Everything that I liked in Lily of the Nile was multiplied ten-fold in Song of the Nile making for an 'unputdownable' read. Ms Dray's skill i4.5 stars
Everything that I liked in Lily of the Nile was multiplied ten-fold in Song of the Nile making for an 'unputdownable' read. Ms Dray's skill is more refined, polished; the detail - exquisite, the pace - whirlwind, the characters - engaging and the plot - mesmerising.
Song of the Nile is a darker installment which in itself, appealed to me and at the risk of repeating myself I just love the way Stephanie interweaves history, artistic embellishment and mysticism, creating a captivating tapestry of plausible events.
Song of the Nile picks up where Lily of the Nile ends, Selene is married off to Juba and the pair begin their new life as King & Queen of Mauritania. I don't want to give too much away so I'll just say that Selene's journey is fraught with danger. She's a quick study, she fights hard to achieve all that she does as the beloved leader of a now prospering nation. But the fight is not without its costs, their distance from Rome is not outside the reach of Augustus and the power play continues.
Cleopatra Selene is such a fascinating character, she's resilient, passionate, ambitious, compassionate, and intelligent but obsessed with obtaining her rightful place on the throne of Egypt alongside her twin brother Helios. I cringed at some of her choices but was ultimately inspired by Selene's development throughout the book and spellbound by the growth of her power as the daughter of Isis.
I know it sounds cliched but Stephanie Dray really brings the time period and the characters to life; I was completely immersed in the experience. ... the mark of an excellent historical fiction author.
I wait with bated breath for the final installment!...more
I must confess I was a little apprehensive about picking up Lily of the Nile as one of my favourite reads about Selene is Cleopatra's Daughter by MichI must confess I was a little apprehensive about picking up Lily of the Nile as one of my favourite reads about Selene is Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. I was pleasantly surprised; Stephanie Dray does a wonderful job of weaving history, artistic embellishment and mysticism into a cohesive, plausible and enjoyable piece of historical fiction.
Selene's motivation to protect her twin brother Helios and younger brother Philadelphus govern her dealings with Emperor Octavian. As a mere child, albeit an intelligent one and a political pawn, Selene quickly learns the art of manipulation and gameplay, and attempts to use Octavian/Augustus's obsession with Cleopatra to her own end.
I really enjoyed the political machinations, the intrigue and betrayals, the portrayal of Julia, Agrippa, Octavia, Juba & the loathesome Livia. I also loved the vivid descriptions of festivals, dress, culture, jewellery and hairstyles.
Ms Dray's inclusion of magic in the novel was something that I loved, much as I did Philippa Gregory's use of it in The White Queen & The Red Queen. It's not gratuitous, many ancient cultures have a deep seated belief in magic and Gods, the Romans being one of them. The hieroglyphic messages appearing on Selene's arms from the Goddess Isis, the drawing of heka all seemed in keeping with Isiac beliefs.
I've already started Song of the Nile; not only am I keen to see where Stephanie Dray takes Queen Cleopatra Selene, I'm finding it totally enthralling....more
Set during the early 19th century Regency period, By The King's Design is a thoroughly engaging read with easily digestible historical details for thoSet during the early 19th century Regency period, By The King's Design is a thoroughly engaging read with easily digestible historical details for those not too familiar with that period in history.
The Luddites, the burgeoning industrial revolution and subsequent social unrest, the Cato Street Conspiracy all made for really interesting reading and my education of the extra-curricular vices of the "extra-corpulent ... extra-repulsive" Prince Regent George Hanover were certainly expanded upon. Sadly, the future King George IV was also well known for his extravagance in the face of England's starving and dying.
We follow our heroine Belle Sterling from Yorkshire to London where she sets up her own drapery shop, is taken under the wing of renowned architect John Nash and receives a lucrative commission from the Prince Regent to provide drapery for the new palace, Brighton Pavillion.
Belle is an endearing character, she's intelligent and hard-working but I did question her judgement where her brother Wesley was concerned. Wesley's a total sap, weak and flighty and I wanted to slap him, hard. Actually I wanted to slap Belle a few times too ... how many times did she have to be duped by her brother before coming to her senses.
The hero of the story and Belle's eventual romantic interest is Putnam Boyce, of "Put rhymes with shut" fame. Put is extremely likeable, a cabinet maker and true gentleman but Belle tries to hold him at arm’s length while fiercely maintaining her independence, no easy feat for a woman in this era.
This was my first Christine Trent novel but it's safe to say it won't be my last. ...more
I've had an ongoing fascination with the much maligned Marie Antoinette but have read very little of her life prior to becoming Dauphine of France atI've had an ongoing fascination with the much maligned Marie Antoinette but have read very little of her life prior to becoming Dauphine of France at the age of 14. Juliet Grey's novel aussages my knowledge deficit with exquisite attention to detail, chronicling the young Austrian archduchess's childhood, her betrothal to Louise Auguste, the Dauphin of France and the personal transformation required to deem her worthy of the position.
“And don’t think for a moment that she would hesitate to relieve you of your duties if you do not transform me from an Austrian caterpillar into a French butterfly.”
Learning about the formidible force of Marie Theresa, Empress of Austria and Marie Antonia's mother; was fascinating. Via well oiled machinations she secures her daughter's marriage and the alliance between France and Austria.
I enjoyed Grey's writing, the vivid and colourful descriptions of clothing, cuisine, decor, french etiquette, the Versailles glide, the coiffures, the myriad of differences between the Hapsburg and the French court; I loved it all. However I found some of Marie Antonia's vocabulary a little disconcerting - it seemed out of character for her age and relative lack of education. Now I like expanding my vocab as much as the next person and I consider myself to have a reasonable grasp on the English language but I had no idea of the meaning of pulchritudinous, imprecations, encomiums or transmogrifying, to name just a few.
So FYI - because I did my homework :)
Pulchritudinous – physically beautiful Imprecations – oaths, expletives Encomiums - text expressing high praise Transmogrifying – changing appearance or form grotesquely
Grey writes of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's marriage with sensitivity and I garnered a new level of sympathy for the pair. The development of their relationship or lack there of in a particular area is at once, awkard, sweet and frustrating for Marie Antoinette as well as the reader but as I turned the last page, I really didn't want it to end.
I'm so looking forward to the 2nd installment, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow due to be released in 2012 and the final novel in the trilogy in 2013...more
This was both a compelling and challenging read. It's the relatively unknown story of the small aboriginal boy, Nanberry, adopted by surgeon4.5 stars
This was both a compelling and challenging read. It's the relatively unknown story of the small aboriginal boy, Nanberry, adopted by surgeon John White, chief surgeon of the first fleet sent to establish a convict settlement at Botany Bay. Spanning the years 1788 to 1823, French employs meticulous research of actual historical figures; old letters, court transcripts and journal entries to provide a thoroughly absorbing backdrop to true events.
Nanberry was one of only 3 survivors of the Cadigal tribe struck by the devastating smallpox outbreak which decimated the aboriginal population in the area. You can't help but love Nanberry, he's intelligent, protective, and inspiring, a lad caught between two cultures but determined to take his place in the white man's world while retaining his roots.
Surgeon White is an interesting combination of conventional old ethics and compassionate forward thinking. Rachel Turner, the convict girl who survived the death penalty and near death on the second fleet, captures Surgeon White's heart but convention prevents him from marrying a convict and returning with her to England. This is their story, John White, Nanberry White (black brother), Andrew, (Nanberry's white brother) and Rachel, Andrew's mother.
French captures the cruelty, famine, debauchery, horror, squalor, the corruption of the marine corp and most importantly the uniqueness of the Australian landscape and aboriginal culture with simple but evocative prose.
It's terrible to plead relative ignorance of events in your own country so what I loved about NANBERRY was the inspiration I gained to read further. I found the extensive author's notes really enjoyable reading too. Nanberry should be compulsory reading in our school curriculum, suitable for readers age 10 and up but nonetheless one I can't recommend highly enough for young and old alike. ...more
The Last Letter is a riveting, beautifully written debut novel inspired by letters from the author's great-great grandmother. I literally cou4.5 stars
The Last Letter is a riveting, beautifully written debut novel inspired by letters from the author's great-great grandmother. I literally couldn't put it down but ultimately it's not a feel good story, it's harsh and heart-breaking but it evoked strong emotions and that's a great read in my humble opinion.
Shoop spares no detail depicting the bitter realities of prairie life, the unforgiving landscape and weather, the relentless struggle, the arduous challenges with hygiene and heating, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires, and the Children’s Blizzard of 1888. Tragedy and heartache become second nature for many of the settlers and I found myself crying at the unbearable sadness of it all.
I admired the indomitable spirit of Jeanie Arthur and others in their co-operative but wanted to jump through the pages of the book and give her husband, Frank a swift kick to his nether region. Jeanie's fierce love for her children & protective instincts were a stark contrast to Frank's selfish indifference. Protecting her husband's worthless character and holding secrets close inspires intense bitterness in Jeanie's children, particularly Katherine but reading this vivid account, becoming invested in the lives of the characters, the author allows us to "walk a mile in their shoes" and look at their decisions and motivations with empathy.
No secret, I love Sarah Jio's writing. Goodnight June was a favourite read last year. I loved The Bungalow & Morning Glory. The Violets of March wNo secret, I love Sarah Jio's writing. Goodnight June was a favourite read last year. I loved The Bungalow & Morning Glory. The Violets of March was a favourite read of Stacy's and I was lucky enough to win a copy from her a few years ago, sadly it remained unread while I inhaled Sarah Jio's more recent works.
I happen to love the delicate but hardy little violet flower with it's sweet, fleeting scent and some day I'd love to visit the beautiful Bainbridge Island. For now, I'm happy I pulled Sarah Jio's (very patient) debut off my bookshelf.
In The Violets of March Emily retreats to her great-aunt Bee's home on Bainbridge Island with her marriage and writing career in tatters, hoping the beauty of the Puget Sound will heal and work its magic. The past seeps into the present and long kept secrets are slowly revealed as Emily gets caught up reading an old diary found in her nightstand.
I really liked Bee and her dear friend Evelyn, and Jack too. And I was as consumed as Emily by Esther & Elliot's story, the secrets and mystery pulled me in ... betrayals, lost loves, forgiveness and second chances.
This was such a fascinating story, delving into the devastating history of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the aftermath and recovery. A bThis was such a fascinating story, delving into the devastating history of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the aftermath and recovery. A blend of history and artistic licence laced with suspense, drama, romance, and political corruption giving readers a captivating and moving account.
I knew of the existence of architect Julia Morgan but little else and whilst she didn't inspire my affection in Race to Splendor, Ciji Ware certainly inspired me to read a little more about this historical figure. Quite the opposite of the very likeable Amelia Bradshaw, Ware's fictional creation and Morgan's protegee and eventual competitor in the race to open the Fairmont hotel and JD Thayer's Bay View hotel by the 1st anniversary of the quake.
The chemistry between JD and Amelia is obvious early on but their working and personal relationship is rocky to say the least. Suffice to say there is more to the inscrutable JD than first meets the eye. I enjoyed the architectural details and the challenges facing women proving themselves in a male dominated field. I wasn't aware of the plight of the Chinese at this time, their appalling living and working conditions, and the unaccounted loss of life. Being Australian, Race To Splendor filled in a substantial gap in my knowledge of this particular time in American history and gave me a thirst for more.
My first Ciji Ware novel but definitely not my last; the pages literally turn themselves!
*Squeal* this was one utterly captivating read. I laughed, I cried, I sighed, and I was completely immersed in Fin's world from page one. Tragedy, lov*Squeal* this was one utterly captivating read. I laughed, I cried, I sighed, and I was completely immersed in Fin's world from page one. Tragedy, love, hope, redemption; from orphanage antics to adventure on the high seas; The Fiddler's Gun has it all.
Peterson does a wonderful job recreating the tone and feel of a southern colony in British America in the 1700's. Colonists are chafing for independence from British rule, revolution is at hand and turbulence follows on the backs of the redcoats.
It's impossible not to love Fin, she's strong, passionate, uruly, irrepressible, feisty, stubborn and compassionate. She shuns all things "girly" and only Peter (Fin's best friend and blossoming romantic interest) and the orphanage's cook, Bartimaeus Gann accept Fin for who she is. Bartimaeus was a favourite character, his special relationship with Fin and wise counsel brought tears to my eyes but I also adored many of the motley crew on the Rattlesnake; Jack, Tan, Topper & Knut.
"I'm sorry, Bartimaeus." "Don't you be sorry now. Don't you be sorry. Sometimes we got to look in the dark to see how bright's the dawn."
"Saw twenty mates flush their bloody innards out their bums before they died screaming and bleeding out every hole God gave 'em. It was Captain Creache they blamed. Bad luck hauling the devil's cargo. And hell was the next berth many of 'em seen." (conversation between Tan & Fin)
There's a darkness and violence that give this story a biting edge but Peterson's lyrical writing rounds it out perfectly. I'm not going to give any of the storyline away, this is one you have to experience yourself. An ageless read, definitely one I recommend for adults and teens alike.
The sequel, Fiddler's Green was released Dec 2010 and I seriously cannot wait to read the conclusion of Fin's story. ...more
Beautiful reminiscents, lyrical prose, funny ramblings, languid pace and slightly ambiguous plot; quite an unusual combination.
Ben MacCarthy of VenetiBeautiful reminiscents, lyrical prose, funny ramblings, languid pace and slightly ambiguous plot; quite an unusual combination.
Ben MacCarthy of Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show fame returns to narrate The Matchmaker of Kenmare in the form of a memoir to his children. I don't think not having read Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show impeded my enjoyment of The Matchmaker of Kenmare but obviously if you've read the first book then many questions are answered in it's sequel.
Ben & Kate's paths cross as Ben travels Ireland gathering stories for the folklore commission; their burgeoning friendship changes Ben's life in profound ways. I adored the detail given to the matches Kate makes and Delaney's vivid descriptions of character and countryside convey an evocative sense of time and place.
"Most people's problems would never happen if they thought first and spoke later. Words aren't like chickens. You can't call them back once you've let them out."
"his face reminded me of brown wrapping paper that had been scrunched up into a ball and then smoothed out."
Kate is brave, instinctive, positive, stubborn, fey and I confess quite exasperating, a number of times I felt like slapping her for her irritating allusiveness and the constant play on Ben's generous nature to get what she wanted. Ben is caring and sweet with an inner core of strength; he's a true friend to Kate and while he may not follow Kate unquestioningly he does follow. After hastily marrying US Captain Charles Miller, Kate drags Ben on a search for her missing husband in war-torn Europe and unfortunately Ireland's neutrality does not always offer protection in the midst of WWII.
The pace was a little leisurely for me but Delaney has certainly kissed the Blarney Stone, extra time would lend itself to really savouring this storyteller's writing.
In I Am The Chosen King Helen Hollick eloquently continues the story of Saxon England begun in The Forever Queen culminating with one of the most famoIn I Am The Chosen King Helen Hollick eloquently continues the story of Saxon England begun in The Forever Queen culminating with one of the most famous dates in English history; 1066 and the Battle of Hastings.
I Am The Chosen King took me a lot longer to read than The Forever Queen and like many weighty historical fiction novels, I think it's best read when you have large chunks of time to devote to the experience. Due only to reading time constraints I wasn't as quick to fall in love with this one as I was with The Forever Queen. However Harold and Edyth & Hollick's meticulous attention to detail and plausible artistic license won my heart in the end.
We follow Edward's reign (son of Aethelred and Emma) as King of England (in name only) as Earl Godwine does all the hard work in ruling England. Hollick gives a colourful rendition of the exploits of the Godwin family and a highly detailed account of the events leading up to the Norman conquest.
Once again the author excels with character portrayal. Duke William of Normandy was both fascinating and terrifying, Edith and Tostig (Harold's siblings) grasping, self centred and easy to dislike. The love between Harold Godwinesson and his handfasted wife Edyth brought tears to my eyes and while it was expected he would marry in the christian way eventually, I was saddened when it actually occured; even though his Queen, Alditha is sweet and understanding.
The descriptions of the Battle of Hastings were breathtaking, and heartbreaking, I had goosebumps reading these scenes. Hollick's author notes were a wonderful addition and much appreciated by this reader. All up, another winner for Helen Hollick and fans of historical fiction.
Loved it! Loved it! Exit The Actress is a delightful look at Ellen (Nell) Gywn and the loves of her life; the theatre, King Charles II (her third CharLoved it! Loved it! Exit The Actress is a delightful look at Ellen (Nell) Gywn and the loves of her life; the theatre, King Charles II (her third Charles) and her dear family & friends. Through Nell's journal entries, letters, Privy Council notations, gossip column extras, recipes and remedies from the Lady's Household Companion, the reader gets an intimate look at a cast of lively characters, the excitement of the theatre and the colour of the royal court, the horror and heartbreak of the plague and the great fire of London. Priya Parmar writes with a captivating vividness that I found refreshing and completely engaging.
I was familiar with Nell and her time spent as Charles's mistress before picking up Exit the Actress but I loved the indepth look at her life in the theatre and the joy and freedom of spirit it brought her. Nell first joined Theatre Royal as an orange girl but by the age of 14 she had progressed to acting. Theatre historian Eizabeth Howe states in The First English Actresses that Nell was "the most famous Restoration actress of all time, possessed of an extraordinary comic talent." and Parmar captures the essence of this beautifully.
Nell Gwyn is a breath of fresh air to read of; effervescent, natural, charming, she inspires love in many ... this quote from her first lover, actor Charles Hart embodies that sentiment.
"You inspire a man to be more than he is, Ellen. To reach and grow and thrive. A man cannot do that by standing still. I understand that now. Your love will not root in quiet ground."
Ms Parmar drew me in to Nell's world so intimately and eloquently I truly felt like part of the theatre family. I adored many of the characters, Teddy especially so, what an absolute darling and I do declare that Ambrose Pink "Ever your eyes and ears" has a distinct 'Teddy' feel.
Priya Parmar is definitely an author to watch, an exciting debut novelist in the world of historical fiction and I look forward to her next novel with much anticipation. Bravo Priya!
The Red Queen was a fascinating story and even though I loathed the main character I kept turning the pages; testament to Philippa Gregory's writing.The Red Queen was a fascinating story and even though I loathed the main character I kept turning the pages; testament to Philippa Gregory's writing. It's the story of Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor, who goes on to become Henry VII. Covering much the same time period as The White Queen (Elizabeth Woodville) but from a different perspective, we follow the feuding House of Lancaster and York in what is known as the War of the Roses.
‘I was born for this, my son was born for this.’
Margaret is overly pious, scornful, self absorbed and extremely unlikeable. She hides her true character and motives behind a cloak of religious zeal; a most unpleasant combination. Margaret is little more than a religious hypocrite with an unwavering conviction that her son Henry Tudor is the rightful heir to the throne, she spends her life plotting and scheming, to see him take the crown. Any compassion I felt for Margaret as a child forced to marry the brutal Edmund Tudor was short-lived. While I'm sure her appalling treatment during her brief marriage in part contributed to her abrasive character, her subsequent marriage to Henry Stafford and finally Thomas Stanley did little to showcase any redeeming qualities.
My enjoyment of The Red Queen came as a quite a surprise considering my intense dislike of Margaret, quite the contrast to Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen. However, the story itself, if not entirely historically accurate, is just as compelling. I'm sure this woman didn't win many friends but there is no doubt she was an influential historical figure and pivotal to the founding of the tudor dynasty.
According to Philippa Gregory's website, the final book in the trilogy, originally titled The White Princess has now taken a slightly different path. The Rivers Woman, the story of Elizabeth Woodville's mother, Jaquetta, is due for release in late 2011....more