Monday, 21 July 2014

Devils Consort
by Anne O'Brien
Rating:  3/5


(also known as Queen Defiant in United States)
Pages: 603
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-0427-2

Summary (via Goodreads)

A riveting novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s early adult years from the author of The Virgin Widow.

Orphaned at a young age, Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, seeks a strong husband to keep her hold on the vast lands that have made her the most powerful heiress in Europe. But her arranged marriage to Louis VII, King of France, is made disastrous by Louis’s weakness of will and fanatical devotion to the church. Eleanor defies her husband by risking her life on an adventurous Crusade, and even challenges the Pope himself. And in young, brilliant, mercurial Henry d’Anjou, she finds her soul mate—the one man who is audacious enough to claim her for his own and make her Queen of England.


I have always found Eleanor of Aquitaine to be one of the most interesting and incredible women in English history and due to this, was really looking forward to reading this book about her. In general, I wasn't disappointed in terms of the story and description used to portray the characters, particularly that of Louis VII, Eleanor and Henry.

I think the portrayal of Eleanor as a strong, determined and intelligent, a wondrous beauty amongst her contemporaries, for me is what made this book successful. I really enjoyed reading the fictional account of how O'Brien presents her marriages and rumoured love interests. I think the book presents the hardships of women of the day perfectly and really enjoyed the humour included too.

I fell for Henry and his character immediately. I love O'Brien's representation of him and the ways in which it links to the historical figure I have read about in the past.  I think that the love story between Eleanor and Henry was believable based on what is known of each person and their marriage, something I tend to look for in historical fiction.

The only criticism I can really find for this book is the fact that in areas, the book seemed to lack the enthusiasm that other areas were rich with. However, this doesn't make the book unenjoyable.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine and her earlier life and first marriage.

Overall verdict - an enjoyable read.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Noughts and Crosses
by Malorie Blackman
Rating:  5/5


Pages: 479
Publisher: Corgi Books
Publication Date: 2006
ISBN: 978-0-552-55570-8

Summary (via Goodreads)

Callum is a nought - a second-class citizen; Sephy is a Cross. In their world, Noughts and Crosses don't mix. Can Callum and Sephy find a way to be together? In what has already become a modern classic, award-winning author Malorie Blackman tackles the issues of prejudice and racism in a way that will thoroughly engage and inspire students.


I originally read this book in school and have always loved reading it since. Blackman takes the well know Romeo and Juliet story to a new level by instead of two warring families, the reader is presented with racial differences on a high level. The story begins with two friends Callum and Sephy who can't understand why their parents hate them being together, it's not until they get older that they begin to realise the of them is black and the other is white, a cross and a nought! Turning the tables on traditional history, Blackman changes the power struggle so that in this case, the white people and the ones living in poverty and crime.

Throughout the book, Sephy and Callum have to come to terms that their friendship will never be allowed or understood by others, both based on their backgrounds and skin colour. I think this book really shows how ridiculous it is to just based on this criteria and how devastating life can be due to this. Throughout reading, I found myself cheering in vain for Callum and Sephy and was heartbroken by the ending.

Although this book is aimed at young readers I personally really enjoy it and recommend it for all ages over 14. I think the book is interesting not only in the storyline but the background politics it brings to the readers consciousness.

A MUST MUST READ!!! Fantastic story that will have you laughing, fearful and crying as the beloved main characters travel through their lives.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Peony in Love
by Lisa See
Rating:  4/5

Pages: 399
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: (above edition) 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7475-9273-0

Summary (via Goodreads)

"I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret."For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.Peony's mother is against her daughter's attending the production: "Unmarried girls should not be seen in public." But Peony's father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave-and is immediately overcome with emotion.So begins Peony's unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow-as Lisa See's haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed

Review - Possible Spoilers

I have to admit, at first I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this book. The first few pages intrigued me but didn't draw me in the way other Lisa See books have in the past. However, I'm really glad I continued reading as by about page 6 or so I was hooked. Set against the backdrop of old China, the book follows Peony, a beautiful, young, rich girl who falls in love...really in love.

Despite tragedy striking Peony continues to develop throughout the book until she fully understands the true meaning of love. I thought this book was a beautiful account of first and last loves, loss and coming-of-age as only Lisa See could create.

The book also refers to a very interesting period of Chinese history where girls literally were dying over love. I personally enjoyed this element as it was something I had never previously heard of and thought it showed how fiction in any form can influence people.

I recommend this book to any YA reader who has an interest in romance or fantasy for its charming portrayal of both.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Dreams of Joy
by Lisa See
Rating:  4/5


Pages: 354
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: (above edition) 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4088-2260-9

Summary (via Goodreads)
In her most powerful novel yet, acclaimed author Lisa See returns to the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy. Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the Communist regime. Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

Review - Possible Spoilers

Sequel to Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy follows on to the next generation - life after the chaos of World War Two. For the Chinese life was difficult at this time, especially for those living in America.

This time, the journey takes the reader back to China, but a China changed. told through two different points of view, one from old China, the other exited by the new emergence of Mao China, the reader is able to learn about the politics that led to China becoming what we now know today. As past collides with present the main character Joy is thrown onto a path she can't escape from as she wanders alone through the vast planes of China looking for the answers she seeks about her mother and aunt.

If you read Shanghai Girls, you need to read Dreams of Joy! The book shows how the grass isn't always greener on the other side and how sometimes what we know isn't as bad as we think.

Shanghai Girls
by Lisa See
Rating:  4/5

Pages: 314
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: (above edition) 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4088-0112-3

Summary (via Goodreads)

 In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai girls.


Shanghai Girls tells the story of the Second World War from a completely different angle. for those of us that are Westerners, we don't often hear about the difficulties faced in the East at this time, and how those living in China had to flee their homes in order to survive.

The story follows two sisters as they embark of the incredible journey from China to America when the world was upheaved with war and chaos. From the midst of terror filled China they finally make it across to America, only to find the doorway to safety blocked.

The book shows how by being determined we can achieve what is believed to be impossible and I think this books is well worth the time to read it.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
by Lisa See
Rating:  5/5

Pages: 333
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: 2005
ISBN: 978-1-4088-2162-6

Summary (via Goodreads)

In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart


I expected to enjoy this book but I wasn't expecting how much I would love reading it. Set before foot-binding became illegal and arranged marriages were still a matter for the parents to arrange, the book tells the heart-wrenching, tragic story of Lily and Snow Flower, two young Chinese women. Using a simple fan as their paper, the two girls communicate to one another despite their differences throughout their lives. Lisa See proves how even when women were believed to have no voice they would still make their experiences known, so that even now centuries later, we can still feel their words.

The book describes pretty much every relationship a woman can have throughout her life and how each role will be different whether it be the role of daughter, sister, friend, wife or mother.

What I enjoyed most about this book was that I really didn't know what to expect. See kept me guessing right to the end, and I was shocked frequently at the various storylines that took place. I found her description of foot binding to be so accurate that I struggled to read it, something that rarely ever happens.

Definitely deserving of the film version made of it I could read this book again and again.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Scarlet Lion
by Elizabeth Chadwick
Rating:  5/5

Pages: 579
Publisher: Sphere publishing
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7515-3659-1

Summary (via Goodreads)

Following early beginnings as a knight in the English royal household and a champion of the tourneys, William Marshal's prowess and loyalty have been rewarded by the hand in marriage of Isabelle de Clare, heiress to great estates in England, Normandy and Ireland. Now a powerful magnate, William has weathered the difficult years of King Richard's absence on crusade and is currently serving him on campaign in Normandy while Isabelle governs their estates. All the stability William and Isabelle have enjoyed with their young and growing family comes crashing down as Richard dies and his brother John becomes King. Rebellion is stirring throughout the Angevin domains and although John has created William Earl of Pembroke, the friction between the two men leads William and Isabelle to distance themselves in Ireland. The situation escalates, with John holding their sons as hostages and seizing their English lands. The conflict between remaining loyal and rebelling over injustices committed, threatens to tear apart William and Isabelle's marriage and their family.


After reading The Greatest Knight I was really looking forward to reading this and I wasn't disappointed. The Scarlet Lion follows the next chapter in William Marshall's very interesting and adventurous life.

Elizabeth Chadwick is very talented in making history more colourful and alive in comparison to the boring lessons at school. I found myself reading up about the lives of Marshall and his wife and wanting to know how much of the book was true and what had been changed. The way in which the book is written means that this book is easily readable for a variety of ages, not only adults.

I'm currently working my way through all of Chadwick's books and have so far found this series to be one of my favourites because of the inventive way she has portrayed the facts with a bit of artistic flare to show how Marshall, despite being a man less known now, was in fact one of the most powerful men in the country in a time when some of the most famous of England's nobility lived. Any lover of Philippa Gregory or Anne O'Brien needs to read this book!

The Greatest Knight
by Elizabeth Chadwick
Rating:  5/5


Pages: 552
Publisher: Sphere publishing
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7515-3660-7

Summary (via Goodreads)

A medieval historical novel about William Marshal, probably the greatest knight of the Middle Ages. This is the story of how he rose through the dangerous world of Angevin politics to become one of the most powerful magnates of the realm and eventually regent of England


Based on the life of William Marshal The Greatest Knight follows his life from a humble, ignored forth son of a low knight to one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.  

I found this book to be exciting, thrilling and sexy in its portrayals of Court life in the time when Richard the Lionheart was only a boy himself. As you read through the battles, marriages and betrayals you get a clear indicator of who Marshal was and how his influence shaped England a the time.

For me what stands out the most about this book is the portrayal of Normandy-ruled England and the way that Chadwick portrays this so perfectly right down to the buckles worn on the belts.

Eleanor of Aquitaine is a background character in this book but despite this, Chadwick gives her justice, portraying her in a way that shows her to be strong and intelligent in an era where women were meant to be part of the backdrop.

I recommend this book to any lover of history and romance as you will find both in this amazing book.

by Robin McKingly
Rating:  5/5


Pages: 271
Publisher: Corgi Books
Publication Date: Corgi edition published 2004
ISBN: 0-552-54863-4

Summary (via Goodreads)

A strange imprisonment...Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast


Beauty and the Beast is a story we all know and Robin McKinley has only given the age-old fairy
tale justice in her book Beauty. Beauty tells the story completely from the main character, Beauty's, point of view from how she came to be near the Beast and his castle, to how she met him and fell in love with him. Although the book is aimed for Young Adults, I still find full enjoyment out of it and have probably read it hundreds of times now.

It's charming, sweet and best of all, is based on my favourite fairy tale. The lead female character is strong and smart, a perfect role model for young women. the love story, like in the Disney version, isn't over the top and shows how the best of loves comes from friendship.

Anyone who loves fairy tales will love this book for its simple retelling of a already well established classic.