Top Ten Tuesday: My Classroom Bookshelf

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:

Back To School Freebie

Basically, this week we can do anything “back to school” related, so I have chosen to share with you the 10 books that would be on my classroom bookshelf if I were a teacher. As I am actually a teaching assistant already this was a relatively easy topic for me – I have also based my choices on the age group I currently work with (9-11 year olds). In no particular order, here we go:

~ 1 ~

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

A rip-roaring adventure that will take the children to sea in search of treasure, with young Jim Hawkins and the devious Long John Silver.

~ 2 ~

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Like me as a child, I hope they will travel with little Bilbo on an adventure with dwarves, danger, friendship, treasure, a long-lost home and a dragon!

~ 3 ~

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

An utterly charming classic, where children can join troubled orphan Mary in taking a step through an old, ivy-covered door into a long-forgotten garden.

~ 4 ~

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

Like me as a child, I hope they will step through the wardrobe and be lost in a marvellous adventure in the magical land of Narnia.

~ 5 ~

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling

In the first book of this popular series, the children can join Harry Potter for his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

~ 6 ~

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

A delightful collection of stories, which will introduce the children to an exotic mixture of animals and tell how they came to be … just so.

~ 7 ~

Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett

Like me as a child, I hope they will travel back in time to World War II with Johnny Maxwell in his time-travelling trolley!

~ 8 ~

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

A wonderfully, fun tale that will take the children on a magical journey inside the chocolate factory of the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka.

~ 9 ~

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Another charming classic, where the children will meet middle-class siblings Roberta, Phyllis and Peter as they are forced to start a new life in the country.

~ 10 ~

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

An utterly charming novel that will allow the children to follow the ups and downs of the March sisters, as they grow from children into women.

What books would you have on your classroom bookshelf? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Books: August 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, after an almost saintly June and July, I have had a complete blow out in August; acquiring a whopping 15 books! In my defence, I didn’t go out with the intention of buying lots of books, instead it was mainly due to my favourite charity shops having an abundance of books I wanted this month. Here’s what I got:

Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia by Emilio Salgari

Cleopatra by Ernle Bradford

Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragorn, The True Queen by Alison Weir

To my Kindle, I have added the quite modest amount of three books. First, I happily accepted a copy of the second Sandokan novel after thoroughly enjoying Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem. Then I received a free copy of non-fiction Cleopatra from Endeavour Press and I snapped up a bargain copy of historical fiction Katherine of Aragorn, which was on my Amazon wish list as I already have the next book from the series: Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin

Order of Darkness, Volumes I – III by Philippa Gregory

The first addition to my bookshelves came when my father treated me to copies of these, using his store discount, which are by two authors I am eager to read more from.

Mary Russell’s War by Laurie R. King

Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett

Next on a trip into town for a podiatrist appointment, I spotted Mary Russell’s War, the newest book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, in The Works – Sadly, or in hindsight fortunately, there weren’t any other books I fancied to complete the 3 for £10 deal! During the same trip, I also snapped up a bargain copy of childhood favourite Johnny and the Bomb in the library sale.

The Game by Laurie R. King

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

Dissolution by C. J. Sansom

Finally, I picked up my largest haul of books on one single day from my two favourite charity book shops, while visiting the local city where I get my hair cut. In the St Giles Bookshop, I discovered two more books from the King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series and as the shop’s deal is 4 books for £5, I obviously had to pick up two more books!

Truckers by Terry Pratchett

Diggers by Terry Pratchett

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Crooked House by Agatha Christie

While in the Oxfam bookshop, I found good copies of childhood favourites Truckers and Diggers, and new-to-me Discworld novel Sourcery. Then by chance, I spotted a lovely vintage style copy of one of Christie’s ‘Golden Age’ crime novels. I often find this with charity shops, there is nothing I will want for several months and then loads come along at once!

Do you fancy any of these? What new books have you got recently?

Re-Read: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [Audiobook]

If you have read this blog before, then there is a good chance you may have noticed my love for J K Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series. What you might not have known before was my huge childhood love of audiobooks. In particular, I have very fond memories of being tucked into bed and listening to my audio cassette of The Adventures of Portland Bill … so many times I’m surprised I didn’t wear it out! I’ve renewed this love as an adult by re-reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone via the audiobook narrated by the much-loved Stephen Fry.

For those who don’t know, the Philosopher’s Stone is the first book in the series, where we first meet Harry Potter with his famous lightning scar. At the time, poor Harry is leading a miserable life of neglect in the home of his cold Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, and his spoilt cousin, Dudley. But everything is to change by the arrival of an unexpected letter confirming his admission to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In this hidden wizarding world, Harry is no obscure, unloved orphan but the famous survivor of the dark wizard: ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named! So in confusion and excitement, Harry embarks upon his first year at Hogwarts, where he will discover acceptance, friendship, answers, magic, danger and adventure.

Sadly it has been years since I read any of this series and while I have enjoyed many watches of the films, it was great to rediscover all those wonderful extra details. I’d also forgotten just how funny and lighter the earlier books are too. What I have always loved most about this series is the whole host of colourful and memorable characters and creatures that Rowling has created – all of whom I thought were brought to life beautifully by Stephen Fry, who cleverly uses only subtle changes in tone, pace, pitch and accent to give each character their own distinct voice.

Overall, I found listening to the audiobook Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, read brilliantly by Stephen Fry, extremely comforting and fun.  I usually listened to this while doing my ironing and it was so good, it made me almost want to find more ironing to do! Next I am looking forward to starting the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets audiobook. Great read.

Are you a fan of Harry Potter? Have you tried any of the audiobooks?

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Recommendations

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:

Ten Book Recommendations for … Escapist Readers

Yay! I am pleased Top Ten Tuesday has returned after a substantial break, with a topic that really made me have to think. Even though I particularly enjoy Fantasy and Historical Fiction, I can’t claim to be an expert on them and I do like to read a wide breadth of genres, but what all my reading does have in common is I read to escape. So here are ten books, in no particular order, I enjoyed escaping into – if you’re an escapist reader too then you might enjoy them too:

~ 1 ~

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Travel with little Bilbo Baggins away from humdrum life on an adventure with dwarves, danger, friendship, treasure, a long-lost home and a dragon!

~ 2 ~

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

This race against time, solving clues with Robert Langdon around Rome will soon have you forgetting the real world.

~ 3 ~

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

Join Harry, Ron and Hermione for another magical year at Hogwarts, with soul-sucking Dementors and a wanted criminal on the loose.

~ 4 ~

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Travel back in time to meet little Mary Lennox as she takes a tentative step through an old, ivy-covered door into a long-forgotten garden.

~ 5 ~

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Pratchett’s wonderfully theatrical, fun and hilarious take on Macbeth will soon have you forgetting yours woes and worries.

~ 6 ~

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Let yourself be swept away from your own life to a beautiful Cornish country house where you can quite literally step back in time.

~ 7 ~

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Join the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot for one of his most famous, intricate murder mysteries aboard the most glamorous train in the world.

~ 8 ~

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

Step through the wardrobe into the magical, winter-bound Narnia for an adventure with a witch, a lion and long-awaited prophecy.

~ 9 ~

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Forget your own cares and worries in this touching and meticulous study of the lives of women in a small, rural town in Victorian England.

~ 10 ~

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Step back in time to a period of war, political intrigue and magic, seen through the eyes of the indomitable Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

What escapist reads can you think of? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Read: The Lioness and the Spellspinners

Earlier this year, I read The People the Fairies Forget by Cheryl Mahoney, the third charming, fairy tale re-imagining I have enjoyed from Cheryl’s Beyond the Tales series. Luckily for me, I already had the fourth book and prequel to the series, The Lioness and the Spellspinners, lined up to read. (If you are unfamiliar with this author or series, never fear, I don’t think these books necessarily need to be read in order).

This book takes us back to Marilegh (before the famous dancing princes curse) which is a kingdom made up of many islands. On one of the smallest, remotest islands lives young Forrest and his family, who enjoy a quiet, peaceful life of farming intertwined with the family tradition of magical spellspinning. However Forrest’s safe world is to be dramatically turned upside down by the arrival of a more unpredictable and dangerous form of magic, that also coincides with him unceremoniously finding Karina, a prickly, knife-wielding girl, sleeping-rough in his family’s barn one morning.

Stuck on the island, Karina is taken in by Forrest’s kindly, indomitable mother, no questions asked, but after growing up as an orphan on the tough streets of the capital, she finds it hard to trust this strangely hospitable and trusting family. And when they claim they can knit spells of protection, luck and health into their garments, that really doesn’t help either. From her dark past she knows magic exists, but magical knitting that’s just ridiculous … right?! This scoffing at their family tradition raises the hackles of the protective Forrest, who initially eyes this newcomer with suspicion yet, like the rest of his family, he is willing to give her a chance.

However when the chickens start laying golden eggs; the horse starts talking in rhyming couplets and Forrest’s parents are suddenly called away, Forrest and Karina will crucially need to get over their misgivings and work together to figure out the cause of this series of fantastical and inexplicable magic before it can become something more dangerous. So unravels a new tale of magic, friendship, danger, theft and betrayal – all of which is brought to life beautifully by Cheryl with some great description, imagination and humour. Also, for those who have read the other books in the series, there are subtle, clever nods to characters and adventures that are to come, with an amusing cameo from a younger incarnation of a certain ‘Good Fairy’; sparkles and all!

Overall, I thought The Lioness and the Spellspinners was another well written, witty and thrilling adventure, that still gently pokes fun at the traditional fairy tale tropes. Both refreshing and comforting to read. Now, I need to wait (not so) patiently for Cheryl to write another book. Great read.

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

Have you read this? Or anything else by Cheryl Mahoney?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 7/10

Tough Travels: Strongholds

Tough Travels is a monthly meme hosted by Fantasy Faction, which, inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, spotlights each month a different fantasy trope for us to compile lists and have fun with. Last month we discussed ADEPTS. This month’s topic is:


STRONGHOLDS.

‘The Tough Guide offers information on various kinds of fantasy strongholds. For example,  you might be looking for CASTLES, complete with ‘frowning battlements, slit windows and multiple defensible spiral stairways inside’ and which ‘occasionally adorn the heights for pictorial effect’. Or perhaps TOWERS, which ‘stand alone in WASTE AREAS and almost always belong to wizards.’ Towers are often ‘several storeys high, round, doorless, virtually windowless, and composed of smooth blocks of masonry that make them very hard to climb. The Rule is that there is also a strong no-entry SPELL, often backed up by a guardian DEMON.’

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


This is another topic that I missed the first time round, therefore it is great to have another chance to have a go at it. It was a lot of fun but also quite hard to narrow this list down, because what self-respecting fantasy book/series doesn’t have a well fortified stronghold … or two?! However here are a few of my favourites (as I said this is by no means an exhaustive list – in some cases I have had to limit myself to just one choice per book/series):

Minas Tirith
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

From Tolkien’s expansive Middle-Earth,  I have had to limit myself to just one and that one is Minas Tirith: the heavily fortified capital city of Gondor. Constructed up the side of a large, steep hill on seven levels, each level 100ft higher than the one before, and all levels have thick, white walls and gates that face in different directions. Which makes this place pretty darn impregnable!

**********

The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower by Stephen King

The elusive Dark Tower is the longed for end goal for Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last gunslinger, and his ka-tet. Its best defence is how almost impossible it is to find! Then if you do find it; survive the powerful magic surrounding it and manage to climb to the very top, there is a cruel twist waiting for you.

**********

The Eyrie
A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

From Martin’s equally expansive Westeros, I have also had to limit myself to just one and that one is The Eyrie: the principle stronghold of House Arryn. While other strongholds could boast of equally strong fortifications, none could best its situation – built literally straddling the top of a mountain peak, meaning a treacherous climb for any would-be-attackers before the fighting even begins.

**********

Hogwarts
Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

A school is not an obvious choice for a stronghold, however we are told there is no places safer than Hogwarts and Gringotts (the wizarding bank). And with strong walls; surrounding lake; stone guardians and powerful protecting enchantments it makes for a formidable stronghold against the dark lord, Voldermort and his Death Eaters in the final showdown.

**********

What fictional strongholds can you think of? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

Come back next month for: DRAGONS!

New Read: The White Queen

Since watching the BBC’s wonderful adaptation, I have long wanted to read The White Queen, the first book in Philippa Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series. Gregory retells the bloody history of the battles between York and Lancaster – what we now call the War of the Roses – through the eyes of the indomitable women caught up in it all; starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

It is famed that Elizabeth was an extraordinarily beautiful and ambitious widow, who stood on the side of the road to petition the new, young York king, Edward. After catching the eye of the handsome, roguish Edward, Elizabeth secretly marries him and rises to the exalted position of queen consort. But her position is still fragile, with the continued uprisings in the name of the deposed Lancastrian king, Henry VI and even rumblings of discontent among Edward’s own followers at his unsuitable choice of bride. To secure herself and her family, Elizabeth must wisely play the intricate and dangerous game of marriage alliances, political intrigue and war.

I love that Gregory has chosen to tell this series from the perspective of the women: the secret, often silenced but no less important players in these wars of men. While I didn’t always ‘like’ Elizabeth, I have to praise Gregory for creating a fascinating character to read about, with believable shades of light and dark. On one hand, Elizabeth is a strong, brave and fiercely loving wife and mother, on the other hand she can be a deeply proud, ambitious and vengeful woman. Only one bad choice will lead to death, pain and loss, and her children trapped as pawns in a deadly stalemate with her enemies.

And this cleverly gives Gregory an opportunity to explore and give her own explanation for the mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: what really happened to ‘the princes in the Tower’? Were Elizabeth’s sons, Edward and Richard, coldly murdered by their uncle, Richard III or are there more sinister plans and shadowy players involved? In her notes, Gregory concedes that her ideas are only conjecture, however her well-educated surmises of those who had the most to gain from the deaths of the two princes are interesting and certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

Now, what lifts this up from being just a very good piece of historical fiction is the supernatural elements. Through her mother, Elizabeth really was a descendant of the Dukes of Burgundy, who cherished the tradition that they were descended from the water goddess, Melusina. Combining this legend and the known accusations of witchcraft, Gregory has cleverly weaved a realistic thread of magic to Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta. They truly believe they can raise storms, place curses and have visions of the future. However Gregory leaves us wondering if the effects of these ‘spells’ are real or just coincidence?

Overall, I thought The White Queen was a brilliantly written and researched piece of historical fiction, with wonderful touches of romance, mystery and magic. I look forward to reading the next book in the series: The Red Queen, about Margaret Beaufort the mother of Henry Tudor. Great read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Philippa Gregory?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 6/10