The Classics Club: My Top Ten Reads

My fellow bookworms  and classic clubbers, as promised here is my top ten list of books, ordered alphabetically, from my epic fifty books and five year challenge:

~ 1 ~

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The timeless, warm-hearted tale of the ghostly and redemptive journey of the infamous miser Ebenezer Scrooge.

~ 2 ~

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

A delightful and eccentric adventure around the world with wealthy English gentlemen Phileas Fogg and his French manservant Passepartout.

~ 3 ~

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

A touching and charming tale that follows the lives of the women of Cranford, a small rural town in Victorian England.

~ 4 ~

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

A gothic, atmospheric Holmes and Watson mystery out on the foggy, lonely moors, in search of a diabolical hound.

~ 5 ~

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

An utterly charming novel that chronicles the struggles, tribulations, and joys of the four March sisters as they grow from children into women.

~ 6 ~

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A wonderful tale of young women trying to find their way in the world, and I think it really is a tale full of universal truths that do not change during the ages.

~ 7 ~

The Railway Children by E Nesbit

A charming Edwardian children’s classic that follows middle-class siblings Roberta, Phyllis and Peter as they are forced to start a new life in the country.

~ 8 ~

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A charming children’s classic that follows an unloved orphan Mary Lennox as she starts a new life in her uncle’s home, Misselthwaite Manor.

~ 9 ~

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

A sweeping historic and romantic novel that follows the swashbuckling adventures of D’Artagnan and his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos.

~ 10 ~

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A rip-roaring adventure that takes us to sea in search of treasure with young Jim Hawkins and the devious Long John Silver.

Have you read any of these? What are some of your favourite classics?

The Classics Club: My Lady Ludlow

Last year, after having long wanted to read something by Elizabeth Gaskell, I read first the eponymous Cranford and then Mr Harrison’s Confessions. So it seemed appropriate that I should finish my Classics Club challenge with My Lady Ludlow, the final story in The Cranford Chronicles.

Similar to Cranford, we are introduced to a young woman, Miss Dawson, who after the loss of her father is invited to live at Hanbury Court by her charitable, distant relative Lady Ludlow. Through Dawson’s eyes we come to see how the Hanbury estate and the surrounding rural community are ruled over by this indomitable but beloved Lady, who eccentrically chooses to employ no servant who can read and write. However the winds of change are blowing through the community as the new vicar, Mr Gray, has the preposterous idea to open a school for the poor! Our Lady Ludlow has a rough time ahead but she is perhaps not as rigid as even she thought.

I must admit to be rather disappointed this was (again!) not set in Cranford, as the BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation had built me up by merging these novellas into one setting. However I can see how this has been placed in these chronicles because of the small rural setting and the dominate female presence. In this setting, men are neither feared or coveted but instead tolerated, with the larger-than-life personality of the matriarchal Lady Ludlow overruling their thoughts and beliefs. I fear I am making our Lady sound like a real horror, in fact I found her wonderful to read about – especially the French Revolution back story that explains many of her rigid views – and the power she holds really only comes from the fact she is so well loved.

This tale sees Gaskell returning to her steady, touching and meticulous style, that follows in detail the simple action and drama of a small Victorian community during a time of peaceful revolution. Before this, I had found Gaskell perhaps not as gripping or dramatic as some of her contemporaries, however the French Revolution section of this one really did grip me – I was desperate to find out what happened next!  While it also still retained a wonderfully comforting and personable style, stories and characters. Happily I picked this up and read a chapter or two a night, and just lost myself in this nostalgic world.

Overall, I thought My Lady Ludlow was a charming classic that made for a very comforting read, although Cranford is still definitely my favourite. Now I look forward to reading one of Gaskell’s full-length novels – I have North and South on my TBR read pile. Good read.

Have you read this? Or can you recommend anything else by Gaskell?

The Classics Club – 50/50

Top Ten Tuesday: Great Short Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Read In One Sitting Theme

As much as I enjoy losing myself in an epic like The Lord of the Rings, Bleak House or A Song of Ice and Fire, sometimes you just want a quick fix too. So here are some of my favourite short books that could be read in one or two sittings (ordered alphabetically by title):

~ 1 ~

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Dickens’ classic, redemptive tale of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghostly visitations.

~ 2 ~

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

An utterly charming classic that follows the lives of women in a small rural town in Victorian England.

~ 3 ~

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

The surreal tale of the summer of 1928 in a small fictional US town, based on the author’s own childhood summer memories from his hometown.

~ 4 ~

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The first book in King’s epic, dark fantasy series The Dark Tower, which introduces our hero Roland Deschain; the last gunslinger. Don’t be lulled by its short length, the following books only get longer and longer!

~ 5 ~

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A hilarious romp through space with the ordinary Arthur Dent and his alien best friend Ford Prefect.

~ 6 ~

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Tolkien’s classic children’s book that follows little Bilbo Baggins in the first Middle-Earth adventure.

~ 7 ~

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

I could have picked any of Doyle’s wonderful Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but I think this is marginally my favourite.

~ 8 ~

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

Lewis’ classic children’s book that first introduces us to the magical land of Narnia.

~ 9 ~

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

A chilling tale of two young women living an extremely isolated life, after the tragic death of their family.

~ 10 ~

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

There are many of Pratchett’s hilarious Discworld books I could have chosen, but I think this is still my favourite; so far!

What are your favourite short books? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

The Classics Club: Five Years Gone

My fellow bookworms  and classic clubbers. If you can believe it, I joined The Classics Club back on the 19th March 2012, which means today marks five years and the end of my challenge! Later in the month, I will do a top ten post for the whole challenge. For now though here is what I have read off my list in the last year:

Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit

The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

The Story of the Amulet by Edith Nesbit

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

Mr Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell


Which means I have completed…

50/50

I can’t really believe I have reached my goal and it is all over! If you had asked me five years ago, I probably would have said I am not sure I will actually read fifty books, however it would be great just to read more classics. Now I need to make the tough decision of whether I go for another fifty by making another list?! If I do it won’t be straight away as I think I deserve a little bit of a break first. For now, keep your eyes peeled for my top ten post which will be coming soon.

Have you read any of these? What classics have you enjoyed over the last year?

New Read: Faith and Moonlight: Part 2

Last year, I read and enjoyed four of Mark Gelineau’s & Joe King’s novellas from two threads of their fantasy series, Echo of the Ascended. So much so I didn’t wait long into this year to start a third thread of their epic series with Faith and Moonlight and to continue it with this: Part 2.

In the previous instalment, we were introduced to teenage orphans Roan and Kay: best friends who had travelled together to the city with hopes and dreams of entering the prestigious School of Faith, to become a legendary Razor. At the start of this instalment, passing the entry test is not the end of their trials, as they are now both thrown deep into the vigorous training regime and are tested in dangerous one-to-one combats. Through out which Roan and Kay are finding themselves growing further and further apart.

The protagonists Roan and Kay are still young, naïve and vulnerable, which gives us, the reader, the opportunity to watch them grow. It is in this second instalment where we see more clearly that these best friends are now on very different paths. Roan excels in his training and is determined to succeed, so as not to return to his brutal past. While Kay struggles with the dark, powerful magic growing within her; and fears the price she paid to get into the School of Faith may have been too high. I still definitely felt the most for Kay as Roan seems to be leaving her in his wake.

This majority of this young adult thread is set in the beautiful and serene School of Faith – a place of peace, education, power and history, with its marble buildings and lush green grass. Where there is the opportunity for fame and glory but this can come at a great cost, and in this instalment we are also introduced to the  dark, bloody fate that could await those who fail in the fighting pits. The authors, Gelineau and King, have certainly ramped up the ante with the fights, danger and power for the characters in this – I think I may have read this one even quicker than the one before!

Overall, I thought Faith and Moonlight: Part 2 continued this highly enjoyable young adult thread to this epic fantasy series very well. Sadly I have no more instalments from this series…get writing Mr Gelineau and Mr King, I want more! Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

There are many wonderful books awaiting me on my bookshelf and Kindle, however here are ten books I am particularly looking forward to reading this Spring (ordered alphabetically by title):

~ 1 ~

A Dance with Dragons, Part 1: Dreams and Dust by George RR Martin

I am hope throwing myself into another epic instalment of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series will help me get through to the later premiere for series seven of Game of Thrones!

~ 2 ~

Cauldstane by Linda Gillard

Gillard is one of my favourite authors and last year, I was thrilled to top up my Kindle with three of her novels. This is one of them which I think I fancy reading first.

~ 3 ~

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

At first I was planning to read The Agincourt Bride next, but I recently received a copy of this, Hickson’s newest novel, that has now taken precedence.

~ 4 ~

The Girl in the Glass Tower by Elizabeth Fremantle

Likewise I was planning to read Queen’s Gambit next, but again I recently received a copy of this, one of Fremantle’s newer novels, that has bumped itself up my reading preference.

~ 5 ~

Indiana Belle by John A Heldt

Previously, I have enjoyed Heldt’s The Mine. Since then I have acquired three more of his novels, which I really must start making my way through and this is the one I fancy trying first.

~ 6 ~

Monstrous Little Voices by edited by David Thomas Moore

I have heard wonderful things about this collection of short stories from a blogging friend, so I really hope to make time for it soon.

~ 7 ~

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

I have been meaning to read this for too long! Just I have never seemed to have the time or the right mood, however I have heard such wonderful things about it so I really must get round to it soon.

~ 8 ~

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Last year, I enjoyed the novellas Cranford and Mr Harrison’s Confessions, and I am currently reading My Lady Ludlow. This year, it would be great to try my first of Gaskell’s full-length novels.

~ 9 ~

The People the Fairies Forget by Cheryl Mahoney

I am really looking forward to delving back into Mahoney’s whimsical, fantasy world with this, her third novel, which I hope to follow up quickly with her fourth: The Lioness and the Spellspinners.

~ 10 ~

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

I have heard wonderful things about this collection of short stories from several blogging friends, so I really hope to make time for it soon.

What books are you hoping to read this Spring? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Read: The Butterfly Summer

Last year, My mother passed on her copy of The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans to me, as she knows how much I love a book with an old mysterious house in it. In February, I finally picked it up as an escape during one of the many rainy days.

This tale sweeps the reader off to Cornwall, up a hidden over-grown creek towards a long-forgotten house: Keepsake. A place full of wonder, sadness and danger, which has been passed down through the female line of the Parr family; since it was bequeathed by Charles II to his abandoned lover. Now the elegant Elizabethan walls are crumbling and the exquisite garden, full of exotic butterflies, has grown wild, but locked within this place, waiting to break free, is a heart breaking story of love and betrayal. This is Nina Parr’s birthright – it holds the truth about her family and offers a chance to finally put things right.

The narration is split between two characters. In the present day, the reader follows Nina Parr – a young divorcee, from a dysfunctional family, stuck in an unfulfilling job – who lives in London and is set on unravelling this mystery after a chance encounter in The British Library. While the secrets of the past are slowly and unreliably revealed by Theodora (Teddy) Parr, through a letter written to her estranged son George. I’m not sure I always liked or agreed with either narrator, however I could totally sympathise with the difficult situations they were in. What was most interesting to see was how the legacy of Keepsake affected these two very different women’s lives.

I have never read anything by Harriet Evans before, however if you read my blog regularly than you will know how much I love a dual time period novel (some of my favourites being by Susanna Kearsley), so with the big mysterious house this book had double appeal for me. I think Evans dealt with both time periods well, although as usual I was most drawn to the past which in this case was set during the lead up to and during World War II. Both periods were realistically described with nice touches of detail like fashion, culture and food – my only niggle would be that I would prefer less sexual detail, but that is just my personal taste and is not a reflection on the writing skill.

Overall, I thought The Butterfly Summer was an interesting mystery full of secrets, betrayal and history. I would definitely be open to reading more by Harriet Evans. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Harriet Evans?