New Read: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness have sat on my to-be-read shelf for far too long. Earlier this month I received The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness which is the final instalment in the All Souls trilogy. So I had no excuse not to start reading them.

A Discovery of Witches introduces the reader to Dr Diana Bishop. An American scholar who has come to the historic Oxford University, England to study old and rare alchemical volumes held in the library. Diana is no ordinary scholar though she is also a witch who comes from an old and famous family; a fact that Diana tries to ignore. Unbeknownst to Diana  she recalls the bewitched Ashmole 782 from the library’s ancient stacks. Once she touches it a string of unusual and dangerous events are to unfold which will see her thrust into the world of witches, vampires and daemons she has been trying so hard to ignore.

Diana our protagonist comes from a long line of powerful Bishop witches yet has never shown any aptitude or urge to use magic herself. Diana is full of anxiety and fear since the brutal death of her parents when she was only a child. I enjoyed watching Diana grow in strength emotionally as a woman through her trials but also to see her start to release her magical power. Diana is joined by a large cast of paranormal characters. The other we really get to know better is Diana’s love interest Professor Matthew Clairmont; an ancient vampire. Matthew is a good mixture of the negative and positive of his race. He drinks blood, and has anger and possessive issues. Then again I love how he has so much history and experience.

A Discovery of Witches is the first novel I have read by Deborah Harkness, and is the first instalment in the All Souls trilogy. From what I’ve read so far I am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. A Discovery of Witches is a well written novel with a detailed and immersive style and world. I simply loved all the historical, alchemical, literature and art references and details that were included; Harkness has clearly done a lot of research for this novel. The only down side for me was the romance. I am not a huge romance fan and this had more romance in it than I had expected. The romance element is strong in this fortunately though there is just enough other things going on that I still enjoyed it. This has dropped it down from a great to a good read.

A Discovery of Witches is a detailed and well written paranormal romance with an interesting measure of history, magic and art. You might enjoy this if you like romance, fantasy, paranormal and/or historical fiction. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other paranormal romances?

A Discovery of Witches is full of magic so I am counting it towards the Once Upon a Time IX event which is hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

Meme: Top 10 Childhood Books

Blog Post #2

This week over at the Broke and Bookish the theme for Top Ten Tuesday is ‘Top 10 Books From My Childhood (Or teen years) That I Would Love To Revisit’ . I liked this topic and had to give it a go. Here are my choices:

1. The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton
While I read The Famous Five and some of The Secret Seven it was definitely this less well known fantasy series that caught my attention as a child.

2.The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

3. The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks
My father has copies of these which are from Brooks’ Original Shannara trilogy. While I enjoyed them as a child I spent too much time comparing them to Lord of the Rings. I would like to see if I would enjoy them even more now, and perhaps want to read more of the Shannara series.

4. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
I remember in primary school dressing up as Katy Carr for World Book Day but other than snippets I don’t have the greatest memory of this novel and it’s sequels which so captured me.

5. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
An eccentric and delightful short story collection. I have found a real love for short stories recently so this could be a great re-read for me.

6. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
I have fond memories of my favourite primary school teacher reading this delightful novel to my class.

7. Johnny Maxwell trilogy by Terry Pratchett
My love for Pratchett started young. I believe this was the first series by Pratchett I read which includes my favourite Johnny and the Bomb. I loved the mixture of family drama, fantasy, science fiction and history.

8. The Nome trilogy by Terry Pratchett
I loved the funny adventures of Truckers, Diggers and Wings. This is the series which most reminds me of Pratchett’s adult Discworld series. I borrowed both these trilogies from the library as a child. I would love to re-read and own my own copies of them now.

9. Village School by Miss Read
I have fond memories of my mother reading this to me at bedtime. A simple and detailed tale of day-to-day life which was wonderfully comforting before bed. I have read other novels from this series as an adult but I haven’t revisited this one.

10. Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
I have read all the instalments of this series as they came out, and while I have watched the films many times and even listened to some of the audiobooks I haven’t re-read any of the novels. I think this is because I adore the stories and characters but didn’t love Rowling’s writing style. I definitely will re-read them perhaps just need a bit more time.

Honourable mentions must go to The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis, and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. I loved all of these as a child but I have also regularly re-read them as an adult too.

Do you love some of my choices too? What childhood favourite would you like to revisit?

Challenge: Once Upon a Time IX

Once Upon a Time 9

(Art by Kimberly Kincaid. Used with Permission)

Hello my fellow bookworms I am pleased to announce the return of the Once Upon a Time event which is hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings. Participants in this event are encouraged to read books and watch films that cover the broad categories of  Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. I always look forward to this event as the genres listed above are some of my favourites!

Books I could choose off my bookshelf:

All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches (currently reading)
Shadow of Night

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin
A Feast For Crows
A Dance with Dragons: Dreams and Dust
A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast

Books I could choose off my Kindle:

The Curse Keepers Collection by Denise Grover Swank
The Curse Keepers
The Curse Breakers
The Curse Defiers

All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness
The Book of Life

The Wanderers by Cheryl Mahoney
The Storyteller and Her Sister by Cheryl Mahoney
The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland
The Amethyst Fairy Book by Michelle McLaughlin
The Diamond Fairy Book by Michelle McLaughlin
The Emerald Fairy Book by Michelle McLaughlin
Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Michael Newton

Once Upon a Time IX officially runs from 21st March to 21st June 2015. I have signed up for The Journey level which means I am aiming to read at least one book for the event. I usually end up reading more than one book but I like the freedom this level gives me especially with how much work I have on at the minute. I am look forward to seeing what I will end up reading.

Are you taking part in Once Upon a Time IX?

The Classics Club: Three Years Gone

The Classics Club #1

Start Date: 19th March 2012

End Date: 19th March 2017

I joined The Classics Club back in March 2012 which means three years have gone by! Here’s what I have read off my list in the last year:

1. The Beautiful and Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum
3. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
4. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales
5. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
6. His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle
7. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
8. Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
9. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
10. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

(click on the titles to see my full thoughts)

Read: 30/50

I am so pleased with my progress so far. 10 books is the average I need to read each year to keep on track to read 50 books altogether. A list of books/links though isn’t that interesting so I decided to use these meme questions to reflect on what classics I have been reading:

Most Anticipated: The Three Musketeers
Most Beautifully Written: The Secret Garden
Most Surprising (In A Good Way!): Shirley
Most Memorable Character/s: Sherlock Holmes and Athos (Musketeer)
Most Recommended-to-Others: The Three Musketeers and The Secret Garden
Favourite New Authors Discovered: Alexandre Dumas and Frances Hodgson Burnett
Multiple Reads of an Author: Arthur Conan Doyle (2) and F Scott Fitzgerald (2)

Ambitions for 2014/2015: Pretty much to continue as I am. I have been impressed with the amount I have read over the last three years. I am looking forward to reading more by Doyle, Dumas and Hodgson Burnett, also I must get back to Austen and Dickens too. Plus who knows what new authors I will fall in love with. Wish me luck!

What classics have you enjoyed over the last year?

The Classics Club: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

I have become quite a fan of short story collections and I hope to continue reading more in 2015. Starting as I mean to go on I picked up The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle the fifth and sadly the final collection.

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is a collection made up of another twelve Sherlock Holmes short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and published in The Strand between 1921 and 1927, much later than previous stories. I think this is perhaps the less well known collection of stories although The Sussex Vampire is probably the most notable story just for its title.  I very much enjoyed The Sussex Vampire, The Creeping Man and Thor Bridge. That being said as usual there were no adventures in this collection I didn’t enjoy, they were all fascinating, the three I have named though particularly captured my imagination.

Like previous collections I have read I thought The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes had a good range of stories which were varied and well-balanced. There was again the wonderful chemistry between the two protagonists that I love to witness during the intricate mysteries. The difference with this collection was that two of the stories was told by Holmes himself not, as is usual, by Watson. While this made an interesting change I still find myself most drawn to Holmes’s companion Dr Watson. As much as I love the mind and foibles of Holmes it is his down-to-earth companion Watson that I find I really connect with.

This is certainly not my first foray into Sherlock Holmes. I have loved the Adventures, Memoirs, Return of Sherlock Holmes and His Last Bow short story collections. I again enjoyed the shorter length of the stories which means I could easily keep the thread of the mystery and fully enjoy all the twists and turns, without the worry of needing a break. Sadly though this is the last collection. I shouldn’t be despondent though because I do still have three novels to read.

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is another fascinating read with more interesting adventures for me to discover. I highly recommend to those interested in classic crime. This is my 30th read off my Classics Club list. Good read.

Have you read this collection? Do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

New Read: Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

In 2013 I collected twenty-one and read six of Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series; while I have enjoyed these I sadly only read one in 2014. In an effort to remedy this in 2015 I had a mooch through the editions I have left and picked Napoleon Bonaparte.

Before reading this I had of course heard of Napoleon Bonaparte but other than the battle of Waterloo and the rumours that he was apparently short I knew almost nothing about him. Black does discuss Napoleon’s childhood, family, marriages and children however the vast amount of this book is about the political and physical battles he waged. I am not a huge fan of battles but it was interesting to see just how many battles and wars he was involved in. Napoleon fought Austria, Russia, Britain, Spain, Italy, several regions which we now know as Germany, other French people and even the Vatican. He also made moves into the Middle East and North Africa in particular he was after the British territory of Egypt. No wonder Europe, particularly Britain, were so keen to stop him.

This brief history of Napoleon Bonaparte is broken down into chapters on his early life, his military career, his campaigns and invasions, his time as Emperor of France, and finally his exiles, abdication, death and legacy. Now this is called a very brief history and they aren’t lying if you are someone looking for an in-depth history of Napoleon you won’t find it here. While many battles are named here not much depth is gone into. However I thought it was a good introduction that could give you a good idea of what you might want to read more about. Personally I would like to read more about his private life.

I am glad I discovered Mark Black and his A Very Brief History series in 2013. Sadly since then I have neglected this series even though I have plenty more editions on my Kindle. I thought Napoleon Bonaparte was clear, concise and well-written. Each chapter was an easy bite-size length and the chapters flowed really well. Previous editions have not taken me long to read and neither did this one. It took me a couple of sittings to finish off as I dipped in and out of it between other books. A good read for when you don’t have a huge amount of time. I easily squeezed one or two chapters in before bed each night.

Napoleon Bonaparte is a simple introduction to this infamous man’s life, military career and political intrigues. I recommend to those interested in reading more about history. I really must get on with reading the other thirteen editions I have from this series. Okay read.

Have you read any non-fiction or fiction about Napoleon?

New Books: March 2015

New Books - March 2015 #1

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

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

I picked up these lovely copies of these classics in a recent trip to my favourite charity bookshop. I have read Little Women and A Study in Scarlet before, and I am looking forward to reading The Hound of the Baskervilles for The Classics Club.

New Books - March #2

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Bringing Narnia Home by Devin Brown

The Rise of Thomas Cromwell by Michael Everett

I received paranormal fiction The Book of Life, non-fiction Bringing Narnia Home and historical non-fiction The Rise of Thomas Cromwell for my Kindle from Netgalley. I am really looking forward to all three. Especially the latter as I have not long finished watching the BBC’s Wolf Hall series which has wetted my appetite to find out more about Thomas Cromwell.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J K Rowling

Then last but certainly not least I picked up this Harry Potter first edition with original cover art from another antique shop. I just couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted it. I now have a full set of the series with the original cover art, sadly not all first editions but they do look great on my bookshelf.

Have you read any of these? What new books are you excited about?