Three new fiction reads for me. The Tenant of Wildfel Hall and Villette by the Bronte sisters are both English classics which are both on my Classics Club list. While The Medea Complex is a historical/psychological thriller which I accepted a review copy from the author.
101 More Improv Games for Children and Adults by Bob Bedore
The “Poor Me” Manual by Hunter Lewis
The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport
Three new non-fiction reads from three new authors for me here and all three were received through NetGalley.
One of my continuing aims in 2014 is to continue to read more non-fiction. Sadly even though I enjoyed many memoirs in 2013 it has been many, many months since I have picked one up. I decided to change all that when I picked up Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. A book I was lucky enough to win of copy of in 2013.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is the recollections of author Jeanette Winterson on her lonely and unusual childhood as an adopted child in a small terrace house in Accrington. Winterson is most well known for her 1985 novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit which was eventually discovered to be a fictionalised version of Winterson’s childhood. Through Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal Winterson’s hoped to finally write a real account of her recollections instead of allowing readers to guess what was true or not in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
The two individuals that really stand out in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal are the author Jeanette and her tyrannical adoptive mother Mrs Winterson. Jeanette is a confused child who from her earliest memory has felt lonely and in the wrong place. As a young woman Jeanette’s choice to read and educate herself, and her love for women only makes to isolate her more in a small working class town. I liked Jeanette while I couldn’t always relate I could sympathise. Then we have Mrs Winterson an unhappy wife, mother and woman who is constantly awaiting dooms day. Mrs Winterson extreme religious views and tyrannical rule only furthers Jeanette’s feelings of loneliness and being in the wrong place as she strives and always fails to impress her adoptive mother.
While I have heard of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit I have not read it and so Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is the first book I have read by Jeanette Winterson. I choose a copy of this for my prize and I was excited about reading it. The only reason I can see for me not picking it up was I presumed it would be a tragic tale. On reading this what I found was that yes there were tragic moments but there was also happiness, sadness, hope and humour. On top of liking Jeanette as a character I found I also liked her as a writer. Winterson never allows the tale to become too static or dry and I thought it was beautifully written. Which meant I found myself flying through this memoir not really wishing to put it down. After reading this I would really like to read more of Winterson’s work.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is a beautifully told tale of a lonely and unusual childhood but with hints of hope and humour.
Have you read this? Any Winterson recommendations?
Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are happy and well? February was another busy month for me with college work, college placement, agency work, drama workshops, belly dancing classes and pantomime rehearsals. My reading was up on January though, here is what I managed to finish:
During February I also managed to finish two non-fiction books. Good progress towards my continuing aim to read more non-fiction. First I finished God Knows My Name by Beth Redman an inspirational piece of Christian non-fiction. Next I picked up Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. A beautifully written, humorous and tragic memoir of Winterson’s childhood. My thoughts on this are still to be posted.
Pick of the Month: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal
And those I just the books I finished in February. I won’t bore you with all the text books, articles and reports I’ve been reading for my course but needless to say there has been a lot. I have been dipping in and out of the epic collection Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales. I also started reading Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes and History of the Christian Church in the First Century by Edward Burton.
I absolutely love adaptations. I know this can sometimes be a controversial subject with book lovers but not for me. I think my real love of them came from my time studying performance at university. There I became fascinated with taking a story and telling it through a different medium; whether that be book, film, TV, or on the stage.
As these adaptation update posts seem to be going down well I’ve decided to continue them in 2014. Here are the adaptations I’ve been watching during February:
The Paradise (2013) Not ReadTV SeriesTelevision
The second series of the BBC’s period drama transplanting Emile Zola’s novel from Paris to England. A comforting and glittering series following the lives and exploits of the staff, owners and customers at the first department store. Sadly I have heard the rumours that this is also to be the final series.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012) ReadFilmDVD
The fifth and final instalment in The Twilight Saga film franchise adapted from Stephanie Meyer’s successful series of novels. This film wraps up the relationship of Edward and Bella and sees their final showdown with the Volturi. I sadly didn’t have high expectations for this film. I thought Breaking Dawn the novel was weak and my worse fears were realised when they made two films from it. Part 1 was okay and equally I found Part 2 okay. Can’t help but feel they could have just made one decent film instead of stretching the story thin.
Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) Read TV Mini-SeriesTelevision
BBC period drama adapted from P D James’ novel which continues Darcy and Elizabeth’s life on after Pride and Prejudice. With beautiful scenery, lavish costumes, a great cast and a good murder mystery, what wasn’t there to enjoy here? I only wish I had watched this mini-series sooner.
Two out of three ain’t bad as they say. Another great mixture of adaptations. Winter has been a bountiful time for them. You probably won’t have long to wait for another adaptation update as I’ve still got plenty recorded and even more TV shows have started.
My result for The Classics Club’s last wonderful Spin feature was Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. I can’t say I was pleased or displeased with this choice as I neither been excited about or dreading reading Around the World in Eighty Days. This did at least give me a push to pick up my first Jules Verne novel.
Around the World in Eighty Days follows the wealthy English gentlemen Phileas Fogg and his French manservant Passepartout as they try to traverse the world in just 80 days. Fogg has made an out of character bet with some gentlemen from his club that could break him if he loses. Therefore poor Passepartout who only wishes for a quiet life finds himself travelling with his new master through Europe, skirting Africa, through Asia, over the Pacific ocean, through North America and finally over the Atlantic ocean. Along the way they will travel by boat, train, palanquin, sledge and even elephant.
Around the World in Eighty Days protagonist Phileas Fogg is a wealthy gentlemen residing in London whose life and routine is ran like a military operation. Fogg has no family and no real friends he instead finds happiness in dining, playing whisk at his club and retiring to bed at midnight. Fogg is known to be eccentric but a respectable and generous man. Making the fact he makes a bet and sets out immediately to travel around the world so completely out of character! While I found Fogg interesting it was his friendly and long-suffering manservant Passepartout I really liked. Similar to Sherlock Holmes and the faithful Dr Watson. Passepartout is energetic, open-minded and loyal. While he wished for a quiet life he is the one truly immerses himself in all these new countries and cultures. Fogg has no interest in sightseeing he is just a man on a mission.
Around the World in Eighty Days is the first novel I have read by Jules Verne even though I am familiar with his tales through adaptations and popular culture. I thought Around the World in Eighty Days was well written, with interesting dialogue, good description, and surprisingly with a down to earth style. I imagined that Verne’s work would be dense and difficult to read but that is not the case at all. Instead I found myself whipping through this delightful adventure in only a few days. There is no big finale necessarily but the ending is neat and satisfying rather like Fogg the protagonist himself. I am now really looking forward to reading the other Jules Verne novels off my Classics Club list.
Around the World in Eighty Days is a delightful and eccentric adventure around the world in days gone by. I highly recommend to those who enjoy an adventure, history and the classics. I have Journey to the Center of Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to choose from next.
Have you read this? What Verne adventure should I read next?
February here in the UK has continued to be wet and windy. I have also continued to be busy with work and college so when I have had a free moment all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. I picked up The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien hoping to escape and find some comfort in a historical tale.
The Forbidden Queen follows the life of the beautiful Katherine of Valois. Katherine is the daughter of Charles VI of France, becomes the wife of Henry V of England, mother of Henry VI of England and grandmother of Henry VII of England. A glorious lineage and heritage but at heart Katherine only really wishes for love. Katherine has a lonely up-bringing in her aunt’s abbey from which marriage was the only means of escape. Henry hero of Agincourt and the king of England sweeps into Katherine’s life offering not only to make her his wife but the queen of England. By Henry’s side Katherine begins a life of splendour and glory yet while she provides him with the longed for son and heir Henry does not love her. Their marriage is to be short-lived with the death of Henry fighting in France leaving Katherine a young and highly desirable widow. I found myself really rooting for Katherine to find love and while Henry’s death leaves her free to marry again I just knew it couldn’t be that easy! Katherine has a political mine field to work her way through.
The Forbidden Queen centres mainly around Katherine and the men in her life. Katherine grows up isolated from the world inevitably leaving her naïve to the facts of life. Katherine is naïve, young, loving and hopeful as she sets out on her married life and I couldn’t help but like her even though my more practical mind told me she was heading for disappointment. After the death of Henry I found Katherine went through quite a transformation she is still loving and hopeful but she does find a new found bravery which made me like her even more. There are two main love interests for Katherine after she is widowed one is a flamboyant and ambitious man while the other is a stable and strong man both are equally controversial choices for Katherine though. I thought that both love affairs help to develop and mould Katherine further in a positive way regardless of their differing outcomes.
The Forbidden Queen is the first novel I have read by the author Anne O’Brien but I had heard good things about this novel from other bloggers. I thought O’Brien’s style was descriptive and elegant. I felt like a really did get into the mind of this medieval princess and got to experience her world through O’Brien’s detailed narrative from Katherine’s perspective. The Forbidden Queen was a slow burner for me. At first I found myself just reading one chapter a day as I felt the emotions I got from Katherine were pretty powerful and sad. I needed time to reflect on this. Once we got into the chapters following Henry’s death though I found myself hooked. I preferred Katherine as a character after this point and I just couldn’t wait to find out what she would do next! The pace of the story also seemed to speed up for me too. Leading to me polishing off the second half of the book pretty much in one evening when I had tucked myself into bed early.
The Forbidden Queen is a moving and inspiring fictionalised tale of a medieval princess, daughter, queen, wife and mother. I recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction. I would be interested in reading more by the author Anne O’Brien.
I received an ARC of The Forbidden Queen via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read any of Anne O’Brien’s novels? Any recommendations?