Lucinda Riley, The Seven Sisters book review: 4 stars!

Where to begin… This book was truly wonderful. Riley writes exquisitely and immediately lures you in to her well-crafted story. First we meet all the sisters as they return to the family home, Atlantis, upon hearing Pa Salt their father has passed away. We learn that the sisters, named after the Pleides known throughout various cultures mythology and as the star constellations, were all adopted by this elusive billionaire living in Atlantis on the lakes of Geneva. Here we get a glimpse of the sisters’ personalities and are intrigued to learn of their untold stories, which you will discover, in the following books.  Each has been given a clue to their true heritage and this book allows Maia to search for hers, which takes her to Brazil. 

snoozy spaniel with ‘The Seven Sisters’

Maia arrives in Rio in search of her true history after hiding away for years. This journey into her past will ultimately help her to heal and find what she desires. At first I was not completely enamoured with Maia, but throughout this book her personality flourishes as she learns more about her heritage. 

We also go back 80 years and meet Izabela Bonifacio daughter of Antonio Bonifacio who is intent on her marrying into the aristocracy. Izabela, a passionate young woman who I instantly felt drawn to, sees she must do her duty but yearns to see the old world and discover the beauty of art there. Heitor da Silva Costa, intends to travel to Paris in search of the perfect sculptor for the ‘Christ the Redemer’ for which he is organising the construction. Izabela who is friends with his daughter sees her one chance to live her dream and takes it and embarks on a life changing journey Europe. 

Nap time!

If you are looking for something to hold you under its spell and literally inhale then this book is for you. I was desperate to discover the stories of these to woman from different times who were undeniably similar. This is a beautiful, tragic story about searching for truth in the past only to discover the beauty of the future. This book is not to be missed, it is heart wrenchingly exquisite and I have fallen in love the characters and the story that Riley has created.

Bertie the springer spaniel is my favourite Reading buddy!

Time flies when you are reading for fun: Celebrating 80 years of Puffin!

As we celebrate 80 years of Puffin I look back on the most memorable books, which have remained favourites beyond my childhood. As a child, my mother let me read her wonderful collection of Puffin books, which she received in the early 1970’s. To this day I can recall the joy and excitement of reading these books together. It was Puffin that nurtured my love of reading and I have been hooked ever since. Below I have compiled a list of my favourites that I would like to share with you.

The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis are indeed a favourite of mine. They were my first glimpse of a fantastical world, which bewitched my young mind and put me under a spell, which I remain under to this day. I was desperate to go to the fictional world of Narnia and meet Aslan, fear great dragons, meet Caspian and have a talking horse just like Bree. These books carved out a love of literature, which will not be quelled. There was a clear favourite, “The Horse and His Boy”. It is a wonderful tale, which follows the boy Shasta and a horse Bree in their quest to save Narnia from the Calormen people who plot against them. From a nostalgic point of view this is a great read because the story is amazing and the adventure is thrilling.  

Continuing with the theme of horses I fell instantly in love with Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. This incredible book was one of the first books that I genuinely sobbed whilst reading it. Here, we live through the eyes of the most beautiful horse that starts off life in pure bliss with friends and a loving family. When Beauty is forced to move away he realises that, some humans are extremely cruel. He is then passed through various owners. This is a beautiful tale, which teaches the reader to be compassionate towards animals. 

Noel Streatfield’s ‘Ballet Shoes’ tugged on my heartstrings as I became attached to the three adopted girls, Pauline, Petrova and Posy. Their guardian Gum, (Great Uncle Mathew) so used to collecting fossils had turned his hand to orphaned children and then mysteriously disappeared. The girls decide to make names for themselves so, enrol at the Academy of Dance and Stage training in the hope they will be able to support their family. It is a beautiful tale about having courage to strive for their dreams. I remember reading my mothers extremely tattered Puffin book, which was falling apart from endless times it was reread. I would heartily recommend this book to both young and adult readers, it is a true gem and not to be missed!

Frances Hodges Burnett’s The Secret Garden tells the story of a young girl Mary Lennox whose parents die in the cholera epidemic so she moves from India to England to live with her grieving uncle at Mistlethwaite Manor in Yorkshire. Both have had their fair share of misery and seemingly the household is engulfed in gloom and mystery. This story is about forging new friendships and overcoming grief. It is a heart warming read which brings the family together through the beautiful garden, which is lovingly brought back to life along with their own happiness. The wonderful characters in this book grow throughout and mature and become all that is good and learn from their previous vices. 

Having read through my mother’s old Puffin books, I began my own collection. Now I am at the stage were I am buying books for my godson who is a budding Classicist thanks to the Percy Jackson books. Naturally I had to get my own copies first to make sure they were good, and indeed they were. So I set about gifting these books by Rick Riordan, which are genuinely spectacular to any young member of my extended family in the hope that they would one day share my love of Classics. As a Classicist, it is my greatest passion to bring Classics to young people and hopefully inspire them to love the subject. These books are a great way for young readers to get excited about the classical world. I have bought most of his work as presents for younger relatives who have all been hooked by the magical tales of the Ancient World. It is books like this that inspire people to learn more about the history of our wonderful world and the people that inhabited it so long ago. I will be eternally grateful to Riordan for creating these wonderful books and I will continue to recommend them to young readers.

After 80 years Puffin is still spreading its magic and helping children fall in love with reading. Now as we are staying at home more than ever before we need our children to engage with literature and imagine exciting fictional worlds to entertain us in these difficult times. So, I thank you Puffin for continuing your sensational work for 80 years and toast to 80 more!


Something Fresh by P G Wodehouse, Five Star Read!

Meet the eccentric characters who dwell in the beautiful and surreal world created by P.G. Wodehouse. Blandings Castle is home to The 9th Earl of Emsworth, Clarence, who is the head of the family, though he has little influence over his family and other relations. His absentmindedness is at the forefront of his personality and the most important thing in his life is The Empress, his prize white sow. The Honourable Fredrick Threepwood, is Clarence’s younger son, who, clearly inherited his father’s absentmindedness and general incompetence in all manners. He is newly engaged to the American Aline Peters, daughter of J. Preston Peters. Clarence is overjoyed at the prospect of being rid of his younger son after he has been imprisoned in Blandings so as to make sure he didn’t get into further mischief which, was the one thing he excelled in.

Alan getting camera shy!

Before we are introduced to these exquisitely created characters we meet some other interesting beings who dwell in London and are not all too familiar with the family previously described. Ash Marson writes adventure stories where the hero always manages to get himself out of a sticky situation. He meets the rather wonderful, in his opinion, Joan Valentine a fellow writer at the Mammoth Publishing company, who writes for the Home Gossip. Together they embark on their own adventure, unknowingly  in competition to rescue a stolen Scarab Beetle. This Scarab Beetle, an ancient Egyptian amulet, belonged to the American J Preston Peters, an avid collector, it was stolen by Lord Emsworth who believed it to have been a gift. So, they all pop off down to Blanding’s castle, Ash and Joan in disguise, where mayhem and madness ensue! The Hon Freddie is utterly disinterested in Aline and frankly would rather read the ‘Adventures of Gridley Quale’ the adventure stories written by Ash. Aline on the other hand is being courted by another who is also at the castle and hates Freddie’s guts, George Emerson. Lord Emsworth’s secretary, the efficient Baxter, is aware of the worth of the Scarab beetle, a $5,000 (a fortune in the 1930s) and guards it with his life. It would be a near impossible task for anyone to recover the Scarab but can the adventure writer Ash Marsden do it, or will Joan beat him too it?

Put your paws in the air if you like the sound of this!

So now you know what this book is about, why should you read it? Well, let me tell you! First, the eccentric and frankly hilarious characters which Wodehouse creates are just out of the very top draw of comedy writing; this bunch of miscreants get into all sorts of trouble and soon you will be desperate to know how they get out of various scrapes. Clarence and The Hon. Freddie for me are the stars of the show. Their complete inability to complete any task or even converse in a way that suggests sanity is magnificent. If you are on the lookout for some top class hilarity and jollity then look no further book lovers. Come and join in the madness of Blandings Castle and its occupants to experience escapism at its best. Which is something we all need now, more than ever!

Alan searching for the next five star read!

Love Sophie x