The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki


The novel tells the story of the Austrian empress Elisabeth, who ruled in the second half of the nineteenth century. Although the central story is based on factual evidence, there is some degree of artistic freedom to it that makes this book a novel, not an actual biography. Generally, I really enjoy reading historical literature, especially when it revolves around influential women but it took me three weeks to get through this book and I wasn’t exactly impressed by it.

The novel begins with a journey; Sisi’s older sister Helene is chosen to be the new empress and they are both taken to meet their cousin Franz Joseph. However, when the two sisters meet the emperor, he falls madly in love with Elisabeth, who then becomes his new fiancée. After several months they get married and Sisi starts her new life at Austrian court which is often filled with hardships. She gives birth to two daughters before a son and successor is born. Sophie, Franz’s mother, is an extremely stubborn woman and she basically steals her grandchildren from their mother. Elisabeth cannot bear it anymore so she leaves to travel. When she returns after four years spent abroad, she starts her relationship with count Andrassy, who later on becomes her lover. The book ends with the coronation of Franz and Elisabeth as king and queen of Hungary.

The novel isn’t exactly badly written, I liked the historical background and reading about Sisi’s side of the story, I just felt like the author stretched too much. For example it was never proven that Sisi and Andrassy were in fact lovers and some depictions of actual historical figures were a bit far-fetched. I also had issues with the Slovenian translation which was far from acceptable. The writing style didn’t work well, some metaphors tried to be sophisticated but they were not.

Overall I’d say I enjoyed the novel, because despite the downfalls the story ran smoothly and there was some obvious character development, not just with the main protagonist, but also with Franz and Sophie. And the love story between Sisi and Andrassy was so gentle and beautiful, I was sorry it didn’t last longer. I’ll be sure to pick up the second book and find out for myself just what happens to the two lovers. (Unfortunately I already know because I googled it but a girl can always dream.)

A deity does not quake simply because the crowd yells. An empress stands fixed, immutable: the calm that continues on, even as the world rages.

Allison Pataki, The Accidental Empress

Permanent Rose by Hilary McKay


Permanent Rose is not at all happy. Since Tom left for America, she patiently awaits his letter (every morning she waits for the postman to arrive and every morning she is left empty handed), a phone call (not a single one), a surprise visit (nope), anything at all from her beloved friend. Indigo in the meantime befriends his former enemy David, who isn’t such a bad guy after all. He also reads from Morte D’Arthur which is the first book Rose also enjoys and she draws parallels between Lancelot and Tom. Saffy and Sarah are trying to find out more about Saffy’s father (Sarah thinks he is a rich and handsome Italian) and dear Caddy is engaged to Michael though she doesn’t seem all that happy about it. Eve is a bit upset because Bill lives with his girlfriend in London while she has to paint the walls of the local hospital. A lot is happening at the Casson’s family home and new revelations are about to surprise them all.

The third book in the series reveals that Rose might actually be McKay’s favourite character (or is that just my humble opinion?). She is certainly one of the best written characters I’ve come across. Though the other siblings don’t play such a big part in this book I am happy to report that we finally get more of Caddy! Poor Caddy, she has to face the fact that love is far more complicated than she imagined it. And darling Bill, we finally get to see just who he really is! Eve is just as distracted and loving as always though she has a hard time remembering David’s name. Poor old David, nobody really likes him, Saffy and Sarah think he’s a weirdo and Rose resents him for bullying Indigo and trying to step into Tom’s shoes.

This actually isn’t my favourite book in the series despite being Rose’s but I missed Tom too much to really fall in love with it. Sure, he is ever present, but he isn’t really there and I missed him terribly! David was an interesting fellow and I loved his character development but Tom and Rose and Indigo, well, they are the loveliest. This book is so charming and full of warm sensations, it really pulls you in until you become addicted to the Cassons. Luckily there are three more books left to read!


“I always say a little prayer when I put cakes in the oven,” remarked Eve, as she stopped to kiss Rose good-bye.
“What do you say?”
“I say, ‘Please, God, don’t let me forget I’ve put that cake in the oven.

Hilary McKay, Permanent Rose


Indigo’s star by Hilary McKay



What’s new in the Casson family? Well, Indigo is finally better after being sick for a long time, so he has to go back to school and face the bullies. Fortunately he meets a new friend, an American boy called Tom, who plays the guitar, loves climbing on top of buildings and refuses to speak about his new family. Rose, the youngest in the Casson family, refuses to wear glasses and she simply adores Indigo’s new friend (though she tries to deny it). Saffy and her friend Sarah want to protect Indigo from the bullies but it’s not really working. And sweet Caddy is dating pretty much every boy available while still talking to her dear Michael. Bill is obviously in London and darling Eve almost never leaves her beloved garden shed.

The second part of the charming Casson family series takes us further as we get to know more about Indigo, the only boy in the family. The writing style continues to be effortless and humorous with sentences that contain a story worthy of an epic adventure. This book is even better than the first one and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys reading children’s literature and YA novels. It has a feel good quality to it even though it contains some serious life lessons.

While the book concentrates mainly on Indigo, we also get to see more about Rose. She writes letters to her father in order to make him come home but although she tries to make them as alarming and shocking as possible, the effect is quite different and Bill just laughs at them. We don’t get to see much of Saffy, Sarah and Caddy; they are always there but sort of in the background. Caddy doesn’t want to admit that she is in love with Michael and instead has hundreds of boyfriends (one of whom then falls for Eve) and I really missed reading about her. The focus is on Indigo and his new friend Tom, who are both my favourites in this series.

Every time I read a Casson novel I wish I had a family like that. They are so unique but they always stick together and help each other out. You are never alone if you are a Casson kid. Their house is full of joy and happiness and laughter and life. Sure, there is also sorrow and pain but it’s easier to overcome those feelings as a family. That is why I know I will never stop rereading this series even when I will be old and grey and quite possibly a bit mad.


Rose had the sort of eyes that manage perfectly well with things close by, but entirely blur out things far away. Because of this even the brightest stars had only appeared as silvery smudges in the darkness. In all her life, Rose had never properly seen a star.
Tonight there was a sky full.
Rose looked up, and it was like walking into a dark room and someone switching on the universe.

Hilary Mckay, Indigo’s star

Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay



I started reading this series as a favour for my best friend, who at the time did not enjoy reading and was forced to read a book for school anyway (yes, we sometimes cheated like that in primary school, but who doesn’t). She chose this book because of the cover and I thought it was rather beautiful as well, so I said, why not, I’ll read it for you and tell you what happens. Boy, am I glad I actually did read it. So let’s meet the family!

The eldest Cadmium is a teenager and madly in love with her driving instructor. Also, she collects hamsters and Guinea pigs. Then there is Saffron, the main character in the book, who at the beginning finds out she was actually adopted and so her siblings became her cousins. Indigo, the only boy in the family, wants to travel to the South pole and so he keeps testing his fear of heights by hanging from the windowsill of his bedroom (it’s not as dangerous as it sounds, he always makes sure he holds on to something). And then there is Rose, the youngest, the artistic one, who paints on walls and always answers the phone. Their mother Eve is also an artist and she spends most of her time in her garden shed, painting away, while their father Bill, also an artist, but a proper one, divides his time between London and his family (London usually wins).

When Saffy realizes she is adopted, something in her changes and so she desperately wants to find out more about her old life. She meets a new friend Sarah, who ends up crafting the most brilliant plan of going to Siena, where Saffy used to live, and retrieving the stone angel that her grandfather left her. Cadmium is busy flirting with Michael, her driving instructor, who keeps bragging about his amazing girlfriend, and that actually helps Caddy study for her exams. Indigo gets better and better with his fear of heights and darling Rose keeps annoying their father by talking nonsense on the phone. The three siblings manage to find Saffy’s angel and bring it to her when she returns from Siena, thinking the angel is lost.

This book is insanely funny, on occasions even terribly sad, but always written in such a way that you just know everything will be all right at the end. It makes you feel happier and better about life in general. I think everyone can find bits and pieces of themselves in the characters which are so well written and their development is slow but persistent, just like it usually is in real life. I fell in love with all of them and I am not ashamed to admit that this series is still very close to my heart even though I am not a kid anymore.


Michael allowed himself to look at Caddy for the first time since she had climbed into the car. It was a moment that he always put off for as long as possible because his concentration was never quite the same afterwards.

Hilary McKay, Saffy’s angel