A Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor (Review)

A Midwinter Promise by Lulu Taylor

Blurb

The past

A lonely and imaginative child, Julia loves her family’s beautiful and wild Cornish home with all her heart. But, marked by dark troubles, she enters her adult years determined to leave and seek a new beginning in London. It’s there she meets the handsome David. They fall in love, but when Julia becomes pregnant, even he can’t stop the terrible echoes of the past from ringing in her ears. The only sound to be heard above the noise is the old Cornish house, calling her home . . .

The present

For Julia’s adult children, Alex and Johnnie, the house hides the history of their family within its walls. For Alex, it is full of memories of her late mother. For Johnnie, it is the house that should have been rightfully theirs after Julia died but has been stolen from them instead. With their father now lying in a hospital bed, time is running out for Alex and Johnnie to uncover the secrets of what happened to their mother all those years ago. Can they discover the truth before the house closes its doors to them forever?

Review

I have read some of Taylor’s books before and I have really enjoyed them so I was excited to get reading this. 

There are two storylines within this book, the past and present, and I will admit I struggled at times when reading the past. The past follows the life of Julia and rather cleverly her life  is running parallel with Princess Diana’s who also features in the book because Julia’s husband David works in the palace for Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

I will be honest this book made me angry because Julia really needed help. She was let down by doctors and those closest to her and that made me really angry and upset but I realise that is what Taylor was aiming for and Taylor had obviously done a significant amount of research into Julia’s condition which the reader only really finds out about at the end of the book.

Alex and Johnnie, Julia’s children are now grown and have children of their own and problems of their own. Johnnie got on my nerves slightly because I found him rather selfish and unfair to his wife. Alex was my favourite character, she was full of feeling and worked hard with her business and was just a lovely character to follow.

Mundo was my least favourite, he was definitely wrong and rather unbelievable to be honest. Sally was a character who my opinion changed on, on more than one occasion but I won’t say more. 

I was a little disappointed about the detail in the book as I would have liked a bit more description regarding Tawray the house as usually Taylor is bang on with her descriptions. Overall, I enjoyed the book but I did struggle with it at times and it left me feeling rather sad. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Lulu was brought up in the Oxfordshire countryside, attended a girls’ school and then went to Oxford University, where she read English Literature. After university, she worked in publishing for several years, before becoming a novelist.

Sonnets by William Shakespeare (Review)

Sonnets by William Shakespeare 

Blurb

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . .’ Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets contain some of the most exquisite and haunting poetry ever written, dealing with eternal themes such as love and infidelity, memory and mortality, and the destruction wreaked by time. This new edition collects them in a pocket-sized volume, perfect for gifting. William Shakespeare was born some time in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died in 1616. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

Review

I’ve read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in the past as our Drama teacher used to make us memorise them and then recite them on stage but that was a long time ago. So being as I am trying to read all of Shakespeare’s works I decided to read his sonnets next.

This little book has been perfect to dip into when I have a few minutes free and I will be honest I have been reading it when waiting for my next student to appear on Zoom. 

I really enjoyed reading this little book and although the sonnets are mainly love sonnets there are also sonnets on the seasons and other things. Some are a bit similar in my opinion but they are still enjoyable to read and really show the talent of Shakespeare.

A highly recommended little edition that literally just gives you the sonnets and is perfect to just dip in and out of when the mood takes you. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I will leave you with one of my favourites.

116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when alteration finds, 

Or bands with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor to man ever loved.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor. He is widely known as the greatest writer in the English language and is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.

Ickabog by J. K. Rowling (Review)

Ickabog by J. K. Rowling

Blurb

Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.

But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands… the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries off wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it’s just a myth…

And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom, two children — best friends Bert and Daisy — embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.

Review

I was so excited to get this book in my post box as I have had it preordered for ages. I love the idea of this book. The fact it has illustrations done by children from all over the world is lovely and I was so happy to see that this story is one that Rowling told her daughters when they were young and then her daughters helped her write it up, together as a family.

This is a typical fairytale and thankfully it wasn’t like a Disney fairytale. A Disney fairytale is all polish and shine but a true fairytale has gore and murder and this fairytale had all of that. I was so pleased Rowling trusted children to be brave enough to read such a fairytale, not quite a Grimm fairytale but definitely not a Disney.

King Fred the Fearless made me laugh a great deal but I also felt very sorry for him as he was played by those close to him. Also King Fred’s fashion sense was rather amusing. Bert and Daisy are lovely children especially Daisy who was a particular favourite of mine. She is an intelligent child who doesn’t let prejudices get in her way. She judges people for herself and gives everyone a chance.

The one issue I had with this book and it isn’t a bad one but I did find myself craving yummy food especially pastries when reading this book. This was most likely due to the wonderful food described in the book. 

This is a wonderful story and very amusing in places. A really good story that is a good read for both children and adults plus the illustrations are brilliant and really add to the story. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

Joanne Rowling born 31 July 1965, is a British writer and philanthropist. She is best known for writing the Harry Potter series. Rowling also writes crime fiction under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry (Review)

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry

Blurb

Rediscover the thrills, grandeur, and unabashed fun of the Greek myths—stylishly retold by Stephen Fry. This legendary writer, actor, and comedian breathes new life into beloved tales. From Persephone’s pomegranate seeds to Prometheus’s fire, from devious divine schemes to immortal love affairs, Fry draws out the humour and pathos in each story and reveals its relevance for our own time. Illustrated throughout with classical art inspired by the myths, this gorgeous volume invites you to explore a captivating world, with a brilliant storyteller as your guide.

Review

My first encounter with Stephen Fry would have been watching Blackadder episodes with my big sister when I was little and since then he has always been a great favourite. I can’t believe I have put off reading Mythos for so long but I know that I won’t be putting off reading Heroes. 

Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths is brilliantly done and a great read that had me laughing my head off at regular intervals. Fry’s humour comes through this book with subtly and also when the myth calls for it straight in your face brilliance. 

Mythos begins right at the beginning of what the Greeks believed was the beginning of everything and progresses from there onwards. Each main section is divided into subsections that make the reading easier and more accessible.

Fry’s retelling of these familiar myths gives them a fresh and new feeling and makes them highly informative but also fun. I loved Fry’s commentary throughout and his very useful little extra bits of information in the footnotes. Fry’s talent as a writer shines through with this book but also his excellent knowledge into Ancient Greek Mythology. 

My particular favourite characters are Zeus and Hera, how Fry portrays them is hilarious and you can’t help but laugh at some of their marital stories. My favourite retelling of all though has got to be Hermes stealing Apollo’s cattle and then Apollo being utterly dumbfounded by meeting his new half brother Hermes.

This is an amazing read that makes the Greek myths accessible to everyone. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons and highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good laugh. 

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About the Author

Stephen Fry (1957) is an English comedian, writer, actor, humourist, novelist, poet, columnist, filmmaker, television personality and technophile. As one half of the Fry and Laurie double act with his comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, he has appeared in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. He is also famous for his roles in Blackadder and Wilde, and as the host of QI. In addition to writing for stage, screen, television and radio he has contributed columns and articles for numerous newspapers and magazines, and has also written four successful novels and a series of memoirs.

Rossetti: Poems by Christina Rossetti (Review)

Rossetti: Poems by Christina Rossetti

Blurb

Poems: Rossetti contains a full selection of Rossetti’s work, including her lyric poems, dramatic and narrative poems, rhymes and riddles, sonnet sequences, prayers and meditations, and an index of first lines.

Review

I have been dipping into this book since the New Year and I must admit it has been lovely to sit and read a poem or two whilst drinking a mug of tea or in fact muting the adverts and reading a poem. When I first started really reading poetry a couple of years ago I soon realised that one of my favourites was Christina Rossetti and so when I found this little book I was delighted and it has lived on my coffee table ever since.

Rossetti penned my all time favourite Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter. I love it as a poem but my favourite thing is to sing it to the tune written by Holst. Christmas is not Christmas without this carol for me and thankfully I found this poem in this little book.

I really enjoyed the riddles in this book as well and thankfully I am pleased to say I managed to work most of them out. In fact that was what I loved about this book, the fact it was full of variety and contained examples of Rossetti’s poems, sonnets, riddles, prayers and more. 

This little pocket sized book really gives a broad spectrum of Rossetti’s work and is a joy to read and just dip into when the mood suits you. Some of my favourites were Goblin Market, In the Bleak Midwinter, Advent, A Wintry Sonnet and Strange Planets. I give this little book of poems 5 out 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English poet who wrote romantic, devotional and children’s poems. She was also the sister of artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (Review)

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde

Blurb

Wilde’s supremely witty tale of dandies, anarchists and a murderous prophecy in London high society.

Review

I picked this up the other day as I fancied a quick read that I knew would put a smile on my face. Oscar Wilde always makes me laugh and I just love his subtle humour.

The story begins at a party and involves a palm reader who sets a series of events into motion. Lord Arthur I will admit is rather a silly character who totally believes in the power of fate and will do anything to make sure it goes to plan. Wilde is most definitely having a little fun subtly mocking the English aristocracy with the characters of the party and Lord Arthur.

The thing I love most about this is just how ridiculous this story is. Lord Arthur does some very suspicious things like purchasing poison and meeting with bomb makers but nobody bats an eye lid.

I really enjoyed this short story and read it with a nice mug of tea as it is only 50 pages long. An amusing version of a murder mystery that I give 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He was a playwright, poet, novelist and short story writer.

Circe by Madeline Miller (Review)

Circe by Madeline Miller

Blurb

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Review

After reading The Song of Achilles I was really excited to read this book by Miller but I must admit I was slightly disappointed because it just didn’t seem to have the same polish to it like The Song of Achilles. 

Circe is an interesting character from the myths of ancient Greece and Miller has taken an interesting view of Circe’s story. Circe is the daughter of a Titan and the Oceanid nymph Perse, but Circe and her three siblings are not the normal offspring of a Titan and a nymph, they have abilities that Zeus fears greatly. Circe sadly is ignored by her family because she does not look or sound like a being that possesses divinity so she turns to mortals for friendship.

I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Circe in this book as she never seems to get a break and when things do start to go well something always happens for that to change. However, I do think Miller has used her literary license here to make Circe’s story rather depressing at times. As someone who is studying Classics I will be honest I was bit annoyed how Miller treated certain things like Glaucus but I will forgive her. I did like how Miller included the Golden Fleece and the Minotaur in the story and was pleased to see them included.

Circe only really acts like she does because she lacked guidance from her elders and had to make her own way in the world. As her life went on she makes decisions based on the way she has been treated and some of those are good and some are bad and some she regrets dearly. Everything she does helps her decide where she belongs in the world. 

Circe is quite often depicted as a loose woman who preys on men but Miller hasn’t gone down that route thankfully and been kinder to Circe. However, I am not too keen on some of the aspects Miller has chosen to either avoid or rewrite about Circe and that for me was a real shame. I did really enjoy the book though and give it 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you)

About the author

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

The Sea of the Dead by Amy Kuivalainen (Review)

The Sea of the Dead by Amy Kuivalainen (The Magicians of Venice book 2)

Blurb

The battle for Venice might be over, but the war is just beginning… Penelope’s and Alexis’s adventure continues in the second instalment of The Magicians of Venice series.

Penelope has accepted her role as the new Archivist for the magicians, but with war brewing with the priests of Thevetat and the tide of magic on the rise, she’s going to have to learn her way around her new and dangerous world if she has any hope of outsmarting their enemies.

When Penelope’s friend and fellow archaeologist, Tim, uncovers a scroll containing a magical secret lost in the Dead Sea for two thousand years, Penelope and Alexis must travel to Israel to find him before Abaddon and Kreios get there first.

To defeat Thevetat and his followers, they’ll need to find a weapon capable of ending him for good, and as her old life collides with her new, Penelope will pay the ultimate price to keep the secrets of the magicians safe.

Review

I have been waiting for this book to arrive for so long! I read the first book in the series last year as a NetGalley read and loved it so much I promptly ordered the book. Thankfully I was not disappointed with the second instalment.

Penelope is an academic who has always been obsessed with finding Atlantis and has finally found her answers and her dream man. Penelope is a wonderful character who treasures knowledge above all else so her new role as the archivist for the magicians is perfect for her.

I love the characters of the magicians. The relationship between them all is brilliant and very funny. They are just like siblings always joking around with each other and getting on each others’ nerves. My personal favourite is Zo, he is funny and just an amazingly nice guy.

Carolyn and Tim’s characters were rather annoying but I can see they were meant to be as we were viewing them from Penelope’s point of view. However, Tim was rather a nasty character in my opinion.

Kuivalainen is an excellent writer and she definitely does her research to seamlessly link up real life history and legends with her magical world. I give this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons. I just hope the wait for the third instalment is not too long.

 

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The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen Review

About the author

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Amy Kuivalainen is a Finnish-Australian writer that is obsessed with magical wardrobes, doors, auroras and burial mounds that might offer her a way into another realm. Until then, she will write about fairy tales, monsters, magic and mythology because that’s the next best thing. She is the author of The Firebird Fairytales Trilogy and The Blood Lake Chronicles series that mash up traditional tales and mythology in new and interesting ways.

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Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Review)

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Blurb

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Review

I was so excited to get this book and I have had it preordered since I don’t know when so it went straight to the top of the TBR pile or should I say piles.

I loved the detail in this book and the descriptions of this amazing building in the first chapter had me hooked to the story. I felt like I was walking through these amazing halls looking at all these incredible statues whilst listening to the waves hitting the walls. Although, I did keep wishing that the building had a rather nice library to go with all these wonderful statues.

Piranesi is an interesting character and instantly likeable. Piranesi lives and breathes all things to do with the house. He knows all the statues like friends and can navigate the vast labyrinth of rooms all using the map in his head. He also knows all the tides so he knows when it is safe and when it is not. Piranesi loves the house and believes that all will be well because the house will provide.

The Other who is the other person in the house is not so likeable in my opinion and instantly put me on edge. He is also clearly using poor Piranesi but Piranesi is too good natured to notice.

I will be honest as I was reading this book I had such high hopes for it and I had several ideas in my head about how the book might end but I will be honest I was rather disappointed. This book had such potential to be an amazing story and it just felt rushed and like Clarke had come up with the easiest option to finish the book quickly. I felt robbed in some way.

I have really thought long and hard about this book because I really loved parts of it and the storyline but the conclusion was just not my cup of tea and that has upset me because I really wanted to love the whole book. I have given this book 3 out of 5 Dragons and those 3 Dragons are for the incredible detail, the concept of the house and how adorable Piranesi was. Not what I expected after how amazing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was but still a good read that I recommend to fantasy lovers.

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About the Author

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Susanna Clarke (1959) is an English author who has published novels and short stories. Her debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and her set of short stories The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories are all set in a magical England.

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Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir (Review)

Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

Blurb

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

Review

I will be honest I was not looking forward to this book as I have always felt really sorry for Anna of Kleve and thought this story would be hard to read. Poor Anna arranged to marry a much older man who is obese, and who hasn’t looked after himself and really does not have the best reputation with his past wives. She must have been terrified when she first met the King.

Anna has led a sheltered life controlled by her mother. She has not been allowed to learn music and her education has been limited because she has only been allowed to learn what is needed for a woman whose duty is to marry and be a good wife. This was always going to be a problem for Henry who liked his women to know music and be educated and then poor Anna could never live up to the portrait that had been painted of her. Henry had fallen in love with the portrait and was disappointed by Anna in real life.

Weir had embellished the story of Anna slightly which I can understand why because of what Henry had supposedly said but I am not sure I was fully onboard with it. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil it for you. Weir had made Anna a beautiful character, although she was horrified by Henry to start with she endeavoured to be the best wife she could be and when sadly the marriage was dissolved she endeavoured to be the best friend she could be to Henry and his children.

I loved Anna’s character, she was full of love and kindness and always wanted to do the best she could for everyone although she did have a bit of a wine problem and I will be honest I had a good giggle whenever she was drinking wine in the book. It would be a good drinking game to be honest, every time you read that Anna has a glass of wine you take a sip of your drink. Although Anna is left a good settlement I can’t help but wonder if she was been swindled out of her money.

This book is a beautiful story but it did pull at the heart strings and I did avoid reading it sometimes when I knew what was coming up. Another triumph by Weir but I have only given the book 4 out of 5 Dragons because I did not entirely agree with the one storyline.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you)

About the author

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Alison Weir was born in 1951 and is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British Royalty.

 

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