My Lord John by Georgette Heyer

My Lord John by Georgette Heyer

John, Duke of Bedford grew to manhood fighting for his father, Henry IV of England. A prince of the royal blood, loyal, strong, the greatest ally that his brother — the future Henry V — was to have. Filled with the clash of bitter rivalries and deadly power struggles, this is Georgette Heyer’s last and most ambitious novel. (Goodreads)

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about this era so I spent more time on google than reading and thank goodness for character list! But it’s so annoying and confusing when you can’t call someone the same name the whole time. I mean there’s half dozen Henry/Harry, John, Richard, Hugh, Thomas… No need confusing the reader by calling the person sometimes by their given name and other time by their title.

It was also quite slow to read. Heyer has tried writing how people spoke at the fifteenth century and it slows down the reading. There were many times I had to read the sentence few times to understand it.

I liked how John was portrayed and the scenes that focused on him but at times I felt like I was having history lesson instead of reading historical fiction.

Heyer died before the trilogy was finished, but did the book had to end in mid sentence?! Even if the manuscript breaks off like that. What were the editors thinking!

I liked this more than The Conqueror but I still wouldn’t recommend this.

2,5/5
Published: Pan (1975)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Source: library

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett

The Painted Man (Demon Cycle 1) by Peter V. Brett

As darkness falls, demon corelings rise — multitudes and giants, from fire, wood, and rock, hungry for human flesh. After centuries, humans dwindle, protective wards forgotten. Three young survivors of demon attacks, Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, dare to fight back. (Goodreads)

In Arlen’s world there is demons, or corelings as they’re called, who rises from the ground when the darkness falls. People try to protect their homes with wards and hoping the wards hold during the night.

Arlen lives with his parents at a small village when the village is attacked by the demons. When his mother is severly wounded and his father stays behind the safety of the wards watching, Arlen starts to wonder why people won’t fight back and thinks that there must be some way to fight.
Arlen is disappointed in his father’s cowardice and leaves his home to discover a way to learn to fight.

The book is also told from Leesha’s and Rojer’s point of view. Leesha becomes a herb gatherer, healer, and Rojer becomes jongleur after his village is attacked.

We get to know Arlen from young age and see him grow to a very determined, or obsessed, man. Fighting corelings becomes his whole life whic borders on obsession. He loathes his father and the people who are too afraid to fight but I could understand why they were afraid. Sometimes I wished he had just little more understanding with those.

I liked Leesha who was smart and had courage but why must every man want to bed her? And the romance part just came out of the blue. And I just don’t believe someone recovers from rape that soon and then soon after has sex in the mud with near complete stranger.

But I did enjoy the book and it left me wondering what happens next. I’m definitely reading the next book!

3,5/5
Published: Harper Voyager (2008)
Format: Hardback
Pages: 560
Source: library

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

Wake by Lisa McMann

Wake (Dream Catcher 1) by Lisa McMann

NOT ALL DREAMS ARE SWEET.

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can’t tell anybody about what she does — they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t want and can’t control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant…. (Goodreads)

Janie was 8 years old when she discovered that when she is close to someone who is asleep, she gets sucked into the dreams. She slowly starts to learn more about how to control it and then she meets Cabel who can speak to her in his dreams and remember it. Janie has never told anyone what she can do, nor even her mother, but is forced to told Cabel after he sees Janie getting paralyzed while getting into a dream. She gets to know Cabel better and learns that he is hiding something.

I hadn’t read many reviews about this before reading it and had vague idea about what’s it about. And what a mistake that was.

I had problems with the writing style which was choppy and there was lots of short sentences one after another and there’s date and time told when everything happens.

She sees it, vividly.
Cabel, leaving the house. Slamming the door.
The man on the steps, yelling. Following.
The punch to Cabel’s face.
The lighter fluid to his belly.
The fire and screaming.
The transformation.
pg. 168

It grew old very quickly and plainly started to annoy me pretty soon. It also made it sound like children’s book more than ya book. Actually my friend saw me reading it and seeing how the pages looked said that it looks like children’s book.

I absolutely loved that after reading few books from library about dreaming of course solves all the problems and she learns all about her gift and all. Why is it never that easy in real life? And the twist near the end is the most ridiculous and so not needed in long time I’ve read.

I believe this is the first in a trilogy but I’m not planning to read the rest. This was more than enough for me.

2/5
Published: Simon Pulse (2008)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 210
Source: my own

Delilah by Eleanor De Jong

Delilah by Eleanor De Jong

Maligned as the courtesan who revealed the mighty Samson’s secret for money, Delilah has become synonymous with treachery. But behind the myth is a tale far more tragic! From the moment they met, there was a fire in their relationship, with Samson pitted against Delilah’s family. But Samson soon develops an overwhelming passion for Delilah; entranced by her beauty and passionate nature. Meanwhile the Israelites and the Philistines are in a state of constant conflict, with Samson a seemingly unbeatable warrior. The Philistines are desperate to learn the secret behind Samson’s power and enrol Delilah as a pawn to bring him down. Driven by misplaced anger, Delilah agrees to use her wiles to discover the secret of his strength. But Delilah finds that Samson is far from the ogre that she had assumed. But a sequence of events have been set in motion which both of them are powerless to stop. The consequences of her mistake have gone down in history and this wonderful novel is as alluring and beguiling as Delilah herself. (Goodreads)

After Delilah’s father dies her mother remarries their employer. But he is Philisetine while Delilah’s family is Israelite and there’s no great love between the cultures. Her new stepsister Hemin seems to hate her and everything she represents but Hemin’s brother adores her.

Hemin is about to be married to Samson, young Israelite who people look as their leader. The wedding doesn’t go through and Delilah takes great dislike to Samson when they first meet. When her stepfather offers her as a wife to Samson instead of Hemin, she makes it clear what she thinks of him. But Samson can’t get her out of his mind and then Delilah gets on offer she can’t refuse.

I’m surprised how much I liked this. I’ve heard of Samson and Delilah before but didn’t know anything about them so I didn’t know what to suspect.

Delilah was strong, willful and brave and I liked her from the start. She grows in a Philistine family learning their culture and ways and has never really felt the need to learn the ways of her people. When she meets Samson she thinks he’s brutish barbarian but there is spark between them from the start. I didn’t always agreed what she did or how she did but I understand her reasons.

I liked Samson and how he believed in what he was doing. He was definitely no barbarian but not an open or easy man either. He was said to be violent man but he also cared for his mother and gave great balance. But I did wonder that Samson being no idiot how easily and completely he fell for Delilah so quickly. He suspected everyone and everything of betrayal but never even thought she could betray him?

Delilah’s brother Ekron is first rather weak and gives Delilah puppy eyes and I wasn’t prepared for the change for what he became. Not sure if everything he did to her at the end was really necessary but it showed how far they had became while choosing sides.

I liked the book and it was great debut for the author. While the characters are from the bible it’s not very religious and I felt like I was reading just historical book.

4/5
Published: Avon (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 377
Source: publisher

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

When Nina Revskaya puts her remarkable jewelry collection up for auction, the former Bolshoi Ballet star finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland, and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed her life half a century earlier. It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of dance and fell in love, and where, faced with Stalinist aggression, a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal—and an ingenious escape to the West.

Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But now Drew Brooks, an inquisitive associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor who believes Nina’s jewels hold the key to unlocking his past, begin to unravel her story—setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all. (Goodreads)

Former ballerina Nina Revskaya has decided to auction off her jewelry collection. Once a prima ballerina for the Bolshoi Ballet now she is confined to a wheelchair.Growing up in Soviet Russia under Stalin, she has learned to keep her secret and thought to herself and doesn’t like to speak of her past.

Then an anonymous donor gives the auction an Amber necklace, a piece that seems to match Nina’s jewelry. The donor is Grigori Solodin who got the necklace from his adoptive parents. He thinks Nina is the key for solving who his parents is, but Nina isn’t cooperating and refuses speaking to him. Drew Brooks is the representative from the auction house and she’s trying to learn more of Russia because her grandfather came from there. Drew and Grigori tries to find out where the necklace came from and getting to know each other.

I had so much trouble writing this review and I’m still not quite sure what to think of the book.

I liked it when I first started it, then I didn’t like it, then it was better again and then not so good. It just kept changing. There was few times I thought of giving up and the only reason I didn’t was because this was for review. And I can’t really point what the problem was. Maybe because besides Nina I just didn’t connect with the characters.

I liked Nina and the best parts was the scenes in the past with her. It would have been pretty scary living in Stalin’s Russia! But I didn’t find Grigori and Drew interesting enough and present day Nina was just mean. And the switches of povs got on my nerves pretty soon. It changed multiple times in one chapter – between characters and between times. Just made my head hurt and annoyed.

Didn’t like the ending either; it just ended suddenly and I felt like “Is this it?” And so many things were left unanswering.

Can’t help but feel disappointed and I really wanted to like this. It had very interesting topic but it just couldn’t carry it through. I was going between giving this 2 or 3 but since I thought of giving up I’m going with 2. But because I liked the past times I’ll give extra half points.

2,5/5
Published: Harper Perennial (2011)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 496
Source: publisher