Monthly Reflection: July 2014

July 2014

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are happy and well? July started as a busy month for me but then I handed in my college portfolio and did my review the first week which was a huge relief. Then I was busy for another week after that finishing off the term with my placement school and sorting out my car MOT, insurance and breakdown cover; but after that I found myself with whole lot of time on my hands which is a real novelty for me! So I decided to spend the second half of July catching up on my sleep, reading and blogging. Here is what I managed to finish in that time:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 2          Poetry: 0

Right at the beginning of the month I finished reading A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard which I had started reading in June but I was so busy I had less time to throw myself into till July. I don’t generally read a great deal of chick lit or women’s literature but I make an exception for Gillard’s work. I just love all the detail and history Gillard puts into her family dramas which is topped off with a beautiful writing style and A Lifetime Burning was no exception to that. Next I went for a completely different choice; picking up the fantasy comedy The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett the first book in Pratchett’s epic Discworld series. This was a re-read for me as I originally read The Colour of Magic many years ago now. I loved going back to where it all began giving myself the chance to hear well loved jokes again and to spot some extra detail which meant I found my re-read just as enjoyable if not more so.

Next with the free time I now found myself with I decided to throw myself into the intrigue of the Tudor court with Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle*. I heard positive things about Fremantle from other bloggers but this is the first novel I have read by her. Sisters of Treason was a moving, detailed and well written look into the lives of Katherine and Mary Grey. I was lost in the glamour, intrigue and fear of it all right to the end. Still having plenty of time on my hands I decided to throw myself into A Storm of Swords book 1 by George R R Martin* the third instalment of Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I finished watching the fourth series of the TV adaptation Game of Thrones in June. The wait for the fifth series next year will be just too long so reading this helped me to get my fix of Westeros and give me lots of extra detail, characters and intrigue.

During the month I also finished two non-fiction book which is good for my goal of continuing to read more non-fiction in 2014. In June I started reading Overwhelmed by Perry Noble a Christian/faith non-fiction which again with that month being so busy I didn’t finish till July. I was drawn to Overwhelmed because I was myself feeling rather overwhelmed with all the college work I was doing. A friendly and concise look at how God supports us through stressful and worrying times which I got some real comfort from. Then near the end of the month I picked up The 7-Day Prayer Warrior Experience by Stormie Omartian* another Christian/faith non-fiction which is exactly what it says in the title. A short and simple look at seven themes over seven days that we can use in our prayer to make us stronger humans and Christians. This is the second book I have read by Omartian this year and I have another, Choose Love, on my Kindle which I am really looking forward to reading too.

*My full thoughts on these books are still to be posted.

Picks of the Month: A Lifetime Burning and Sisters of Treason

And those are just the books I finished during July. Through out the month I have continued to dip in and out of the epic collection Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales for which this month I’ve made good progress but still a long way to go! I have also been dipping in and out of historical non-fiction The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. Near the end of the month I started reading Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law by Michelle Granas a fictional drama set in Warsaw, Poland; something a little different for me but I am enjoying it so far.

What did you read in July?

New Books: July 2014

New Books - July 2014

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

Heartstones by Kate Glanville

Queen of Hearts, Volume II by Colleen Oakes

Across Great Divides by Monique Roy

Hope’s Rebellion by Jade Varden

The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

I have a really eclectic mix of new fiction this month. I received free review copies of fantasy Queen of Hearts, Volume II and historical fiction The Marriage Game from Netgalley. I read Queen of Hearts, Volume I earlier this year and really enjoyed it so I am really pleased to have got hold of volume two. I was contacted and kindly offered review copies of historical fiction Across Great Divides and dystopian young adult Hope’s Rebellion by the authors which I happily accepted as I thought they both sounded interesting. While I picked up a copy of Heartstones for free from Amazon UK.

Choose Love by Stormie Omartian

In contrast to June I have only one new non-fiction this month. I received a review copy of Christian non-fiction Choose Love from Netgalley. I read The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian earlier this year so I am interested to read Omartian’s new book.

I am pleased I managed to keep my new acquisitions down to a reasonably small amount again this month. They were also all free and digital so no money or physical space used. I am particularly excited about reading Queen of Hearts, Volume II as I want to know what happens next!

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

Monthly Reflection: June 2014

June 2014

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are happy and well? June has been a very busy month for me especially as my college course has been coming to an end and I have been making the final big push to finish off my portfolio; which I’ll be handing in next week! Sadly I have had little time to read let alone write reviews and posts so I’m sorry it has been rather quiet round here recently. Hopefully I have done a better job of keeping up with your blogs. The photo for this month is of my cat Bonnie who we adopted from the RSPCA at the beginning of the month; who’s been curled up like this on my bed as I’ve been working hard on my computer. It has been nice to have some company. So here is what I did manage to read in June:

Fiction: 1         Non-Fiction: 1         Poetry: 0

In June I finished one novel which was The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle. A supernatural mystery set in Victorian England with Arthur Conan Doyle which I had trouble putting down. A great escapist read for my busy mind. In June I also finished one non-fiction which was The World According to Bob by James Bowen. Another touching, charming and amusing memoir from Big Issue seller James and his street cat Bob. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on this with you when I have time to do it justice.

Pick of the Month: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall

Sadly I only had time in June to finish two books but I did have other books on the go. I won’t bore you with the text books, articles and reports I’ve been reading for my course but needless to say there has been quite a lot. I have been dipping in and out of non-fictions Overwhelmed by Perry Noble and The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport, and the epic collection Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales for which this month I’ve made really good progress. I was also very close to finishing the novel A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard an interesting and heart breaking family saga. I am looking forward to handing in my portfolio and catching up with a lot of reading in July.

What did you read in June?

New Books: June 2014

New Books - June 2014

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

The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Two new historical fictions for me this time by two authors that are new to me. I was contacted and kindly offered a review copy of The Lost Duchess from the author which I gladly accepted as I have read two great reviews of it already. While I picked up The Agincourt Bride for free on Amazon.

Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge

Pilgrimage to Iona by Claire Nahmad

Overwhelmed by Perry Noble

Auto Da Fay by Fay Weldon

In contrast to the fiction there are four new non-fictions by four authors that are new for me. I was kindly given a copy of Fay Weldon’s memoir Auto Da Fay by a family friend who gave it high praise indeed. While I received copies of Becoming Myself, Overwhelmed and Pilgrimage to Iona from NetGalley which are all non-fictions on faith and spirituality.

I am pleased I managed to keep my new acquisitions down to a reasonably small amount. They were also all free so no money spent. I must admit I am particularly excited to read The Lost Duchess and I have already started reading Overwhelmed.

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

Monthly Reflection: May 2014

May 2014

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are happy and well? April has been another busy month for me with college work and my college placement I’ve felt like I’ve had little time for anything else! I obviously managed to find some time to read though, here is what I read in May:

Fiction: 3         Non-Fiction: 1         Poetry: 0

I started May off with my result for The Classics Club’s last Spin feature Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. A slow starter perhaps but I found the diary entry format and the growth in faith rather comforting. I am pleased this was my spin choice. I then travelled to another world full of totalitarian governments, pirates and magic in A World Apart by David M Brown which is part of Brown’s The Elencheran Chronicles series. I will also be counting A World Apart towards the Once Upon a Time VIII event. To end the month I came back to more familiar territory with The Rev. Diaries by the Reverend Adam Smallbone a BBC tie-in book to their comedy Rev. series about an inner city vicar.  Thoughts on both are still to be posted.

In May I also read one non-fiction a familiar comfort read Mere Christianity by C S Lewis. Earlier this year I finished off a re-read of Lewis’s magical series The Chronicles of Narnia and re-reading this next felt like the right thing to do. It was still as interesting and thought-provoking and it was even more interesting to read this as a more mature Christian.

Pick of the Month: Mere Christianity

And those are just the books I finished in May. I won’t bore you with the text books, articles and reports I’ve been reading for my course but needless to say there has been quite a lot. I have also been dipping in and out of the epic collection Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales I’ve made good progress over this month too. At the end of May I started reading The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle.

What did you read in May?

New Books: May 2014

New Books

Hello my fellow bookworms, can you believe I haven’t done a new books post since March?! For once I seem to have been able to stick to reading books that are already on my shelves or kindle. We all know that I wouldn’t be able to stay away from new books completely though so let’s have a look at what’s new:

The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip

Three new fictions to add to my kindle by three new authors to me. I was contacted and kindly offered a review copy of The Reflections of Queen Snow White from the author which I gladly accepted as it sounded right up my street. I picked up The Villa in Italy and Peach Blossom Pavilion for free on Amazon.

Some Desperate Glory by Max Egremont

I received a free copy of this World War I poetry collection from NetGalley. I haven’t read any poetry in a long time so I am really looking forward to getting round to this.

 I am pleased I managed to keep my new acquisitions down to a small amount. They were also all free and are digital so no money or space used.

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

The Classics Club: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz

For a lighter tone after The Beautiful and Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald I picked another American classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum off my Classics Club list. I had a copy of it waiting on my Kindle and it is a nice short novel which I thought would make an easy read for my busy mind.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz joins little Dorothy as a tornado sweeps her away from her aunt, uncle and the life she knows in Kansas off on a magical adventure to a wonderful new land named Oz. As wonderful as this new land is to Dorothy it isn’t home and so she must make the journey to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz to send her back to Kansas. Along the way she will meet many magical creatures and have many dangerous adventures all with her dog Toto and her new friends a man of straw, a tin woodsman and a cowardly lion. It is very hard not to know this story what with the huge success and continued love of the film The Wizard of Oz (1939) starring the wonderful Judy Garland. Now having read the novel I think the film is a good adaptation but like most films has cut out a lot of the detail and simplified the tale. I was pleasantly surprised to discover more creatures and places that Dorothy visited.

Dorothy the protagonist of this adventure is young, bright, kind and open-minded which she will need to be in this new and unusual land. There are many things in the land of Oz that are unusual and contradict the life that she knew back in Kansas. While Dorothy is a nice character and liked reading about her she is a little two-dimensional. What really made the novel for me were the new friends that she made along the way. First we have the man of straw that Dorothy releases from a field in munchkinland he isn’t very bright but he is friendly and brave. Next we have the tin woodsman who they rescue from the woods where he has frozen solid with rust he isn’t loving but he is strong and clever. Then finally they are joined by the cowardly lion he isn’t brave but he is loyal and kind-hearted. All three want something too so they travel with Dorothy to ask the Wizard of Oz for help.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the first novel I have read by L Frank Baum after reading this though I would like to read more of his Oz series. I thought The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was well-written with a realistic childlike voice and wonder. I loved all the magical characters and colourful places of Oz. I felt I really got to know Oz and many of its inhabitants on this journey. The pace of the journey was good I only wished that sometimes I could have spent more time in some of the locations but that is only a small personal niggle.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a short and magical children’s classic. I highly recommend to those who enjoy the classics and fantasy novels. This is my 22nd read off my Classics Club list.

Have you read this? Enjoyed the film?

I’m counting The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as Fantasy for the Once Upon a Time VIII event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

Monthly Reflection: April 2014

April 2014

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are happy and well? April has been another busy month for me with college work, college placement, agency work, drama workshops and belly dancing classes. At the end of the month though came the Easter holiday which was very welcome indeed and gave me chance to read more. Here is what I managed to finish:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 2          Poetry: 0

I started April off with a familiar comfort read City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare the fifth instalment  in Clare’s urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments. I thought it was another fun adventure which was perfect for the mood I was in and the Once Upon a Time VIII event. For a complete change I next picked the American classic The Beautiful and Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald. A glitzy but slightly depressing look into the glamour and debauchery of the socialites of the jazz age in New York . I then travelled further back into the past with The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn a beautiful and engaging look into the Seymour family in the Tudor period in England. I finished April off with another American classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum. A fun and easy read that was a great comfort read and also counts towards the Once Upon a Time VIII event. Thoughts on which are still to be posted.

During April I also read two non-fiction books; excellent progress towards my continuing aim to read more non-fiction. First I read the short and interesting 101 More Improv Games for Children and Adults by Bob Bedore which is pretty much what it says it is in the title. A good collection of fun drama games. Next I read the short The Life and Legacy of King Solomon by Charles River Editors a book with the blend of my two favourite non-fiction genres; faith and history.

Pick of the Month: The May Bride

And those are just the books I finished in April. I won’t bore you with the text books, articles and reports I’ve been reading for my course but needless to say there has been quite a lot. I have also been dipping in and out of the epic collection Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales. I also started reading A World Apart by David M Brown and a re-read of Mere Christianity by C S Lewis.

What did you read in April?

New Read: The May Bride

The May Bride

With my recent busy timetable I was pleased to reach the Easter two week break. While I have still had plenty of college work to do I have also tried to take the chance to read some more fiction as well. With that in mind I reached for The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn hoping to escape into the past.

The May Bride joins the Seymour family at Wolf Hall as the eldest son and heir Edward brings home his new bride Katherine for the first time. Katherine is young, beautiful and spirited and brings with her a burst of fresh air to the hall and the family in particular for the fifteen year old Jane. The Seymours are a large family of traditional and simple tastes. For the first year Jane and Katherine become fast friends with Katherine encouraging Jane to break some of the family’s restricting behaviours and opinions. While Jane had been perfectly happy before she now feels that life is better. After just a year though the friendship falters and the first signs that Edward and Katherine’s marriage is also in trouble become noticeable. Katherine’s free spirit while refreshing at first is now to bring scandal and the winds of change upon the Seymours and Wolf Hall.

The May Bride is narrated by fifteen year old Jane the fourth child and eldest daughter of Sir John Seymour and his wife Margery. Even if you only know a little of English history you will probably know the name Jane Seymour as the third wife of Henry VIII. The Jane we hear about in this book though is far from the lady of court and future queen she will become. Instead we are introduced to the gangly and awkward young girl with obedience and a fierce loyalty but little confidence in her own actions and opinions. Then the beautiful and confident Katherine sweeps into Jane’s life. I could sympathise with how Jane was swept up in the excitement of change but I was never as enamoured with Katherine as she was. As a reader I think it is easier to spot her weaknesses from the start. Through the troubles and scandals to come Jane is the one to rise a stronger and wiser person who you could imagine as a queen. Jane is not the only Seymour to play an important role in Tudor history there is also her older brothers Edward and Thomas. I was so drawn into Jane’s narration and immediate circumstances though that I didn’t pay them that much mind until later in the book.

I had heard of Suzannah Dunn before but The May Bride is the first novel I have read by her. Yet when I started reading I felt like I had always known her. I found Dunn’s writing style comforting and familiar which instantly swept me off into the past. I also enjoyed that the story was told by Jane in the past tense as if we were sitting with her as a lady and future queen while she confided in us about her childhood and past secrets. I felt I knew Jane and was invested in finding out about those few years when Katherine lived with her and the disastrous ending of it all. I found I thought little of Jane’s present but was completely embroiled in her past. I thought this was clever of Dunn as we already know about Jane as lady and queen but we don’t know about her as a young woman. What I really found myself loving was the simple but detailed descriptions of Jane’s everyday life at Wolf Hall; stripping the beds, picking fruit, morning prayers, preserving food and sewing by the fire in the evening. I found myself totally absorbed and fascinated by this past world. While Dunn has obviously filled in some historical gaps in this novel I thought it was well done and she references the historical characters, facts and documents she took inspiration from.

The May Bride is a well written and beautiful glimpse through the eyes of a young woman into a past world long gone. I highly recommend to those interested in historical fiction and English history. I would really like to read more of Suzannah Dunn.

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK  for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Suzannah Dunn? Any recommendations?

The Classics Club: The Beautiful and Damned

The Beautiful and Damned

I won a beautiful Alma set of F Scott Fitzgerald’s work two years ago but sadly until I picked up The Great Gatsby last year the set had been gathering dust on my bookshelf. Almost a year after I picked up The Great Gatsby I thought it was about time to pick up another one and from the set I chose The Beautiful and Damned.

The Beautiful and Damned follows Anthony Patch a privileged, fashionable and handsome young man. Anthony lives in New York as the jazz age is taking hold of the country. Anthony, the heir of his extremely prosperous grandfather, fritters away his days on reading, dining, drinking and entertaining with no interest in working as he contemplates the money he will inherit instead. During the winter season Anthony meets, and quickly falls in love with and marries the beautiful socialite Gloria. Rather than Anthony settling down to a career and raising a family the marriage only accelerates Anthony and Gloria’s descent into a life of glamour and debauchery. Neither have a care for money as they look forward to the day they will inherit Anthony’s grandfather’s fortune.

Like The Great Gatsby I loved the setting of The Beautiful and Damned. The clothes, music, parties and glamour of the jazz age is intoxicating. I find the society, outlook and opinions of the age unattractive though and in turn so are the characters in this novel. Anthony is educated and privileged he looks down upon those he believes to be inferior in wealth, education, class and appearance. Anthony is surrounded by opportunities but I feel he squanders them all. Gloria is a beautiful and spoilt girl who cares only for being admired, loved and surrounded by beautiful things. Gloria has broken more hearts than she could possibly count and has done it without remorse. Together Anthony and Gloria are a toxic combination. I thought they were fascinating to read about but I didn’t like them.

The Beautiful and Damned is my second foray into F Scott Fitzgerald’s work my first was The Great Gatsby. I look forward to reading the rest of the Alma set. I find Fitzgerald’s writing to be detailed, eloquent, but quite meandering. Fitzgerald is certainly not a direct writer. Rather than this annoying me though I find this style adds to the precocious, aloof, and flamboyant mood of the age and setting. Which works particularly well here as The Beautiful and Damned is told predominantly from Anthony’s point of view (a little is told from Gloria’s) a man who is increasingly aloof and flamboyant with too much time to think and meander on his hands. Not sure this style would work for me in any other setting though.

The Beautiful and Damned is a glitzy glimpse into the past. I can’t say I loved this novel because of the dislikeable characters but I did find it all very interesting. I recommend to those interested in the jazz age and American classics. This is my 21st read off my Classics Club list. I have Tender is the Night and This Side of Paradise to choose from next.

Have you read Fitzgerald? What novel should I read next?