A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness have sat on my to-be-read shelf for far too long. Earlier this month I received The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness which is the final instalment in the All Souls trilogy. So I had no excuse not to start reading them.
A Discovery of Witches introduces the reader to Dr Diana Bishop. An American scholar who has come to the historic Oxford University, England to study old and rare alchemical volumes held in the library. Diana is no ordinary scholar though she is also a witch who comes from an old and famous family; a fact that Diana tries to ignore. Unbeknownst to Diana she recalls the bewitched Ashmole 782 from the library’s ancient stacks. Once she touches it a string of unusual and dangerous events are to unfold which will see her thrust into the world of witches, vampires and daemons she has been trying so hard to ignore.
Diana our protagonist comes from a long line of powerful Bishop witches yet has never shown any aptitude or urge to use magic herself. Diana is full of anxiety and fear since the brutal death of her parents when she was only a child. I enjoyed watching Diana grow in strength emotionally as a woman through her trials but also to see her start to release her magical power. Diana is joined by a large cast of paranormal characters. The other we really get to know better is Diana’s love interest Professor Matthew Clairmont; an ancient vampire. Matthew is a good mixture of the negative and positive of his race. He drinks blood, and has anger and possessive issues. Then again I love how he has so much history and experience.
A Discovery of Witches is the first novel I have read by Deborah Harkness, and is the first instalment in the All Souls trilogy. From what I’ve read so far I am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. A Discovery of Witches is a well written novel with a detailed and immersive style and world. I simply loved all the historical, alchemical, literature and art references and details that were included; Harkness has clearly done a lot of research for this novel. The only down side for me was the romance. I am not a huge romance fan and this had more romance in it than I had expected. The romance element is strong in this fortunately though there is just enough other things going on that I still enjoyed it. This has dropped it down from a great to a good read.
A Discovery of Witches is a detailed and well written paranormal romance with an interesting measure of history, magic and art. You might enjoy this if you like romance, fantasy, paranormal and/or historical fiction. Good read.
Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other paranormal romances?
A Discovery of Witches is full of magic so I am counting it towards the Once Upon a Time IX event which is hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.
I haven’t long owned Mariana by Susanna Kearsley however I have read and heard such positive things about it from other readers that I just couldn’t wait to start it.
Mariana takes us to the sleepy countryside of England where for the third time in her life Julia Beckett has been inextricably drawn to Greywethers, an old farmhouse in a small village off the beaten track. Feeling that this surely has to be a sign Julia buys the house. Upon moving in Julia finds the landscape and peace inspiring, and finds the locals friendly too however it is not long before Julia begins connecting with a young woman, who lived in the house many years ago, called Mariana through disturbing out-of-time experiences.
Julia Beckett is an illustrator for children’s books (what a great job) who for most of her adult life has lived in London but when we meet her Julia finds herself drawn to the countryside, in particular to Greywethers. Julia is a likeable protagonist; being clever, artistic, friendly and a book lover! Julia is joined in this story by her brother Tom a vicar whose parish is near by, Vivien the local pub owner, Iain a neighbouring farmer, Geoff the handsome lord, and of course Mariana and those she knew in the past. There are several interesting romances between these characters running through out the story, present and past, I will go no further in my description though because they are complicated and I wouldn’t want to ruin any surprises.
Mariana is the third novel I have read by Susanna Kearsley, and like those two previous novels I really enjoyed this. What I particularly like about Kearsley is her writing style which I find just so comforting and familiar, like a favourite jumper. I find a few pages into her novels I am already lost in the tales of life, love and history. I also like dual time periods and I feel Kearsley is great at them. While I often find myself in these sorts of novels drawn to one period or another (usually the past) in this I found myself enjoying and being invested in both time periods. I think perhaps this now my joint favourite of Kearsley’s novels alongside The Rose Garden.
Mariana is a beautiful dual time period novel of life, love and history. I highly recommend and I look forward to reading more by Kearsley. I have Season of Storms and The Shadowy Horses on my to-be-read pile. Great read.
Have you read any of Susanna Kearsley’s novels? Any recommendations?
I snapped up The Reflections of Queen of Snow White by David Meredith interested to see how Meredith would re-imagine this classic fairy tale. Recently here in the UK it has been dark, cold and we’ve even had some snow. What better time to tuck oneself in bed with a fairy tale.
The Reflections of Queen of Snow White re-introduces us to Snow White a year into mourning for her husband, king and one true love, Charming. From which not even the upcoming marriage of her only child Princess Raven can break her. One day whilst fleeing the wedding preparations, guests and the never ending questions Snow White finds herself in a disused part of the castle. These are Snow White’s late, evil stepmother’s quarters which were closed off after she was overthrown. Whilst there Snow White discovers an old, large mirror which gives her the power to reflect back on important moments in her life (an interest twist I thought).
Though Snow White now has streaks of white in her black hair and a few wrinkles on her snow white skin, she is still a beautiful and healthy woman. Mentally though she comes across young and a little weak, she really doesn’t think she can go own without Charming to guide and protect her. Through the reflections Snow White was reminded of what hard times she had endured and how Charming wasn’t always there to save her. I felt Snow White grew as a character through this experience.
The Reflections of Queen of Snow White is the first novel I have read by David Meredith. I was contacted by the author about this novel and decided to take a punt on it as I was interested to see a re-imagining of this classic fairy tale. I was not to disappointed on that front, Meredith has written an interesting, adult re-imagining of the story and the character of Snow White. The text does need some editing though. There were quite a few typos and I found an excessive use of adjectives however I was invested enough in Snow White and her journey that I happily read on.
The Reflections of Queen of Snow White is an interesting re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale. This does contain violent and sexual content so I recommend for adults only. Okay read.
Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have read this? Or any other re-imagining of Snow White?
The days are dull and cold, and the nights are dark and frosty. Once my day of Christmas carols, buying presents, and cooking hot dinners is over. I am ready to tuck myself in bed with a comforting read. With this in mind I picked up The Mine by John A Heldt hoping for a cosy mystery.
The Mine introduces us to Joel Smith who in 2000 mere weeks from graduation takes a short road trip to Montana with a college friend. Curiosity gets the better of Joel while there and ignoring his friend’s protests Joel enters a deserted, old mine. After an encounter with a snake and a bump on the head Joel manages to find his way out of the mine only to find it is not 2000 anymore but instead he has been taken back to 1941. I must admit I was not expecting time travel when I started this but it was a pleasant surprise. Joel must now find a place within this strange time, handle the knowledge of the looming war and try to not alter the future.
Joel the protagonist of The Mine is not an instantly likeable character. He comes across as cocky and spoilt. The travel back in time does him some good though. As he encounters the simpler and more innocent 1940s his character softens. To reveal a kind and humble side to him. In the 1940s Joel is taken in by a kind couple and makes good friends with a group of college students. I liked meeting all these characters. My only issue would be that Joel seemed to come to terms with his situation and blend into his new life a little too easily. There was very little upset over the loss of his old life, friends and family which I thought would be a more natural reaction.
The Mine is the first novel I have read by John A Heldt. I was contacted by the author about this novel and decided to take a punt on it. I went into reading this thinking it was a mystery. While there is the mystery of how Joel time travels the novel felt more like a historical romance; albeit more recent history. I liked the setting though. Heldt has created a nostalgic and charming setting inhabited by interesting characters. The Mine might not have been a mystery but it was a cosy and slow paced read which was easy on a tired mind.
The Mine is a nostalgic romance with a pinch of mystery and time travel. You may enjoy this if you have an interest in 1940s America. Since finishing this I realised it is part of a series. I am not sure I will read more. 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? Recommendations for other 1940s literature?
September and October were months full of mystery and horror as I took part in The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings. All through October though I had my eye upon historical fiction The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden which had been calling to me from my to-be-read pile. After finishing two reads for the R.I.P event I thought I deserved to read it at the end of the month.
The Lost Duchess takes us into the life of Emme Fifield; a favoured lady-in-waiting in the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. We meet Emme as she is fooled and poorly used by Lord Hertford. A scene I found quite hard to read. The scandal that will surely follow threatens to engulf and ruin Emme’s life. Emme can see no other way out of it; she must find a way to leave court. Then the court comes alive with the arrival of the adventurers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh who come boasting of the wonders of the new world and appealing to the Queen to mount a new expedition to found the City of Raleigh. The lure of the exotic but dangerous new world is intoxicating but it could also be the perfect opportunity for Emme to escape and a start anew. I must admit I found myself wanting to go too.
I found I liked the protagonist of The Lost Duchess Emme almost instantly. Emme is young, beautiful, kind but naïve. Unlike many of the other courtiers Emme only comes from a moderately well born family. She has only reached the heights of a favoured lady-in-waiting to the Queen due to her father’s hard work and the influence of the powerful but dangerous Secretary Walsingham. I felt this is what gave Emme the imagination and the actual ability to go on this adventure into the unknown. If Barden had chosen a character with a more straight forward entrance into the court I don’t think I could have believed it. Not to say that Emme’s transition from comfortable court life to the hard and trying life of a settler is an easy one. Emme makes many mistakes and has some hard lessons to learn. By the end of it though Emme is a strong woman who I liked even more.
The Lost Duchess is the first novel I have read by Jenny Barden. I enjoy historical fiction and I love a good adventure, and this is what drew me to The Lost Duchess. I wasn’t to be disappointed either. I thought The Lost Duchess was a well written novel with a lovely flow and good detail. I found Barden’s comfortable writing style helped me feel at home and swept me quickly away into the tale; and that was before the true adventure even began. Once away from court Emme and her fellow settlers have storms, starvation, poisonous food, lost souls, attacks, intrigue and relationships to deal with. What I didn’t expect was the level of romance this novel would contain; mainly centred around Emme and mariner Kit Doonan. While the romance is sweet and not thrown in your face I personally could have done with less of the will they won’t they. Emme and Kit are fictional characters but there were real settlers who went out on this expedition to found the City of Raleigh. Barden has obviously filled in some historical gaps and fictionalised events but I thought she did this well which helped me to imagine what it might really have been like for those brave settlers. At the end of the novel Barden’s author’s notes references the real historical characters, events and facts she took inspiration from.
I thought The Lost Duchess was a lovely, romantic adventure from Elizabethan England across the sea to the dangerous and beautiful new world. I would recommend to those interested in historical romance. Good read.
Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of The Lost Duchess in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Can you recommend any other adventures across the sea?
February here in the UK has continued to be wet and windy. I have also continued to be busy with work and college so when I have had a free moment all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. I picked up The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien hoping to escape and find some comfort in a historical tale.
The Forbidden Queen follows the life of the beautiful Katherine of Valois. Katherine is the daughter of Charles VI of France, becomes the wife of Henry V of England, mother of Henry VI of England and grandmother of Henry VII of England. A glorious lineage and heritage but at heart Katherine only really wishes for love. Katherine has a lonely up-bringing in her aunt’s abbey from which marriage was the only means of escape. Henry hero of Agincourt and the king of England sweeps into Katherine’s life offering not only to make her his wife but the queen of England. By Henry’s side Katherine begins a life of splendour and glory yet while she provides him with the longed for son and heir Henry does not love her. Their marriage is to be short-lived with the death of Henry fighting in France leaving Katherine a young and highly desirable widow. I found myself really rooting for Katherine to find love and while Henry’s death leaves her free to marry again I just knew it couldn’t be that easy! Katherine has a political mine field to work her way through.
The Forbidden Queen centres mainly around Katherine and the men in her life. Katherine grows up isolated from the world inevitably leaving her naïve to the facts of life. Katherine is naïve, young, loving and hopeful as she sets out on her married life and I couldn’t help but like her even though my more practical mind told me she was heading for disappointment. After the death of Henry I found Katherine went through quite a transformation she is still loving and hopeful but she does find a new found bravery which made me like her even more. There are two main love interests for Katherine after she is widowed one is a flamboyant and ambitious man while the other is a stable and strong man both are equally controversial choices for Katherine though. I thought that both love affairs help to develop and mould Katherine further in a positive way regardless of their differing outcomes.
The Forbidden Queen is the first novel I have read by the author Anne O’Brien but I had heard good things about this novel from other bloggers. I thought O’Brien’s style was descriptive and elegant. I felt like a really did get into the mind of this medieval princess and got to experience her world through O’Brien’s detailed narrative from Katherine’s perspective. The Forbidden Queen was a slow burner for me. At first I found myself just reading one chapter a day as I felt the emotions I got from Katherine were pretty powerful and sad. I needed time to reflect on this. Once we got into the chapters following Henry’s death though I found myself hooked. I preferred Katherine as a character after this point and I just couldn’t wait to find out what she would do next! The pace of the story also seemed to speed up for me too. Leading to me polishing off the second half of the book pretty much in one evening when I had tucked myself into bed early.
The Forbidden Queen is a moving and inspiring fictionalised tale of a medieval princess, daughter, queen, wife and mother. I recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction. I would be interested in reading more by the author Anne O’Brien. Good read.
I received an ARC of The Forbidden Queen via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read any of Anne O’Brien’s novels? Any recommendations?
Mid-August brought cooler temperatures and showers to the UK. The sort of weather that is more typically associated with the British Summer. To go with the traditional weather I needed a traditional read. What could be more traditional than Jane Austen? Northanger Abbey awaited on my bookshelf as did Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest on my Kindle. I thought they would be great accompanying reads.
Northanger Abbey follows the coming-of-age of Catherine Morland the daughter of a country clergyman. Catherine isn’t beautiful but she has grown fair, she is tolerable well-read and skilled in her needlework but what she really adores is to read Gothic novels! Catherine’s neighbours Mr and Mrs Allen are wealthy and without children so when Catherine turns seventeen they ask her to join them for the season in Bath. Catherine has never left the country before and is wildly excited by it all. Bath offers the promise of nights at the theatre, balls, shopping, and new friends. Catherine quickly becomes attached to a Miss Thorpe and siblings Henry and Eleanor Tilney. The two friendships are to clash though and make her time in Bath difficult. Then she is offered the perfect escape. A visit to Northanger Abbey a Gothic pile in the countryside home to the Tilneys. Catherine foresees ruins, ghosts, and mysteries galore!
The protagonist of Northanger Abbey Catherine Morland is a likeable but flawed character. With her honest heart, inexperience, and vivid imagination Catherine has a lot to learn about society and friendship. I enjoyed experiencing how Catherine grows during the story through the experiences of her two friendships. I really loved Henry and Eleanor Tilney. Eleanor is just delightful while Henry is a bit of an eccentric country gentleman but I loved him for it. There is a very amusing scene where he is spinning Catherine a tale on their journey down to the Abbey worthy of any Gothic novel. In stark contrast we have Isabella and John Thorpe who I thoroughly disliked. They are both pretentious, vain, and scheming from day one sadly naïve Catherine seems to be oblivious to it all. This is perhaps the first Austen novel where I have met characters I have truly disliked and would want nothing to do with.
Northanger Abbey is the fifth novel of Jane Austen’s I have read. I love Austen’s work. All the novels I’ve read of Austen’s have been a beautiful glimpse into a by-gone age through the eyes of young women, and Northanger Abbey was no exception. What was different though was all the references to the Gothic romance novels of the time. Not that a young lady would wish to be caught reading one! I loved all these references and that the heroine herself was unashamedly in love with them. The other main difference I found was the rather abrupt ending. Don’t get me wrong I liked the ending but we are told in hindsight about it like a report rather than viewing it for ourselves. I can perhaps now see why Northanger Abbey was not published in Austen’s lifetime. I imagine it was not what publishers thought the public were looking for from Austen which could still ring true today. This is not a novel I would recommend you reading if you are new to Austen’s writing but well worth a go if you are already a die-hard fan.
Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable coming-of-age tale in the Regency period with a Gothic romance twist! I highly recommend to existing fans of Jane Austen. This is the 16th read off my Classics Club list. Now the only Austen novel I have left to read is Mansfield Park.
Have you read this? Are you a fan of Jane Austen?