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 Books: November 2014

New Books - November 2014

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

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (complete) by L Frank Baum

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson

The King’s Sister by Anne O’Brien

Four new fictions for me this month. I received review copies of historical fictions Red Rose, White Rose and The King’s Sister from Netgalley both I which I am excited to read. I have loved everything I have read by Daphne du Maurier so when I saw Jamaica Inn in my favourite charity book shop I had to pick it up. While I picked up a free copy of fantasy classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz set from Amazon UK.

Clean Food Diet by Jonathan Vine

The Praying Woman’s Devotional by Stormie Omartian

Only two new non-fictions for me this month.  I received a review copy of faith non-fiction The Praying Woman’s Devotional from Netgalley. I read several of Omartian’s work this year and enjoyed them all. Looking forward to reading more. While I picked up a free copy of Clean Food Diet from Amazon UK.

I am pleased I managed to keep my new acquisitions down to a small amount. I am not sure where I’ll start first because I am excited to read all of them.

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

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?

New Read: The Lost Duchess

The Lost Duchess

September and October were months full of mystery and horror as I took part in  The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event hosted by  Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings. All through October though I had my eye upon historical fiction The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden which had been calling to me from my to-be-read pile. After finishing two reads for the R.I.P event I thought I deserved to read it at the end of the month.

The Lost Duchess takes us into the life of Emme Fifield; a favoured lady-in-waiting in the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. We meet Emme as she is fooled and poorly used by Lord Hertford. A scene I found quite hard to read. The scandal that will surely follow threatens to engulf and ruin Emme’s life. Emme can see no other way out of it; she must find a way to leave court. Then the court comes alive with the arrival of the adventurers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh who come boasting of the wonders of the new world and appealing to the Queen to mount a new expedition to found the City of Raleigh. The lure of the exotic but dangerous new world is intoxicating but it could also be the perfect opportunity for Emme to escape and a start anew. I must admit I found myself wanting to go too.

I found I liked the protagonist of The Lost Duchess Emme almost instantly. Emme is young, beautiful, kind but naïve. Unlike many of the other courtiers Emme only comes from a moderately well born family. She has only reached the heights of a favoured lady-in-waiting to the Queen due to her father’s hard work and the influence of the powerful but dangerous Secretary Walsingham. I felt this is what gave Emme the imagination and the actual ability to go on this adventure into the unknown. If Barden had chosen a character with a more straight forward entrance into the court I don’t think I could have believed it. Not to say that Emme’s transition from comfortable court life to the hard and trying life of a settler is an easy one. Emme makes many mistakes and has some hard lessons to learn. By the end of it though Emme is a strong woman who I liked even more.

The Lost Duchess is the first novel I have read by Jenny Barden. I enjoy historical fiction and I love a good adventure, and this is what drew me to The Lost Duchess. I wasn’t to be disappointed either. I thought The Lost Duchess was a well written novel with a lovely flow and good detail. I found Barden’s comfortable writing style helped me feel at home and swept me quickly away into the tale; and that was before the true adventure even began. Once away from court Emme and her fellow settlers have storms, starvation, poisonous food, lost souls, attacks, intrigue and relationships to deal with. What I didn’t expect was the level of romance this novel would contain; mainly centred around Emme and mariner Kit Doonan. While the romance is sweet and not thrown in your face I personally could have done with less of the will they won’t they. Emme and Kit are fictional characters but there were real settlers who went out on this expedition to found the City of Raleigh.  Barden has obviously filled in some historical gaps and fictionalised events but I thought she did this well which helped me to imagine what it might really have been like for those brave settlers. At the end of the novel Barden’s author’s notes references the real historical characters, events and facts she took inspiration from.

I thought The Lost Duchess was a lovely, romantic adventure from Elizabethan England across the sea to the dangerous and beautiful new world. I would recommend to those interested in historical romance. Good read.

Thank you to the author for providing a free copy of The Lost Duchess in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any other adventures across the sea?

Monthly Reflection: October 2014

October 2014

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are happy and well? October has been a miserably wet month here in the UK. Fortunately I have plenty of people and activities to cheer me up and a half term break. I am settling into my new job well and I am continuing my puppet training and my belly dance lessons. Sadly this month saw me with another rotten cold; the perils I’m afraid of working at a new school with new people. 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: 2          Poetry: 0

October saw the continuation of The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event hosted by  Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings which influenced me to pick up Just After Sunset by Stephen King a short story collection. This was my first foray into King’s full horror writing having only read his epic dark fantasy series The Dark Tower before. Turned out to be a well written collection of horror, mystery and supernatural stories which had me glued to my seat. For a little light comedic relief from all the horror and mystery I decided to go for The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett the second instalment in his epic Discworld series. Another wonderfully fun, colourful and comforting  re-read. Although this felt more like a new read as I found I had forgotten so much of the detail and action!

I didn’t take a break from The R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event for that long though as my next read was the supernatural horror The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. I warn you this novel contains strong and graphic descriptions of violence and sex which at times left me uncomfortable. However I sufficiently invested in the character and story to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next. To finish the month off I read historical fiction The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden which had been calling to me from my to-be-read pile all through October. After two R.I.P reads I thought I deserved to read it. I thought The Lost Duchess was a lovely romantic adventure from Elizabethan England across the sea to the dangerous and beautiful new world. (My full thoughts on The Lost Duchess are still to be posted).

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. I started October off by finishing historical non-fiction The Romanov Sisters/Four Sisters by Helen Rappaport. I have taken my time with this book because there is a lot of detail and information I didn’t know anything about before to take in. A detailed and emotional insight into the lives and tragic death of the four Romanov sisters; Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. Near the end of the month I finished The Crusades by Mark Black an instalment from Black’s A Very Short History series. A simple but interesting introduction into the angry, bloody and confusing time of the crusades. I really must read more from this series soon.

Pick of the Month: Just After Sunset

And those are just the books I finished during October. Sadly I think this is the first month this year that I have had to give up on a book. I dislike not finishing a book but I dislike giving bad reviews even more. A week into October I gave up on Pilgrimage to Iona by Claire Nahmad a faith non-fiction which I thought was well written and researched but it just wasn’t what I wanted or had expected. To replace I picked Choose Love by Stormie Omartian, the third book of Omartian’s I have picked up this year, I am enjoying it so far. Near the end of the month I also started the short story collection Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead edited by Christopher Golden and fantasy re-imagining Queen of Hearts, Volume II by Colleen Oakes.

What did you read in October?

New Read: The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf

September and October have been months full of dark and mysterious reads due to the fact I am taking part in the R.I.P IX event. I took a short break to have some Discworld fun I was soon back in the mood for a darker or more mysterious read which led me to pick up The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.

The Last Werewolf introduces us to Jake Marlowe. Before being bitten he was an English country gentlemen with a beautiful wife. Now Jake is a lonely 200+ year old werewolf living the millionaire lifestyle in London; spending his time smoking, drinking, whoring and planning his next meal. Not my usual themes and activities I like to read about but then one night Jake is informed by his human minder that ‘the Berliner’ has been hunted down and killed by the secretive, supernatural unity WOCOP. Leaving Jake the last of his kind and the units final target. Fed up with life Jake is preparing for death without a fight but many different fractions have different plans for him. This plot was a slow starter for me but I grew more interested once the supernatural adventure got going.

The Last Werewolf‘s protagonist Jake is not someone I found easy to like. During his long life Jake has accrued millionaires of pounds and spends it on cigarettes, expensive whiskey and high class escorts. Not particularly endearing qualities. Later in the book we are informed he has donated thousands if not millionaires  to good causes but it was too little too late for me on that front. Then of course you have the hundreds of people he has killed and eaten to deal with. However like most eternal creatures Jake does have a lot of history and knowledge to share which I liked. While I didn’t like him I did find myself invested in what would happen to him next. Sadly I had an issue with the portrayal of women in The Last Werewolf. The only women we are introduced to properly are those who Jake sleeps with. It is explained that werewolves are sex addicts but I still found it rather depressing to find women described and depicted in a sexual way all the time.

The Last Werewolf is the first novel I have read by Glen Duncan. When I received a copy of The Last Werewolf I was a little apprehensive because I had been warned that the descriptions of violence were particularly gruesome. My interest in the supernatural overcame my apprehension though and I started to read. I must say that this novel does contain strong and graphic descriptions of violence and sex which at times left me uncomfortable; thankfully I didn’t find any of the scenes painfully long. Duncan’s writing style is detailed and wordy which keeps the reader well informed but does slow the pace of the novel. Overall though I found the pace and action of the novel sufficient to keep me turning the pages to find out what happened next. I’m glad I did too because I did find the ending a little intriguing; I wonder how Duncan will move the story on in further books.

The Last Werewolf is a graphic, supernatural adventure around the world. I recommend to those who are interested in horror and the supernatural. Warning the novel does contains foul language, violence and sexual content so recommended for adults only. I’m undecided whether I would like to continuing reading the trilogy. Okay read.

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

Have you read this? Or anything else by Glen Duncan?

I am counting The Last Werewolf as Horror and Supernatural for the R.I.P IX event hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

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. Good read.

Have you read Discworld? Have a favourite instalment?