New Read: Once Upon a Timepiece

Once Upon a Timepiece

After finishing off the epic, classic Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales collection near the end of August I found myself at the beginning of September still craving short stories but also something a bit different. In which case I picked up Once Upon a Timepiece a modern novel composed of twelve short stories by Starr Wood.

Once Upon a Timepiece follows a gold 1946 Breitling Chronomat man’s watch which was designed for aviators in World War II. This watch passes from hand to hand during a year in various, unusual and unexpected ways. Each chapter is a month from that year looking at the individual who has it during that period. How the watch comes to their possession, what they do with it, how it changes their lives, and finally how they eventually lose it. I thought the concept of Once Upon a Timepiece was excellent. It was really interesting to delve into the lives of a diverse selection of people and then to see how the watch changed or moved them on. I found some of the stories quite sad and serious but others were lighter which made for a good balance. At the end I liked the hint that perhaps the watch might finally go to who it was meant to be with all along.

Once Upon a Timepiece has a large cast of characters; some I liked, some were amusing, some I sympathised, and other I didn’t like at all. However the true protagonist really was the gold 1946 Breitling Chronomat watch. I enjoyed the history and research Wood put into the story of the watch; plus the effect he had upon the individuals that possessed it. I actually looked this watch up and it is a rather good looking watch. I can understand how it would be appealing and important to so many people. While of course the watch has no emotions and is not able to make any choices it is the link between all these people’s lives. The glue and interest of the whole novel.

Once Upon a Timepiece is the debut novel of Starr Wood. I have read many novels and quite a few short story collections as well now but to read a novel composed of short stories was a refreshing and interesting experience for me. I thought Once Upon a Timepiece was beautifully and precisely written with well chosen detail and description. The characters themselves were well created and believable even though we only got to know some of them over a few pages; which I thought was a real achievement for Wood. I think you could also tell Wood had really done his research to have created such a diverse collection of characters and stories. All in all I flew through Once Upon a Timepiece in just one week.

Once Upon a Timepiece is refreshing and fascinating novel that looks into the lives of ordinary people who are all touched by the same watch. I highly recommend to those interested in modern literature, family drama and short stories.

Thank you to the publisher Bo Tree Books for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Once Upon a Timepiece?

New Books: September 2014

New Books - September 2014

Hello my fellow bookworms, here’s what goodies I have managed to add to my bookshelf and Kindle recently:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley

The Wanderers by Cheryl Mahoney

The Little Village School by Gervase Phinn

Mortom by Erik Therme

I have another rather eclectic mix of new fiction this month. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was quickly read by my father and has now been passed on to me to try similarly The Little Village School was passed on to me by a family friend. I was contacted and kindly offered a review copy of mystery Mortom by the author which I happily accepted as I thought it sounded interesting. While I picked up copies of the children’s classic The Water-Babies and fantasy The Wanderers for free from Amazon UK. Cheryl Mahoney is a good book blogging friend of mine so I am excited to read her debut novel The Wanderers a fairy tale retelling.

Rebellion by Peter Ackroyd

Again I have only one new non-fiction this month. I received a review copy of Rebellion by Peter Ackroyd from Netgalley. Last year I read Tudors: The History of England Volume II by Peter Ackroyd which I found fascinating so I am interested to read Rebellion.

I am pleased I managed to keep my new acquisitions down to a reasonably small amount again this month and they were also all free.

Have you read any of these? What new books are you excited about?

New Read: Becoming Myself

Becoming Myself

I am a relatively new Christian having come to faith in my late teens. Now in my twenties I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and to hear what other Christians have to say. I like always having a piece of faith non-fiction on the go so after I finished reading 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience by Stormie Omartian I was keen to pick something else. I chose Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge a quite recent acquisition.

Becoming Myself  Eldredge discusses how a woman can embrace and become God’s dream for them. At any age as women we could feel alone, forgotten, unimportant, full of shame and unattractive. I have to admit I’ve times when I have felt these. Eldredge says though that in God’s eyes we are beautiful and never forgotten; even through times of trouble and pain God has a plan to bring us through and to help us reach our full potential. I found Becoming Myself an uplifting and comforting read as a Christian woman. We all make mistakes, carry baggage, have painful memories and hang ups about our bodies or personalities. God doesn’t just see these he uses them and looks forward to what we can become. Becoming Myself has certainly left me with a lot to think about.

Stasi Eldredge is a new author for me in 2014. I was really well supplied with new Christian non-fiction in 2013 and that has continued this year. I was drawn to Becoming Myself because of the female focus and point of view which I had previously appreciated in Dancing in the Arms of God by Connie Neal last year and The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian earlier this year. These were both great reads. I felt Becoming Myself was well written in a friendly and down to earth way with both serious, sad and happy moments through out. On the whole I enjoyed and appreciated this mixture the lighter moments helped to get me through the tougher and sadder themes. My only issue was with some of the light-hearted comments Eldredge used usually directly after having made a profound or serious point. While I understand Eldredge probably used these to lighten the mood and offer encouragement I however found them a little jarring while I was still thinking over the profound or serious point that was just made. This is however a matter of personal taste not a comment on the writing quality. I think the content of Becoming Myself was good with interesting and well researched stories, examples and quote which made for an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Becoming Myself is an interesting and thought provoking look at God’s plan and dreams for us from a woman’s point of view. I recommend to those interested in Christian and women’s non-fiction.

Thank you to David C. Cook publisher for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Eldredge? Any recommendations for other faith literature?

The Classics Club: The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers

During August I spent two wonderful weeks on holiday in France. The first week in the mountain towns of the Midi-Pyrénées and the second week on the edge of Lac d’Annecy in Haute-Savoie. I thought it seemed the perfect time to pick up the French classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas especially with the historical architecture of old Annecy town. I could already imagine our musketeer heroes walking through the streets.

The Three Musketeers follows the adventures of a young, poor and hot headed Gascon gentlemen of the name of D’Artagnan who is journeying to Paris hoping to impress and obtain a commission in the King’s Musketeers. Within a day of arriving in Paris though he finds himself insulting and obtaining duels with Aramis, Porthos and Athos; three of most well respected members of the King’s Musketeers. These men are to become firm friends instead of enemies though. Together they are to assist the Queen, fall in love, rescue young ladies, thwart the Cardinal’s plans, frequently fight with the Cardinal’s Guards, and chase the infamous assassin and spy Milady De Winter. All the while D’Artagnan has his eyes on joining his friends in the King’s Musketeers. The Three Musketeers is a sweeping romantic adventure following D’Artagnan and his friends during the reign of Louis XIII which takes us from the streets and palaces of Paris to the fields of battle, to on the road across France, on the choppy English channel and even to London, England. I really didn’t want to put this down and I think it was the perfect read for my holiday too.

D’Artagnan the main protagonist of The Three Musketeers is young, handsome and hot headed which gets him into many scrapes but he is also clever, brave, loyal and overall a rather endearing character. I don’t think D’Artagnan always does the right thing but I think generally his heart is in the right place and he does learn a lot during his adventures. Unlike D’Artagnan who is open and often as easy to read as a book his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos are more of a mystery. Aramis, Porthos and Athos are all assumed names to hide the gentlemen’s real names which I didn’t realise before; but does explain why they have such unusual names. Aramis is a religious man who regularly threatens to join the church if were not for a mysterious love, then we have flamboyant Porthos with his wealthy mistress, and then finally Athos a dark and brooding character. While I really like D’Artagnan I always find myself with a soft spot for Athos in adaptations I have watched and it was no different in the novel. Together though they all make an interesting and enjoyable group to read about.

The Three Musketeers is the first novel I have read by Alexandre Dumas but I am no stranger to the story having watched many film adaptations and the recent television series. I have a particularly fondness for the 1973 film starring Oliver Reed but the recent television series The Musketeers (2014) was very good too. These adaptations had left me with high expectations fortunately the novel easily lived up to them. I thought The Three Musketeers was well written with plenty of interesting characters and places. Dumas’s style is detailed and wordy rather like Dickens unlike Dickens though Dumas’s wordiness is in the character’s conversation more than in the descriptions of the story. Most readers would not be used to such wordy speeches or conversations except perhaps in Shakespeare but I really enjoyed it as it suited the characters and situation. All in all I thought the style of the novel meant the reader was swept away with the characters on their exciting and romantic adventures.

The Three Musketeers is a sweeping historic and romantic adventure in France which I could hardly put down. I highly recommend to those interested in reading the classics and French literature. This is my 25th read off my Classics Club list meaning I am now half way through my challenge to read 50 classics.

Have you read this? Or watched any of the adaptations?

Adaptations: August 2014

Adaptations

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 watched during August:

R.I.P.D (2013)          Not Read          Film          Television
A supernatural action/comedy based on the comic book Rest In Peace Department created by Peter M Lenkov. Nick (Ryan Reynolds) and Roy (Jeff Bridges) are agents of the R.I.P department whose job it is to find and round-up undesirable spirits hiding and causing havoc in the world of the living. This was apparently a flop when it was released at the cinema last year. I don’t think it was anything particularly ground breaking but it was a bit of fun. Okay watch.

Hannibal (2014)          Not Read          TV Series          Television
The second series of psychological thriller based on the characters of Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. First shown here in the UK on Sky Living. A gripping and gory series that’s looks at the antics of Dr Hannibal Lecter before The Silence of the Lambs.  With excellent performances from Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne and Mads Mikkelsen. Warning with strong violence and gore this is not a show for everyone. Great watch.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)          Not Read          Film          Cinema
A action-packed superhero film set in space based on Guardians of the Galaxy created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning which is featured in Marvel Comics. A gang of extra-terrestrial misfits fighting and stealing their way around the galaxy in hopes of saving it from Ronan the Accuser. What’s not to like?! An exciting and fast paced film with great special effects and a cool soundtrack. I enjoyed this even more than I thought I would. Great watch.

Letters to Juliet (2010)          Not Read          Film          Television
A romantic drama inspired by the non-fiction Letters to Juliet by Lise Friedman which looks at the phenomenon of people writing to Shakespeare’s romantic heroine Juliet. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) discovers a fifty year old unanswered love letter to Juliet whilst on holiday in Verona, Italy which takes her on a journey to discover the letter writer’s long lost love. This film had a beautiful setting and sweet performances from Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave. It whiled away one lazy Saturday afternoon. Okay watch.

August I thought was another interesting month of adaptations; even more so as I watched all these the last two weeks of the month after I returned from my holiday. They weren’t all great watches but they all entertained me one way or the other. I am little sad to see though that I had not read any of this month’s adaptations. Now I don’t seem to have any adaptations recorded so we will have to see what films I manage to watch in September for my next update.

What have you been watching?

The Classics Club: Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales

I have been ploughing on with my new-found love for short story collections in 2014 but you may not have noticed that I was. That would be because I picked up the epic Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales collection back in February! I have been dipping in and out of the collection for the last seven months with my two week holiday in France being the time I needed to finish it off.

This Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales collection that I read contains over 200 magical short stories. I found some of the stories easily recognisable from my childhood, some seemed a little familiar, while there were plenty that were brand new for me. Those that I instantly recognised included The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Snow Queen, The Little Match Girl, Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Pea. One of my preconceptions going into reading Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales was that they would be a lot darker than the modern versions we think of today. While The Little Mermaid is a lot sadder than the Disney film I didn’t really find the stories that much darker. There is quite a lot of death and suffering in these stories which left me with a less positive feeling than I perhaps would have had from modern counterparts.

When I read The Complete Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales last year I struggled with the lack of different and strong female characters. I know that with an old work this can be common so I was left a little apprehensive that I would have the same problem with Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. I am happy to inform you I didn’t have a problem. I thought there was a lovely mixture of male and female characters of different ages, roles and social status. Many of the stories are also filled with an assortment of animals, plants, magical creatures, spirits and inanimate objects which can speak and come to life. I really loved the variety that Hans Christian Andersen’s used in his stories in this collection.

I have wanted to read Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales for a while now. I haven’t read anything by Hans Christian Andersen before so when I spotted a free digital version of this collection I snapped it up for my Kindle. Unfortunately this version I have has some stories repeated more than once. A little annoying but didn’t really harm my enjoyment of the stories. I was not surprised to find the stories were a little archaic in style and sentence structure, and contained some phrases or opinions pertaining to class, gender and race of the time they were written in but nothing I found particularly offensive. I can overlook these because I expect them from such an old work. I actually enjoyed reading these stories not just for their magical elements but because of the social commentary and Christian beliefs embedded within them. When I read The Complete Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales I came away feeling depressed and with mixed moral messages. Happily  Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales I felt tackled some difficult topics well with balanced moral messages and even in some of the darkest times there felt like there was some hope.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales is an epic collection of tales filled with magic, adventure, faith and life. I found it rather charming. I recommend to those interested in reading classic fairy tales. This is my 24th read off my Classics Club list.

Have you read this? Do you enjoy fairy tales?

New Read: Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law

Zaremba

At the end of July looking forward to my two week holiday in France I picked up Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law by Michelle Granas as something a little bit different. Previously I have, in the majority, read historical and fantasy fiction while I thought a thriller might be good for my holiday. I ended up spending my first week in France reading this.

Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law follows Cordelia a woman who up until the start of this story has led a quiet and sheltered life with her oddball family in an old suburb of Warsaw, Poland. On a trip to see an elderly relative with her father Cordelia’s life is to be turned upside down. Their car gets stuck in mud and when a stranger (with a strangely familiar face) helps them out Cordelia is unwittingly pulled into helping this stranger elude the authority, dodge hungry journalists, fight injustice and perhaps find love along the way. That stranger is in fact Zaremba a wealthy businessman who has been accused by the government of bribing officials but Zaremba protests his innocence and will do almost anything to prove it. Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law while being a thoroughly enjoyable thriller is also a wonderful glimpse into the society and politics of Poland which is something I had known nothing about before.

The protagonists of Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law Cordelia and Zaremba are characters I really enjoyed reading about. Cordelia has led a very sheltered life due to her physical disability but also the pressure from her family to stay and care for them. Cordelia isn’t the obvious choice for a hero but that is why I love her. Cordelia lives with a severe physical disability whilst also caring for her agoraphobic brother, demanding father and a mother who is suffering with Alzheimer’s; that is one loving and strong person in my book. I thought it was wonderful to watch Cordelia come out of shell and comfort zone to reach her full potential. Zaremba is rich, successful and extremely confident; I didn’t always like him but he is certainly fascinating to read about. There is more to Zaremba than meets the eye and I think Cordelia brings out the best bits in him and they compliment each other well.

Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law is the first novel I have read by Michelle Granas. I think it is well written with good description and a nice pace. While this is a thriller Granas doesn’t use gratuitous violence or allow the action to take over completely. Instead Granas uses violence when it is needed and takes the time to share information and quotes about Polish society and politics which I found fascinating. I must admit that before reading this I knew little to nothing about Polish society, politics or history (bar World War II).  Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law I feel was not only written to entertain but to also inform; both of which I think Granas does well. I initially picked this up as I was looking for something a little different and that is exactly what I got. I found the story, characters, setting and background of Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law pleasantly refreshing.

Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law is an interesting and refreshing drama about the political intrigues of Poland. I recommend to those interested in thrillers, politics and stories set in Poland.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or something else set in Poland?