Sunday, 28 February 2016

Book Reviews: The Bard's Daughter and The Uninvited Guest by Sarah Woodbury

I read the first book in Sarah Woodbury's Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mysteries series, The Good Knight, last summer; I was a little apprehensive about it because I got it as a free Kindle download (it's still free now, if you want to check it out) but I was pleasantly surprised: I actually really enjoyed it! It took me a while to get around to reading some more of the series, but I'm glad I did, and I'm now looking forward to reading book three sometime in the (hopefully) near future. These are my reviews of book two, The Uninvited Guest, and the series prequel, The Bard's Daughter.


The Uninvited Guest

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Summary (from front of book): It is the winter of 1143 and all is not well in the court of Owain, King of  Gwynedd in North Wales. His future in-laws are untrustworthy, the Norman lords on his eastern border are restless, and among his wedding guests lurks a cold-blooded killer. Gareth and Gwen have marriage plans of their own, but their love will have to wait while the pair race to separate truth from lies, friends from foes, and unravel the mystery before King Owain—and his new bride—fall victim to their uninvited guest.

I enjoyed this book; not as much as the first book in the series, but still it was good. The main attraction of this series is the characters - I love Gwen and Gareth and Hywel - and the stories in both this and the first book were quite interesting and exciting, although they tend to be more adventure-type stories than mysteries - lots of time spent trying to chase and/or get away from the bad guys rather than following clues and trying to deduce the culprit  (although there is some of that too, but the mysteries mostly seem to get solved mainly by accident). Another issue I had with this book, probably more than with the first, is with the writing - the dialogue sometimes feels a bit too modern and it is a bit awkward in places. I'm also not sure about how quickly Gwen is accepted as a detective by most of the people around her - I'm not sure most people in the Middle Ages would have been happy about a woman doing that sort of thing. But on the other hand, I do really enjoy this series and just try not to let those things bother me, because it is worth it for all the good bits. I'm definitely planning to continue with the series, although I have so many books to read currently that I'm not sure when I'll actually get round to reading the next one.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10


The Bard's Daughter

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Summary: When Gwen's father is accused of murder, she can't believe that he is guilty. But since all the evidence seems to point to him, everyone else seems to take it for granted that he was the murderer, and so it is up to Gwen to prove his innocence by finding the true culprit, before time runs out.

Despite its short length, I think I enjoyed this book more than either of the two books I have read in the main series, although I did miss Gareth and Hywel being in it. But this book seemed to focus more on the actual mystery than the other two books, which was nice, and I liked Gwen's story and her development throughout the book - it was nice to get to know her better.

I feel like this would probably be better read before the main series, although it was written later than the first two books - not that reading the other books first diminished my enjoyment of this one, but I felt when reading The Good Knight that I was missing some things which had happened previously which were talked about but not fully developed. It certainly isn't necessary to read this first, but I would recommend doing so.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Quote of the Week



"But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short." - Jane Austen, in her unfinished story Catharine, or The Bower.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge


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I am signing up for this challenge hosted by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer (sign up here). I have a lot of books that I own (physical books and Kindle) and have been meaning to read for ages but haven't got around to. So hopefully this challenge will motivate me to actually read some of them! I'm setting my goal at 8, which is perhaps a bit optimistic, but I figure this is supposed to be a challenge and hopefully it will inspire me to spend more time reading than I have this month!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Ten Books I Enjoyed Recently That Weren't My Typical Genre/Type of Book

I'm joining in with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Ten Books I Enjoyed Recently That Weren't My Typical Genre or Type of Book. Apparently I don't read out of my comfort zone enough since I could only think of seven, but here is my list.

(covers link to Goodreads)

The first four books are all contemporary fiction, which is a genre I rarely read.

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1. Paper Cuts by Yvonne Coppard and Sandy Rideout


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2. Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay


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3. All Fall Down by Ally Carter


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4. Rose's Blog by Hilary McKay
(This is a kind of appendix to the Casson Family series, which is one of my favourite series ever, just saying. Although given that, I'm not sure it entirely fits on this list, but it's in a genre I don't read much of, so I'm including it anyway.)

Other books that don't quite fit what I "normally" read:

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5. Selected Poems of Christina Rossetti by Christina Rossetti
I don't read a lot of poetry. But I did enjoy this.
(Note: this isn't the edition I read, which was the Bloomsbury edition, but I can't find that one on Goodreads.)


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6. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This was pretty heavy on suspense and much more intense (emotionally) than I would usually go for. I'm not sure that I could say I enjoyed it exactly, at least whilst I was reading it, but it was a good book which I'm glad I read. (If that makes sense.)


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7. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
This falls into the genre of humour (which I don't usually read), and is also set in the near future, as of when it was written (I'm not sure what genre that makes it exactly, but again it's not something I usually read).

Sunday, 7 February 2016

In which I join the Classics Club

I've decided to join the Classics Club! The idea is that you challenge yourself to read at least 50 classics in five years (or less), and review them on your blog. This shouldn't be too much of a challenge for me since I read a lot of classics anyway, but I hope it will encourage me to review books more as well as being a chance to connect with other readers of classics. If you want more information about the challenge, you can find out about it here.

This is my proposed list of books to read; it may change over time. Most of the books are ones I already own but haven't read yet, with a few others that I just really want to read. At the moment I am setting my goal for completion at three years from now (so February 7, 2019) but I may change this depending on how the challenge goes.
  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  2. Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
  3. The Watsons by Jane Austen
  4. Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
  5. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  6. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  7. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  8. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  9. The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
  10. The Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
  11. In the High Valley by Susan Coolidge
  12. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  13. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  14. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  15. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  16. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  17. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  18. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  20. The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell
  21. Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
  22. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  23. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
  24. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  25. Elizabeth Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin
  26. Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain by Margaret Irwin
  27. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  28. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  29. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  30. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  31. The Light Princess and Other Stories by George MacDonald
  32. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
  33. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
  34. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  35. Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
  36. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
  37. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery
  38. Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery
  39. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
  40. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  41. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  42. The Painted Garden by Noel Streatfeild
  43. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  44. Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
  45. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  46. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  47. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  48. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  49. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  50. The Chaplet of Pearls by Charlotte Mary Yonge

Book Review: Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

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Synopsis (from Goodreads): Emily Starr has never known what it is to be unloved. But when her father dies, she is left in the care of her mother's family. Emily is a stranger to the proud Murrays, none of whom think they can cope with such a heartbroken, headstrong girl. They decide to draw lots for her, and Emily is sent to live at New Moon with stern Aunt Elizabeth, the head of the clan. Kind Aunt Laura and friendly, eccentric Cousin Jimmy also live at New Moon, though, so she is not without hope.

Emily is enchanted by New Moon, but cannot believe she will ever belong there. With her lively imagination and dreams of being a famous writer, she seems to have a talent for scandalising her family. Before long, though, she has made firm friends: Ilse, a tomboy with a blazing temper, Teddy, an aspiring artist, and Perry, the ambitious houseboy. She brings so much life to New Moon, perhaps one day even Aunt Elizabeth will consider herself lucky to have 'won' Emily.

I think the main problem that I had with this book was that it wasn't Anne of Green Gables (which is one of my favourite books ever). I didn't exactly expect it to be, of course, but although the basic premise of the book is the same (i.e. orphan girl being reluctantly adopted by older people who don't really understand her), it has quite a different ... tone? ... about it.  While I sympathised with Emily a lot when she was being misunderstood or treated unfairly, I didn't find her nearly so likeable as Anne. Also I felt that the level of conflict and misunderstandings between characters in this book meant that I didn't enjoy it so much - although it was probably realistic given the situation the characters were in it wasn't always comfortable to read about.

Having said all this, however, I did enjoy this book - it was by L.M. Montgomery, after all. It was definitely a good story and there were some beautiful descriptions in it. I'm glad I finally read it, anyway (after having been meaning to for a long time), but I don't think I'll be re-reading it anytime soon, though, and I'm not sure whether or not I'll go on to read the sequels.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10

Friday, 5 February 2016

Welcome

Welcome to my blog!

Being new to this whole blogging thing, I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, but I suppose I should start by introducing myself. I'm Rachel, I am a Christian, bibliophile, and lover of period dramas, history and anything old-fashioned.

My intention is for this to be a place where I can express my thoughts on various topics, talk about books I've enjoyed (or not), and whatever else I feel like posting about. I'm not entirely sure how frequently posts will appear; I'll probably just post when I feel like it or feel like I have something to say. I have a few book reviews I'm hoping to put up soon, and then I'll see how it goes from there.

I hope you enjoy reading it.