Challenge: What’s in a Name 2016

What's in a Name 2016

This is the ninth annual What’s In A Name challenge – hosted this coming year by Charlie at The Worm Hole. I haven’t taken part before but I have been tempted, and at last I decided that 2016 would finally be the year. The challenge runs from January to December next year. During this time I will need to read one book from each of the following categories (in brackets are the books I own that I’m considering reading for each category):

  • A country (The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson)
  • An item of clothing (The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas)
  • An item of furniture (The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit)
  • A profession (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King)
  • A month of the year (??)
  • A title with the word ‘tree’ in it (The Fruit of the Tree by Edith Wharton)

‘Mask’ might be stretching it for an item of clothing, but Charlie did say creativity for matching the categories is encouraged! Books can be any format (print, audio, e-book); books cannot overlap categories; and it’s preferred that the books don’t overlap with other challenges. Although not a requirement, I am pleased to have found books that I want to read that are not already cover by any other challenges. Otherwise I can read what I want in what order I want.

Any suggestions for what book I could read which has a month in the title? Are you taking part in this challenge in 2016?

Meme: Tough Travelling – Tricksters

Tough Travelling

Nathan, over at the Fantasy Review Barn, runs this weekly meme Tough Travelling, where readers are encouraged to tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy. Using The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones for inspiration.

This week’s topic is TRICKSTERS

A great prank is always amusing.  Many an adventure starts with a well placed trick.  They are even more amusing when performed by those with god like powers.

Sadly I haven’t been able to take part in this fun meme for a couple of weeks. I am so pleased to be taking part again and this is, I think, the most fun list I’ve created to date. Here’s my choices for this week’s topic:

Loki from Norse Mythology –  perhaps the oldest trickster of them all. Loki is a mischievous and dangerous shape-shifter, who can help or trick the Norse gods on his mere whim.

Rumpelstiltskin from the Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales – an imp-like creature who comes to help a young girl spin straw into gold, but be wary Rumpelstiltskin only offers help to trick something precious out of you.

Gandalf from The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien – the wise grey wizard tricks an invitation, out of the flustered Bilbo Baggins, for him and the dwarfs. I can see him now chuckling to himself as he walks away after leaving a marker on Bilbo’s beautiful green door.

Faeries from The Unfinished Song by Tara Maya – their beautiful, elegant, fun and will call so sweetly to you to join them in their joyous, abandoned dancing; but be warned they will dance you to your death.

Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare – a mischievous sprite and jester to the fairy king, Oberon. Puck plays a wicked trick upon lovers who wonder into the enchanted forest and a raucous farce ensues.

Petyr Baelish from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin – the cruellest trickster on this list. With his charming manner and calculating mind you’re never quite sure whose side he’s on; other than his own!

Fred and George from Harry Potter by J K Rowling – then I couldn’t create this list without adding the hilarious Weasley twins. From puking pastels, to stealing the marauder’s map, making a spectacular exit from Hogwarts and opening a whole shop of magical tricks, jokes and spells. These are two tricksters I’d love to know.

Can you think of some literary tricksters? Please let me know if you’re taking part in this week’s topic too.

New Read – Bringing Narnia Home

Bringing Narnia Home

Earlier this year I read Devin Brown’s biography Tolkien and while I thought it was interesting it wasn’t quite the book for me. However I received a copy of another of Brown’s books, Bringing Narnia Home, at the same time. I love Narnia just as much as Middle-Earth. I picked this up hoping it would suit me better.

Unlike my previous Brown read this is not a biography of the author. Instead it is a look at and a discussion of the lessons that Lewis conveys through The Chronicles of Narnia series. I have always known that this series contained Christian messages and some allegory, although these magical and quaint tales have been enjoyed by those with and without faith. Brown believes there are lessons within these stories that we can all use to bring a little happiness and magic into our own lives.

This book is broken down into twelve chapters all with a title and a message which reflect the lesson covered in each. There are some lovely chapter titles, like ‘Of Mice and Minotaurs’ and ‘Live Like it’s Always Christmas and Never Winter’. I particularly liked chapter 10 ‘The Virtuous Life is a Real Adventure’ which has the message ‘Yes, one that includes real hardship, but one you don’t want to miss’. That is so true! I have always appreciated how Lewis didn’t shy away from putting some upsetting and tough things into his books, because that’s what happens in real life. While you want to entertain children reading you also want them to be aware that life is not always perfect. Of course Lewis also balance his stories well by having hope and those willing to fight to make things better.

As I mentioned at the start, this is the second book I have read by Devin Brown. I am so pleased I gave this book a chance because I had none of the issues I had in the previous book. I found this an easy and quick read which I dipped in and out of; usually I read  one chapter a night tucked in bed just before I went to sleep. I found myself inspired by some of the lessons and comforted by the familiarity and magic.

Bringing Narnia Home was a charming and comforting read for me. I think you’d enjoy this if you love Narnia too. 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 anything else about Narnia or C S Lewis?

Adaptations: November 2015

Adaptations #2

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adapted films and TV series I have watched so far this month:

The Four Musketeers (1974)          Read     Film     Television
Swashbuckling sequel to the 1973 film and based on the 2nd half of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel. The famous musketeers must help their young friend D’Artagnan evade the vengeful plans of the deadly Lady de Winter. I grew up watching these wonderful films and this was a fun and colourful re-watch. I have a real soft spot for Athos and I think Oliver Reid is still my favourite. Great watch.

Lewis (S9 – 2015)          Not Read     TV Series     Television
Series 9 of ITV’s long-running detective drama and spin-off from the ever-popular Inspector Morse series, based on Colin Dexter’s crime novels. Detectives Lewis and Hathaway take on three more interesting cases: ‘One for Sorrow’, ‘Magnum Opus’ and ‘What Lies Tangled’, all in the beautiful setting of Oxford. I have grown up watching Morse and Lewis, and this was another comforting series and great chemistry between the main characters. Good watch.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2015)          Not Read     TV Film     Television
BBC costume drama, based on D H Lawrence’s novel, part of the BBC’s 20th-century literary adaptations series. Lady Chatterley’s husband comes back from war a different man. Now trapped in an unfulfilling marriage she begins an illicit affair. A beautiful series, a touching story and a strong ensemble cast. However, I haven’t read the book, a friend tells me they have changed the ending. Good watch.

Wild (2014)          Not Read     Film     Television
Powerful, true-life drama based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Since the death of her mother Cheryl’s life has gone off the rails so she sets off on an epic and harrowing 1,000 mile walk to find herself, along the Pacific Crest Trail. I thought this was a really moving and inspiring film, with stunning visuals, and excellent performances from Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. Great watch.

Spectre (2015)          Not Read     Film     Cinema
The 24th James Bond thriller, starring Daniel Craig, based on Ian Fleming’s Bond characters. Agent 007 is forced to go rogue to take down Spectre, a dangerous international organisation, who are always watching and listening. The leader of which is an old nemesis. Amazing drama, special effects, fight sequences and cast. Great watch.

November has been a brilliant month for old classics and exciting new releases, and the month’s not even over yet! I am very close to finishing Sky’s new series Zoo (James Patterson) and I am well into the BBC’s amazing new series The Last Kingdom (Bernard Cornwell).

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

New Read: Lamp Black, Wolf Grey

Lamp Black, Wolf Grey

Sadly on the 31st October I had to say goodbye to the R.I.P event, but that didn’t mean I had to stop my dark and atmospheric reading. I decided to continue it with the supernatural Lamp Black, Wolf Grey by Paula Brackston.

Laura and Dan Matthews have a strained relationship as the lack of children begins to wear them down. Hoping to renew their love and give them a better chance at conceiving Laura makes the drastic choice to up sticks, from the hustle and bustle of London, and make a new home in the beautiful Welsh mountains. For Laura this seemingly idyllic place is to hold history, magic, danger, terrible regrets and the legendary figure of Merlin. For once Merlin walked these very same mountains and visited Laura’s new home to see his true love, Megan. Laura is to find that her life is inescapably intertwined with those of the past.

I love dual time period novels and this is an interesting one. We have Laura, a young artist, narrate the present time and Megan, the nurse-maid to the Lord’s sons,  in the past; both are brave, strong and relatable women. While we have the chance to get to know Merlin and his powers in the past and present. I found both threads of the story and both narrators interesting to read about. Although I think I liked Megan more because Laura makes some terrible decisions, which I know she needed to make for the story to continue but they still upset me. However it is these terrible decisions that also make the present story the most gripping of the two.

The wild, isolated and beautiful setting of the Welsh mountains was almost itself a character. I have never read anything by Paula Brackston before and what drew me to this book was the Welsh setting and the legendary Merlin. I love magic and I love Wales; it being a place I grew up visiting every summer holidays. Brackston really took me back there with her words. The lush green valleys, lonely farmsteads, castles and shady woods which can be illuminated by glorious sunshine or where the fog and storm clouds can so quickly cover.

The only downside for me was the stronger focus on romance and sex this had then I was expecting. I found Merlin and Megan’s relationship really lovely. As I thought their interactions came across natural and innocent. Sadly however I didn’t enjoy Laura’s relationships. This was because of the erotic detail which made some of those terrible decisions, I spoke of earlier, even less relatable for me. This is just my personal taste though and I can see how Brackston did this for effect.

 Lamp Black, Wolf Grey was a gripping book which swept me off to a world of magic, history and legend. 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 anything else by Paula Brackston?

New Read: Better Relationships, Better Life

Better Relationships, Better Life

As a practicing Christian I am always on the look out for interesting Christian non-fiction to help me grow in my faith. I decided to give Better Relationships, Better Life by Pam Ovwigho a go as I think we all wish for better relationships, whether that’s with spouses, partners, friends and family.

I have never read anything by Pam Ovwigho before. I do not know if she has written any other books however her day job is as an executive director of scheme to encourage bible engagement In this book, using the timeless insights and wise counsel of Colossians 3, Ovwigho aims to show how through forgiveness, communication, and a strong desire to  change things; any relationship can improve. However if we continue to focus on other’s faults and are not prepared to change ourselves things will never get better.

This book is broken down into chapters focused on relationships with church members, work colleagues, friends, family and spouses. As I am not married and don’t have children some of the chapters weren’t that relevant to me. I enjoyed and found the other chapters interesting though. I particularly liked the relationship examples Ovwigho used to highlight what was done wrong and what could have been done instead. My only criticism would be that I would have preferred the book to be a bit longer and more detailed, so really I just wanted a bit more! What I will really take away from this book is the importance of the Christian virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.

Better Relationships, Better Life was a quick, interesting and helpful read. I would be interested to read more in this area. Okay 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? Have you read anything about better relationships?

The Classics Club: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles

I enjoyed reading The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle in September so much that I barely managed to wait a month before going back for another mystery. Next I picked up The Hound of the Baskervilles, the third Sherlock Holmes novel.

Dr James Mortimer comes to Sherlock Holmes with a legend of a diabolical hound out on the moors that hunts all the Baskerville descendants, in revenge for a murderous past deed. Mortimer has lived many years out on the moors and had never taken much store in these superstitions before until the shocking death of his good friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. He hopes Holmes’ can get to the truth and protect Henry; the heir and last remaining Baskerville. Holmes is intrigued by the case but is busy working on another so he puts his trust in Dr Watson. Who returns with Mortimer and Henry to the lonely Baskerville Hall on Dartmoor to investigate further.

I loved getting to explore this intricate and supernatural mystery with Dr Watson. As much as I enjoy the workings of Holmes’ mind and find his eccentricities fascinating. It is Holmes’ companion Dr Watson I am most drawn to. The down-to-earth narration of Watson is what makes these stories more relatable for me. To have a whole investigation where he took the lead was wonderful. Holmes isn’t too far away though because Watson is in constant contact with him and it is through these letters we see a lot of the facts unfold. There is also a twist to come later in the book!

I think this may now be my favourite Holmes mystery. I loved the foggy, lonely moors, scattered with the remnants of ancient inhabitants, with the isolated Baskerville Hall stranded in the middle of it. Doyle really builds a creepy atmosphere and that is even before the hound comes on the scene, which is described as large, dark and vicious by any locals who have had the misfortune to see it. Plus it seems to be able to frighten you to death! This was a great mystery with an interesting collection of characters who are all thrown together because of the loneliness of their situation.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a creepy and atmospheric mystery which I simply loved. A cosy and comforting read for autumn and the R.I.P event. I highly recommend to fans of Sherlock Holmes and those who enjoy classic crime. Sadly I only have The Sign of the Four  left to read. Great read.

Have you read this? What is your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

The Classics Club – 36/50
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X – 4/4