The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

From London’s slums to its bawdy playhouses, “The Darling Strumpet” transports the reader to the tumultuous world of seventeenth-century England, charting the meteoric rise of the dazzling Nell Gwynn, who captivates the heart of King Charles II-and becomes one of the century’s most famous courtesans.
Witty and beautiful, Nell was born into poverty but is drawn into the enthralling world of the theater, where her saucy humor and sensuous charm earn her a place in the King’s Company. As one of the first actresses in the newly-opened playhouses, she catapults to fame, winning the affection of legions of fans-and the heart of the most powerful man in all of England, the King himself. Surrendering herself to Charles, Nell will be forced to maneuver the ruthless and shifting allegiances of the royal court-and discover a world of decadence and passion she never imagined possible. (Goodreads)

The book starts with 10 year old Nell trying to fins something to eat and trying to stay clear from her drunken mother. King Charles II is making his return to London and the people are in party mood but Nell is more worried about getting something to eat. She ends up losing her virginity to a boy in exchange for money so she can buy food. She later tries to get more money from a group of boys that doesn’t end up well. Nell’s older sister Rose is working on a brothel and she convinces Madame Ross to take Nell in. There she meets group of actors and becomes fascinated by them. When she gets an opportunity on stage she is delighted. While on stage she catches the eye of the king whom she has met before and is surprised when he remembers her.

Having never read about Nell before I was really interested to read this. I’m still not sure how to feel about this. It wasn’t bad but I think it still kept lacking that something. Can’t say if it’s the book or the fact that I’m not that interested in this time period and don’t know much about it.

I liked Nell: she was nice, likeable girl who was to determined to have better life. But I also felt like she was too nice. All liked her and if they didn’t they were clearly bad. I’m pretty sure she did something unlikable sometime…

I knew it had quite many sex scenes and while I understand that since Nell is a whore I think there didn’t have to be so many of those. And I really didn’t need to read in so many details 10 year old having sex twice (okay there were more guys involved but still) on the day she loses virginity. But I’m also happy that it wasn’t too sanitized because she was after all a whore.

What I really missed was to know how she felt when the queen was accused plotting against the king. The thing was mentioned, Charles flew into rage and that was it. It would have been interesting to read Nell’s thoughts about the matter.

I liked Buckingham and how he and Nell were friends. She didn’t seem to have many friends at court so that was nice. But I’m still wondering if they were friends in real world?
And I liked Charles Hart and he was so adorable. I just wanted to shake Nell and get some sense into her to stay with Hart.

All in all it was enjoyable read and I’m curious to read the author’s next book to see if it goes in the same lines.

3,5/5
Published: Avon (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 414
Source: publisher

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

Two murdered princes; a powerful queen betrayed; a nobleman riding towards his certain death…

The story of the Princes in the Tower has been one of the most fascinating – and most brutal – murder mysteries in history for more than five hundred years.

In a brilliant feat of historical daring, Emma Darwin has recreated the terrible, exhilarating world of the two youngest victims of the War of the Roses: the power struggles and passion that lay behind their birth, the danger into which they fell, the profoundly moving days before their imprisonment, and the ultimate betrayal of their innocence.

In A Secret Alchemy, three voices speak: that of Elizabeth Woodville, the beautiful widow of King Edward IV; of her brother Anthony, surrogate father to the doomed Prince Edward and his brother Dickon; and that of present-day historian Una Pryor. Orphaned, and herself brought up in a family where secrets and rivalries threaten her world, Una’s experience of tragedy, betrayal and lost love help her unlock the long-buried secrets that led to the princes’ deaths.  (Goodreads)

I really liked the portrayal of both Elizabeth and Antony. They’re both usually the villains and power-greedy people and it was refreshing to see them in another light. Antony’s story begins when he is taken to Pontefract Castle and knows he is being executed there. Elizabeth is in Bermondsey Abbey where she lived during Henry VII’s reign. We don’t hear the whole life story of either but few selected episodes. I have to confess I’m not usually huge fan of Antony but couldn’t resist falling for him just a bit.

I didn’t care for the present day story that much and could have lived without it. Also I had problem with too many narrative switches.. One minute it’s Una telling her story, then the next Antony is about to die and then it switches to a scene where he’s on a horse riding somewhere. So confusing!

3,5/5
Published: Headline (2008)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 416
Source: library

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent 1) by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. (Goodreads)

When people are sixteen they have to choose a faction that values different virtues and where they want to live the rest of their lives. Beatrice is torn because while she doesn’t feel like belonging to Abnegation, leaving would mean not seeing her family again. Before the choosing ceremony everyone goes to a test that tells a recommendation which faction they should choose. But the test gives a shocking result: there’s not one faction she should belong but several. People that has that kind of result is called Divergent.

For once I agree with all the raving and hyping: I loved this book!

I liked Tris who was both brave, strong and same time vulnerable. She learned to stand up for herself even if her old faction taught people to be selfless. She learns to merge the best parts of two faction.

And of course there was the romance part. And for once there wasn’t a triangle that every YA book seems to have. Gotta love that. And it wasn’t too much like teen-age drooling. And I liked Four. There could have been little more telling about how he looked but oh well, worked fine for me. Maybe he’s past didn’t come so much as a shock but that didn’t ruin anything. I loved to see their relationship grow and getting to know each other.

I wish there would have been more about Tris’s mother’s past but I hope we learn more in the future. But that’s pretty much the only complain I have.

What a great debut from the author and I’m definitely reading the next book!

5/5
Published: HarperCollins Children’s Books (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 487
Source: library

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched (Matched 1) by Ally Condie

On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her match. The Society dictates that he is her perfect partner for life, except he’s not.

In Cassia’s society, Officials decide who people love.
How many children they have.
Where they work.
When they die.

But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy,
she is determined to make some choices of her own.

And that’s when her whole world
begins to unravel… (Goodreads)

In the Society everything is controlled; they work at the place that is best suited for them, they’re given specific foods to make sure they stay healthy, they’re free time is monitored and the Society decides with who you are married to.
When Cassia turns 17, she will know to who she is matched. When she learns that it will be Xander, her friend since childhood, she’s thrilled. When Cassia plugs in her microcard at home which is supposed to have information on her matched. But then another face flashed on the screen and then disappears. It’s Ky Markham and she has known him also from childhood. The Society isn’t supposed to make mistakes but Cassia is starting to question the Society.

Again here is a book that people has been raving about and I was little afraid how I would like it. And I was afraid for a reason.

I didn’t feel connected with the characters at all and couldn’t care less what happened with them. I didn’t feel any connection between Cassia and Ky or with Xander. So Ky’s face pops on the screen and the next time they meet she just notices how perfect he is. Even if they’ve known since childhood and never noticed him before. Xander is supposed to be her best friend, they can tell everything to each other and how much she cares about him. She certainly didn’t care about him when she started drooling after Ky. And I didn’t believe that Xander would be just ”oh well” and then help her to find the other guy. I mean really??

Okay I was really disappointed in this and I’m not reading the second book for sure.

2/5
Published: Razorbill (2010)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 366
Source: library

Shieldwall by Justin Hill

Shieldwall by Justin Hill

The year is 1016 and England burns while the Viking armies blockade the great city of London. King Ethelred lies dying and the England he knew dies with him; the warring kingdoms of Mercia, Wessex and Northymbria tremble on the brink of great change. One man lives to bear witness to the upheaval: Godwin, barely out of boyhood and destined to become one of his country’s great warriors. When Ethelred’s son Edmund takes the throne, determined to succeed where his father failed, he plucks Godwin from domestic peace to be right-hand man in his loyal shield wall. Godwin must traverse the meadows, wintry forests and fogbound marshes of Saxon England, raising armies of monks, ploughmen and shepherds against the Viking invader. With epic courage and ferocity, Godwin and Edmund repel the butchering Danes in three great battles. But an old enemy, the treacherous Earl Eadric, dogs Godwin’s footsteps, and as the final battle approaches, around the valiant English the trap begins to close. (Goodreads)

After Godwin’s father falls out with Alderman Eadric, he is held as hostage at King Ethelred’s court. The king’s son Edmund saves his life and they become friends. Godwin rises from being the second son to be the king’s right-hand man. They have the same vision of England and Godwin stays loyal to him even when things go from bad to worse.

I’m having some troubles writing this review but I’m not sure why is that.

To say this was action packed is an understatement. There was battle after battle and while I do like battles it really took the center stage when someone dies it’s told in great detail. The problem is that I didn’t get to really know the characters besides Godwin or what they were thinking. Lot of back-slapping and other manly activities but I kept missing for something else. I did like Kendra who first nursed Godwin’s father in the end and became Godwin’s mistress after that. But I would have liked to know what happened to her later on.

I know this gives the idea that I hated the book but I did enjoy it. It just had the action as the main point instead of historical things. I liked Godwin and Edmund but Knut was just like a spoiled brat. Haven’t read many books about this era and some of the characters were so different from what I’ve thought them to be.

3,5/5
Published: Little Brown and Company (2011)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 402
Source: publisher