New Read: The Mine

The Mine

The days are dull and cold, and the nights are dark and frosty. Once my day of Christmas carols, buying presents, and cooking hot dinners is over. I am ready to tuck myself in bed with a comforting read. With this in mind I picked up The Mine by John A Heldt hoping for a cosy mystery.

The Mine introduces us to Joel Smith who in 2000 mere weeks from graduation takes a short road trip to Montana with a college friend. Curiosity gets the better of Joel while there and ignoring his friend’s protests Joel enters a deserted, old mine. After an encounter with a snake and a bump on the head Joel manages to find his way out of the mine only to find it is not 2000 anymore but instead he has been taken back to 1941. I must admit I was not expecting time travel when I started this but it was a pleasant surprise. Joel must now find a place within this strange time, handle the knowledge of the looming war and try to not alter the future.

Joel the protagonist of The Mine is not an instantly likeable character. He comes across as cocky and spoilt. The travel back in time does him some good though. As he encounters the simpler and more innocent 1940s his character softens. To reveal a kind and humble side to him. In the 1940s Joel is taken in by a kind couple and makes good friends with a group of college students. I liked meeting all these characters. My only issue would be that Joel seemed to come to terms with his situation and blend into his new life a little too easily. There was very little upset over the loss of his old life, friends and family which I thought would be a more natural reaction.

The Mine is the first novel I have read by John A Heldt. I was contacted by the author about this novel and decided to take a punt on it. I went into reading this thinking it was a mystery. While there is the mystery of how Joel time travels the novel felt more like a historical romance; albeit more recent history. I liked the setting though. Heldt has created a nostalgic and charming setting inhabited by interesting characters. The Mine might not have been a mystery but it was a cosy and slow paced read which was easy on a tired mind.

The Mine is a nostalgic romance with a pinch of mystery and time travel. You may enjoy this if you have an interest in 1940s America. Since finishing this I realised it is part of a series. I am not sure I will read more. Okay read.

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

Have you read this? Recommendations for other 1940s literature?

Re-Read: The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Looking forward to the release of the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s epic film trilogy I thought it was time for a re-read of The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien. Jackson has extended and added to the story extensively so I wanted to refresh my memory of the simpler original story. Plus the fact the dark nights and bitingly cold days of winter are upon us a comfort read was most welcome.

The Hobbit takes us to Middle Earth for the first time. To the quiet and beautiful Shire where we meet Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, in his comfortable hobbit hole. Bilbo’s quiet existence is to be turned upside down by the arrival of Gandalf the wizard and twelve dwarves. Who sweep him away on an adventure over hill, under hill, through the air, through dark woods and across water. With the aim to regain the dwarves long lost home and treasure from the great dragon Smaug. I have re-read this adventure more times than I can count but I find myself as easily swept away with Bilbo on this adventure as the first time.

What really makes this classic fantasy tale for me is the unlikely protagonist Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is a hobbit; a small human like creature with curly hair, pointy ears, large hairy feet and brightly coloured clothes. Bilbo lives a comfortable life full of food, walks and routine. He is not adventurous or brave, or so he thinks. We the readers are there every step of the way with him as he suffers from hunger, cold, aching limbs and frequent danger and fear. I love seeing Bilbo grow in strength, courage and to finally reach his full potential through his trials. It makes you feel there is a little hero in all of us.

The Hobbit is my favourite book from childhood. I have also read Tolkien’s, what was originally meant to be The Hobbit 2, epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy but while I enjoyed them too they don’t quite hold the same sort of place in my heart. In The Hobbit Tolkien has created a simple but enchanting tale  Every word is precious to Tolkien and he uses them here perfectly to really bring Middle Earth alive. Combine that with an amazing imagination and great characters makes for me the perfect fantasy adventure. If you are daunted by The Lord of the Rings or haven’t tried Tolkien at all yet I highly recommend reading The Hobbit.

The Hobbit is an enchanting adventure for all the family. Whether you read it for yourself or read it to a child like my father did for me (from this exact copy!). After finishing this I am very tempted to re-read The Lord of the Rings, perhaps in the new year. Great read.

Have you read this? Watched the films so far?

New Read: Seeing Through the Fog

Seeing Through the Fog

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 Choose Love by Stormie Omartian I was keen to pick something else. I chose Seeing Through the Fog by Ed Dobson from my Kindle to-be-read folder.

The author of Seeing Through the Fog Ed Dobson in 2000 at the age of fifty had the devastating diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). A degenerating disease where the neurons in the nerves die which leads to individual losing the use of their muscles. Ed a preacher for many years at Calvary Church knew he would eventually lose his ability to walk, eat and talk but decided to not let this be the end. While this has not been an easy journey Ed has used his faith to cope with his disease, to help others with the disease too, and to learn to be thankful for what he does still have. While Seeing Through the Fog sounds like it could be a sad and depressing read but I didn’t find it so. I thought it was insightful, inspiring and touching read. Ed wrote this book to be a story of hope.

Ed Dobson is a new author for me in 2014. I have again been well supplied with new Christian non-fiction in 2014. Sadly Seeing Through the Fog lay idle in my Kindle’s to-be-read folder for far too long. I did finally get round to it after being inspired by my read of A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada; actually I started this book to find that Joni has written the introduction for it. Like Joni I found Ed’s style to be very open and honest; letting the reader into his life, history, thoughts, and prayers. This was quite a short book however I took my time with this making sure I had time to reflect on what Ed shares and discusses. I didn’t want to miss out on any of the detail or inspiration this book had to offer.

Seeing Through the Fog  is a touching and inspirational read about Ed’s acceptance and journey with ALS. I recommend to those interested in Christianity and the effect of ALS. Good read.

Have you read about Ed? Any recommendations for other faith literature?

New Read: Some Desperate Glory

Some Desperate Glory

As you probably know 2014 has been the centenary of the start of World War I. As my own small commemoration at the beginning of November, just before Remembrance day, I started reading Some Desperate Glory by Max Egremont.

I originally picked up Some Desperate Glory believing it was a collection of World War I poetry but it is actually more than this. Egremont has broken this collection down into chapters on the years before, during and just after the war. Focusing on in each year what events happened, how the poets took part, and what poems and collections were created. Each chapter is then rounded off with a selection of poems from that year. While I always enjoyed the selection of poems at the end of each chapter. I was a little disappointed to find less poetry than I’d hoped.

The history and lives of the poets was very interesting though. I got to discover more about well known World War I poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke. Then I was also introduced to many poets I had not heard of before such as Edmund Blunden, Julian Grenfell, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Sorley, Edward Thomas, Robert Nichols and Ivor Gurney. Although in many cases when I read examples of their poems at the end of the chapters I found they were familiar even if the poet’s name hadn’t been. My only issue with all these poets though was keeping up with them all and remembering who was who.

Some Desperate Glory is the first book I have read by Max Egremont. I found the style of the book to be detailed, it flowed well and it is extremely well researched. As I have noted above this book is crammed full of events, history, poets and publications. This would be perfect for those already well acquainted with World War I poetry however for me who knows only a little it sometimes all became a bit overwhelming. The layout of the novel didn’t help me either. Each chapter being on a year meant I couldn’t focus on one poet at a time. Instead I had to try to keep a number of life threads going at once. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not! I think this is one book I really could do with a re-read of once I am better acquainted with poetry from this time period.

Some Desperate Glory is a detailed and extremely well researched look at the events, poets and poems of World War I. I recommend to those who are interested in finding out more about well known war poets and the war itself. Okay read.

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

Have you read this? Do you have a favourite World War I poem?

New Read: Equal Rites

Equal Rites

After thoroughly enjoying two re-reads from Terry Pratchett’s epic but fabulous Discworld series this year I thought it was high time for a new adventure. With that in mind I picked up Equal Rites off my father’s bookshelf; Pratchett’s third published Discworld novel.

In Equal Rites we return to Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld on a dark and stormy night. An old wizard, Drum Billet, is making a lonely journey up into the Ramtop Mountains to the unusually named town of Bad Ass. Billet is dying and wishes to pass on his magical staff to the eighth son of an eighth son before he does. He arrives just as the wife of the town’s blacksmith gives birth to their eighth child. Unfortunately for Billet he didn’t check the gender of the child before passing on his staff and promptly dying. Instead of an eighth son the family’s eighth child is their one and only daughter Esk. This one oversight is to cause ripples throughout the magical world…a girl can’t become a wizard, can they?

Esk the young protagonist of Equal Rites is a likeable little girl who has grown up tough playing with her seven older brothers. Esk has no idea of her magical power and doesn’t show any aptitude for it until one evening she loses herself in the snowy woods. Her danger awakes the magical staff which comes to her rescue. Our little Esk isn’t alone in her adventure though she is joined by Bad Ass’s resident witch Granny Weatherwax ( a character I recognised from Wyrd Sisters). Granny is a weather worn, wise and practical old woman who is not to be put off by the small and trivial fact that no girl has become a wizard before. Together they set off for The Unseen University in Ankh Morpork to fight for a place for young Esk.

Terry Pratchett is a well loved author of mine but scandalously I hadn’t read one of his novels since 2012! To make up for that and to refresh my memory earlier this year I went back to where it all started; reading The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. After enjoying both these re-reads I was ready for a new Discworld adventure so I picked up Equal Rites the third novel from this epic series. This is not a series you necessarily have to read in order as the stories are usually short, fun and simple which also follow many different characters/sets of characters. Equal Rites was no exception to this rule short, fun but perhaps not as simple as previous tales I have read. I enjoyed the elements of gender and tradition that Pratchett explored in a way that was interesting and thought provoking but still fun. This is perhaps my favourite Discworld novel I have read so far.

Equal Rites is wonderfully fun, colourful and thought provoking adventure. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and comedy. I am looking forward to reading more adventures in Pratchett’s Discworld. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you read Discworld?

New Read: Choose Love

Choose Love

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 A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada I was keen to pick something else. I picked up Choose Love by Stormie Omartian because I have enjoyed other books by this author earlier in the year.

Omartian in Choose Love reaches out to men and women who believe in God and his son Jesus Christ to consider three choices that could transform your life, the lives of those around you, and your relationship with God. The first choice is for you to receive God’s love for you whole heartedly which includes chapters on how God sees you, mercy, grace and what God can do in our lives. The second choice is for you to express your love for God which includes chapters on worship, trusting, and God’s will and presence. The third choice is for you to love others in a way God would be pleased with which includes chapters on patience, kindness, hope and forgiveness. I was again impressed with how much Omartian managed to cover in a Christian’s life and how much of it were things I could relate to in this book.

Stormie Omartian was a new author for me at the beginning of this year but this is now the third work of her’s I have read. I thought Choose Love was well written with good references from Omartian’s own life experience and Biblical text to back-up and give more depth to each chapter. I again liked how Omartian broke each chapter down into three sections. The first section describing an element of love, the second section a prayer example for that element and the third section showing God’s promises to us as found in the Bible. 21 chapters may seem a little daunting but I found myself engaging well with all the chapters and I heavily highlighted several chapters that spoke to me the most. I was really well supplied with new Christian non-fiction in 2013 and it appears that this is continuing this year too. I look forward to reading more by Omartian.

Choose Love is a detailed and thought-provoking look into how choosing to love can change our lives and our relationship with God. I recommend to Christians interested in enhancing their faith. Good read.

Thank you to Harvest House Publishers for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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

New Read: Queen of Hearts, Volume 2

Queen of Hearts 2

Earlier this year I read The Crown volume 1 of Colleen Oakes’ Wonderland reimagining Queen of Hearts. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as volume 2 The Wonder was available for request I snapped it up!

This is the second volume of this trilogy. This post will contain spoilers for the previous volume.

In the Queen of Hearts 2 we re-join Dinah, the princess of Wonderland, as she weaves her way through the Twisted Wood her only companion is the monstrous stead Morte. Dinah has been forced into this position after the brutal murder of her beloved brother Charles which she was then also framed for. With her gone from the palace the King of Hearts has crowned Dinah’s half-sister Vittiore in her place. Dinah is not left bereft with all her hopes and dreams in tatters. I really felt for Dinah however this is not the end of her troubles. The cruel king now pursues Dinah merciless with his Cards baying for her head. Forcing Dinah to flee deeper into the dangerous and unknown parts of the kingdom. This dark path is to lead Dinah to some unlikely allies. I simply had to keep on reading this to find out what would happen to poor Dinah next.

Our protagonist Dinah began in this trilogy as a young, head strong and rebellious girl. Dinah is still strong and rebellious but through her trials and tribulations she is growing into a woman. While Dinah has escaped the palace she hasn’t escaped all the expectations on her shoulders. The expectations have just changed. Her new allies now look to her to be a strong, wise and victorious Queen. I continued to pity Dinah in this book. Dinah is a strong but imperfect character. While I like her bravery and strength there are still times when I cringed at how far she took her actions and opinions. If only she could hear me shouting stop!

I again really enjoyed Oakes’s reimagining of Wonderland in the Queen of Hearts 2. I like her clever use of classic elements such as the cards, jam tarts and magical food with a new twist and her reimagined classic and new characters which I felt are much better fleshed out than in the original Lewis Carol stories. I thought the Queen of Hearts 2 was well written, detailed and well described. I really could imagine the Twisted Wood, the Yurkei Mountains, and all of Dinah’s trials and tribulations. If you know the original stories you will know how Dinah turns out as the Queen of Hearts. Even so I felt Oakes continued to build Dinah’s character and story gradually, with rising tension and anticipation.

I think the Queen of Hearts 2 is a clever and refreshing reimagining of Wonderland through the eyes of Dinah the future Queen of Hearts. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and would like to see Wonderland in a new way. Great read.

Thank you to SparkPress (a BookSparks imprint) for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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