New Read: Red Rose, White Rose

Red Rose White Rose

As we changed the clocks for British summertime we were unfortunately treated to many gloomy, cold and wet days. In which case I was happy to escape into the past with Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson.

Red Rose, White Rose takes us back to the year 1433 as Cicely Neville the ‘Rose of Raby’ is to become the bride of Richard, the Duke of York. A dynastic marriage to bring together the house of York and Lancaster. While the marriage is a success there is still tension in the land. There is an uneasy and turbulent relationship between the strong Duke of York and the weak Lancastrian King Henry and his French Queen. A relationship which is to break down in 1455 with disastrous consequences sweeping Cicely, her whole family, and the country into a bloody war. What we now know as the War of the Roses.

Red Rose, White Rose is narrated by Cicely and her (fictionalised) half brother Cuthbert. Cicely is a strong and beautiful woman who also has the much deserved nickname of ‘Proud Cis’ from her siblings. While I found it fascinating to read about Cicely I’m not sure I always liked her. I had much more of an affinity for Cuthbert. The illegitimate son of Ralph Neville who is taken in by his father’s new wife and trained as a knight. Cuthbert is down to earth, loving and loyal. He is able to give us a glimpse of the lower classes and the battle field which Cicely is unable to.

Red Rose, White Rose is the first novel I have read by Joanna Hickson. I am pleased to say I also have The Agincourt Bride waiting for me on my Kindle. I thought that Red Rose, White Rose was well written, detailed and very believable; only a few chapters in I was swept away with it all. I think Cicely Neville was a good choice for a protagonist. I have only encountered her once before in the BBC’s adaptation of The White Queen. Hickson has chosen only to show Cicely’s life up to the crowning of her son Edward. I couldn’t help not seeing this as a happy ending though knowing the drama that was still to come. Hickson has of course had to fictionalise some conversations and characters such as Cuthbert. At the end of the novel there is a short  section where Hickson discusses the real historical characters, events and facts she took inspiration from.

Red Rose, White Rose is an interesting look into the earlier life of the mother of Edward IV and Richard III. I recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction and British history. Good read.

Thank you to Harper Collins UK, Harper Fiction/Blue Door for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Joanna Hickson?

Goodbye March, Hello April

March 2015

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? March has just flown by me! It was a mixed month for weather; with some extreme days of rain and days of bright sunshine. I did spend a lovely weekend on the south coast to celebrate Mother’s day with my mom and family, and took my dad to a great show for his birthday. With all that going on here is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 3     Non-Fiction: 2     Poetry: 0

I started the month off by finishing urban fantasy The World Below by Mike Phillips. A fun and light adventure underground which was a soothing read for my over worked mind. To keep my reading easy I next read the short story collection The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, my 30th read off my Classics Club list. Sadly the final collection of interesting short adventures for me to discover. A slower and more detailed read for me was paranormal romance A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I am not a huge romance fan but I loved all the historical and magical references. This is also my first read for the Once Upon a Time IX event.

Alongside these fictions I also read two non-fictions. First Napoleon Bonaparte: A Very Brief History by Mark Black, a short and interesting read about the infamous French general. Then to round the month off Christian non-fiction Beautiful Attitudes by Scott Evans, full thoughts still to be posted.

Pick of the Month: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

And those are just the books I finished. Through out the month I have been dipping in an out of epic historical non-fiction Rebellion by Peter Ackroyd. I’ve made good progress but still a long way to go. To continue my aim to always have a classic on the go after finishing Sherlock Holmes I picked up The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. I am also very close to finishing historical fiction Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson.

In April I am looking forward to more good reading, celebrating Easter, and getting two weeks off work.

What did you do and read in March?

New Read: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesA 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.

New Read: Mariana

Mariana

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?

New Read: The Reflections of Queen Snow White

Reflections of Queen Snow White

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?

New Read: The Mine

The Mine

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?

New Read: The Lost Duchess

The Lost Duchess

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?