Re-Read: The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic

September and October has been full of dark and mysterious reads due to the fact I am taking part in R.I.P IX event, and as much as I’ve been enjoying my reading I felt I needed a break from the darker material. With that in mind I picked up The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett sequel to The Colour of Magic, the first in his epic Discworld series, for a comforting  and easy re-read. With its blend of fantasy and humour I thought it would be a great change.

In The Colour of Magic we are first introduced to Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld; a flat disc world which stands on the back of four elephants who themselves stand on the shell of giant turtle who swims through the universe. I never cease to be amazed and amused by Pratchett’s wonderful imagination. The Light Fantastic continues the adventures of Rincewind the wizard, Twoflower the first Discworld tourist and his magical chest after they have been forced to flee the capital, Ankh-Morpork, after a devastating fire. The trio only seem to moving from the frying pan into the fire though as they encounter space travel, talking trees, trolls, flying stones and barbarian hordes. Meanwhile the world is heading for a giant star which will surely mean its destruction…

The protagonists of The Light Fantastic are Rincewind, Twoflower and his magical walking chest; who even though it can’t speak really does seem to have its own personality and way of communicating. Rincewind is clever but is utterly lacking any bravery, confidence or magic which all in all makes for a very poor wizard. It is very funny to read about his many miss-adventures and forced moments of heroism. Then we have Twoflower the first tourist who longs to see the sights regardless of his health or his safety. Twoflower is not necessarily brave though he is just naïve and far too trusting but things have a way of working out for him. The combination of Rincewind, Twoflower and his magical walking chest makes for a hilarious read before you add any of the other characters and creatures they meet along the way.

Terry Pratchett is a well loved author of mine but scandalously I haven’t read one of his novels since 2012! To make up for that and to refresh my memory in July this year I decided to go back to where it all started; The Colour of Magic. Having loved that re-read I was keen to move onto the sequel The Light Fantastic. 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. I felt it would be nice to read the first two novels again though so I could have the chance to focus on Pratchett’s first descriptions of the actual world itself. To get a better sense of it before going on to reading some new adventures. I really enjoyed this re-read but for different reasons to The Colour of Magic. I found on re-starting The Light Fantastic that while I knew the general flow of the story I had completely forgotten much of the detail of the adventures; if it hadn’t been for the characters this would have felt like a whole new read for me. This is definitely a lesson in that re-reads are sometimes really needed!

The Light Fantastic is another wonderfully fun and colourful adventure. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and comedy. I am looking forward to more adventures in Pratchett’s Discworld.

Have you read Discworld? Have a favourite instalment?

New Read: Just After Sunset

Just After Sunset

I have been ploughing on with my love for short story collections in 2014. I have mainly been reading classic collections; my last being more Sherlock Holmes adventures His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle. After this I was still craving short stories but also something a bit different. With it being R.I.P time of year I picked up Just After Sunset by Stephen King.

Just After Sunset is a collection of thirteen horror, mystery and supernatural short stories. Eleven of the stories having been originally written and published in various publications between 2003 and 2008, one in 1977 and one previously unpublished story. My favourite stories from the collection were Willa about the survivors of a train crash, The Things They Left Behind about survivor’s guilt after 911 in New York, and N. a collection of letters and psychiatrist notes on an unusual OCD patient. However I found it very hard to choose just a few as my favourites. As all the stories in this collection are clever, chilling, intriguing and in some parts gripping. Needless to say I worked my way through this collection relatively quickly as I couldn’t put it down until I had got through at least one story each sitting.

Just After Sunset has a large and diverse cast of characters; some I liked, some were intriguing, some I sympathised with, and others I didn’t particularly like however they were all interesting to read about. I think there is a good balance of male and female characters, young and old characters, and some different social and cultural backgrounds. All the characters were well written and believable even though we only got to know some of them over ten or so pages; which I think shows what a great writer King is.

I am no stranger to Stephen King’s work having read all of his epic dark fantasy series The Dark Tower. After finishing that series though I have been reluctant to venture into King’s full horror work because lets face it I was a bit scared I wouldn’t enjoy it. With  much encouragement from my father and other bloggers I decided I needed to give it a go and I am so glad I did. A short story collection was a good in-between option instead of going straight into a full horror novel. Just After Sunset is a detailed and well written collection of short stories with King’s flare, intrigue and uncanny ability to draw the reader in. In the introduction King explains he was inspired to write and create this collection after fearing he had lost the art of short story writing after having written so many novels. I haven’t read his short stories from his earlier career to compare but what I do know is this collection is excellent. I hope that after this positive experience I will be brave enough to read one of King’s full horror novels!

Just After Sunset is a well written collection of horror, mystery and supernatural short stories which had me glued to my seat. I highly recommend to those interested in horror, the supernatural and the short story format.

Have you read this collection? Do you have a favourite Stephen King story?

I am counting Just After Sunset as Horror and Supernatural for the R.I.P IX event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

New Books: October 2014

New Books - October 2014

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

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (The Farseer Trilogy)

The Storyteller and Her Sisters by Cheryl Mahoney

Just three fictions for me this month. Quite a few years ago now I borrowed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time from the library and thought it was wonderful. I recommended it to my father who bought a copy and quickly read it. He has now passed it on to me because I think its high time for a re-read. I then picked up epic fantasy Assassin’s Apprentice for free from Amazon.co.uk. I heard many good things about Robin Hobb and thought this was the perfect chance to finally try some for myself. I then received a free copy of The Storyteller and Her Sisters from the author. Cheryl Mahoney is a good book blogging friend of mine so I am excited to read her second fairy tale retelling.

Tolkien by Devin Brown

Our Zoo by June Mottershead

Love So Amazing by Pam Rhodes

The Ancient Path by John Michael Talbot (with Mike Aquilina)

In comparison to fiction I have a good mixture of four new non-fictions this month. I received a review copies of biography Tolkien, memoir Our Zoo, and faith non-fictions Love So Amazing and The Ancient Path from Netgalley. They’re all by new authors for me and they all sound rather good; I am not sure what to start first!

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?

Monthly Reflection: September 2014

September 2014

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are happy and well? (The photo this month shows how Bonnie the cat as made herself well at home now). September has been a mild and even sometimes a pleasantly warm month here in the UK, however the leaves are browning and the nights are getting darker. Autumn is on its way! Most of the month I have been focused on settling into my new job. I have also continued my puppet training and my belly dance lessons. Sadly the end of the month saw me with a rotten cold. The only upside to that meant I had plenty of early nights reading in bed. Here’s what I managed to finish reading:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 1          Poetry: 0

At the end of August once I had returned from my holiday I picked up Once Upon a Timepiece by Starr Wood a modern novel composed of twelve short stories. I read one or two stories a day and found myself flying through it. I thought it was a refreshing and fascinating look into the lives of ordinary people who are all touched by the same watch. September saw the beginning of The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event hosted by  Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings which influenced me to reach for His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle the fourth collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. I have been really enjoying these short story collections and this was no exception. Another fascinating read with more interesting adventures for me to discover. His Last Bow is now my 26th read off my Classics Club list.

As well as The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event September also saw the second Mary Stewart Reading Week (14th September to 21st September) the brain-child of the lovely Anbolyn @ Gudrun’s Tights. Combining the two events I read The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart a romantic suspense set in the exotic and beautiful setting of Lebanon. This is my second novel by Stewart I have read. I thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a perfect read for the start of Autumn. Right at the end of August I also started Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements a sweeping and bloody adventure set during The War of the Roses. I loved how Clements told this story from the perspectives of common people rather than the elite. The detailed and realistic portrayal of fighting and death meant I took my time with this and only read when in the right mood for it hence why it took me nearly the whole month to finish it however I did thoroughly enjoy it.

During the month I also finished one non-fiction book which is good for my goal of continuing to read more non-fiction in 2014. A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada* is a Christian/faith non-fiction looking at God’s healing but also how God uses our pains and troubles to change us and help others. A really powerful read.

Pick of the Month: The Gabriel Hounds

And those are just the books I finished during September.  I have continued to dip in and out of historical non-fiction The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport during the month. Not something I want to rush as there is a lot of information I didn’t know before to take in but I am nearing the end now. Near the end of the month I also started the short story collection Just After Sunset by Stephen King and faith non-fiction Pilgrimage to Iona by Claire Nahmad.

What did you read in September?

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

New Read: Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims

Kingmaker Winter Pilgrims

After returning home from my holiday at the end of August I finished the French classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. After I was still in the mood for something historical and epic in which case I decided to throw myself into the political and power struggles of The War of the Roses in Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements.

In Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims we join Katherine and Thomas a nun and monk who find themselves forced to flee their abbey to save their lives. England is in turmoil. War has broken out between the two lines of the Plantagenet royal family; Lancaster and York. King Henry VI from the Lancaster line is seen as weak and senile, and rumours spread that his French queen Margaret of Anjou is the one really ruling the country. This sees the rise of Richard the Duke of York and his army to fight Margaret of Anjou and free the king however Richard also has his eyes on the throne for himself. The naïve Katherine and Thomas find themselves in a new and dangerous world. After follow the flow of people they find themselves in Calais, Thomas as a trainee archer and Katherine dressed as a boy named Kit, where they fall in with Yorkist supporters.

I found myself drawn to the protagonists of Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims Katherine and Thomas. It was excellent to see history from the perspective of the common people rather than from the elite. We first meet Katherine and Thomas in their structured and hard life in the abbey. They are brought together when Katherine, another sister and Thomas find themselves outside the walls of the abbey prey for the local Lord’s son and his men as they ride by. Thomas a kind, meticulous and artistic man turns out to also be a fair fighter saving himself and Katherine but after the death of a man they both must flee. While Thomas had felt some content in the abbey Katherine had led a cruel life of servitude. Katherine is kind but has had to become tough and there is a fierce fire within her; once free of the abbey Katherine really grows as a person. Thomas also grows but he is much more a reluctant convert as he misses the quiet life of the abbey. As Thomas and Katherine find themselves plunged into the world of blood, death and fighting their faith begins to change. Thomas’s gets stronger while Katherine begins to lose hers. I enjoyed reading about both Katherine and Thomas, and found their physical, emotional and spiritual journeys fascinating.

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims is the first novel I have read by Toby Clements and it is also the first book in Clements’s new historical adventure series. Historical adventure definitely describes Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims well; this is a bloody and gripping historical adventure. I have read many historical novels this year full of detail and drama however this is the first historical novel this year that has really immersed me into the action of the time. Clements describes intimately how Thomas feels, what he sees and what he does in battle. This detail might not be for everyone and isn’t what I usually go for but Clements has done it very well and clearly knows what he is writing about. The bloodshed and detail for the novel is why I think it took me the whole month to read this novel. I felt I needed to take my time and I also needed to be in the right mood. Rushing or forcing myself to read when not in the mood could have ruined my enjoyment. As it was though I took my time and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims is a bloody, gripping and highly detailed historical adventure. I highly recommend to those interested in adventure, history and war. I hope to read more from Clements and this series in the future.

Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Clements?

New Read: The Gabriel Hounds

The Gabriel Hounds

Last week it was the Mary Stewart Reading Week (14th September to 21st September) which is the brain-child of the lovely Anbolyn @ Gudrun’s Tights. I have been really looking forward to taking part in this event again. Last year I read and loved my first Stewart novel Wildfire at Midnight during this event. I still had two of her novels on my to-be-read pile to choose from and feeling in an exotic mood last week I plumped for The Gabriel Hounds.

The Gabriel Hounds follows Miss Christabel Mansel a rich and pampered young lady who has broken the conforms of society to travel alone in the middle east. Whilst out there she is reminded that her eccentric Great Aunt Harriet is living like a reclusive king in a grand palace in Lebanon not far from Christabel’s hotel. Christabel is intrigued and ignoring warnings heads out alone to Dar Ibrahim palace to visit her Aunt and find out more about the legend of the Gabriel Hounds. On arrival it becomes clear all is not as it seems though. Autumn is the perfect time for a good suspenseful mystery and The Gabriel Hounds is a great one! It is full of intrigue, secrets, suspicion, lies, betrayal, twists and turns. I was gripped. If it hadn’t been for the need to eat, sleep and go to work I would have happily finished this book in one sitting.

The Gabriel Hounds protagonist Christabel Mansel (Christy for short) while being rich, pampered and spoilt is a very likeable character. Christy is well aware she is rich, pampered and spoilt. I liked her honesty and when needed Christy can be a feisty and tough lass which I really enjoyed seeing. The cast is a lot smaller in The Gabriel Hounds than in my previous Stewart read but still an interesting collection. In Dar Ibrahim we have eccentric and mysterious Great Aunt Harriet, young ‘doctor’ John Lethman, the servants pretty Halide, her brother Nasirulla and old Jassim. Outside the palace there is Christy’s loyal driver Hamid and her dashing cousin Charles Mansel. For most of the book you hope one of these latter will be able to figure it out and come to the rescue. I thought these were interesting characters which always kept me thinking.

The Gabriel Hounds is the second novel I have read by Mary Stewart. I picked up my first Stewart novel last year having been inspired by the thoughts of fellow book bloggers Anbolyn @ Gudrun’s Tights and Helen @ She Reads Novels. I am so glad I listened to them because I loved my second Stewart read too. The Gabriel Hounds is a wonderful romantic suspense, with a sweeping story and creeping mystery which had me hooked after only a few chapters. It is extremely well-written with a good steady pace and it all flows wonderfully. I think Stewart has a wonderful style which in cooperates a mixture of suspense, romance, and society issues. I also loved Stewart’s beautiful descriptions of the dusty landscape of Lebanon and the decaying grandeur of the Dar Ibrahim palace. Again Stewart made me really want to visit!

The Gabriel Hounds is a wonderful romantic suspense in an exotic and beautiful setting; a perfect read for the start of Autumn. I highly recommend this for those who love suspense and mystery. I look forward to reading Airs Above the Ground my remaining Stewart novel on my to-be-read shelf.

Are you a fan of Mary Stewart? What did you read for the event?

I am also counting The Gabriel Hounds as Suspense for the R.I.P IX event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

The Classics Club: His Last Bow

His Last Bow

I have been ploughing on with my love for short story collections in 2014. I have so far read and adored the Adventures, Memoirs and Return of Sherlock Holmes. I haven’t read any since last year however I have been very keen to get my hands on more Sherlock Holmes stories. I was lucky enough to download the complete and free collection of Sherlock Holmes to my Kindle. So at the beginning of September with the R.I.P event going on I delved into His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle his fourth collection of Sherlock Holmes stories.

His Last Bow is a collection made up of another eight Sherlock Holmes short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and published in The Strand between 1908 and 1915; much later than the stories I have previously read. Probably the most famous adventure from the collection would have to be the Bruce-Partington Plans where we see Mycroft calling on Sherlock to find stolen plans for a secret submarine project. I instantly recognised this story as it was adapted for the dramatic finale of the first year of the BBC’s Sherlock series. I very much enjoyed Bruce-Partington Plans as well as the adventures of The Dying Detective and Lady Frances Carfax. However that being said as usual there were no adventures in this collection I didn’t enjoy, they were all fascinating, the three I have named though particularly amused me.

Like previous collections I have read I thought His Last Bow had a good range of stories (although a smaller collection than the previous ones) which were varied and well-balanced. There was also the wonderful chemistry between the two protagonists that I love to witness during the intricate mysteries. The difference I like about this collection is you get to see Holmes and Watson as they start to age and reflect back on old adventures. I did again find I was most drawn to Holmes’s companion Dr Watson in this collection. As much as I love the mind and foibles of Holmes it is his down-to-earth companion Watson that I find I really connect with. I think it is a very clever device of Doyle to have Watson narrate the stories even though Holmes is the main protagonist. I just don’t think these stories would be as popular if the poor reader had to be literally in the mind of Holmes!

While the length of each story varied quite dramatically in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes for His Last Bow the length was a standard length which I much prefer. I am still really enjoying reading the short story collections of Sherlock Holmes. As the shorter length of the stories means I can easily keep the thread of the mystery and fully enjoy all the twists and turns, without the worry of needing a break. I do now however have all of Doyle’s Holmes novels and I would like to read them in the not so far future too; especially The Hound of the Baskervilles. For now I look forward to reading the next and final short story collection The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.

His Last Bow is another fascinating read with more interesting adventures for me to discover. I highly recommend to those interested in classic crime. This is now my 26th read off my Classics Club list.

Have you read this collection? Do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

I am also counting His Last Bow as Mystery for the R.I.P IX event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.