New Read: Jo’s Boys

After quite a heavy first year (2018) into my new Classics Club list, I decided to go easier on myself by reading some more of the children’s classics I have on my list. Earlier this year, I read the lovely Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, so it only followed that next I should read the 1886 sequel Jo’s Boys.

Beginning ten years after Little Men, Jo’s Boys revisits Plumfield, where Jo’s and her husband’s small, unconventional school has expanded, due to its success, out of their home into a purpose built college on the grounds. Sadly this does mean we lose the beautiful intimacy I loved so much and subsequently, we don’t get to know the new children half so well as the first cohort. However Jo’s original boys (and girls) are not gone and forgotten, as they keep coming ‘home’ on the holidays, special occasions and for surprise visits to let her know what they have been up to.

Through these wonderful reunions we are able to learn that Mr Bhaer’s strapping nephews, Franz is to be married and Emil is now a dashing sailor full of daring tales; the promising musician Nat is sponsored by Mr Laurence to travel to Europe; the wild Nan has grown into quite the lady and is studying to become a doctor, and has the troublesome Tommy as her adoring shadow; Jo’s sweet-natured nephew Demi is a budding journalist; and the rebellious Dan has been seeking adventure, riches and danger out West.

I really enjoyed these follow-up stories: seeing the boys (and girl) flown from the coup – trying to find their places in the world, making mistakes and learning valuable, often hard-won lessons. For such short reads, it is surprising how invested Alcott can make you! And as this is the last book, by the end, each of the ‘favourites’ is given a suitable ending: some happy, some satisfying, some with more promise to come and one a sad and regretful ending. The latter in particular did tug at my heartstrings, even though it was in character and fitting for him.

Finally, for you Jo March fans, there is progression, although not necessarily conclusion for her character too. She is happy in her marriage and her own two, very different boys, Rob and Teddy are growing fast. Reminiscent of Jo and her sister Amy, there is frightening incident between the two brothers, that ends up bringing them closer. Jo is also having huge success writing her adventure stories for children. However – reflective of Alcott’s own life – as well as the pleasure and income this brings, there is the pressure to write more, the weight of fame and the farcical moments of dodging trophy-seeking-fans who come to call!

So overall I thought Jo’s Boys was the nice, easy read I was looking for, and a sweet and fitting end to the series. Much like Little Men though, its only real downfall is that, well, it’s just not Little Women I’m afraid! Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read Little Women or Little Men?

This is also book 10/50 for my Classics Club II and 1/10 for my 10 Books of Summer 2019 reading challenges.

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Adaptations: July 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, I’m sorry this comes rather late to you, but July was a very month for me with work and my holidays. So belatedly here is what I managed to watch, when I was home, last month:

Gentleman Jack (2019)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

Once the school holidays started, I indulged in a binge watch of this new, historical drama, based on the collected diaries of Anne Lister, on the BBC iPlayer. Set in 1832, the series follows the unusual lady landowner and industrialist, Anne Lister, as she tries to restore her late uncle’s estate, finds herself falling for her pretty neighbour, Miss Walker and fights prejudice from all quarters for it. A quirky, fun and refreshing show and the brilliant Suranne Jones absolutely shines as Anne. Great watch.


Altogether that’s one new-to-me adaptation watched. I also enjoyed re-watching Jurassic Park (1993) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011), which brings my grand total up to three adaptations watched over the month. As well as those I still have the American fantasy drama Once Upon a Time (Series 1) to complete; I’ve continued watching the newest series of the dark, dystopian drama, The Handmaid’s Tale (Series 3); and I’ve started watching the final series of BBC’s sweeping historical drama, Poldark (Series 5).

As for non-adaptations, I watched Russel T. Davies’ bonkers, futuristic drama, Years and Years (2019), which imagines some pretty-scary political and technological advances for the UK in the near-future. I also whizzed through the fascinating second series of Professor Alice Robert’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns (Series 2), where we visited, amongst others, Georgian Bristol, Civil War Oxford and Plantagenet Canterbury.

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

Holiday to Amalfi & Sorrento 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, you may have noticed it has been very quiet around here. Well that is due to the crazy wind-down to the school year, after which I almost immediately jetted off for a holiday in one of my dream destinations in Italy. I had an absolutely amazing time, so I thought I would share with you some of my photos and what I got up to.

Day 1: After a late arrival the night before, I awoke in my hotel in the pretty, coastal town of Vico Equense on the Sorrento Peninsula. After a short guided tour of the town with my group, I returned to the hotel for a day of soaking up the sun around their lovely pool.

Day 2: We got up early and boarded our coach for a drive down the stunning Amalfi Coast – stopping off at Positano, Amalfi and Vietri. On our longest stop off at Amalfi, I visited the awe-inspiring St Andrew’s Cathedral, got very messy eating chocolate gelato and took a cooling paddle in the sea.

Day 3: In the morning a thunderstorm rolled over, which I watched move over the bay towards Naples and Mount Vesuvius from the relative safety of our hotel’s leafy-covered terrace. In the afternoon the sun returned and I was able to enjoy time in and around the pool again.

Day 4: Another early start, this time to catch the train to the famous remains of ancient Pompeii. We spent a couple of hours touring the core area around the Roman Forum with our whole group, led by our wonderful speaker, Josh. Then in a smaller group I went off to see the amphitheatre, training ground, brothel and Villa Dei Misteri.

 
Day 5: We got up early and boarded our coach for a drive around the Bay of Naples – stopping off first at Mount Vesuvius. The coach taking us up to about 1,000ft and then we climbed the last, almost 300ft to the crater. After that we moved on to Naples for a guided tour of the opulent Royal Palace of Naples.

Day 6: As we were a large group we were able to charter our own boat to take us out and around the stunning island of Capri, and we anchored in a quiet bay so we could swim off the back off the boat. Once on the island, I hiked up for my lunch and breath-taking views from the Augustus Gardens.

Day 7: After a leisurely morning, we caught the train to the smaller remains of ancient Herculaneum, where we were able to see two-storey homes and get up close to excellently-preserved frescoes, mosaics and household shrines. After which we were back in time for some more pool time!

Day 8: It was sadly time to pack our bags and check out of our hotel, which had come to feel like home. There was time for a little shopping and then some final socialising on the terrace, before we boarded our coach and made the journey back around the bay to Naples airport. Finally we caught an early evening flight back home.

Have you been to Naples, Sorrento or the Amalfi Coast? Where have/are you travelling this summer?

Goodbye July, Hello August 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? I must apologise that you haven’t heard much from me recently – this is due to the crazy busyness on the wind down to the end of term at school and then I jetted off for an amazing eight days on the Amalfi Coast (will do a dedicated post about this soon), so I certainly can’t complain really! Here’s what I have been reading:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 1

I began July by finishing off my read of the Norse mythological fantasy, Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris, which I carried over from June and was my second choice from my 10 Books of Summer 2019 reading list. Then to continue my summer reading, I picked up the wonderful historical fiction, The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory, the third book from Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series. Finally, I read the charming, children’s classic, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which was a gentle read – to dip in and out of when times got busy – from my Classics Club list.

Alongside these fictions, I also read the candid memoir Undivided by Christian worship leader, Vicky Beeching about her struggles with her faith and sexuality, which was the July choice for my church’s book club. Unfortunately our planned meeting had to be cancelled – Hopefully we will be able to re-arrange this for after the summer.

Pick of the Month: The Lady of the Rivers

Altogether that is four books read – a good amount considering how busy I have been. Also in July, I made very good progress into the epic fantasy, The Dragon’s Blade: The Last Guardian by Michael R. Miller, and I started reading Christian non-fiction, Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and children’s classic, The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank L Baum.

In August, I am immediately off to spend a long weekend with my mum on the South Coast, so it may remain quiet around here for a little longer, sorry! Then once I am back I have an art installation at my local cathedral to go to and my friend’s hen do to look forward to. I also hope I will have time to catch up with your posts and more reading, especially as I am not doing all that well with my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge!

What did you do and read in July? What are your plans for August?

New Read: D-Day (A Very Brief History)

For the last two years, I had a bit of an US politics theme going on in my reading through Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series. However, in March last year, I read my last US instalment which was about Ronald Reagan. I really enjoyed reading the instalments with a common theme. So, this year, I decided to jump back into the series with a World War II theme in mind, starting with the D-Day instalment I had.

Before reading this, I already knew a fair bit about the D-Day landings of the Allied forces on the French Normandy coast, which was decisive in the liberation of France and in ending the war. In fact I didn’t really learn anything new from this book. However I did appreciate reading about a subject, I have learnt about in bits and pieces from various TV documentaries, in one short, concise format. Which helped me to better understand the basic facts and the sheer number of people, boats, weapons and logistics involved.

This clear, fast paced and concise history is broken down into bite-size chapters on: the background to D-Day; the planning of the invasion; the deception plans employed; the use of double agents, the Fortitude Operations (designed to throw the Nazis off where the real landings would be); the build-up to the assault, how D-Day went and the aftermath of it. This style made this a very easy read and would be even more helpful for a reader, who knew little to nothing to learn quickly the main events and essential facts; but if, like me, you have read or know a fair bit about World Ward II and D-Day then I doubt you will learn anything new from this.

Overall, even though I didn’t learn anything new, I thought D-Day: A Very Brief History was another quick and interesting read on a lazy Sunday morning. I will continue with my World War II theme with either the instalment on The Berlin War or Stalin, which are subjects I know less about so could potentially be even better for me. Okay read.

Have you read this? Have you read any other books about WWII and the D-Day landings? 

New Read: The Time Machine

Back in April, I took part in The Classics Club’s 20th Spin event, which chose the classic, science fiction novella, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I was really pleased with my result, because I have long wanted to read this but just didn’t seem to be getting round to it – in fact, it is left over from my first list – so this finally gave me the push I needed. However I wasn’t able to make the  31st May deadline though, as I had Howards End by E. M. Forster to finish first.

Published in 1895, the story that launched H.G. Wells’ as the father of science fiction, begins with a group of free-thinking, Victorian men in-the-midst of a luxurious after-dinner discussion by the fire side. In which their host, who comes to be known as the Time Traveller, raises the argument of time travel and a machine he has been working on. A week later a similar group meet for dinner, but their host, the Time Traveller, is conspicuous by his absence – he was seen entering his laboratory by his servants – then when he reappears he his dishevelled, half-starved and with bare, bloodied feet.

The reader and the guests are kept on tender-hooks as the Time Traveller takes some time to recover, and much speculation circulates the group as they impatiently wait for their host to return and explain. When he does he announces, “I’ve had a most amazing time….” and so begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing account of his journey 800,000 years into the future. Where he discovers two bizarre races: first the ethereal, childlike Eloi and then the creeping, subterranean Morlocks.

I just loved the atmosphere that Wells was able to create with the well-used technique of friends gathering around a fire and to hear a story told – reminiscent of many classic horror stories – which created a clever juxtaposition; as this is not your usual scary story, with its ghosts, ghouls and monsters. Instead this is an new breed of unsettling story, that travels not back but forward in time, to gives us an alarming vision of the future. Where the Earth is slowly dying, our civilisation has long gone, and the symbiotic relationship between Eloi and Morlock taps into some of our worst fears.

My only niggle would be the Time Traveller himself – Instead of the brave explorer I was sort of expecting, I got a pretty foolhardy adventurer. He lolloped about the landscape, like some giant, English dandy on holiday, with little concern for his safety or for the safety of the Eloi; who so innocently and unquestionably befriended him. In hindsight though, was this perhaps an intentional portrayal and damning commentary from Wells on the Western explorers of his time, as they explored deeper into Africa and South America with little concern for the indigenous people?

Niggle aside though, I thought The Time Machine was a truly imaginative and ahead of its time tale of the future, and with the Time Traveller’s gung-ho attitude, the adventure skipped along at a quick, exciting pace too. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read anything else by Wells?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10… Auto-Buy Authors

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:

Auto-Buy Authors

We all have our favourite authors, who we eagerly lap up every new release of or diligently hunt down their whole back-catalogue of books. With a slight twist, here are ten of the authors (listed alphabetically) that I either auto-buy or auto-request on NetGalley:

  1. M. C. Beaton – Being a fan of Beaton’s long-standing, cosy-crime series, Agatha Raisin, I am always on the look out for later books, so I continue reading the series in order.
  2. Linda Gillard – As one of my favourite authors, I want to read all of Gillard’s novels: new and old! Most recently, I read Cauldstane and I have The Trysting Tree lined-up to hopefully read soon.
  3. Joanne M. Harris – After loving The Gospel of Loki, Harris has become one of my auto-request authors. I just read more about Loki in Runemarks. and I have The Testament of Loki lined-up to read too.
  4. Susanna Kearsley – As one of my favourite authors, I want to read all of Kearsley novels: new and old! Recently, I read her newest novel, Bellewether and I have her older novel, The Firebird lined-up to read next.
  5. Laurie R. King – Being a fan of King’s nostalgic Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series, I am always on the look out for later books, so I continue reading the series in order.
  6. Karen Maitland – Since being bewitched by Maitland’s writing in The Raven’s Head, I have requested more and added to my Amazon wish-list. Recently I read A Gathering of Ghosts.
  7. Daphne du Maurier – As one of my favourite authors, I want to read all of du Maurier’s novels! Last year, I read The House on the Strand and Frenchmen’s Creek. Now I have The Loving Spirit lined-up to read next.
  8. Anne O’Brien – As one of my go-to authors for my historical fix, I eagerly request every one of O’Brien’s new novels. Last I read was The Shadow Queen and I have three of her books on my Kindle to look forward too.
  9. Terry Pratchett – Being a big fan of Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series, I am always on the look out for books either my dad or I don’t already have to complete our collection and keep us reading!
  10. Alison Weir – As another of my go-to authors for my historical fix, I eagerly buy/request every one of Weir’s new books, especially those in her brilliant Six Tudor Queens series.

Have you read any of my choices? What authors do you auto-buy? Also, please share your link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.