Archive | September, 2010

Book Review – A Weekend With Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly

30 Sep

(From the author’s website) Katherine Roberts is fed up with men. As a lecturer specialising in the works of Jane Austen, she knows that the ideal man only exists within the pages of Pride & Prejudice and that in real life there is no such thing. Determined to go it alone, she finds all the comfort she needs reading her guilty pleasure – regency romances from the pen of Lorna Warwick – with whom she has now struck up an intimate correspondence.

Austen fanatic, Robyn Love, is blessed with a name full of romance, but her love life is far from perfect. Stuck in a rut with a bonehead boyfriend, Jace, and a job she can do with her eyes shut – her life has hit a dead end. Robyn would love to escape from it all but wouldn’t know where to start.

They both decide to attend the annual Jane Austen Conference at sumptuous Purley Hall, overseen by the actress and national treasure, Dame Pamela Harcourt. Robyn is hoping to escape from Jace for the weekend and indulge in her passion for all things Austen. Katherine is hoping that Lorna Warwick will be in attendance and is desperate to meet her new best friend in the flesh.

But nothing goes according to plan and Robyn is aghast when Jace insists on accompanying her, whilst Katherine is disappointed to learn that Lorna won’t be coming.

However, an Austen weekend wouldn’t be the same without a little intrigue, and Robyn and Katherine are about to get much more than they bargained for. Because where Jane Austen is concerned, romance is never very far away…

A beautiful country house … tick! A handsome man on horseback … tick! A regency ball… tick! A proposal … tick!

Two heroines – one headstrong and not afraid to speak her mind;  one shy and sweet.

And lots and lots of romance!

A Weekend With Mr Darcy certainly ticks all the boxes for fans of Jane Austen and the Regency period. But even if you aren’t a fan of either, this book is a lot of fun and a lovely read.

A Weekend with Mr Darcy tells the story of Katherine Roberts, Oxford Professor and Robyn Love, an administrator from North Yorkshire as they attend a Jane Austen weekend at Purley Hall in Hampshire. Both women are huge Jane Austen fans, loving everything Regency. Robyn is trying to escape her long term boyfriend, Jace (who is wonderfully written and absolutely useless) but gets much more of an escape than she bargained for when she meets handsome Dan. Katherine is hoping to meet her pen pal and favourite author, the reclusive Lorna Warwick. But Lorna has a well kept secret and Katherine is in for a big surprise!

I’ll admit that I love Jane Austen; perhaps not to the extent that the characters in the book do, but I’ve read the novels and watched the film and television adaptions of many of them. This book is packed full of references to the books, films, and television versions and it was fun spotting them and getting some new reading ideas. Despite having read the books, I didn’t know much about Austen herself and learned quite a lot about Jane’s life reading it. Having said that,  I don’t think you need to be an Austen fan to enjoy this book. This is a love story about two very different women trying to come to terms with failed relationships and I think you could read it and enjoy it without ever having read the books or even watched a TV or film adaption.

The majority of the book is set over the long weekend of the conference and I liked the variety that the Austen related events and setting of Purley Manor gave the book. Victoria Connelly has clearly done her research (and quite enjoyed it I think!). The book has a lovely autumny feel to it and I could really imagine the scenes that are described and the beautiful countryside. This is definitely a book to snuggle up with and has a nice gentle pace (although no lack of drama!).

There are some excellent supporting characters too. I particularly liked Dame Pamela Harcourt, the owner of Purley Hall and famous actress with her dramatic outfits and I loved Dorris Norris (brilliant name) with her naughty little quips. I thought both female leads were interesting characters and I really liked Robyn and found myself rooting for her to get her guy in the end.

At its heart this is a really sweet love story about not settling for second best and that first impressions aren’t always right. Jane Austen would be proud!

This is the first of a series of three Austen inspired novels by Victoria Connelly. The next will be released in July 2011 and called ‘Dreaming of Mr Darcy’ and I’m be looking forward to reading it.

4/5

You can find out more about Victoria Connelly and read an excerpt from A Weekend With Mr Darcy at: http://victoriaconnelly.com/

Book Review – Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin Cast

26 Sep

(From the UK House of Night website) It seems that (un)life is going pretty well for Zoey Redbird. She’s settled in at the House of Night finishing school and is coming to terms with the vast powers the vampyre goddess, Nyx, has given her. She even has a boyfriend … or two. Best of all, Zoey finally feels she has found somewhere she belongs. Then the unthinkable happens.

Human teenagers are being killed, and all the evidence points to the vampyres at Zoey’s school. While danger stalks the humans from Zoey’s past life, she begins to realise that the very powers that made her so unique might also threaten those she loves. Then, when she needs her new friends the most, death strikes the House of Night. Zoey finds herself facing a betrayal that could break her heart and jeopardise the very fabric of her world.

Spoiler alert! I try to keep spoilers to a minimum in my reviews but as this is the second book in the series, you might not want to read on if you haven’t read the first.

Betrayed picks up just after the end of  Marked with Zoey Redbird still in her first month as a pupil at the House of Night.  All is going well with Zoey getting to grips with life as a fledgling vampyre and her new powers and responsibilities until a human teenager (a footballer from Zoey’s old high school) goes missing and is later found dead very near to the House of Night. As a second teenager goes missing, Zoey’s intuition, coupled with some very strange and ghostly encounters tells her that there is more to this than a drunk teenager wandering off and being attacked by animals. She just has to work out what!

I was pleased that this book carried the story straight on from Marked and as I was reading them one after the other, they really flowed into each other. There were a number of ‘mysteries’ left at the end of Marked and in Betrayed, these are developed in more depth although we still don’t have the full answers at the end of the book – a very clever ploy by the authors as it definitely made me want to keep reading the series!

As you would expect, Zoey’s new friends are all back for Betrayed and we get to learn a bit more about the main supporting characters; Stevie-Rae, Damien and The Twins. There are also a couple of excellent new characters and Zoey’s love life is almost as much a focus of the book as her attempts to work out what is happening to the missing teenagers with three (yes three) guys vying for her attention!

As I’ve said previously, I really like the way that the story combines elements of the everyday and magical and mythical. I also like the way that these books address real issues like falling out with family members, love and relationships and dealing with loss and grief. Although the first book touched on the topic of loss and death, this book goes into more depth and I thought the topic was treated very sensitively.

The pace of the book was just as gripping as the first in the series and I’m looking forward to reading the third, Chosen, soon.

5/5

You can find out more about the House of Night series at: http://www.houseofnightseries.co.uk/

October book release preview – my wishlist

24 Sep

As regular readers will know, I imposed a book buying ban on myself for most of September and I have been very good but the result has been a very full wishlist for October.

I’ve whittled it down to six books that I really, really want that are released next month and here they are:

Angel by L.A. Weatherly
Released
1st October
Published by Usborne
Website
: http://www.usborne.com/angel/

I’ve been hearing so many good things about this book that I’m now dying to read it!

Willow knows she’s different from other girls. And not just because she loves tinkering around with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into people’s futures, know their dreams, their hopes and their regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where she gets this power from…

But Alex does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows Willow’s secret and is on a mission to stop her. The dark forces within Willow make her dangerous – and irresistible. In spite of himself, Alex finds he is falling in love with his sworn enemy.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Released 4th October
Published by Bloomsbury
Website:
http://www.jenniferdonnelly.com/

I thought ‘A Gathering Light’ by Jennifer was brilliant and her new book sounds just as good.

Andi lives in New York and is dealing with the emotional turmoil of her younger brother’s accidental death. Alex lives in Paris and is a maid to the royal family as the French Revolution rages. They’re both struggling with their responsibilities and their places in the world. When Andi is sent to Paris to get her out of the trouble she’s so easily enveloped by in New York, their two stories collide, and Andi finds a way to reconcile herself not only to her past but also to her future. This is a wonderful and evocative portrait of lives torn apart by grief and mended by love.

The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman
Released 14th October
Published by Simon and Schuster (Pocket Books)
Website:
http://www.christmascookieclub.com/thenovel.html

I absolutely love Christmas and each year I like to have a collection of Christmassy reads to take me through December and this book sounds like it will do the trick!

What would we do without one another? It was a statement, not a question. Each of us knew the answer for herself. Every year on the first Monday of December, Marnie and her twelve closest girlfriends gather with batches of beautifully wrapped homemade cookies. Everyone has to bring a dish and a bottle of wine and, as they eat, they take turns telling the story of the cookies they have baked. Stories that, somehow, are always emblematic of the year that has just passed. This year, the stories are especially important. Marnie’s oldest daughter has a risky pregnancy. Will she find out tonight how that story will end? Jeannie’s father is having an affair with her best friend. Who else knew about the betrayal? Rosie’s husband doesn’t want children, but can she live with his decision? Each woman, each friend has a story to tell. The Cookie Club is about the passion and hopefulness of a new romance, the betrayal and disillusionment some relationships bring, the joys and fears of motherhood, and above all, it’s a celebration of the friendships between women.

The Birthday Party by Veronica Henry
Released 21st October
Published by Orion
Website:
http://www.veronicahenry.co.uk/

Veronica Henry’s last book, The Beach Hut was one of my favourite books of the summer so I’m really looking forward to reading her new one.

Delilah Rafferty has lived out her tempestuous marriage to hell-raiser Raf in the full glare of the media spotlight. Now, from the luxurious comfort of her beautiful kitchen, Delilah is planning her birthday party, a night that will see a star-studded gathering of friends and family celebrate in traditional Rafferty style. But she has more on her mind than just invitations… Raf has been offered a part in a movie he can’t refuse. But will that mean he’ll succumb to the temptations he’s struggled so hard to resist for the last ten years – beautiful women and too much wine? And Delilah’s three daughters, Coco, Violet and Tyger, are building careers of their own, only too aware that the press are waiting for them to slip up. For although the Rafferty girls might look like angels, they are only human. As with all families, there are secrets and rivalries bubbling away, and on one gloriously starry night, it’s all going to come spilling out This is your invitation to a birthday party of the year…

Misguided Angel by Melissa de la Cruz
Released 26th October
Published by Atom
Website:
http://www.atombooks.net/

This is the fifth book in the Blue Bloods series and I’m seriously addicted to the adventures of Schuyler and the gang so very excited about this one!

After inheriting the complicated Van Alen Legacy, Schuyler fled to Florence with Jack, risking both of their lives for love. The two of them embark on the mission Schuyler was destined to complete: to find and protect the remaining five gates that guard Earth from Lucifer, Prince of Hell and lord of the Silver Bloods. As the Blue Blood coven weakens yet further, fate leads Schuyler closer to a terrifying crossroads?and a choice that will determine the destiny of all vampires.

The Fledgling Handbook (House of Night) by P.C. Cast and Kim Doner
Released 26th October
Published by Atom
Website:
http://www.houseofnightseries.co.uk/

I’ve now read the first two books in the House of Night series and this sounds like the perfect accompaniment as the series progresses.

Merry meet, fledgling. I trust this guide will serve you well…Every vampyre fledgling who arrives at the House of Night receives a copy of The Fledgling Handbook 101, and now, fans can have one, too, with this gorgeous must-have edition. Inside you’ll find original stories, the complete vampyre history, inside info into rituals, vamp biology, and the Change, and much more.

So that’s my shortlist – what are you looking forward to reading in October?

Book review – Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast

23 Sep

When sixteen-year-old Zoey gets Marked as a fledgling vampire she must join the House of Night school where she will train to become an adult vampire. That is, if she makes it through the Change. But Zoe is no ordinary fledgling. She has been chosen as special by the Goddess Nyx and discovers her amazing new power to conjure the elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. When Zoey discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite group, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look within herself to embrace her destiny – with a little help from her new vampire friends.

Marked is the first book in the House of Night series and it really took me by surprise. I’ve had six of the House of Night series sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of months now, having bought them in a BOGOF offer from Waterstones but I kept putting off reading them. Having read quite a lot of chick lit in the last month, I wanted something a bit darker so grabbed ‘Marked’ off the pile to take away with me last weekend. I settled down on the train and after only a couple of pages, I was hooked!

Marked tells the story of Zoey Redbird as she is ‘marked’ by a Tracker, meaning that she is a Fledgling vampyre and must join the House of Night – a boarding school where fledglings are trained to become adult vampyres.  The story starts straight into the action as Zoey is visited at her High School and marked by the Tracker and is very fast paced – I literally did not want to put it down! We learn that Vampires and Humans coexist in the modern world but that Vampires prefer the night as sunlight makes them uncomfortable (but not sparkly!).  Each vampyre gets a ‘Mark’ which denotes their status and as they progress towards adulthood, the marks become more filled in and they acquire other tattoo-like markings on their faces and bodies.

I love school based stories, so the book appealed to me on that level and I really enjoyed the mix of the normal (dorms, friendships, lessons such as drama and references to current TV shows) and the magical, mysterious and mythical at the House of Night.  I also loved that this book is all about strong women/girls – Vampires in the House of Night series worship the Goddess Nyx and although there are male characters, it is the females who tend to have the special powers or ‘afinities’ granted by the Goddess.

Marked only actually covers the first couple of weeks of Zoey’s experiences at the House of Night but I liked this as I felt that I really was there with Zoey as she discovered the House of Night and what it means to be a vampyre. The fact that not all fledglings make it to be adult vampires and that a fledgling can die at any time adds an interesting twist to the plot.

Zoey soon makes friends … and enemies. I thought the character mix was very good and Zoey’s new friends felt very realistic and varied – I love Zoey’s roommate Stevie Rae and the things she comes out with. It doesn’t take long for Zoey to realise that she is something a little bit different, even in the Vampyre world and for the drama to really get going. There are lots of smaller mysteries hinted at throughout the book and although the book  doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, I had enough questions to launch straight into book two.

I found this a hugely enjoyable read and am so pleased that I have the rest of the series so far waiting for me on the bookshelf. One note of caution, there is adult language and content in the book so it is not suitable for younger readers (my copy actually came with a warning sticker and it is printed on the back).

And finally, a little bit of praise for Atom (the UK publisher); I chose to buy the editions of these books with the with the coloured page edges and loved the fact that my book had bright pink page edges – a brilliant idea :D

5/5

You can find out more about the House of Night series at: http://www.houseofnightseries.co.uk/

Book gossip – news round up

21 Sep

There seems to be a lot of exciting book news about at the moment so I thought I’d do a little roundup post.

The Ivy – book two!

Rina Onur, collaborator on The Ivy announced on Twitter yesterday that the next book in the series will be called SECRETS. There is a little bit more info on The Ivy Website but no official publication date yet though Rina did kindly reply to my tweet saying that book two will hopefully be out in May 2011.

Cover to covet:

Congratulations to Keris Stainton on finishing her next book. I can’t wait for this to come out as it sounds fantastic and is set in my favourite city – New York. I loved Della Says and Jessie ♥ NYC sounds so romantic!  To top it all it has the best cover I’ve seen in a long time. I NEEED it on my bookshelf! Jessie ♥ NYC will be released in July 2011.

Talli Roland takes on Amazon!

Talli Roland’s debut novel, The Hating Game is scheduled for release in 2011 but for those of us who can’t wait that long, Talli announced recently that the e-book version of The Hating Game will be on sale via Amazon from 1st December 2010.

I think this book sounds fab and am looking forward to putting it on my new Kindle (please Santa!)

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she’s confident she’ll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she’s perfected from years of her love ‘em and leave ‘em dating strategy.

After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £50,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it’s revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes.

Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Talli is organising  a blogsplash on December 1st to help her take on Amazon with the aim of getting her debut novel (published by an indie publisher) into the top ranks of Amazon Kindle sales. I’ve already signed up and if you’d like to join in and spread the word that day the full details can be found on Talli’s blog.

Nightshade UK release date

Andrea Cremer announced earlier today that the publication date for Nightshade in the UK has been moved to December 28th instead of  January 2011. This is another cover that I love and sounds like a good read:

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything – including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Book Review – Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

20 Sep

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) thought motherhood would be a breeze and that having a daughter was a dream come true a shopping friend for life! But it s trickier than she thought two-year-old Minnie has a quite different approach to shopping.

She can create havoc everywhere from Harrods to Harvey Nicks to her own christening. She hires taxis at random, her favourite word is Mine , and she s even started bidding for designer bags on ebay.

On top of everything else, there s a big financial crisis. People are having to Cut Back including all of Becky s personal shopping clients and she and Luke are still living with Becky s Mum and Dad. To cheer everyone up, Becky decides to throw a surprise birthday party on a budget but then things become really complicated.

Who will end up on the naughty step, who will get a gold star and will Becky s secret wishes come true?

I’m sure it will come as no surprise when I say I loved this book. Having completed my Shopaholic Challenge by reading all of the Shopaholic series, I was very excited to get my hands on the latest installment and I have to say, of the six books so far it is one of my favourites (the other being Shopaholic Ties the Knot).

Mini Shopaholic is set two years after Shopaholic and Baby and finds Becky, Luke and Minnie living with Becky’s Mum and Dad. Things are just beginning to look up for family Brandon when a number of setbacks crop up and Becky has to do her best to deal with them. Luke has been having a tough time so Becky decides to cheer him up by throwing a surprise birthday party for him. In typical Becky fashion, the whole thing gets out of hand as she tries to stick to a minimal budget and goes to increasing lengths to keep the party a secret.

Sophie Kinsella is one of the funniest writers I know and this book made me laugh out loud more than once. I’ve said before that although Becky is a larger than life exaggeration of a character, there is a lot in her that I can identify with and this is why I love the Shopaholic series so much.  As a Mum to an increasingly assertive two year old boy, I could really identify with some of the scenes that took place and loved Becky’s description of ‘the Mummy Onceover’. I also found Becky’s approach to pocket money inspired!

All of the gang are back for this book and I love the fact that Sophie Kinsella has created a whole community of brilliant  characters that I really care about. I enjoy reading updates on the lives of Suze, Tarkie, Danny, Jess, Janice, Tom and Becky’s parents as much as following the latest adventures of Becky, Luke and now Minnie. Interestingly, the book doesn’t feature as much Minnie as I thought it would. I was expecting a tale of the ups and downs of being Mum to a feisty toddler and although there are some very funny Minnnie centric moments, they are more of a side story than the main event. So don’t be put off if you’re not really a fan of children ;-)

I always love the endings to the Shopaholic books and I think Sophie Kinsella has outdone herself this time! I’ll say no more as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but it was my favourite ending to a book so far this year and clearly leaves a hook for the next book. I can’t wait for another installment and I hope to be following Becky’s adventures for many years to come!

I’d like to thank Transworld for sending me a copy of this book to review.

You can find out more about Sophie Kinsella and her books at: http://www.sophiekinsella.co.uk/

5/5

Author interview: Kathleen McKenna

16 Sep

Today is a momentous occasion on One More Page as I publish my first author interview!

Kathleen McKenna emailed me last month to see if I’d like to review her latest book, The Wedding Gift. In Kathleen’s own words, the book is

“A Southern Gothic paranormal story (ghosts, no vamps) told in the voice of a crazy charming small town beauty queen who runs for corn princess, loses the boy she wants and marries the idiot son of the towns richest family all before senior year is over. Marrying for money can be really dangerous. Leeann’s new mother in law is beyond horrible and the wedding gift she receives is a little off too. Mrs. Willetts, Leeann’s new in law is appalled at her son’s choice so as a tongue in cheek wedding gift she gives the newlyweds a fabulous antebellum mansion, one still occupied by an earlier beautiful unwanted bride who lived there and killed there.”

I loved the book (you can read my review here) and have been chatting to Kathleen over email ever since, so a couple of weeks ago I asked her if she’d let me interview her for One More Page and she very kindly agreed.

Amanda : I loved The Wedding Gift; what inspired you to write it?

Kathleen: I had spotted this gorgeous antebellum house once in New Orleans, I wanted to live there!  Anyway I started thinking about the people who DID live there, were they happy, or what if a beautiful girl from the wrong side of the tracks got to live there and then what if there was a ghost?  LOL! As you can see I’m somewhat demented, anyway it built on that, I had fun writing that book!

Amanda: Lead character Leeann is very funny – describe her in five words.

Kathleen: Confident, beautiful, loyal, selfish, sweet.

Amanda: Who was your favourite character to write and why?

Kathleen: Hands down Jessie. Before I started writing I was an adolescent counselor; Jessie is every tough sweet kid I ever worked with all rolled into one. I loved her so much that I had to give her, her own book and that’s The Comeback (the follow up book to the Wedding Gift, due for release later this year!)

Amanda: The Wedding Gift features a very feisty ghost in Robina, have you ever had a ghostly encounter of your own?

Kathleen: Well I have, or I think I have on a few different occasions, none of them were good; seeing things move that you didn’t move yourself or hearing things drop in another room – it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds. Actually everyone I’ve ever met has a creepy little story. All of them seem to be kind of negative so my impression of ghosts is that overall they are scary and so I took it up a notch with Robina –  Miz Willets makes an uhm….charming ghost.

Amanda: The Wedding Gift combines chick lit, horror, mystery and comedy – are your own reading tastes this varied? What are your favourite books?

Kathleen: Oh geez, varied is an understatement for my tastes! I love history, horror, biography, humor, mystery … My fave book of all time is The Cider House Rules, but last year what made me happy were the Charlaine Harris books and Audrey Niffengers fabulous ghost story Her Fearful Symmetry.  I have to recommend the scariest book I ever read; it’s called Come Closer by Sara Gran, overall my taste pretty much runs to if its a book I want to read it.

Amanda: There are two more books planned in the series, can you tell me a bit about them.

Kathleen: Heck yes!  The Comeback is about Jessie and Mark’s adventures in leasing a very famous Beverly Hills Mansion, once owned by Desiree Danforth. The thing about really famous beautiful women is that being dead sucks for them, and dead stars are no different than say Lindsay Lohan; everybody wants a comeback.

The House on Easton Drive takes my crew back to Dalton to reunite with old friends and with Miz Bethany, then through circumstances I can’t relate for spoiler reasons Jessie manages to find a house that makes Willets House look like a nice place to live by comparison!

Amanda: Do you have any plans to write other types of books in the paranormal genre (vampires, angels etc?)

Kathleen: I wont write vamps; two women I admire own the genre to me. Anne Rice’s soooo sexy vampires, and Charlaine Harris’s hilarious and also smoking hot Sookie Stackhouse books. I’m a straight up ghost girl. I have two other novels that are supernatural – well actually they are  horror. One is about the Manson family and is ironically named Family Matters, the other one Dead Town combines a serial killer and a ghost town and I wrote it based on some very creepy stuff that went down just eighty miles from where I live. Then there are my other books about rich, beautiful women who’s lives went straight to hell (and usually to the grave) based on some baaaaad marital choices.

Kathleen – thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed and good luck with The Comeback!

Book Review – The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

14 Sep

The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth’s daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.

I read the White Queen when it came out last year and really enjoyed the story of Elizabeth Woodville so I was eagerly anticipating the launch of the second book in The Cousins War series, The Red Queen. This book covers the same time period as The White Queen but this time from the point of view of Lancastrian, Margaret Beaufort. I like the way that this book tells the other side to the story – it’s not often that two key characters get to tell the story from their own point of view and I think Phillipa Gregory has really perfected the historical first person narrative giving a real insight into the possible thoughts and feelings of two highly significant women of this period.

There is a huge contrast between Margaret and Elizabeth; the White Queen told a romantic story of a beautiful girl who fell in love with a King and had many children. In contrast, The Red Queen is tells of a serious girl, deeply religious, married in a strategic move by her mother, who has one son at the age of thirteen and is then separated from him for most of his childhood. Despite this, there are some striking similarities between the two; both women show incredible bravery and strong dedication to their cause and both have deeply held belief systems. I thought Gregory did an excellent  job of making a less than likeable character human and I even found that I had sympathy for Margaret Beaufort at points in the book. By the end, I was truly fascinated by the lengths she would go to to secure her son the crown as the story progressed.

I love that Philippa Gregory gives women a voice in history and although I’m fully aware that this is a work of fiction, I really enjoyed seeing the influence and subtle power that Margaret was able to exert and the ways that she manipulated and plotted to get the outcome she truly believed was due. I studied history at university but I have to say that the Wars of the Roses never really interested me, however, having read the two books in the Cousin’s War series so far, I’m interested enough to want to find out more.

I was lucky enough to attend a talk and book signing by Philippa to mark the launch of the Red Queen. During the question and answer session she said that the series was originally planned to be three books but will now be at least six. The next book in the series will go back in time and focus on Jacquetta, Elizabeth Woodville’s mother and I’m  already looking forward to it. 

4/5

You can find out more about Philippa Gregory and her books at: http://www.philippagregory.com/

and read an excerpt from The Red Queen at: http://pages.simonandschuster.com/the-red-queen

On my bookshelf …

12 Sep

As those of you who follow me on Twitter might know, I’ve declared a book buying ban for the rest of September as my ‘to read’ pile is getting out of hand. So instead of an In My Mailbox post today, I thought I’d share my ‘to read pile’ with you. It is actually a whole bookcase (albeit a smallish one) … 75 books in total.  I was planning to list them but I’ve run out of time as it was my little boy’s Birthday today so hopefully the picture is clear enough to see.

This pile has built up in just over a year and I’m determined to bring it down a bit before Christmas so please give me your recommendations on what is a must read and if there is anything you think I really shouldn’t bother with then let me know that too!

Book Review – The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

8 Sep

Meet Carrie Bradshaw before ‘Sex and the City!’

The Carrie Diaries is the coming-of-age story of one of the most iconic characters of our generation.

Before Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw was a small town girl who knew she wanted more. She’s ready for real life to start, but first she must navigate her senior year of high school. Up until now, Carrie and her friends have been inseparable. Then Sebastian Kydd comes into the picture, and a friend’s betrayal makes her question everything.
With an unforgettable cast of characters, The Carrie Diaries is the story of how a regular girl learns to think for herself, and evolves into a sharp, insightful writer. Readers will learn about her family background, how she found her writing voice, and the indelible impression her early friendships and relationships left on her. Through adventures both audacious and poignant, we’ll see what brings Carrie to her beloved New York City, where her new life begins.

I’ve read and enjoyed all of Candace Bushnell’s books so I was excited to see that she was taking a step into the young adult market and as a big Sex and the City fan I was very curious to meet the young Carrie.

The book surprised me from the beginning by contradicting some of the things that happen in the show. Although there isn’t much mention of families in the TV series, I seem to remember that Carrie’s Dad left when she was very young. In this book we find Carrie living with her Dad and two sisters; her Mum having died when she was thirteen. There are a few other minor inconsistencies with the show but the roots of future Carrie are clearly visible; the quirky fashion sense, her attraction to the wrong kind of guy, her love for her friends and her dream of becoming a writer.

This is the story of Carrie before she gets to New York as she starts her senior year at high school. There are times in this book where I felt like shouting at her, “Don’t worry, none of this matters, you will make it and you will have a fabulous life as a writer in NYC!” I felt that the story makes Carrie more real – she is quite a sensible character in this incarnation and although she’s not my favourite character in the TV show, this back story gave me more sympathy for her. I also loved the fact that the Carrie Diaries is set in the 80’s :-)

There is a good cast of supporting characters.  Carrie’s friends, Lali, Maggie, Walt and The Mouse are each interesting  in themselves and I liked their subplots which gave the story a lot of variety. Carrie’s love life mirrors her future as as she falls for the wrong man who then betrays her and wishes she liked the nice guy more! The book also addresses some more serious issues with a pregnancy scare and a character who is coming to terms with their sexuality but in the main part, this book is about the day to day issues that many 17 year old girls face; the ups and downs of friendships and trying to decide what to do with their futures.

At the end of the book, Carrie makes it to NY as we knew she would, leaving us at the point where she makes contact with one of her future best friends. This is again where the book and film differ as the recent film had Carrie meeting a different friend first and in different circumstances!

Continuity issues aside, as a standalone book, it’s an enjoyable story of a girl in her senior year at school, trying to fit in, falling in love and deciding what to do with her future and is definitely worth reading. For fans of the show, it’s an interesting read and if you can overlook the differences between the two stories it’s an enjoyable insight into young Carrie.  I found the pace a little slow at times but the scene is set for a second book and I’m already looking forward to reading about Carrie’s first months in New York.

You can read the first two chapters of The Carrie Diaries at: http://www.thecarriediaries.co.uk/

3/5