Lilibet: The Girl Who Would Be Queen by A. N. Wilson (Review)

Lilibet: The Girl Who Would be Queen by A. N. Wilson

Blurb

Looking back through her long life on the eve of her Platinum Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II reflects on the pivotal moments that made her the monarch – and the woman – that she is today, in Wilson’s lovingly crafted work.

Review

I bought this book to read over the Queen’s Jubilee but I am rather behind on my book reviews so that is why I am reviewing it now. 

This short little book focuses on the moments in the Queen’s life that helped her to be the monarch she is. I found this book really cleverly written because it reads as the Queen dreaming in her bed surrounded by her beloved dogs. Her dreams are memories from her life. Right from when she was a child on holiday with Grandpa England to present day. It includes her love of horses and dogs and her family and not just moments from her reign. 

I really enjoyed this book as it is full of love and reflection. It is at times funny, tender and sometimes even tragic. It is beautifully written and written in such a way that it is suitable for children and adults to read. It also contains some wonderful illustrations. There is a lot packed in to such a small book and one that I give 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

Andrew Norman Wilson is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views. He is an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail and former columnist for the London Evening Standard, and has been an occasional contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Observer.

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June 2022 Wrap Up

Hello!

June has not gone well reading wise. I am bogged down with Dombey and Son but I am making slow progress with it and really enjoying it still which is the main thing.

Statistics

Books

Pages: 64

Format Read: Hardback

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Review

Pages: 112

Format Read: Hardback

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Review to follow

Pages: 536

Format Read: Paperback

Dragon Rating: 🐲🐲🐲🐲🐲

Review

Pages: 310

Format Read: Paperback

Dragon Rating: 🐲🐲🐲🐲🐲

Review to follow

Goodreads Challenge: 26/60

Happy Reading

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SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Professor Mary Beard (Review)

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Professor Mary Beard

Blurb

By 63 BCE the city of Rome was a sprawling, imperial metropolis of more than a million inhabitants. But how did this massive city—the seat of power for an empire that spanned from Spain to Syria—emerge from what was once an insignificant village in central Italy? 

In S.P.Q.R., Beard changes our historical perspective, exploring how the Romans themselves challenged the idea of imperial rule, how they responded to terrorism and revolution, and how they invented a new idea of citizenship and nation, while also keeping her eye open for those overlooked in traditional histories: women, slaves and ex-slaves, conspirators, and losers. 

Like the best detectives, Beard separates fact from fiction, myth and propaganda from historical record. She introduces the familiar characters of Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Nero as well as the untold, the loud women, the shrewd bakers, and the brave 

jokers. 

S.P.Q.R. promises to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come. 

100 illustrations; 16 pages of colour; 5 maps

Review

I will be honest I did not read this very quickly but I still absolutely loved it. I love how Beard explains things and could easily read her books all the time. I don’t find her writing too in depth or complicated to read but find it informative, interesting and rather funny at times. 

Beard’s focus in this book is how Rome grew not how Rome fell. The book begins at around 63BCE with Cicero uncovering the plot of Catiline. By uncovering this plot by Catiline, Cicero basically saves the state. Although Beard is explaining about the beginnings of Rome she starts in 63BCE because there are more historical records that exist from that period. The Romans very kindly left us a lot of written material.

I found this book a refreshing take on the Roman history because it focuses on Rome’s advancement, how it grew and developed rather than its decline which a lot of books focus on. Beard talks about consuls, senators, generals, emperors and even the middle classes, the poor and slaves. Having studied Classics I know that there is very little written about the lower classes in Rome or in fact women because the people who were writing in Ancient Rome were mainly rich men and that is what they focused on in their writing, they didn’t really bother with the lower classes or women. The fact that Beard has bothered to include the lower classes and women in her book is brilliant and very enjoyable to read about. 

The maps and illustrations both colour and black and white work brilliantly within the book and I found them very helpful with the text. I found the maps particularly useful and the colour illustrations very beautiful. 

I know that some people take issue with this book and I know it is nowhere near a definitive history of Ancient Rome but I found it a highly enjoyable read and not a stale read like some books I have read on Ancient Rome or Greece. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

Mary Beard is a Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Newman College and Classics editor of the TLS. She has world-wide academic acclaim, and is a fellow of the British Academy and a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

There Once is a Queen by Michael Morpurgo (Review)

There Once is a Queen by Michael Morpurgo

Blurb

“There once is a Queen ever constant to her people…”

From the Nation’s Favourite Storyteller Sir Michael Morpurgo comes a poetic celebration of our Queen and longest reigning monarch, beautifully illustrated in watercolour by acclaimed artist Michael Foreman.

There once was a little girl, a princess, who became a queen, our Queen Elizabeth. Now, seventy years later, her reign as the longest serving female monarch in history has seen her stand steadfast through triumph and tribulation, and through the monumental changes that have shaped our world, as this remarkable queen has remained devoted to crown, to country… and a corgi or two!

Beginning with the queen as a little girl, planting an oak tree with her father, There Once is a Queen follows her incredible story in a way that will bring this historic reign vividly to life for readers around the world, big and small. An exquisite gift book and commemoration of the Platinum Jubilee, it marks a unique moment in our shared history and will be a treasured keepsake for generations to come. 

Review

I really enjoyed how straight away Morpurgo links his story book to The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser which was an epic poem written for Queen Elizabeth I. Thankfully, Morpurgo’s book is not as long as Spenser’s poem.

This little book is the life of the Queen starting with her as a little girl planting an oak tree, then a princess and then as a queen. But whenever the queen wanted some peace and quiet she always returns to that oak tree she planted with her father. I loved the link of the oak tree because an oak tree can live to a vast age and is a symbol of endurance and that is what our queen is also a symbol of. 

The book is set almost as a fairytale but still puts across how hardworking, kind and beautiful our Queen is. The beautiful illustrations by Michael Foreman also really add to this beautiful little book. 

The main thing this book does though in my opinion is show children that the Queen once was a little girl, she once was a child who had the same dreams and thoughts as a child. It shows the Queen as a human rather than a mythical lady who lives in palaces. 

Morpurgo puts the life of the Queen in language that is perfect for children and adults alike and keeps it short and snappy enough for children not to lose concentration or interest in the book. The book makes a beautiful gift edition and keepsake for adults and children who want to remember the Jubilee. Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

Michael Morpurgo has written over 130 books, many of them award winning. His best known work is War Horse which has also been turned into a stage play and a film. In 2003 he was made Children’s Laureate. He set up a charity with his wife called Farms for City Children and in 1999 he was awarded an MBE for his charitable work. In 2017 he was awarded a Knighthood for his charitable work and literature.

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May 2022 Wrap Up

Hello!

May has been a good month for me reading wise as I managed another 6 books. I was hoping to manage more but some of the books were rather large.

Statistics

Books

Pages: 128

Format Read: Paperback

Dragon Rating: 🐲🐲🐲🐲

Review

Pages: 144

Format Read: Paperback

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Review

Pages: 688

Format Read: Paperback

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Review

Pages: 307

Format Read: Paperback

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Review

Pages: 96

Format Read: Hardback

Dragon Rating: 🐲🐲🐲🐲🐲

Review

Pages: 512

Format Read: Kindle

Dragon Rating: 🐲🐲🐲🐲

Review

Goodreads Challenge: 23/60

Happy Reading

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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (Review)

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Blurb

This is a seductive and evocative epic on an intimate scale, which tells the extraordinary story of a geisha girl. Summoning up more than twenty years of Japan’s most dramatic history, it uncovers a hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. From a small fishing village in 1929, the tale moves to the glamorous and decadent heart of Kyoto in the 1930s, where a young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York; it exquisitely evokes another culture, a different time and the details of an extraordinary way of life. It conjures up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha – dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the most powerful men.

Review

This book has been sat on my TBR list since 2019 and due to an unexpected hour long break at work where I found myself without a book I fired up the Kindle app on my phone and began reading this book and then found I couldn’t put it down. 

This book begins in a small fishing village in a shack where there live two sisters and their parents. The father is a poor fisherman and when the mother falls sick a local successful businessman suggests sending the two daughters to the city for a new life which the father eventually agrees to. The story then moves to a geisha house in Kyoto where the youngest of the two sisters starts her new life. 

The story is told from the first person perspective of the younger sister who is called Chiyo. Chiyo begins her life in the Okiya as a servant where she must win the approval of those who now own her who she knows as Mother and Granny. If Mother and Granny approve of her she will be trained as a Geisha. However, there is someone who stands in her way and that is the Geisha who currently lives in the Okiya called Hatsumomo. Hatsumomo is an evil woman who has taken a dislike to Chiyo and through the story Hatsumomo works her hardest to stop Chiyo from advancing in anything. 

As the story goes on we learn how Chiyo becomes a Geisha and gets her Geisha name of Sayuri and what her life entails. We also learn how and who helps her to get to her life as a Geisha. Sayuri is telling us her story from her home in New York many years later. She shows us how the life of a Geisha isn’t all luxury but it is hard work and dominated by the world of men. A Geisha spends her whole existence trying to beguile and please men. 

This book is so full on and really informative and that is one of the main reasons I could not put it down. It is also beautifully written and a joy to read. The main reason that I did not give the book a full 5 Dragons was because I didn’t really like the ending. I just didn’t like what Sayuri was willing to do to get her own way and it involved hurting the one man who always tried his hardest to keep her safe and be kind to her. It is for that reason I give the book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

Arthur Golden was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was educated at Harvard College, where he received a degree in art history, specialising in Japanese art. In 1980 he earned an M.A. in Japanese history from Columbia University, where he also learned Mandarin Chinese. Following a summer in Beijing University, he worked in Tokyo, and, after returning to the United States, earned an M.A. in English from Boston University. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children. 

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The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett (Review)

The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett

Blurb

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they’re looking in the wrong place.

For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

Review

My husband read the second book from this series before realising that there was a first so we promptly bought the first one but I got to read it first. I now can’t wait to read the next one. 

I really enjoyed this book and just loved the idea of the Queen solving crimes and what a crime to solve. A guest has been found murdered in his bedroom with a rope around his neck. A murder in the Queen’s favourite residence and whilst she was in the building. I think my favourite person’s reaction to the crime is Prince Philip’s as it is such a contrast to his wife’s and very funny. 

As the story progresses it soon becomes apparent that the people investigating the murder are on completely the wrong track so the Queen decides she must solve the crime but without anybody knowing. This means she must enlist the help of her secretary Rozie. 

The Queen gets Rozie to gather the information she requires which means poor Rozie has to jump through quite a few hoops to make sure nobody knows what she is up to. Rozie also helps the Queen look after the staff who have fallen victim to the questioning. The Queen cares about her staff and wants to make sure that they are happy and safe so she enlists Rozie to make sure they know the Queen is thinking about them. 

I really enjoyed this book and loved how the Queen judges people by how her dogs react to them. The Queen has a sharp mind but a lot of the men around her believe she is a little old lady who needs to be protected from the harshness of the murder investigation but instead of putting them right she smiles and holds her tongue and bests them all without them knowing. My favourite character was definitely Prince Philip even though he wasn’t in the book much. Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. 

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

SJ Bennett was born in Yorkshire, England in 1966, and lives in London. An army child, she grew up travelling around the world. Her first novel was published when she was 42, after a varied career and lots of procrastination. She is the award-winning author of several books for children and teaches and podcasts about writing.

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Dogs in Medieval Manuscripts by Kathleen Walker-Meikle (Review)

Dogs in Medieval Manuscripts by Kathleen Walker-Meikle

Blurb

Throughout the Middle Ages, medieval manuscripts often featured dogs, from beautiful and loving depictions of man’s best friend, to bloodthirsty illustrations of savage beasts, to more whimsical and humorous interpretations. Featuring stunning illustrations from the British Library’s rich medieval collection, Dogs in Medieval Manuscripts provides—through discussion of dogs both real and imaginary—an astonishing picture of the relationship of dogs to humans in the medieval world. Now in a gift book format. 

Review

I am definitely a dog person and even though I currently live with a cat and have done for quite a few years cats are still a mystery to me and my love of dogs is still there. So when I saw this book in Topping and Company bookshop in Bath I knew I had to buy it. 

The things I love about this book is that it doesn’t bombard you with information like some history books do. Instead every two page spread has a beautiful example of a medieval manuscript and a fact on the opposite page with another smaller manuscript example. The pictures and the facts don’t always go together but that doesn’t matter because a description of what and where the manuscript comes from is always included on the page as well. 

The book contains a wide variety of facts about dogs in medieval manuscripts all the way from what names were considered best for dogs, to what medicines you could use to treat different illnesses dogs had including some very strange ones for dogs who were rabid. There was also a very interesting use of dogs for pulling up mandrake roots. 

I really enjoyed this book and will be getting Kathleen Walker-Meikle’s other books because I loved her writing style. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and will definitely be reading it again in the future even to just look at the beautiful images.  

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

Kathleen Walker-Meikle completed her PhD at University College, London on late-medieval pet keeping. She researches and writes on medieval and early modern animals and medicine.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon (Review)

The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon

Blurb

Sailors don’t talk much to other men, especially not to policemen. But after Captain Fallut’s body is found floating near his trawler, they all mention the Evil Eye when they speak of the Ocean’s voyage.

Review

This Maigret book was so good I could not put it down. I had no idea who the killer was or even the full extent of the crimes that had taken place but Maigret worked them all out. 

The start of the book had me giggling straight away. Maigret is about to go on holiday and Mrs Maigret is just finishing the packing and looking forward to spending her holiday with her family making jams and preserves. Maigret however has just received a letter which is asking for his help in solving a crime and obviously Maigret can’t resist so poor Mrs Maigret has to go along with the plan and go somewhere else for her holiday. She also knows that she will be spending her holiday mostly alone because Maigret will be busy investigating the crime. 

As soon as Maigret arrives he goes straight to where the sailors go to get drunk and sits there observing until he starts asking questions. Even though Maigret is not officially investigating the murder case he throws himself straight into the investigation and has no fear of mixing around the rough sailors. He also puts his wife to good use by getting her to look after a young woman who is connected to the case. 

The pieces of the puzzle that Maigret gathers looked completely random to me and one piece I hadn’t even noticed. However at the end Maigret explains everything and it all becomes clear. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would have loved it if had been a bit longer but sadly it  is typical Maigret length of approximately 150 pages. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels and many short stories. Simenon is best known as the creator of the Maigret stories.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom (Review)

Sovereign by C. J. Sansom

Blurb

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for the Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age…

Review

This is the first Shardlake book that I have struggled with slightly but I am glad I persevered with it as I really enjoyed the book, especially the ending. 

We find Shardlake trying to live a quiet life fighting legal cases with the help of his assistant Jack Barak. Cromwell is now dead so Shardlake has been living his life as a normal lawyer would without being sent off to do any missions for the Crown. However, that promptly changes when Shardlake is summoned before Archbishop Cranmer who then gives Shardlake a mission. 

Shardlake finds himself joining the King’s progress to the North where not only will he be assisting with the legal work of processing the petitions to the King, he will also be ensuring the welfare of an important prisoner who needs to be interrogated in London. This is the last thing that poor Shardlake wants. 

Most of the book is in York and I must admit after the discovery of the secret papers the book did drag on for me and I really did want it to move along a bit quicker because it was at times rather dull. However, once Shardlake left York and got onto the boat things moved along at a much quicker pace and the story picked back up again and then I couldn’t put the book down till I had finished it. 

I wish this book had shown more of Guy who is one of my favourite characters but sadly he was only mentioned in passing and didn’t feature at all. We did get some new characters though. Giles is the lawyer from York who helps Shardlake with the petitions. He is an old man but still upright and very sharp of mind. He also comes across as rather a cuddly character and a man who would help anyone in need. 

The character I really couldn’t stand was Tamasin and at times Shardlake felt the same way. I really didn’t like her ways and found her far too pushy and brazen. She also had rather a big chip on her shoulder. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and even when I had guessed who the suspect was I was still hooked. If the middle of the book had moved at a quicker pace I would have given this book a higher rating but sadly it was just too much of a drag for me. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Purchase Links

Book Depository | Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

(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

C. J. Sansom was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. He lives in Sussex.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you