re-imagining of Neverland from the point-of-view of Wendy. A young lady, who at the start of the story, is sad about growing up but is also excited by the prospect of love and womanhood. At this hormonal time Wendy easily falls for this beautiful, wild boy who flies through her window without much thought for consequences. I often wanted to give her a jolly good shake for her naivety and emotional weakness however she is a kind character with potential; I hope to see her develop further. Wendy is joined by her brothers: the adorable Michael and the thoroughly dislikeable John, both are completely  immersed in life on Pan Island and do not share any of Wendy’s misgivings.

While I didn’t particularly always ‘like’ the characters I did find that Colleen Oakes re-imagined classic and new characters are realistic and much better fleshed out than in the J M Barrie’s original tale. I also loved being able to delve deeper into the settings too. While I’m not sure I totally bought Oakes’ Edwardian London – I was completely blown away by her description of Neverland. I really could imagine the turquoise seas, sandy beaches, towering peaks, humid jungle, sinister Skull Rock, and the giant, sprawling tree that constitutes Pan Island.

Previously I have read and loved two of Oakes’ previous novels: Volume 1 and Volume 2 of her young adult series Queen of Hearts which is a re-imagining of Lewis Carol’s Wonderland. I enjoyed them so much that they both made it on to my Top 10 Books of 2014. So my expectations were perhaps too high for this new series, Wendy Darling. This first book in the series was again well written, detailed and imaginative however I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous books/series. I think that was simply down to the characters though – which is just my personal taste and not any reflection on the quality of writing or story.

Wendy Darling, Volume I: Stars is an enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of Neverland. I am looking forward to reading Volume 2: Seas to see how the characters develop. Good 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 any other books inspired by Peter Pan and Neverland?

10 Books of Summer – 5/10