Top Ten Tuesday: Summer 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:

Summer Reads Freebie

Summer is on its way! No really it is! Although, if you’re here in the UK with me, you can be forgiven for thinking it may never come with this month’s miserable weather. Yet no matter the weather outside we can always escape into a good book, so I thought I’d share these wonderful books set in summer with you (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

In the fictional land of Westeros seasons actually last years not months. The story opens when it has been summer for many years but now … winter is coming!

~ 2 ~

A Midsummer’s Night Dream by William Shakespeare

On one warm midsummer night, four lovers, a troupe of amateur actors and fairies are brought together for a fantastical comedy of errors.

~ 3 ~

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

A tale of one long, surreal summer for young Douglas in a small fictional US town in 1928.

~ 4 ~

The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton

Julian, Dick, Anne, George and their dog Timmy seem to enjoy endless summers of camping, picnicking, exploring and solving mysteries.

~ 5 ~

Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane and their baby brother, the Lamb, have their first  magical encounter with ‘It’ during their summer holiday.

~ 6 ~

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Okay, I am not a fan of the characters in this book, however it cannot be denied it is a classic set in a sultry summer in the roaring twenties.

~ 7 ~

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

When Eva loses her sister Katrina, she leaves California and returns to Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers.

~ 8 ~

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The sleepy summer in a small, Southern town is rocked by the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman.

~ 9 ~

The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson

Delia and Jessica skip the country for sun, sea and secrets in a beautiful Renaissance villa on the Italian coast.

~ 10 ~

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

While all seasons are in this, the abiding memories are of Mole and Ratty spending lazy summer days on the river.

Can you think of any other books set in summer? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Read: The Cuban Missile Crisis (A Very Brief History)

Recently, I have had a bit of an unintentional US president theme going. Having read so far this year Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy from Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series, it seemed very appropriate to read The Cuban Missile Crisis instalment next.

Before reading this, I generally knew that the Cuban Missile Crisis came about due to the Soviet Union placing nuclear missiles on the island, during the Cold War. And that the USA subsequently launched the disastrous ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion. However I knew nothing of how it all came about or how it was eventually calmed down. From reading this, I learnt how relations broke down between the USA and Cuba; how the USA placed an embargo on the island; consequently how they had to reach out to the Soviet Union for help and that it took a long, painful process of negotiation to end it. I am not saying anyone was particularly innocent in these events, but for me the US military leaders came out looking rather bad. So all in all I learnt rather a lot from this short read.

In hindsight, I think I am very lucky to have managed to collect so many of Black’s short histories, as I doubt I would have ever read more about US presidents or politics for that matter otherwise. Which would be a shame because it is a place and history I know very little about. This was another clear and concise history that is broken down into bite-size chapters on: the build-up; US involvement, Soviet involvement; the discovery of missiles; the quarantine of Cuba and finally the aftermath. I warn you now though if you already know a fair bit about this crisis I doubt you will learn anything from this. I recommend to those, like me, who know little to nothing.

Overall, I thought The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Very Brief History was another quick and interesting read. I have eight more editions from this series still to go – it seems appropriate to read the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis instalment next. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or anything else about the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Cold War?

New Read: Monstrous Little Voices

After hearing such wonderful things from my blogging friend Lynn, I simply had to get my hands on a copy of Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World, a short story collection edited by David Thomas Moore. And during a particularly busy time for me, I picked this up hoping it would be a good escape when I got a free minute.

This collection is made up of five Shakespearian-inspired short stories written by Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield. While each story is written by a different author with its own style, focus and characters, they are all linked by the same setting and an over arching story. The Mediterranean is being torn apart by war as every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray for the throne of Tuscany. This human trouble has even boiled over into other worlds bringing witches; the fairy court; a bewitched Scottish knife; Prospero, the feared Sorcerer, and William Shakespeare himself into the fight too.

The first story, Coral Bones by Foz Meadows reunites us with Miranda from The Tempest. She has found no happiness in her new life in Ferdinand’s palace and hatches a plan with her childhood friend Ariel to escape forever. The second, The Course of True Love by Kate Heartfield sees Pomona, a witch, and Vertumnus, a fairy, united as pawns in the strife between Duke Orsino and Oberon, King of the Fairies. The third, The Unkindest Cut by Emma Newman follows Lucia de Medici as she tries to fulfil the prophecy that she will marry her cousin Francesco and together bring peace to the land, however the sorcery Prospero seems to have other ideas.

The fourth, Even in the Cannon’s Mouth by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a magical farce that brings together characters from All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and As You Like It in a disastrous mission to bring an end to the war. Then the fifth and final story, On the Twelfth Night by Jonathan Barnes sees things come to head and start to bleed over into other worlds, including one where William Shakespeare didn’t even become a playwright. Seen through the eyes of his wife Anne. I wasn’t a huge fan of the second person narrative of the last story, but otherwise I thought style, plot and characters were brilliant in all these stories.

Overall, I thought Monstrous Little Voices was a wonderful collection of stories with elements of war, romance, magic and deception, and although they were written by different, modern authors all these stories (bar the last perhaps) did feel like they could have been Shakespearian tales. This was also a perfect read to squeeze in when I had a moment or two. Great read.

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

Have you read this? Any recommendations for other great Shakespearian inspired stories or books?

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Mums

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:

Mother’s Day Related Freebie

Here in the UK, we actually celebrated Mother’s Day back in March, however I’ll take any excuse to celebrate mums in literature. So here are five of my best literary mums and five of my worst literary mums; the latter of which I am really glad aren’t mine!

***** BEST *****

~ 5 ~

Natalie Prior
Divergent by Veronica Roth

First, I have chosen Natalie Prior from Roth’s popular dystopian, young adult series. She is the caring, patient and selfless mother of the series’ protagonist Tris, but turns out this mum can also seriously kick some butt too.

~ 4 ~

Catelyn Stark
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin

Next, I have gone for Catelyn Stark from Martin’s epic fantasy series, who is impressively mother to six children: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon. I don’t always like her, however I cannot deny she is one tough ‘momma bear; protecting her son Bran from an assassin’s blade with her bare hands!

~ 3 ~

Mrs Waterbury
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Next, I have chosen Mrs Waterbury the mother of Bobby, Phyllis and Peter; the young protagonists of Nesbit’s children’s classic The Railway Children. As well as being kind, loving and intelligent this mum is strong enough to hold the family together when father is taken away. And she writes stories so they can afford buns for tea…what’s not to love?

~ 2 ~

Marmee
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Nearly making it to the top spot, I have the beloved Marmee of Alcott’s charming classic Little Women. Here is another strong mum who must hold the family together when father goes away to war – her job is made a little harder by the fact her brood consists of four clever, feisty, independent girls.

~ 1 ~

Molly Weasley
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

However, top spot had to go to Molly Weasley, the indomitable matriarch of the Weasley clan from Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series. What the family may lack in money, this super mum makes up for with an abundance of love…and homemade knitwear. And when her children are threatened, she gives Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange a piece of her mind and wand!

***** WORST *****

~ 5 ~

Petunia Dursley
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

First, I have chosen Petunia Dursley the bitter, ‘muggle’ aunt of Rowling’s famous boy wizard: Harry Potter. This bad mum is at best cold and distant to her poor orphaned nephew. While in contrast she simpers and panders to her own son Dudley’s every whim, which turns him into an overweight, spoilt bully.

~ 4 ~

Mrs Bennet
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Next, I have chosen Mrs Bennet, the obsessive match-maker to her five daughters in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. There is obviously some love in the fact she wants to see he daughters settled, but it is her loud, crass and impolite behaviour which is often what hinders this. Hilarious to read about…mortifying I’m sure if she was actually your mum!

~ 3 ~

Cersei Lannister
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin

Again there is actually some real love for her children in my next choice of Cersei Lannister, who is the beautiful but cruel and manipulative Queen Mother in Martin’s epic fantasy series. However this mum is so bent on power and revenge, that her children grow up twisted and weak. Also the fact that her children’s father is her twin brother, Jaime, really doesn’t help either!

~ 2 ~

Eva Khatchadourian
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

My next choice could very easily have been number 1 too. Eva Khatchadourian is the mother of Kevin, a disturbed boy who goes on a bloody massacre through his school. Though there is some sympathy for her situation, I can’t help but think that her cold and distant relationship with the son she never really wanted, has a lot to do with what he ultimately does.

~ 1 ~

“Mrs Winterson”
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson

Finally, the top spot has to go to the real life, adoptive mother of author Jeanette Winterson, who she tellingly only ever refers to as “Mrs Winterson”. This mum clearly has some mental issues alongside her extremely zealot beliefs, which she literally tries to force upon her adoptive daughter. By leaving her on the doorstep all night and even subjecting her to an exorcism.

What do you think of my choices? What are your best and worst literary mums? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Read: Angels

For my birthday earlier this year, my brother bought me a copy of Angels by Lee Faber. Not an author I had heard of before, but the topic was one I was definitely interested in. So when my church’s book club decided to take a break, just before Easter, I decided to read this to fill my faith reading gap.

In the first half of this book, the author Lee takes us on journey looking at angels as they are depicted in religion, history, art, music, films, literature and today. As well as discussing specifically the experiences of soldiers in WWI with the ‘Angels of Mons’. I particularly enjoyed this half of the book and sped through it. As I discovered the books, films and beautiful artwork that contain and/or have been inspired by angels. And I learnt more about angels in religion, not just being part of Judaism and Christianity, but also Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Mormonism.

The second half of the book, was then made up in the largest part by a diverse collection of real-life angel encounters. Surprisingly this is the section I enjoyed this least. I think this is because there really is some very diverse and differing beliefs on what angels are and do. I was looking for inspiration while instead I found generally differing beliefs to my own Christian based ones. However I did then enjoy the following, smaller section on angel names and finally Lee shared some of her angel inspired recipes. The recipes really were a surprise but a pleasant one as food is another big interest for me.

Overall, I thought Angels was a well written, eclectic and interesting look into the beliefs and culture that has grown up around the idea of angels. This has definitely wetted my appetite to read more about these elusive beings. Good read.

Have you read this? Any recommendations what I should read next?

New Read: The People the Fairies Forget

Back in 2015, I read The Wanderers and The Storyteller and Her Sisters; two charming fairy tale re-imaginings from Cheryl Mahoney’s Beyond the Tales series. I loved them both so I am sad that it has taken me this long to finally get round to reading Mahoney’s third novel: The People the Fairies Forget.

This book follows the adventures (or miss-adventures) of a fairy called Tarragon, better known as Tarry, but Tarry is not your typical fairy. No granting wishes; no bestowing Christening gifts; no little, gossamer wings and definitely no sparkles…ever! However, against his better judgement, he does find himself the reluctant champion of the common folk when he makes a bet with his infuriating cousin Marjoram. Who like any ordinary, self-respecting ‘Good Fairy’ simply tramples common folk underfoot in the rush to bring a ‘Happy Ever After’ to someone wearing a crown.

And, so ensures a fantastical and raucous romp through the fairy tale world, although the stories might not be quite as you remember them. First, there is Jack, a poor goat herd, fighting his way through a mass of thorns for his true love Emmy, a maid in an enchanted castle. Then Catherine, an innkeeper, who has no desire to marry a very un-charming prince just because her shoe size matches some girl he danced with. Finally, Anthony, who finds himself trapped in a far away castle with his youngest sister Beauty and a Beast with some serious anger issues. All of which is brought to life beautifully by Cheryl with some great description, imagination and humour.

As for our main characters of Tarry and Marj, we have met them before as minor characters in Cheryl’s previous novel, The Wanderers. Tarry as I have said above is not your typical fairy and I love him for it! He would much rather be eating or partying than meddling in human lives. While Marj is very much your typical ‘Good Fairy’, with wings and sparkles…lots of sparkles. And it is her meddlesome ways that force Tarry to set down his supper, brush up on his magic and wrangle his own kind of ‘Happily Ever After’ out of her mess. Together they are hilarious and I had a lot of fun getting to them better. Never fear if you haven’t read previous books though, because these are all new adventures you could enjoy on their own.

Overall, I thought The People the Fairies Forget was another well written, witty and charming adventure, that gently pokes fun at the traditional fairy tale tropes. Both refreshing and comforting to read. Next, I look forward to reading Cheryl’s fourth novel: The Lioness and the Spellspinners. Great read.

Have you read this? What other fairy tale re-imaginings do you think I should try?

Tough Travels: Assassins

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.

This month’s topic is: ASSASSINS


‘Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even dull-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention. Whether they’re spotlight hogs or camera-shy and brooding, most assassins will have trained for years and are very, VERY good at their job (i.e. killing people for money)’

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


This is another topic that I missed the first time round. It is great to have another chance to have a go at it, however I don’t generally read books with the obvious sort of assassin in it…so I have had to think outside the box a little for some of these:

Alys
Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau & Joe King

Alys is a streetwise, kick-ass spirit who grew up in Lowside, the poor and dangerous underbelly of the kingdom of Aedaron’s capital city. After training in the academy, Alys didn’t join the city guard but instead uses her lethal skills to bring down corrupt leaders.

**********

The Assassins Guild
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

In Ankh-Morpork, the capital of Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld, there is a whole guild for the training and regulation of assassins, because you can’t just have anyone running round, willy-nilly assassinating people.

**********

Draco Malfoy
Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

Later in the series, Draco becomes the Dark Lord’s unlikely weapon within Hogwarts against Dumbledore, but his heart isn’t really in it.

**********

Dorothy Gale
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Okay Dorothy is the most out-of-the-box of my choices, however she is sent by the Wizard of Oz to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, in return for a way home. What else do you call someone paid to kill another than an assassin?

**********

What literary assassins 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: NON-HUMAN HEROES.