New Read: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King, the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, has been on my to-be-read pile for far too long! I picked it up a few years ago after starting to read/love Doyle’s classic Holmes stories. Finally taking part in the What’s in a Name event 2016 has encouraged me to read it.

One cool, sunny day in 1915 Mary Russell is taking a walk over the Sussex Downs with her nose firmly planted in a book – where she almost tramples an eccentric gentlemen who is out on the Downs counting bees. This eccentric gentlemen is none other than Sherlock Holmes, the renowned private detective, who in his retirement has moved to the country and taken up bee keeping. They immediately strike up an unlikely friendship. Under Holmes’ tutelage Mary begins to grows in knowledge, strength and confidence until she is able to solve some dastardly crimes herself.

When we first meet Mary Russell that sunny day in 1915 she is only 15 years old. Tragically her parents and brother were killed in a car crash leaving her a wealthy orphan. As she is not of age though she must suffer her unpleasant aunt living with her as her guardian. Her friendship with Holmes gives her an escape from her loneliness and boredom. While the age gap is a little creepy when you think about it I didn’t mind because their personalities suited each other so well. I enjoyed watching Mary grow physically and as a character – until she is 19 years old, studying at Oxford University and ready to start helping Holmes fight crime; because Holmes wouldn’t know how to completely retire even if he wanted too.

One of the first crimes Mary and Holmes tackle is the kidnapping of an American Senator’s young daughter while holidaying in Wales. This crime had everything I could have hoped for: an isolated setting, secrets, danger and Mary and Holmes go incognito as Romany travellers; brilliant! Mary and Holmes learn a lot from this first crime together which will stand them in better stead for when they face real danger to themselves and their friends later in the novel. The first half of this book was slower but once we hit the real danger and mystery I had trouble putting this down!

Since I bought this book I have really fallen in love with Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes novels and short-stories. While I don’t feel Holmes was the main protagonist of this book, I do think Laurie R King has drawn him well – he is older, in a new situation and solving new crimes but I always felt what King had him do and say was believable. I think I will always prefer Doyle’s classic stories however I did thoroughly enjoy getting to join Holmes in more adventures through King in this book. I would definitely be interested in reading more from this series and King.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was a comforting, nostalgic and thrilling adventure for me, which helped me to escape the dreary weather of January. Good read.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any other spin-off Sherlock Holmes books?

What’s in a Name 2016 – a profession 1/6

A Sad & Fond Farewell to Sir Terry Wogan

Sir Terry Wogan

I was saddened to hear recently that Sir Terry Wogan had passed away, after a relatively short battle with cancer. I think the nation is particularly upset as he was such a legend; I think we expected him to live forever. I will most remember Sir Terry for his hilarious commentary on the UK’s Eurovision coverage. There is also his long-running morning slot on BBC Radio 2 and his unceasing commitment to the Children in Need cause.

My prayers, love and condolences goes out to his family and friends at this sad time.

What will you most remember Sir Terry Wogan for?

Goodbye January, Hello February 2016

January 2016

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? I think I blinked and missed January; it seemed to go by so quickly! This month I enjoyed a trip to Birmingham to see the Staffordshire Hoard; even though it was a grey, wet day I was perfectly snug inside with all that glistening Saxon gold. I also celebrated my birthday this month with friends and family at a local restaurant; where we had a Cantonese feast. As for reading, it began a bit slow but I seemed to get my mojo back by the middle of the month:

Fiction: 2     Non-Fiction: 1     Poetry: 0

My reading this month has had a mysterious flavour to it. First I read Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. This 2nd book in Harkness’ All Souls trilogy was a mixture of magic, mystery and romance, which took us and the characters back to Elizabethan England. I hope to read the last book in the trilogy soon. Next I read Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley; who is now one of my favourite comfort authors. I thought it was a fascinating mystery set in the stunning landscape of Pembrokeshire, South Wales which is steeped in history and Arthurian legend. I couldn’t put it down!

Alongside these fictions I also read the candid and inspiring Christian memoir, Out of Darkness by Stormie Omartian. I have enjoyed everything I have read by Omartian and this was no exception – I hope to read more from her this year.

Pick of the Month: Named of the Dragon

I am a little disappointed with 3 books because I feel I’ve read a lot more than I’ve finished! Throughout the month I have continued to read my result from the 11th Classics Club’s Spin; which was David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I also started reading The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles and I am so close to finishing The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King; my first read for What’s in a Name 2016.

In February I am looking forward to some lighter days, a visit to Hagley Hall, and more time for reading!

What did you do and read in January? Do have any plans for February?

Adaptations: January 2016 (2)

Adaptations #2

Hello my fellow bookworms, adaptation lovers and any of those dropping over from the Book to Movie challenge; here are some more adaptations I have enjoyed this month:

Sleepy Hollow (Series 3 – Part 1)          Not Read     TV Series     Television
Supernatural drama based on Washington Irving’s short story. The headless huntsman may be gone but now this small town must deal with Pandora and her box of evil monsters. Some of the solutions seemed a little convenient but I enjoyed the super, creepy creatures and I still love the hilarious camaraderie between Ichabod and Abigail. Part 2 will start in February. Okay watch.

Endeavour (Series 3)          Not Read     TV Series     Television
ITV crime drama based on the characters of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, and a prequel to the ITV Inspector Morse (1987-2000) TV series. We re-join young detective constable Endeavour Morse in Oxford of the late 1960s as he solves some of his earliest cases. Another atmospheric and nostalgic series full of bloody, cryptic and surprising murders. Great watch.

These two TV series added to my previous watches this month makes my total 8. I have also been binge watching the BBC’s new drama Dickensian (Charles Dickens); and I am looking forward to starting new period drama War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy), Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands and the 3rd series of crime drama Shetland (Ann Cleeves). Plenty more adaptation goodies to look forward too!

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

New Read: Named of the Dragon

Named of the Dragon

Last year I enjoyed Mariana and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley; and I couldn’t wait to read more. In mid-January I found myself reaching for Named of the Dragon which was waiting on my Kindle for me.

Literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw travels to the beautiful, ancient coastal town of Angle, Pembrokeshire to spend Christmas with client and friend, Bridget Cooper. Lyn agrees to go to please Bridget but she is also tempted by the chance to meet Bridget’s new flame; successful author James Swift. They are to stay at Castle Farm, a large historic home resplendent with roaring fires, sea views and its own tower. Lyn is soon to find herself drawn into the mystery and legend surrounding the hysterical ravings of their young, widowed neighbour Elen; who believes the ‘dragons’ are trying to take her infant son. Lyn seems to be the only one who fears there may be some truth hiding behind the fantastical details though.

Our protagonist Lyn Ravenshaw is a practical, independent and kind woman who lives and works in bustling London. The complete opposite to the glamorous and self-absorbed children’s writer Bridget, whom she represents, however they do genuinely seem to have formed a sweet and unlikely friendship. While Bridget finds it all annoying Lyn is drawn to protect Elen and her son. It heightens Lyn’s own fears and nightmares about the loss of her own son Justin five years earlier. I couldn’t help but feel for Lyn. She is also joined in this mystery by the dashing James and his roguish brother Christopher, handyman Owen and his busybody wife Dilys, and the elusive playwright Gareth Gwyn Morgan.

This is the 5th novel I have read by Susanna Kearsley; who is now one of my comfort read favourites. I love how Kearsley’s writing style is so comforting and familiar, like a favourite jumper. Only a chapter in and I was swept off into this wonderful mystery which is full of history, Arthurian legend, stunning settings, and a touch of romance, magic and the paranormal. I grew up going on holiday to North Wales, and I still fondly remember the glorious countryside and wild coastline. I have also always been fascinated by tales of King Arthur and Merlin, so this book played right into my hands. I have only once been to South Wales where this is set – it has really made me want to go back.

Named of the Dragon was an immersive and gripping mystery for me. I highly recommend! I can’t wait to read more by Susanna Kearsley – I have Season of Storms on my to-be-read pile. 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? Have you read any of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels?

New Read: Out of Darkness

Out of Darkness

As a practicing Christian I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and to hear what other Christians have to say. My first faith read for 2016 is Stormie Omartian’s memoir Out of Darkness: My Story of Finding True Light and Liberation.

I first discovered Stormie Omartian in 2014 and I have read pretty much everything by her I have been able to get my hands on since. This has included The Power of a Praying Woman, Choose Love, The Praying Woman’s Devotional and a short study guide addition of Prayer Warrior. I have found everything I have read by Omartian beautiful and inspiring, so when I saw this memoir I was intrigued to find out what had inspired her to write these wonderful books; which have become best sellers all over the world and have touched the lives of so many women from so many different backgrounds.

The truth is a lot of hardship and prayer has inspired her to write these books. Omartian became a Christian later in life after suffering child abuse, debilitating anxiety, a traumatising abortion, a failed marriage, and after dabbling in drugs and the occult. Her new-found faith and prayer brought her love, peace and forgiveness, however she soon learnt that you should never stop praying. Once remarried and starting a family Omartian found it very important to pray for her pregnancy complications, for her husband’s anger issues, to protect her family from drive by shootings, earthquakes, storms, and later in life her husband’s and her own terrible illnesses. It was after experiencing so much that she felt the calling to write and share.

While this was another well-written, beautiful and inspiring read – it was also a sad, hard and often heart-breaking read too. I was impressed with how candid Omartian was in this memoir; I think writing this was very brave of her. I am so glad she did because it really answered many questions I had about how she became a Christian and why she started writing. And on reflection Omartian had to really open up to fully share why prayer is so important. Just because you’re a Christian it doesn’t mean life will be rosy and perfect; we all face loss, trouble and challenges. Being a Christian doesn’t stop these from happening but does give us the relief of the love, peace, support and guidance from an all-loving and all-forgiving God. What I am taking away from this is how crucial it is to continue to pray, through the bad and the good.

Out of Darkness is a powerful and inspiring memoir, that allows you to experience the life of a Christian woman, wife, mother and writer. I really hope to read more by Omartian in the future. 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 anything by Stormie Omartian? Any recommendations for other Christian memoirs?

New Books: January 2016

New Books - January

Hello my fellow bookworms, here’s the goodies I’ve managed to add to my bookshelf and Kindle recently:

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My father has just finished reading this and passed it straight on to me. We have both enjoyed all of the Robert Langdon adventures, but we seemed to have missed this one out. I’m hoping to read this really soon.

The Hairy Dieters by Si King & Dave Myers

I already have book 2 and 3 of this cookbook series, from the nation’s beloved ‘Hairy Biker’ chefs, and for about a year I have been keeping my eyes peeled for this original book; that accompanied the TV show. When I saw this for only £4 it had to be bought! I am not looking to lose weight particularly but I love how down to earth and well balanced these recipes are.

A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Broken Banners by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore
(including stories by Jonathan Barnes, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, Foz Meadows and Adrian Tchaikovsky)

Then I received these two fantasy novellas and Shakespearian short story collection from Netgalley. I heard good things about A Reaper of Stone over at BooksbyProxy so when I spotted it was available to read now I went for it; and then I was successfully in requesting the next instalment Broken Banners at the same time. I was also sorely tempted by Monstrous Little Voices too then I heard great things about it from Lynn at her blog after which I just had to go back to request it!

Have you read anything by these authors? What new books have you got your hands on recently?