New Read: The “Poor Me” Manual

The Poor Me Manual

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 took me many months to pick up Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson. I enjoyed my foray back into reading memoirs so much I immediately started The “Poor Me” Manual by Hunter Lewis.

The “Poor Me” Manual is the fictional recollections of author Hunter Lewis on the different and numerous phases he went through on his journey to perfecting self-pity. Yes you heard me right his journey to perfecting self-pity, yes he went through numerous phases and yes this is in fact a fictional memoir. When reading The “Poor Me” Manual I couldn’t believe that one individual could go through so many phases! But of course Lewis’ uses this many phases to get his point across.  I don’t really want to say more because I think the phases and how Lewis progresses to each is the real interest of this memoir. To tell you more would take away some of the surprise and enigma of this memoir. I went into reading this pretty much knowing nothing about what it was truly about.

I found myself asking if I liked Lewis and the answer was no, not really but I can’t deny I found him and his journey fascinating. Lewis is a changeable person and not only goes through many changes in self-pitying behaviour but also jobs, location, mind-set and relationships. I also found myself wondering if I really felt like I knew Lewis and again I think the answer was no, not really. There is so much emphasis on the self-pitying element of his personality there was hardly any room left to discuss other elements which my mind tells me there must be. Of course this being a fictional memoir meant Lewis’ intention was for the reader to only focus on the self-pity elements but reading this has emphasised for me I like getting to know different elements of people.

The “Poor Me” Manual is the first book I have read by Hunter Lewis. As I said above I didn’t truly know what this book was about when I started reading it. Not knowing the author or subject meant choosing to read this was quite a stab in the dark. This could account for why this book languished a little on my to-be-read after I received a copy. I also presumed from the title this would be a depressing read which was not to be true. Negative and depressing things do occur in this however the quirky feel of Lewis’ life and phases took the sting off anything that happened for me. I am glad I was brave enough to pick this up as I thought The “Poor Me” Manual was well written in a surprisingly down-to-earth style and coupled with the fact the chapters were short and sweet meant I just flew through this memoir.

The “Poor Me” Manual is an interesting and quirky memoir on how a man perfected self-pity through the phases of his life. I recommend to those looking for something a bit different.

Thank you to Axios Press for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Lewis? Any recommendations for other quirky memoirs?

New Read: Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful

Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful

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 having finished God Knows My Name by Beth Redman I picked up a recent acquisition, Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful by Laurie Wallin.

In Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful Wallin introduces and explains her theory on why are ‘weirdness is wonderful’. What we call ‘weirdness’ is actually are own unique traits and gifts giving to us by God to make us perfect for our role in life and God’s kingdom; even if we don’t always see them as gifts or traits worth having! I have an anxiety disorder which I can’t say I usually see as a gift. Wallin however says that anxious people can be some of the best at deep and meaningful prayer for the people and situations around them. If they channel their over-thinking and over-caring minds into the positive channel of prayer which really got me thinking. Wallin discusses how she went about identifying her own and her family’s unique ‘weirdness’, how she went on to develop them, how she changed her mind-set and behaviour to accommodate them all, and advice how we can do the same in our own lives and families.

Laurie Wallin is a new author for me in 2014. I was really well supplied with new Christian non-fiction in 2013 and it appears it will continue this year too. I was drawn to Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful simply because I thought it had an interesting title and I am pleased to say I was disappointed by the content. I thought Wallin’s style was friendly and down-to-earth, and she didn’t use any unnecessary preaching or high brow language. Wallin like many Christian non-fiction authors I have read has had many ups and downs in her life and is willing to share some of them with her readers. I liked the honest and heartfelt feel to the knowledge, experience and advice contained in this book. I made lots of highlights whilst I was reading this on my kindle.

Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful is an interesting and thought-provoking look into individual’s unique and wonderful quirks, traits and gifts from God. I highly recommend for those interested in Christian non-fiction.

Thank you to Abingdon Press for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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

New Read: City of Fallen Angels

City of Fallen Angels

March has seen me as busy as ever with college, my work placement, agency work, pantomime performance, puppets, dancing and drama workshops! In which case I reached again for the next instalment of The Mortal Instruments the City of Fallen Angels as an easy and comfort read.

City of Fallen Angels is the fourth instalment of The Mortal Instruments series. This post may contain spoilers for the previous instalments.

City of Fallen Angels continues to follow Clarissa Fray better known as Clary to her friends and family. Clary is beginning to come to terms with her powers as a shadowhunter after she helped secure victory in Alicante. On returning to New York Clary begins her shadowhunter training, looks forward to a settled relationship with Jace and preparations for her mother’s wedding. A life as a Shadow Hunter in the world of vampires, demons, fairies and werewolves could be okay. Then dead shadowhunters from Valentine’s circle start turning up in the different Down Worlder territories, Clary’s best friend Simon is being hunted by mysterious hooded figures and Jace is plagued by horrifying nightmares. Something is brewing in New York which will mean Shadow Hunters and Down Worlders joining forces again.

Clary the main protagonist of this series is a shy, petite, artistic and awkward teenager. This hasn’t changed much with the discovery that she is a powerful shadowhunter. Clary through out this book is continuing to try to come to terms with her power, the lifestyle that comes with it, her relationship with Jace and the danger that surrounds them. There a few more new character additions in City of Fallen Angels including fairies, vampires, werewolves and demons. Clary is however still joined by her friends Simon (vampire), Jace, Isabelle and Alec (shadowhunters), Luke and Maia (werewolves) and Magnus Bane (warlock) on this new dangerous adventure.

Cassandra Clare was a new author for me in 2013 City of Fallen Angels is now the fourth book of Clare’s I have read. Unlike my brother who has devoured both of Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Like the previous instalment City of Glass I found City of Fallen Angels to be well written, fast paced, and a real page turner once I got into the main action of the book.  I am pleased to say the changes and growth in the characters that turned them from two-dimensional characters to one’s I really like and believe in continues in this book. For these reasons I think I am continuing to enjoy this series more each book I read.

City of Fallen Angels is a fun and easy to read urban fantasy adventure. I recommend if you are a fan of young adult novels. I have City of Lost Souls the next instalment of The Mortal Instruments waiting for me on my bookshelf. I am looking forward to starting it.

Are you reading this series? Are you a fan of urban fantasy?

I’m counting City of Fallen Angels as Urban Fantasy for the Once Upon a Time VIII event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

Previous instalments of The Mortal Instruments series:
1. City of Bones
2. City of Ashes
3. City of Glass

New Read: Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts

Last year I read Lewis Carol’s classic children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and I enjoyed it so much I moved straight on to Alice’s next adventure in Through the Looking Glass. With this in mind I was really excited to read the Wonderland reimagining Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes the first volume in a new trilogy.

Queen of Hearts follows Dinah the princess of Wonderland and the future bloody Queen. Dinah’s father the King of Hearts is a cruel and glorious ruler equally feared and loved by his subjects. Dinah and her brother Charles lost their mother when they were only young leaving them to the care of their maids and tutors. The King has at best been indifferent to them both and as far as hostile towards Dinah since she can remember. As a son Charles should be the heir to the throne but instead he is forced to live in isolation making hats due to his unstable mind leaving Dinah as the only other legitimate child as the heir. Dinah long’s for the day when she will be crowned more than anything, she hopes to be a strong and fair Queen yet a chain of events are to begin which will uncover a series of secrets and conspiracies which threaten Dinah’s crown and life.

The protagonist of Queen of Hearts Dinah is a young, head strong and rebellious girl. Dinah as a princess is expected to be fair, graceful and beautifully dressed while as the heir Dinah is also expected to be wise and well-educated. This is a lot of expectations and understandably Dinah struggles under the weight of them especially with the watchful and critical eye of her father and his courtiers upon her. I couldn’t help but pity her for this. Dinah is a strong but imperfect character. While I liked her bravery and strength there were also times when I cringed at how far she took her actions and opinions. If only she could hear me shouting stop!

Queen of Hearts is the first novel I have read by Colleen Oakes. It is also the first spin-off/reimagining of Lewis Carol’s Wonderland I have read. I am so pleased I gave this book a go because I really enjoyed Oakes’s reimagining of Wonderland. I liked her clever use of classic elements such as the roses, cards, croquet, and jam tarts with a new twist and her reimagined classic and new characters which I felt were much better fleshed out than in the original stories. I thought Queen of Hearts was well written, detailed and well described. I really could imagine the palace, the rose gardens, croquet lawns and the mysterious towers. If you know the original stories you will know how Dinah turns out as the Queen of Hearts. Even so I felt Oakes built her character and story gradually, with rising tension and anticipation. I just couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next!

Queen of Hearts is a clever and detailed reimagining of Wonderland through the eyes of Dinah the future Queen of Hearts. I recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and would like to see Wonderland in a new way. I really think I will have to read the rest of this series.

I received a free copy of Queen of Hearts via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any other reimaginings?

New Read: History of the Christian Church

History of Christian Church

One of my continuing aims in 2014 is to continue to read more non-fiction. In particular I have been enjoying historical and Christian non-fiction. I picked up History of the Christian Church in the First Century by Edward Burton hoping it would be the perfect blend of both history and Christianity.

History of the Christian Church chronicles the spread of Christianity after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In particular Burton looks at the lives, journeys and ministry of the apostles and later disciples. The most prolific of which seem to have been Paul (Saul) and Peter although many more are discussed. I have always found it fascinating how Christianity spread so quickly and so far in a world without technology. It all relied on believers having the faith and courage to take the word to new people and new lands. However it wasn’t all smooth sailing the apostles and disciples as well as the distance had to deal with persecution from the Jewish leaders and the Romans, and corruptions of Christ’s teachings (from groups such as the Gnostics).

History of the Christian Church is the first book I have read by Edward Burton. I had not heard of this author before but I just spotted this offered for free and decided to give it a go. I am glad I did because I did enjoy the mixture of my favourite genres of non-fiction; history and Christianity. The only thing I would say though is that while this is a history so could interest non-Christians. I did find that the author did seem to presume that the reader was a believer which wasn’t a problem for me but could be for other readers. Other than that though I thought this was a well written and detailed look into the apostles, their ministry and their writings which was all well referenced with the history that was going on around them. This added up to this being an interesting, quick and easy read for me.

History of the Christian Church in the First Century is an interesting and well written book on the lives, journeys and ministry of the apostles and later disciples. I recommend to those with an interest in the founding of Christianity.

Have you read Burton? Any recommendations of historic Christian reads?

New Read: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal

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?

The Classics Club: Around the World in Eighty Days

Around the World in 80 Days

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. This is my 20th read off my Classics Club list. 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?

New Read: The Forbidden Queen

The Forbidden Queen

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?

New Read: God Knows My Name

God Knows My Name

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 having finished The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian  I again mooched through what other Christian literature I had on my Kindle. I chose God Knows My Name by Beth Redman.

God Knows My Name is a look into the thoughts and life experiences of author Beth Redman as a child, as a teenager, as a Christian, as a wife and as a mother. This is broken down into eight chapters looking at how God Knows my Name, Knows my Past, Shapes my Character, Sees my Choices, Has Not Forgotten Me, is my Helper, is my Defender and is my Restorer. Each chapter describes Redman’s thoughts and beliefs on the topic but also includes past and present experiences of Redman’s life that relate to that topic. I enjoyed the personal touch that Redman gave by sharing examples from her own life but I was also impressed that she was brave enough to share the sad and sometimes scary memories along with the happy.

Beth Redman is a new author for me in 2014 but I did recognise her surname and when Beth started talking about her husband Matt I knew for certain. Matt Redman is a pretty well known Christian music artist and I really like a lot of his songs. I can also say I liked my first venture into his wife’s faith literature. I thought God Knows My Name was written in a friendly and down-to-earth style which made me feel comfortable as if I was sitting down having a chat with the author. There was no preaching or high brow language to confuse the reader instead Redman focused on elements of Christian faith and how they have impacted/effected her life. The arrangement of the elements and experiences over eight chapters wasn’t daunting and flowed well in fact it flowed so well I just sped through this book.

God Knows My Name was a comforting read about the positive effect of faith and Jesus in the life of a woman, wife and mother. I would be interested in reading more Beth Redman’s work.

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

Re-Read: The Last Battle

The Last Battle

One of my goals for 2013 was to make more time for re-reads of my beloved favourites, in which case I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to rediscover the wonderful ‘Land of Narnia’. I felt I was very successful in this goal making time for seven re-reads over the year six of which were from The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis. Leaving only the final instalment The Last Battle to read in 2014.

The Last Battle is the seventh instalment of The Chronicles of Narnia series. This post may contain spoilers for previous instalments.

The Last Battle follows the adventures and battles of King Tirian and his best friend Jewel the Unicorn during the last days of Narnia. Tirian and Jewel have heard terrible rumours that Aslan has returned to Narnia and has begun ordering Narnians to work like slaves for the cruel Calormenes. Fearing that this ‘Aslan’ is a fake Tirian sets off with Jewel into the Lantern Forest to find out what is happening. Tirian and Jewel are captured by a Calormene army who have slipped into Narnia disguised as merchants. With all hope lost for himself and his fellow Narnians Tirian calls out to the real Aslan and the Kings and Queens of old. Tirian’s prayers are answered when Eustace Scrubb and his school friend Jill Pole arrive to release him and aid him in an adventure which will take them all the way to Aslan’s country.

The main protagonists of The Last Battle Tirian, Jewel, Eustace and Jill are an interesting mixture. We already know Eustace and Jill from when they rescued Prince Rilian in The Silver Chair but many, many years of have passed in Narnia since then. Tirian is now king and while he is a good and fair king he has lost influence over the Narnians since the arrival of this supposed ‘Aslan’. I liked Tirian and Jewel the Unicorn. I liked having two protagonists in the mix who were both adults which then made another interesting dynamic with Eustace and Jill (who have only aged by about a year since their last adventure). Of course these are not the only old faces to be seen. Later in The Last Battle we get to see the return of Peter, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie along with many of their Narnian friends from their previous adventures.

I am no stranger to Lewis’s work. I think his writing style in The Chronicles of Narnia is simple and fun which works well for adults and children alike. Lewis has been criticised for his use of archaic language especially when it is used by his young characters, however I find the language rather charming and I feel it adds to the magically atmosphere of the book. When I first read The Chronicles of Narnia I read the books in publication order because I think for your first time nothing beats encountering ‘Narnia’ first through the most famous book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. For my re-read I purposefully decided to read the series in chronological order so I could get a full idea of the detail and history Lewis put into ‘Narnia’ and the characters that inhabit it. It was really lovely to work my way up through all the other books to this final instalment. I felt like I had truly got to know Narnia and its inhabitants which made the end even more poignant.

The Last Battle is an utterly charming children’s tale of magic, friendship, family, death and adventure. A wonderfully comforting read. I’m just sad that there aren’t anymore to look forward to.

Have you read this? Have you read The Chronicles of Narnia?

Previous instalments of The Chronicles of Narnia series:

1. The Magician’s Nephew
2. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
3. A Horse and His Boy
4. Prince Caspian
5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
6. The Silver Chair