Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10…Recent Reads with Love & Romance in

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

Love Freebie
(Romances, swoons, OTPs, kisses, sexy scenes, etc.)

This isn’t the greatest topic for me, as I am not a huge fan of romance as a genre in its own right. However there are a fair few books with elements of love and romance in I have enjoyed, so here are ten of my recent favourites from the last year:

  1. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – In this atmospheric modern classic, I discovered a twisting tale of love, loss, jealousy and suspicion, all stemming from the beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel.
  2. First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson – An historical fiction that focuses on the life of the often side-lined Jasper Tudor; an enthralling tale of civil war, love, family and loyalty.
  3. Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley – From one of my favourite authors, comes another wonderfully immersive, gripping mystery with touches of romance and the supernatural; all set in the beautiful villa Il Piacere, in Italy.
  4. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory – The first book in Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series, follows the life of the extraordinarily beautiful and ambitious Elizabeth Woodville; a wonderful tale of civil war, love, mystery and magic.
  5. Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M C Beaton – The fifth book in this long-running, cosy-crime series, sees Agatha’s romance with James halted by the appearance and death of her husband!
  6. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – I thought this classic novel was a touching and important look into Victorian life, love and society, and the huge upheaval that arose from industrialisation
  7. The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien – The latest offering from one of my favourite historical authors, swept me back to 1340 to meet the beautiful, headstrong Joan of Kent; who had a rather thrilling and racy life with three salacious marriages!
  8. Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – The first book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s had more detailed sexy scenes than I prefer, but it was such as a fantastical, time-travelling romp I didn’t mind!
  9. The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon – There was more romance in this historical fiction than I anticipated,  but I was enjoying the mystery and characters so much I was happy to go with it.
  10. Indiana Belle by John A Heldt – The third book in the American Journeys series took me back to the 1920s, one of my favourite decades,  for a nostalgic mystery, with nice touches of time travel and romance.

Have you read any of my choices? What recent romance reads would you recommend? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.

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The Classics Club: New List!

After successfully completing my first Classics Club list back in March last year, I decided to take a break before deciding whether to do another list. For those of you who have been waiting, of course I was going to join in again and here is my new list:

  1. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
  3. Emma by Jane Austen [re-read]
  4. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen [re-read]
  5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [re-read]
  6. Persuasion by Jane Austen [re-read]
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen [re-read]
  8. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen [re-read]
  9. The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank L Baum
  10. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  11. The Tenant of Wildfel Hall by Anne Brontë
  12. The Professor by Charlotte Brontë
  13. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  14. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  16. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  17. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  18. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  19. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  20. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  21. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens [re-read]
  22. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  23. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  24. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  25. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  26. Romola by George Eliot
  27. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  28. This Side of Paradise by F Scott Fitzgerald
  29. A Passage to India by E M Forster
  30. A Room with a View by E M Forster
  31. Howards End by E M Forster
  32. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  33. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  34. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy [re-read]
  35. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  36. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  37. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  38. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  39. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  40. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  41. The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit
  42. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  43. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott [Re-Read]
  44. Heidi by Johann Spyri
  45. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  46. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  47. The Time Machine by H G Wells
  48. War of the Worlds by H G Wells
  49. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  50. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

For those unfamiliar with The Classics Club it was created for all those who would like to read more Classics. All you need to do to take part is make a list of 50+ Classics you’d like to read in five years. (To find out more please check out the projects official site here).

Unlike my last list, I have included re-reads on this list but as before I am leaving my list open to alteration, so I can add or remove books to reflect my mood and experiences. Starting today my aim is to read 50 books from this list in the next five years.

Any recommendations what I should read first? Are you taking part in The Classics Club?

Tough Travels: Shapeshifters

Tough Travels is a monthly meme hosted by The Fantasy Hive, 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 ELVES. This month’s topic is:


SHAPESHIFTERS

‘Shapeshifting is frequent among both WERES and MAGIC USERS. The usual form taken is that of a wolf, but lions, eagles, serpents, owls and cats are common too. In all cases the Rule is that the Shapeshifter cannot stay too long in ANIMAL form without actually becoming that animal and losing touch with her/his human thoughts.’

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


As soon as I saw this topic my mind was racing with lots of possible were and magic shapeshifters from many different books. So this is not a Tolkien fest like my last post on elves, although I must admit my first thought was of Middle Earth:

  • Beorn – First up, from The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien, we have Beorn, the last Skin-changer. He lives an isolated life in the northern Anduin valley, caring for his animals by day as a tall, powerful man and patrolling the woods for goblins by night as a giant, black bear. That peace is shattered with the arrival of Gandalf, a hobbit and a band of troublesome dwarves!
  • Remus Lupin – Next we have my favourite Hogwart’s professor, Remus Lupin, from J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Since childhood Remus has been afflicted with lycanthropy, but he has not let it hold him back and with the support of his best friends, James Potter and Sirius Black, he became a good, clever wizard and professor.
  • Count Dracula – Now not such a good guy is Count Dracula, the titular character of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. If being an ancient, powerful vampire wasn’t bad enough, he can also transform into a large dog, a wolf, a bat and a fog or mist! There really is nowhere to hide, although if he really looked like Gary Oldman… I may not resist too hard 😉
  • Mystique – Another shady character I’ve chosen is Mystique from the X-Men comics and films. Mystique (born Raven Darkholme) is a powerful mutant with superhuman flexibility and agility, and the ability to alter the formation of her cells to look like practically anyone! She uses her abilities ruthlessly to exact her revenge on her perceived enemies of mutants.
  • Animagus – Finally we return to J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series for an Animagus: a witch or wizard who has learned the skill to morph into an animal at will. The training process is long and arduous, and potentially very dangerous. Impressively, school friends James Potter (stag), Sirius Black (dog) and Peter Pettigrew (rat) secretly became Animagi to support Remus Lupin during his uncontrollable, full moon transformations.

Do you like my choices? Which shapeshifters would you have chosen? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

Come back next month for: APPRENTICES.

New Read: The Plague Charmer

A year or so ago, I read Karen Maitland’s The Raven’s Head. While it was darker than I am used too, the real issue was the thoroughly unlikeable protagonist! However I was suitably impressed by the writing to want to read more. So I was thankful to have the chance to read another of her dark historical fictions: The Plague Charmer.

In this book, Maitland took me back to 1361 – thirteen years after the Great Pestilence ravaged England – to Porlock Weir, a small fishing village on the bleak Exmoor coast. After drought, an ill-omened black sun and afeared rumblings of the pestilence’s return, this beleaguered community is hit by a terrible storm, that smashes weirs, floods homes and blows in a half-dead woman. This mysterious stranger offers to help the villagers, but for a price no one is willing to pay. Shortly after the deadly sickness arrives and as fear turns to hysteria, the stranger’s cost no longer seems so unthinkable…

Maitland shows the following trials and tribulations of the villagers through the narrations of a varied assortment of characters: Will, the dwarf; Sara, a packhorse man’s wife; Matilda, a militantly devout woman; Janiveer, the woman from the sea; and some of the inhabitants of the nearby manor; who blockade the road, trapping the villagers, to protect themselves. Plus there are many more diverse characters for our narrators to interact with. Such a large cast did make it harder for me to make personal connections, but I did still become fond of Will and Sara, and it was interesting to have a large range of people from the Medieval social spectrum featured.

I also can’t fault Maitland’s eye for detail. She really has thought of every little detail and aspect, so that this tale of suffering, loss and fortitude with touches of the supernatural is brought vividly to life. After finishing the book, I was fascinated to discover in Maitland’s research notes that she took inspiration from many real Medieval places, events and people. So while this was still darker than I would prefer, I found myself absolutely gripped! The characters helped too, as they are well drawn and realistic: there are good, bad and murky in between characters. Plus Will was a great character to lighten the mood.

Overall, I thought The Plague Charmer was a compelling and completely believable dark historical fiction, with clever supernatural twists. I would definitely be up for reading more by this author. Good 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? Or have you read anything else by Karen Maitland?

Goodbye January, Hello February 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Sadly I have been poorly for a lot of the month – not the worst cold I have ever had but I just couldn’t seem to shake it off! However it didn’t stop me celebrating a special birthday! With a trip to see my mum and family; meals out with family and friends and a hilarious trip to the theatre to see the pantomime Cinderella. Whilst for the rest of the month, I used my cold as an excellent excuse to stay in and read! Here’s what I’ve read:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 3

I started the year by finishing my comforting re-read of The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, while not my favourite it is still a fitting and bitter-sweet ending to a wonderful trilogy. Then I became completely gripped by the dark historical fiction The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland: the second and best book I have read by this author. My full thoughts on this are still to be posted, so keep your eyes peeled for that next month.

Alongside those fictions, I also read an impressive three non-fictions. First the cookbook, Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver, a collection of great new and traditional recipes for all the family with a super food twist. Next, for my church’s book club, I read the inspiring, heartbreakingly candid memoir Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. Finally, I finished the month with the super quick The Vietnam War: A Very Brief History by Mark Black.

Pick of the Month: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Altogether that is five books completed in January – looks like I’ve got my reading mojo back! At the end of the month, I also started reading A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King, the second Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, and the Christian non-fiction The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel, which is the next book for my church’s book club.

In February, I look forward to more quality reading time and hopefully better health too.

What did you do and read in January? What are your plans for February?

Adaptations: January 2018

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

The Frankenstein Chronicles (Series 2)
Read     TV Series     Television

Last year this gripping period crime drama, inspired by Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, returned for its second series on ITV Encore. After the shock at the end of series one, we return to John Marlott (Sean Bean) as he tries to find Lord Hervey before he can perform his diabolical experiment again. I didn’t love this second series as much as the first, however it was still an enjoyable, edge of your seat thrill. Good watch.


The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
Not Read     Film     Apple TV

When visiting my mum for my birthday, I was thrilled to have the chance to watch this stunning new action film, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan stories, with my brother. Eight years after leaving the jungle Lord Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgård) must become ‘Tarzan’ again to save his friends. As well as a stellar human cast, I thought all the animal characters were digitally brought realistically to life. Good watch.


Cinderella (18.01.2018)
Read     Pantomime     Theatre

A good old, traditional pantomime, based on the classic fairy tale of Cinderella, which is laugh-out-loud fun for all the family. With a fabulous cast, including: soul-diva Beverley Knight, Strictly finalist Danny Mac, comedian Matt Slack, pop star Suzanne Shaw and comedy duo The Grumbleweeds. I went with friends for my birthday and a brilliant night out was had by all! Great watch.


That’s three new-to-me adaptations watched in January. I also enjoyed re-watching all of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was being re-shown on ITV2. That brings my total up to six adaptations altogether.

As for non-adaptations, I binge watched my recordings of the charming, historical drama Victoria (Series 2) and gritty, historical crime drama Peaky Blinders (Series 4). I also got hooked and downloaded the whole series of the new: explosive, crime thriller Hard Sun and the gut-wrenching, final series of Anglo-French crime drama The Tunnel: Vengeance. Finally, on my visit to my mum’s, I also watched the dark fantasy, adventure The Last Witch Hunter (2015) with my brother.

Have you watched any of these? What did you watch in January?

New Read: The Vietnam War (A Very Brief History)

Last year, I had a bit of an US politics theme going on in my reading through Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series. I read about Richard NixonJohn F Kennedy, The Cuban Missile Crisis and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. So it seemed only fitting to continue this in the new year with The Vietnam War instalment.

Before reading this, what I knew about this disastrous war was what I’d learned from watching the amazing films: Good Morning Vietnam (1987) and Forest Gump (1994). Turns out they’d taught me a fair bit! From reading this though I was able to get a better grip on the numbers involved; the shocking loss of life and the complicated politics behind it. Also I always thought the only foreign forces involved were the Americans, but Australia and New Zealand sent troops to support the South Vietnamese too. While North Korea, the Soviet Union and Republic of China weighed in with support for the North Vietnamese. All in all this war was a whole lot bigger and more devastating than I had ever imagined. No wonder it went on to define a generation.

If it hadn’t been for these Black’s short histories, I doubt I would have ever read about US presidents, politics or this war otherwise, which would be a shame because I have learnt so much from them. This clear, fast paced and concise history is broken down into bite-size chapters on: the background of the war; US foreign policy; the escalation of the war; policy under Richard Nixon; policy under Gerald Ford; other foreign involvement; the US defeat and withdrawal; and the aftermath of the war. This style is helpful for a reader, like me, to learn quickly the main events and essential facts.

Overall, I thought The Vietnam War: A Very Brief History was another quick and interesting read. A good starting point on an important event in history, but I would need to read on for more in-depth detail. With six more editions from this series on my Kindle, I think it seems appropriate to read the Ronald Reagan one next. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or anything else about the Vietnam war?