Challenge: What’s in a Name 2017/2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to round-up my reading for the What’s in a Name 2017 challenge; hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. This was my second time taking part and the premise is very simple: read books with a title that fits the six categories provided. Here is what I read for this year’s categories:

Woohoo! That’s six out of six which is the challenge well and truly completed this year.

That’s not all though folks! Now it is time to get ready for What’s in a Name 2018, that is again being hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. Here are the new categories for next year, and in the brackets are the books I own which I could possibly read for each:

  • The word ‘the’ used twice (The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory or The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney or The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier)
  • A fruit or vegetable (Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip)
  • A shape (Heartstones by Kate Glanville or The Loyal Heart by Merry Farmer)
  • A title that begins with Z – can be after ‘The’ or ‘A’ (Zombie edited by Christopher Golden)
  • A nationality (Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier)
  • A season (Summer by Edith Wharton or Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett)

For those new to this challenge it runs from January to December; the books read can be in any format (print, audio, e-book); books cannot overlap categories; and it’s preferred that the books don’t overlap with other challenges. Apart from that I can read what I want in what order I want.

Did you take part this year? Do you fancy taking part next year? Which book do you think I should read first?


Tough Travels: Snarky Sidekicks

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 MENTORS. This month’s topic is:


‘Why is everyone so serious all the time?  Perhaps they need a friend that is there with a quick bit of wit to liven up the day… even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood.’

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

This was quite a tough topic for me because while I can think of plenty of great sidekicks… I’m not sure I would describe them as ‘snarky’?! However not being one to be defeated, I have had a really good think and here are the ‘snarky’ sidekicks I could think of:

  • Ron Weasley – In J K Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series, Harry’s headstrong and permanently peckish best friend always puts a smile on my face, with a silly quip or with his just plain, outspoken honesty. No sugar-coating from Ron!
  • Rincewind – While this incompetent wizard is a central character in some of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, when we first meet him in The Colour of Magic as the reluctant guide to enthusiastic tourist, Twoflower. His sharp, apathetic running commentary is very funny.
  • Ford Prefect – In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Arthur’s eccentric and joyfully nihilistic alien best friend can always be relied upon in the darkest moments to chip in with his very dark and off-beat humour.
  • Bronn – Together Tyrion and his pragmatic sellsword friend, in George R R Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, are perhaps the snarkiest pair ever. In fact they seem to be in competition with each other to be the snarkiest of them all!
  • Tom – Finally how could I forget the smart, witty and fish obsessed talking cat, who is the unexpected companion to loner ‘wandering adventurer’ Jasper in The Wanderers by Cheryl Mahoney. I want my own Tom!

Do you like my choices? Who are your favourite snarky sidekicks? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

Come back next month for: ELVES.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Settings

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 Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit

One of the best things about reading is how a great book can transport you away from the humdrum of our daily life to another place, across the world or even to another world. So here are ten fictional book settings, in no particular order, I would love to visit:

  1. Rivendell, The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien – The ‘last friendly home’ in the Misty Mountains is a place of beauty, good hospitality and merry elves.
  2. Villa Dante, The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson – A neglected but beautiful Renaissance villa on the glorious Italian coast.
  3. Hogwarts, Harry Potter series by J K Rowling – A school of magical lessons, great food, colourful characters and adventure!
  4. Highgate House, Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – An isolated, country house filled with colourful, exotic furnishings and the smell of spices.
  5. Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis – Through the wardrobe is a magical land of talking creatures trapped in an icy spell.
  6. Trelowarth, The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley – The Halletts’ beautiful, old family home surrounded by roses on the Cornish coast.
  7. Cranford, Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – A small, rural Victorian town of women supporting each other in quiet, simple lives of genteel poverty.
  8. Diagon Alley, Harry Potter series by J K Rowling – A hidden, higgledy-piggledy cobblestone street of magical shops in the centre of London.
  9. The Shire, The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien – A rural, rambling and natural idyll where the little hobbits’ live simple, happy lives.
  10. Pemberley, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – The magnificent country estate of the dashing and filthy rich Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Do you like my choices? What bookish places would you like to visit? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.

Adaptations: November 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I have been watching over the last month:

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Not Read     Film     Cinema

The third superhero film based on Marvel Comics’ character Thor, created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, and I think the best! This is an adventure extravaganza, that sees Asgard itself threatened by Hela, the goddess of death, against whom Thor, the Hulk and Loki must band together against. As well as the amazing action and hilarious chemistry, I also loved the super-cool retro 80’s styling and music. Great watch.

Electric Dreams (Episodes 1-6)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

Channel 4’s new science fiction anthology series based on the short stories of Philip K Dick has been much talked about; with each stand alone episode boasting some big stars and intriguing premises. I particularly enjoyed The Hood Maker, The Commuter, Real Life and Human Is, but I was a little disappointed with Crazy Diamond. So a slightly mixed bag, however I look forward to the next four episodes which are coming next year. Good watch.

Inspector George Gently (Series 8)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

I had to wait an inordinately long time from the first episode in May, to watch the final episode of this much-loved BBC crime drama, and what a finale it was! After tackling a case of wrongful conviction, Gently delves deeper into the corruption in the police force, which leads to a gut wrenching conclusion. Another wonderfully nostalgic series but with a grittier edge than before, which altogether made for a fitting, if very emotional, goodbye. Great watch.

Outcast (Series 2)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

Earlier this year, the second series of this American supernatural horror, based on the comics by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta, premiered here in the UK. Kyle Barnes and Reverend Anderson continue to face the deeply rooted demonic presence in their small hometown. While Patrick Fugit and Philip Glenister gave two more strong performances, I still can’t watch this on my own! Good watch.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Not Read     Film     Netflix

The highly anticipated sequel to the 2014 blockbuster based on Marvel Comics’ characters created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. We re-join Quill and his gang of extra-terrestrial misfits, as he meets his father and has another hilariously catastrophic adventure across space. Although I didn’t love this as much as the first, it is still a brilliant romp, with amazing special effects and a cool soundtrack. Great watch.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
Not Read     Film     Netflix

This epic fantasy offering, inspired by Arthurian Legend, from director Guy Ritchie was not very well received when released earlier this year, but I still wanted to give it a go. Ritchie’s reboot is a fantastical visual delight with a star-studded cast, however the concept of Arthur being raised by prostitutes on the streets of Londonia into a ‘weezer geezer’, while sometimes funny, generally just didn’t work for me. Okay watch.

Altogether that’s an amazing six new-to-me adaptations! Also when I could, I have loved re-watching the odd episode of the BBC’s wonderful Merlin series, which is being reshown on the Syfy channel.

As for non-adaptations, I watched the BBC’s gripping and bloody Gunpowder (2017). A three-part drama starring Kit Harington as his ancestor Robert Catesby, who was an instigator in the shocking plot to blow up parliament. So all in all a great month of viewing.

Have you watched any of these? What have you been watching recently?

Goodbye November, Hello December 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Can anyone tell me where November went?! Except for a sunny, albeit cold, trip down south to celebrate my mum’s and stepdad’s birthdays, I am not sure what has kept me so busy for the time to fly by so quick. During this speedy month, I have read:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 1

Firstly, I read another wonderful mystery Season of Storms by, one of my favourite authors, Susanna Kearsley; which swept me away from the cold and wet of the UK to the drama of the gorgeous villa Il Piacere, Italy. Then at the end of the month, I finally finished the classic North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It may have been a slow burner but I did find it a touching and important look into Victorian life and society. This also rounded off nicely my What’s in a Name 2017 challenge, as a title with a compass direction in it.

Alongside these fictions, I also read Christian non-fiction Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung for the return of my church’s book club. A quick, down-to-earth book that offers restful cures for our modern, crazy-busy lives. At the end of the month, I also really enjoyed our small but thought-provoking and lively group meeting to discuss it.

Pick of the Month: Season of Storms

Altogether that is three books completed in November, which makes it my lowest month of the year! However I am a hair’s breadth from finishing The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien, so I can’t feel too bad because if I counted that it would take my total up to my average four books. Also this month, I started reading an interesting history of Cleopatra by Ernle Bradford; I continued listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; and I am eyeing up Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia by Emilio Salgari, as my next classic read.

In December, I am looking forward to present buying, mince pies, writing cards, my church’s Christingle service and all the other wonderful things that lead up to the big day… of Christmas! Oh and hopefully, in between all the excitement, I have some quiet time to snuggle up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book too!

What did you do and read in November? What are your plans for December?

New Read: North and South

As part of The Classics Club, I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Cranford Chronicles, which is made up of the novellas: Cranford, Mr Harrison’s Confession and My Lady Ludlow. After them it seemed high time to read one of Gaskell’s full novels and it just so happened I had Gaskell’s 1854 novel North and South on my to-be-read shelf.

North and South tells the story of Margaret Hale, a young, clever and spirited young woman who is to have her comfortable life turned upside down. Firstly, by the marriage of her close companion and cousin, Edith, then by the shock revelation that her father wishes to retire from the church. This means the family must leave their quiet, rural vicarage, their neighbours and all they know to settle in the smoggy, bustling northern industrial town of Milton. Immediately on arriving Margaret has a ready sympathy for the discontented mill workers and their cause, which will sit uneasily with her growing attraction to the charismatic mill owner, John Thornton.

What immediately struck me about the relationship between Margaret and Mr Thornton is its similarity to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Now I own they are very different as characters, however both pairs have in common that they are blinded by pride and led by their own prejudices. Margaret thinks he is cold, coarse and money driven, while Thornton believes she is haughty and misled. I actually liked both Margaret and Thornton, although I often found myself wanting to knock their heads together! So a delicious (if not sometimes infuriating) will they, won’t they narrative runs through out the novel.

But there is much more to North and South than a rocky love story. Within the story Gaskell also poses and explores fundamental questions about the nature of Victorian social authority and obedience: ranging from religious crises of conscience (Mr Hale); to the ethics of Naval Mutiny (Frederick Hale) and industrial action (Thornton and the mill workers). This is also an emotional rollercoaster which Gaskell so vividly and realistically portrays, that it made me feel I was right there alongside Margaret; as she fights her internal conflicts which mirror the turbulence that surrounds her.

For that reason this wasn’t a quick or easy read like Gaskell’s novellas were for me. I still enjoyed Gaskell’s detailed, meticulous and personable style with her eye for the small details, but I found this was less comforting than her previous stories. Instead with its hard-hitting issues, I found I needed to take my time to mull over and absorb it all. It actually took me from July to November to read three-quarters of this book, yet I whipped through the last quarter in a matter of days as the pace and drama really ramped up.

In conclusion, I thought North and South was a touching and important look into Victorian life, love and society, and the huge upheaval that arose from industrialisation. I suspect I will enjoy this even more on re-reading it. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Gaskell?

What’s in a Name 2017 – 6/6 (a title with a compass direction)

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter 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 Winter TBR

There are many wonderful books awaiting me on my bookshelf and Kindle, however here are ten books, ordered alphabetically, I am looking forward to reading this Winter:

  1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman [re-read] – I am looking forward to finishing my re-read of Pullman’s young adult trilogy, His Dark Materials.
  2. A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King – It will be good to finally read more from King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series.
  3. Cauldstane by Linda Gillard – Last year, I was thrilled to top up my Kindle with three of Gillard’s novels. Of those three I fancy reading this first.
  4. The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller – With dragons and a gorgeous cover this book shows great promise!
  5. Eleanor of Aquitaine by Christopher Nicole – This is the first book in Nicole’s historical saga about this famous queen.
  6. Hazard of Shadows by Mike Phillips – After reading The World Below, this book will continue Phillips’ Chronicles of the Goblin King series.
  7. Headline Murder by Peter Bartram – As I failed to get to read my first Crampton mystery in Autumn, I must try harder in Winter!
  8. The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland – Maitland’s historical fiction tends to be on the dark side, so I’ve been saving this for darker months.
  9. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory – After loving The White Queen, I am looking forward to continuing Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series.
  10. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi – Our December read for my church’s book club.

What are you looking forward to reading this Winter? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.