My Top 10 Books of 2018

As 2018 comes to an end, it is time to start reflecting back on another great year of reading. First up is my round-up of my favourite new-to-me books. After a long, hard think here are my top ten books (ordered alphabetically by author) I have read this year:

~ 1 ~

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew (1968)

This classic of Christian literature was an inspiring and thrilling tale of one man’s truly awesome faith and mission, which also made for a wonderful discussion point at my church’s book club meeting.

~ 2 ~

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1848)

A beautifully written classic from the third Brontë sister, with engaging characters, which cleverly explores the societal troubles, strifes and wrongs of its time.

~ 3 ~

Cauldstane by Linda Gillard (2014)

Another beautiful written tale, from one of my favourite authors, with all the things I love: mystery; romance; history; a big, old house and a touch of the paranormal.

~ 4 ~

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory (2010)

After The White Queen made my list last year, it was brilliant to discover that this was another well written and researched piece of historical fiction from Gregory, which gripped me from beginning to end this year!

~ 5 ~

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson (2018)

An excellent historical fiction, which is also a fast, gripping and twisting murder mystery, that shows a very different side to the raiding and pillaging Vikings.

~ 6 ~

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (1969)

A superb, time-travelling horror, from the gothic queen, du Maurier, that had me gripped from beginning to end. A precursor/inspiration perhaps for those newer dual narrative novels that I enjoy so much.

~ 7 ~

Queen of Hearts, Volume 3: War of the Cards by Colleen Oakes (2017)

After Volume 1 and 2 made the list back in 2014, it is great that this fitting and very satisfying ending to this clever and refreshing re-imagining of Wonderland made it this year. It was worth the wait!

~ 8 ~

Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver (2016)

A great collection of new and traditional recipes for all the family with a super food twist. So far I have made Jamie’s Sag Aloo Korma, Veggie Bolognese and Four Seasons Minestrone (Summer & Autumn).

~ 9 ~

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi (2014)

This award winning, international bestseller was an eye-opening look at Islam and an inspiring tale of finding true peace in the love of Jesus.

~ 10 ~

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir (2016)

The first book in Weir’s ambitious Six Tudor Queens series, is a powerful tale of a courageous woman, that completely immersed me into tumultuous Tudor England.

Honorary mentions must also go to fictions: Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier and Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir, and cookbooks: The Hairy Dieters (5) Go Veggie by Si King & Dave Myers and The Hairy Dieters (6) Make It Easy by Si King & Dave Myers. I also loved re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and audiobook Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling & read by Stephen Fry.

Have you read any of these? What were your favourite books in 2018?

Tomorrow, I will continue my reflection on 2018 with a round-up of my favourite new-to-me adaptations I have watched, and then, on New Year’s day, I will finish with some reading statistics.


New Books: November & December 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, after a little break for Christmas, I return with a well overdue update on the new books I have got my hands on, during November and December. There were a fair few new goodies for my Kindle and my shelf over the last two months, so sit back and get comfortable:

Lost Worlds: The Ultimate Anthology: 24 Classic Tales edited by Nico Lorenzutti (Masterworks of Adventure Book 2)

First, in November, I was thrilled to receive a review copy of this anthology of classic ‘Lost Worlds’ tales from the editor Nico Lorenzutti, who has previously sent me the rip-roaring adventures of Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem and Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia. This collection includes, amongst others: King Solomon’s Mines by Sir Henry Rider Haggard, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling. I think I might need to tweak my Classics Club list to include some of these.

The Golden Antilles by Tim Severin

Margaret Tudor by Melanie Clegg

Next, through Endeavour Press’ weekly e-newsletter, I got a free copy of new-to-me author, Tim Severin’s non-fiction about the exploits of the adventurers, who risked it all in attempts to establish themselves in the Caribbean sun. I also received, via Netgalley, a copy of a history of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret by another new-to-me author, Melanie Clegg.

A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Finally, in November, I snapped up bargain copies of these from Smile Amazon (UK). A Second Chance is the third book in Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s series, which I put on my wish list after really enjoying the first book, Just One Damned Thing After Another. While Dead Until Dark is the first book in Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series, a series I have long wanted to read.

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

Then, in December, whilst I was Christmas shopping, I spotted a copy of this, the 24th book in Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series, in one of my favourite charity bookshops.

Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

I was also thrilled to receive, via Netgalley, a copy of the fourth book in Weir’s epic, historical fiction series, Six Tudor Queens. I have already loved the Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn instalments.

Indian Paintbrush by John A. Heldt

Last but not least, I was contacted and happily accepted a review copy of Heldt’s new time-travel novel, which is the third book in his Carson Chronicles series. I have previously enjoyed several books from Heldt’s earlier American Journey series, so I look forward to trying more.

Do you fancy any of these? What new books have you got recently?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10… Books on My Winter TBR

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:

Winter 2018 TBR

There are many wonderful books awaiting me on my bookshelf and Kindle, however here are ten books, ordered alphabetically, I am most looking forward to reading this winter:

  1. Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley – Having loved all of her previous books, I am super excited about this, Kearsley newest dual-narrative novel.
  2. By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea – The eagerly anticipated conclusion to Skea’s brilliant, historical Munro Scottish trilogy.
  3. Emma by Jane Austen – I am looking forward to re-reading this delightful classic, my result for The Classics Club‘s 19th Spin event.
  4. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier – I love du Maurier and this would also be perfect for my What’s in a Name 2018 challenge.
  5. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – The next book I have, chronologically, from Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series.
  6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I look forward to completing my re-read of this thrilling YA trilogy.
  7. Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley – After enjoying the TV documentary it will be good to read the accompanying book.
  8. Lives of Notorious Cooks by Brendan Connell – This set of fictional biographies of famous chefs through the ages sounds fascinating.
  9. The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory – After loving The Red Queen, I look forward to continuing Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series.
  10. The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson – After loving First of the Tudors, I also look forward to continuing Hickson’s new historical series.

Have you read any of my choices? What books are on your winter TBR? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.

Cookbooks: November 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, as the days have turned cooler, I have found myself craving comforting, traditional food. So I gave these new recipes a go:

Creamy Mash
The Hairy Dieters (2) Eat For Life by Si King & Dave Myers
Along Sides – Page 180

As, like Si & Dave, I couldn’t possibly live without mashed potato, especially now the days are getting colder, it is great that they have come up with a couple of different ways to serve it without overdoing it on the calories. This one is simply potatoes boiled and then mashed with half-fat crème fraiche, instead of butter or milk. It was yummy and very creamy. Good recipe.

Mashy Peas
Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver
The Meals – Page 142

A delicious yet simple side dish made by cooking and then mashing potatoes, broccoli and regular, garden peas together, and then finished off with some seasoning and mint. I also stole from The Hairy Bikers above by replacing the butter here with half-fat crème fraiche. My only issue with this recipe was there was no timings, as I wasn’t cooking the whole recipe just picking out one of the sides. However I managed well enough. Good recipe.

Four Seasons Minestrone (Autumn)
Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver
Soups – Page 212

A recipe that makes use of beautiful seasonal vegetables and guarantees you will get your 5-a-day portions in just one serving of this! On top of the basic soup base, there were the autumnal additions of butternut squash and fresh and dried mushrooms. I enjoyed this autumnal take on this classic Italian soup even more than the summer! I look forward to trying the winter twist next. Great recipe.

Pork Chops, Crushed Potatoes and Minty Cabbage
Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver
The Meals – Page 242

With a couple of batches of pork chops in the freezer, I thought I would try this. Instead of going straight to the grill, Jamie had me fry the chops to crisp the fat and then pop them in the oven, with garlic, sage and honey, to finish. Served with crushed, mustard potatoes and minty savoy cabbage. Yum! Relatively simple to make and no timing issues this time, as I was following the whole recipe. Great recipe.

That’s four tasty, new recipes tried over the last month. During that time, I remade new favourites: Jamie Oliver’s Hungover Noodles (Save With Jamie), Trish Sebben-Krupka’s Curried Cauliflower Coconut Soup (Plant Based) and The Hairy Bikers’ Gammon with Parsley Sauce (Book 1), which made a nice change when we had my granddad round for Sunday lunch. I also finished reading The Hairy Dieters (6) Make It Easy by Si King & Dave Myers, so lots more new, healthy recipes to look forward to!

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

What cookbooks are you reading? Have you tried any new recipes?

New Read: A Gathering of Ghosts

Earlier this year, I read Karen Maitland’s The Plague Charmer. While it was still a bit darker than I usually prefer, I was impressed by the writing and enjoyed it more than, my only other Maitland read, The Raven’s Head. So I was pleased to have the chance to read her newest, dark historical fiction, A Gathering of Ghosts.

In this book, Maitland took me back to 1316 – a time of famine and unrest – to the isolated Priory of St Mary on the wilds of Dartmoor. Underneath which lies a sacred, ancient well, that people travel to, from far and wide, in search of healing. But now the Sisters of the Knights of St John find themselves and their home under threat. Not only from locals, who believe the well was theirs long before Christianity arrived, but also from the knights of their own order, who wish to control the well and its revenue for themselves. Then the well is hit by plagues of frogs, flies and blood soon after the arrival of young, blind boy. Is there witchcraft afoot? Or is the Old World fighting back at last?

Maitland shows the following trials and tribulations of the sisters, in the majority, through Prioress Johanne, the elected head of St Mary; Sister Fina, the young keeper of the well; Meggy, the lay gatekeeper and Knight Brother Nicholas, the agent sent to seek proof of corruption to bring the sisters down with. On the other hand, we have the gifted Morwen, the daughter of Kendra, the local cunning woman and former keeper of the well. As well as seeing the sad lot of the desperate, incoming tinners through Sorrell, a young disabled woman, who hears a voice calling her to the moors.

If that wasn’t enough, there is also a host of smaller part narrators and many other diverse characters for our narrators to interact with. I must admit it was hard keeping up and to make personal connections with so large a cast. However about half way through I think I had got a handle on the main characters and I did become fond of Prioress Johanne and Sorrell. And as with Maitland’s previous books, it is interesting to have a large range of people from the Medieval social spectrum. Although there is a distinct lack of people of wealth – emphasising this really is a tale of want on all sides.

Again I can’t fault Maitland for her eye for detail and her extensive research, which has gone into bringing this tale of suffering, superstition, fortitude and the supernatural vividly to life. On finishing the book, I was not surprised to discover in Maitland’s research notes that she took inspiration from real Medieval events, places, religious orders, superstitions, beliefs and weird natural phenomena. So while this was still darker and more depressing than I would prefer, I found myself absolutely gripped!

Overall, I thought A Gathering of Ghosts was another compelling, dark historical fiction, which I perhaps didn’t enjoy quite as much as The Plague Charmer, but did enjoy more than The Raven’s Head. I would definitely be up for reading more by this author – in particular, The Vanishing Witch, which I have heard very good things about. Good read.

Thank you to Headline Review for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or have you read anything else by Karen Maitland?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10…. Binge-Worthy TV Shows

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:

(Make up your own topic, or use a previous TTT topic you might have missed.)

A couple of weeks ago I was a little gutted to miss the Bingeworthy TV Shows/Amazing Movies topic, therefore it is perfect for me that a freebie option has come up so soon afterwards. This by no means an exhaustive list, but here are ten TV shows that I think are totally binge-worthy:

  1. Band of Brothers – Released back in 2001, this Emmy award-winning war drama, a Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks collaboration, is still my very favourite TV show ever! A dramatised history of ‘Easy’ Company, of the 101st Airborne Division, as they take part in the major action of WWII.
  2. Sherlock – An amazing, modern twist on the Sherlock Holmes works of Arthur Conan Doyle. From the brilliant minds of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and starring the equally brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson.
  3. Battlestar Galactica – I binge watched this critically acclaimed, 2003 reboot of the BSG franchise myself, after my dad recommended it. Now don’t tell me you don’t like science-fiction, because this is like the best, gritty drama which just happens to be set in space with killer robots!
  4. Game of Thrones – I imagine this epic, fantasy drama, based on the books by George R. R. Martin, featured on many people’s list for this topic. With its fantastic blend of medieval realism, magic, battles, political intrigue, amazing CGI and great characters, it has us all hooked!
  5. Being Human – This quirky, supernatural drama is one of the most popular shows in BBC iPlayer history. It follows three unlikely housemates: a vampire (Aidan Turner), a ghost (Lenora Crichlow) and a werewolf (Russell Tovey) as they try to live hidden amongst humans.
  6. Dr Who – While I have watched most of this British science-fiction franchise since it rebooted in 2005, it is specifically series 2-4 I am recommending. David Tennant’s charismatic tenth Doctor and his awe-inspiring, righteous fury, is something you must see.
  7. Boardwalk Empire – A gripping, period crime drama set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition era. Produced by Martin Scorsese and starring Steve Buscemi as Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson; a powerful and corrupt political leader based on the real-life Enoch L. Johnson.
  8. Downton Abbey – Julian Fellowe’s Emmy award-winning period drama, follows the ups and downs of the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, at the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, between 1912 and 1926.
  9. Lost – Okay I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, but I am not sure any ending could have done justice to this surreal master piece of suspense, mystery and drama. That follows the survivors of a plane that crashes on a mysterious tropical island, somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean.
  10. Merlin – Finally a more light-hearted watch would be this British fantasy-adventure. A fun re-imaging of the Arthurian legends, where a young wizard Merlin (Colin Morgan) becomes close friends with Prince Arthur (Bradley James). Worth watching just for the brilliant bromance!

Have you watched any of my choices? What binge-worthy TV shows would you recommend? Also, please share your link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.