New Read: The Shadowy Horses

The Shadowy Horses

While August here in the UK hasn’t been cold. It sadly hasn’t always been glorious sunshine either. During a spell of wet and dreary weather I reached for The Shadowy Horses by, one of my comfort read favourites, Susanna Kearsley.

This time Kearsley swept me away to Eyemouth, a small fishing community, on the rugged and windswept coast of Scotland. Up on the grounds of Rosehill manor a small group of archaeologists are excavating to find a completely, unknown Roman marching camp. The group is led by eccentric Peter Quinnell. Who for most of his career has been obsessed with discovering what happened to the lost Ninth Legion. Many of his contemporaries think Quinnell is mad, however this time he is sure. After a young, local boy saw a ghostly Roman soldier marching across the fields.

Our protagonist is Verity Grey (great name) a renowned archaeologist and historian. Who comes up from London to join the excavation. Verity has no idea what she is getting herself into. Not being one to believe in ghosts or the supernatural. She however finds herself liking and believing Quinnell and the boy. Perhaps because on her very first night at Rosehill. She heard horses running in the field below her bedroom window. Only to discover there are no horses on the estate! I enjoyed reading about Verity, she is a likeable, and the ever-increasing spooky experiences. Verity is joined by eccentric Quinnell, his glamorous niece Fabia, fellow archaeologists David and Adrian (an old flame!), the boy Robbie, and his parents Jeannie and Brian, and grandpa Wally. There are some really interesting relationships and secrets between these characters to discover.

This is now the 4th novel I have read by Susanna Kearsley. My last read, Mariana, was earlier this year. I particularly love Kearsley’s writing style which I find just so comforting and familiar, like a favourite jumper. After a few pages I was lost in another fascinating tale of life, love and history. This isn’t a dual time period novel like previous reads, however it is still full of history with the archaeological dig which is woven with the mystery of the lost Ninth Legion. I loved all the archaeological details. As a little girl I wanted to be an archaeologist, and to this day I am still obsessed with watching Time Team and other documentaries. There is also a link back to the past through local historical tales and the ghostly Roman soldier. I’m not sure the mystery of the lost legion is completely solved here, perhaps that’s for the best, it was a nice ending though.

The Shadowy Horses was a capturing tale for me. I was immersed in the love, history and mystery of it all. I highly recommend and I look forward to reading more by Kearsley. I have Season of Storms and Named of the Dragon on my to-be-read pile. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you read any of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels?

10 Books of Summer – 5/10

New Read: The King’s Sister

The King's Sister

Last year I read and enjoyed The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien. So when another of her novels came up I had to request it. Sadly I allowed The King’s Sister by Anne O’Brien to wallow on my Kindle to-be-read pile for too long.

The King’s Sister takes us back to 1382 where we are introduced to Elizabeth of Lancaster. She is the youngest daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, cousin of Richard II, and the sister of the future Henry IV. This is a turbulent time in England’s history. As tension grows between the Lancaster and York houses. The country is on the verge of the Cousin’s War; what we now call the War of the Roses. In this uncertain time Elizabeth’s father secures a safe marriage for her. Elizabeth however only has eyes for the charming but ruthlessly ambitious Sir John Holland; the half-brother of King Richard.

Elizabeth is not a character I have read about before. Anne O’Brien, the author, said herself she chose Elizabeth because there is little to nothing written about her life. Other than that she was “an over sexed” woman due to the fact she had 3 husbands in her short life. A rather bigoted, one-sided view of history. O’Brien makes Elizabeth a passionate, intelligent and fiery woman. Who has been spoilt and pampered all her life, and thus has subsequently become rather selfish. I didn’t really like Elizabeth but I found her fascinating and could admire what she stood for; a woman breaking the norms. Ultimately though she is the master of her own misery.

Elizabeth’s first marriage was in fact to the 8 year old Duke of Pembroke when she was 17 years old, which was never consummated. This is not the romantic marriage that she imagined, so Elizabeth begins an illicit romance with Sir John Holland. The consequences of which forces her father to annul her first marriage. I could sympathise with the embarrassment and upset her first marriage caused her but I couldn’t condone her actions. John and Elizabeth’s marriage will be a fiery, passionate and turbulent union. While it is a shining success under the reign of Richard II. The marriage is to be tested to its limit when Elizabeth’s brother usurps the throne for himself. Now Elizabeth will find herself torn between her love for her husband and brother. An almost impossible choice to make.

In this book O’Brien has brought the tense, brutal and colourful Medieval England to life. With the pageants, dances, tournaments and courtly love; that were in vogue at the time. At first I felt there was too much romance and not enough history. However in hindsight O’Brien needed to secure Elizabeth and John. As it was then through their marriage we saw the tension, drama, hurt and historical events that unfolded to bring Richard II down and the rise of Henry IV. Once this began I was hooked and even though I didn’t like Elizabeth. I found myself emotionally invested it what would happen to her and her family. From little historical information O’Brien has still managed to create in Elizabeth a rounded and believable character. So much so by the end I was rather choked up.

The King’s Sister was an emotional charged read for me. It is also perhaps the earliest historical fiction I have read. I would like to read more from this time period and by Anne O’Brien. I highly recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction and romance. Great read.

Thank you to Harlequin (UK) Limited for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? What other Anne O’Brien novels should I try?

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?