Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10… New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018

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:

New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018

Last year, I was again blessed to read and enjoy many new-to-me authors, especially through my church’s book club. Here are the ten new-to-me authors I liked the most from the year:

  1. Anne Brontë – Anne’s beautifully written The Tenant of Wildfell Hall showed me that she is a worthy equal to her older, better known sisters.
  2. Nabeel Qureshi – My first read of the year for my church’s book club was his eye-opening, international bestseller, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.
  3. Brother Andrew – While my May read for my church’s book club was Andrew’s truly inspiring and thrilling memoir, God’s Smuggler.
  4. Snorri Kristjansson – Perfect for the darker, cooler days of autumn was Kristjansson’s excellent, debut Viking murder mystery, Kin.
  5. Peter Bartram – I loved escaping back into Bartram’s nostalgic mysteries, Headline Murder and Stop Press Murder set in 1960’s Brighton.
  6. Michael R. Miller – More fun, escapist reading came in The Reborn King and Veiled Intentions, from the epic fantasy series, The Dragon’s Blade.
  7. Mingmei Yip – While I travelled back in time to China of the 1900s, with Yip’s exotic, historical fiction, Peach Blossom Pavilion.
  8. Lee Strobel – My church’s book club read for February was Strobel’s The Case for Grace, a compelling collection of inspiring stories.
  9. Christopher Nicole – The first book in Nicole’s historical saga, Eleanor of Aquitaine was a gripping historical soap opera for the start of summer.
  10. John Bunyan – It might have been hard going at times, but Bunyan’s classic allegorical novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress was a rewarding read.

Have you read any of my choices? What new-to-you authors did you read in 2018? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.


New Read: The Pilgrim’s Progress

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. Back in October we read and met to discuss The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Next up was the classic, Christian allegorical novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, which I put onto my new Classics Club list as soon as I found out we would be tackling it.

Part 1, published in 1678, follows Christian, an everyman, who leaves behind his home, wife and children in the City of Destruction to make the perilous journey to the Celestial City. Along the way he faces many trials, tribulations, monsters and spiritual terrors, as he travels through the Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Doubting Castle and the Delectable Mountains. His pilgrimage is hindered by characters such as Worldly Wiseman, Giant Despair, Talkative and Ignorance, but he is also supported by Evangelist and his travelling companions, Hopeful then Faithful.

All of which is surreally presented as a dream sequence narrated by Bunyan as an omniscient narrator: giving him the power to observe all, but powerless to help. There is no arguing with the content, characters and wisdom in this enormously influential classic – which has been translated into more than 200 languages and has never been out of print – but I did struggle with the style and flow. I found it a bit jerky and I often found I had to go back and re-read sections to fully understand what was being said.

However I found Part 2, published in 1684, a much easier and quicker read. In this second part, Bunyan follows the subsequent pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christiana, their sons and their maidenly neighbour, Mercy. They journey to all the stopping points Christian visited, but they take a longer time as the sons marry, have children and their party grows. They are also guided by the brave hero, Greatheart, who along the way slays four giants and a monster named Legion, that have been terrorising pilgrims.

This second part grabbed me instantly and flowed much better, especially as it has a more natural time frame for the journey – akin to a Christian’s life span. I was fascinated to see Bunyan express some very ‘modern’ thoughts and ideas through out this second pilgrimage too. First in his choice of a female pilgrim, but also in his portrayal and discussion of the important role women have in bringing people to and nurturing faith. I enjoyed it so much, that I actually finished this part in less than half the time the first part had taken me.

So, overall, I was left feeling a little confused about how I felt about this book, with the big difference I experienced between Part 1 and 2. It was not till after my church’s book club eventually met, last week, to discuss this, that I saw in hindsight how much more I enjoyed this than I initially thought. We discussed our struggles with Part 1; our preferment for Part 2 and our universal love of Bunyan’s emblematic characters – many of which are characters you can find in life today. And the general consensus was that the content was great, even if the style and language was problematic.

All in all then, I found The Pilgrim’s Progress to be a clever allegorical look at the journey Christians must take through life. I can’t say it was an easy read – in fact it was in parts hard work – however it was a rewarding read, and this is a book I feel with benefit from re-reading. Good read.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any other classic Christian books?

This is book 5/50 for my Classics Club II reading challenge.

Challenge: What’s in a Name 2018/2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to round-up my reading for the What’s in a Name 2018 challenge; hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. This was my third 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 another six out of six this year. Okay, I was very inventive on the last one, but they do sing about Christmas being the ‘season’ to be jolly, right?! Sadly, I am very behind on my review writing, so you will have to wait for my thoughts on the last three books.

Did you take part in this challenge too? If yes, what did you read for it?

That’s not all though folks! Now it is time to get ready for What’s in a Name 2019, which this year is being hosted by Andrea at Carolina Book Nook. Here are the new categories and in the brackets are the books I own which I could possibly read for each:

  • A precious stone/metal (The Silver Locket by Margaret James or The Golden Antilles by Tim Severin)
  • A temperature (Cold Fire by Dean Koontz)
  • A month or day of the week (???)
  • A meal – (Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig or The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams)
  • Contains the word “girl” or “woman” (The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins)
  • Contains both the words “of” AND “and” (Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M. C. Beaton)

For those new to this challenge it runs from 1st January to 31st December; the books read can be in any format (print, audio, e-book); books cannot overlap categories; and creativity for matching the categories is encouraged! Apart from that I can read what I want in what order I want.

Are you taking part this year? Any recommendations of a book I could read with a day or month in the title?

Adaptations: December & Christmas 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I watched in December, in particular during my time off over the Christmas and New Year holiday:

Dick Whittington (2018)
Read     Pantomime     Theatre

We were so lucky to take our whole school to the ever popular, yearly pantomime at our local theatre. This year, they were performing the panto version of the folklore tale of Dick Whittington and His Cat, who goes to London to seek his fortune. Starring local favourites, Sam Rabone and Ben Thornton, and CBeebies star, Katrina Bryan. All in all, it was a good bit of old-fashioned fun, which was enjoyed by all. Good watch.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018)
Not Read     Film     Television

With a free month of Sky films, our first watch had to be this: the third and final instalment in the dystopian Maze Runner film series, based on the books by James Dashner. The remaining “Gladers”, Thomas, Newt, and Frypan, make a risky deal with a shady rebellion leader to rescue the final “Immunes” and take down WCKD for good. An action-packed thriller, but it was a tad on the long, convoluted side. Good watch.

Twelfth Night (1996)
Not Read     Film     Television

By chance, in the holidays, I caught this British film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play being shown on the BBC. A star-studded cast brought to life the tale of young Viola, who takes on the appearance of her lost twin Sebastian to join the court of Duke Orsino. Only for Sebastian to re-appear and a riotous, mistaken identity farce ensures with their prospective lovers. An unexpected, little gem. Good watch.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Not Read     Film     Television

On Christmas Eve, my brother and I had a film bonanza. First watching this up-to-date sequel to the fantasy adventure Jumanji (1995), which was based on Chris Van Allsburg’s 1981 children’s book. The Jumanji board game has transformed into a video game cartridge to suck in four more unwitting teenagers. A funny, mad-cap adventure follows as they try to escape this deadly game. Much better than I expected. Good watch.

Ready Player One (2018)
Not Read     Film     Television

Next we watched this recent film of Ernest Cline’s 2011 dystopian novel. In 2045, orphaned teenager Wade Watts joins several allies to try to find the ultimate Easter egg, which promises the winner full ownership of the OASIS, a worldwide virtual reality game, before the corporate monster IOI does. A fast-paced, visually stunning film with some great nostalgic, popular cultural references, but I just expected a little more from Spielberg. Good watch.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
Not Read     Film     Television

Finally, we watched this recent sequel to the bloody, spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), which was based on the comic book series created by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar. The Kingsman are forced to team up with their American counterparts, Statesman, to take down the deranged Poppy Adams and her drug cartel, “The Golden Circle”. More super slick fun, but lacked some of the surprise/spark the first film had. Good watch.

That’s a fantastic six new-to-me adaptations watched. If that wasn’t good enough, I also re-watched the wonderfully comforting Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001); Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002); The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992); Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004); Mrs Doubtfire (1993), which I have only just discovered was based on a novel by Anne Fine; Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Cinderella (2015). Which brings my grand total up to a whopping thirteen adaptations watched over the month!

As for non-adaptations, I finished watching American anthology drama, Trust (2018), that dramatizes the abduction of John Paul Getty III, the heir to the vast Getty Oil fortune in 1973. Also I watched the short, brutal, chilling and apparently final series of psychological thriller, Fortitude (Series 3).

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


Goodbye December 2018, Hello New Year!

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well and that you had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. December whirled past me in a blur of shopping, writing cards, wrapping presents, special end of term fun at work and spending quality time with family and friends. In amongst all the wonderful craziness of the holidays I managed to read these:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 1

First, I lost myself in the fantasy adventure The Dragon’s Blade: Veiled Intentions by Michael R. Miller, the second fun book in Miller’s epic trilogy. Next, I travelled back to Restoration England for a swashbuckling romance in Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier. Perhaps not my favourite from du Maurier, but still a very beautifully written tale.

Then, as the busyness of the festive period truly got going, I squeezed in a couple of short reads. First, a Christmas e-short Agatha Raisin and the Christmas Crumble by M. C. Beaton, from Beaton’s long-running, cosy crime series. And the very short, e-short The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today by Alison Weir, a companion read to Weir’s historical Six Tudor Queens series.

Alongside these fictions, I also read the republicated, non-fiction Theatre Royal by Michael Coren, which gives a brief overview of the history of Stratford East’s Theatre Royal. Originally published in 1985 on the hundredth anniversary of the theatre.

Pick of the Month: Frenchman’s Creek

Altogether that is five books finished, which is pretty impressive considering the time of year. During the month, I also started reading Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley, the newest of Kearsley’s dual narrative novels. However I am now majorly behind on posting, so you have a whopping seven reviews to look forward to.

In January, I look forward to celebrating my birthday; a weekend away to Kent and going to see Professor Alice Roberts’ talk on digging into Britain’s past. Oh and hopefully catching up on those pesky, back-logged reviews!

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

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019!

Happy New Year! Now it is time to say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019, I am going to round off my reflection on my reading year with a few statistics:

Books Read: 49           New Reads: 45              Re-Reads: 4

Fiction: 33                Non-Fiction: 16

In 2017, I finished 51 books so I am only a tiny bit behind that this year, but there has been a small downward trend over the last two/three years which I would like to remedy in 2019. However, overall, I am pleased with the amount of fiction and non-fiction read, and the quality of books I have read over the year too. Now for some fun meme categories to help me reflect on 2018 and look forward to 2019:

  • Best Fiction – The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier.
  • Best Non-Fiction – Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi.
  • Best Classic – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.
  • Best Cookbook – Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver.
  • Best Re-Read – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
  • Best Series You Discovered – Six Tudor Queens by Alison Weir.
  • Favourite New-To-Me Authors – Peter Bartram and Michael R. Miller.
  • Most Memorable Character – Alison Weir’s courageous Katherine of Aragon, who I was left in awe of.
  • Most Read Genre – Historical Fiction (13), Science-Fiction/Fantasy (10), Christian (8) and Mystery (7).
  • Multiple Reads of an Author – Alison Weir (3), Peter Bartram (2), Mark Black (2), Suzanne Collins (2), Laurie R. King (2), Karen Maitland (2), Daphne du Maurier (2), Michael R. Miller (2) and Geoffrey Trease (2).
  • Ambitions for 2019 – I would like to continue to make more time for re-reading old favourites, as well as reading more new-to-me books by my favourite authors. I would also like to get fully back into The Classics Club with my second list.

That completes my reflection on 2018, which also consisted of My Top 10 Books of 2018 and My Top 10 Adaptations of 2018, so please do check those out too, if you haven’t already. Later this week, I hope to have up my end of month posts for books read and adaptations watched in December too.

What did you read and love in 2018? Any ambitions or plans for your reading in 2019?

My Top 10 Adaptations 2018

As 2018 comes to an end, I continue my reflection back on another great year, with a round-up post of my favourite new-to-me adaptations. After a long, hard think here are my top ten adaptations (ordered alphabetically) I have watched this year:

~ 1 ~

A Very English Scandal (2018)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

A new British three-part drama, based on John Preston’s book, which dramatizes the 1970’s political scandal of Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), leader of the Liberal Democrats, being tried for conspiring to murder his former lover, Norman Scott (Ben Wishaw). With a gay love-affair, a bungled murder plot and a dead dog… this really has it all for a very funny yet chilling watch!

~ 2 ~

Endeavour (Series 5)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

This year saw ITV air the fifth series of nostalgic ITV crime drama, based on Colin Dexter’s characters and prequel to the Inspector Morse series. It is 1968 and young detective sergeant Endeavour Morse is investigating several new bloody investigations, as Cowley police station faces closure and race/gang tensions rise in Oxford. Another gloriously atmospheric and nostalgic series.

~ 3 ~

The City and the City (2018)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

A gripping, BBC four-part science-fiction/crime noir drama, based on China Miéville’s novel. Set in the fictional twin cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma, we follow Inspector Tyador Borlú (David Morrissey) as he investigates the murder of a young woman, who may have illegally ‘breached’ from one city into the other. You need your thinking-cap on for this one, but it is worth it.

~ 4 ~

Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (2013)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

I was thrilled to finally see the final episode of ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, starring the brilliant David Suchet as our favourite, little Belgian detective. Poirot and his old friend Hastings return to Styles Court, the site of his first ever murder, to solve what will be his final poignant case. An excellent cast, a twisting mystery, high-stakes, raw emotion and an ending I never saw coming!

~ 5 ~

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
Read     Film     Cinema

In this, the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), inspired by J K Rowling’s fictional textbook, we re-join Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his case of magical creatures in Paris, France; as he tries to trace the Obscurial, Creedence Barebone, before the dark wizard Grindelwald. Another wonderful, fantasy romp with a more adult edge. I didn’t love it as much as the first, but I still had a big grin on my face.

~ 6 ~

Killing Eve (2018)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

New BBC drama, based on Luke Jennings’ thriller novella series, introduces us to Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), a low-wrung officer for MI5, who gets the chance to hunt down the deadly female assassin, Villanelle (Jodie Comer). This had me gripped, scared and laughing in equal measure, as these two strong women become dangerously obsessed with each other.

~ 7 ~

Mr. Holmes (2015)
Not Read     Film     Television

I was thrilled to finally watch this alternative Holmes mystery, based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel. In 1947, the long-retired Holmes (Ian McKellan), aged 93, is desperately struggling to recall the details of his final case, as his mind slowly deteriorates. There are no huge thrills in this film, instead what you get is an emotionally charged, well-wrought and superbly acted drama.

~ 8 ~

North and South (2004)
Read     TV Series     Television

I was thrilled to finally watch this much-talked-about adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel, which sees the lovely Daniela Denby-Ashe and the dashing Richard Armitage beautifully portraying young Southerner, Margaret and Northern industrialist, Mr Thornton, and their uneasy, growing attraction. The costumes, setting and supporting cast were also excellent.

~ 9 ~

Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four (2018)
Read     Play     Theatre

I was very lucky to see Blackeyed Theatre’s excellent stage adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic novella. Which cleverly transported me back to smoggy Victorian London and warm, exotic India for a gripping mystery with the famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes and the faithful Dr Watson. All of which was performed with drama, finesse and humour.

~ 10 ~

Shetland (Series 4)
Not Read     TV Series    Television

The fourth series of this atmospheric BBC crime drama, based on Ann Cleeve’s characters. A cold case of a murdered teenager is re-opened when the chief suspect returns to the island… only for another young woman to be murdered. Thus Jimmy Perez and his team are drawn into another gripping, dark and twisting case, all set against the beautiful, rugged, isolated backdrop of Shetland.

Honorary mentions must also go to: the pantomime, Cinderella (2018), BBC crime dramas, Ordeal by Innocence (2018) and And Then There Were None (2015), and the Marvel film Deadpool 2 (2018).

Did you watch any of these? What were your favourite adaptations you watched in 2018?

Yesterday, I started my reflection back on the year with My Top 10 Books of 2018 post. On New Year’s day, I will complete my reflection with some statistics and an overall round-up of my reading.