Goodbye February, Hello March 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? My oh my, we have had a very cold February here in the UK. As much as I love a cosy night in as the weather rages outside, I am now rather tired of it and could really do with a little warmth and sunshine! This month, from within my blankets, I have read:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 3

At the beginning of the month, I finished historical crime fiction A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King, the second nostalgic and thrilling Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery for me. After that I threw myself into the epic, fantasy adventure The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller, which turns out is the first book in a planned trilogy. My full thoughts on this are still to be posted, so keep your eyes peeled for that in March.

Alongside these fictions, I also read three more non-fictions. First, I finished reading the brand new cookbook The Hairy Dieters (5) Go Veggie by Si King & Dave Myers, which is a great collection of vegetarian recipes. Next, for my church’s book club, I read the candid The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel, a compelling collection of inspiring stories of transformation. Finally, right at the end of the month, I squeezed in another interesting history, Seven Kings of England, by one of my favourite new authors of last year: Geoffrey Trease. Again my full thoughts on this are still to be posted, so also look out for that in March.

Pick of the Month: The Hairy Dieters (5) Go Veggie

Altogether that is five books finished – two fictions and three non-fictions which is identical to last month! Carrying on into March, I have historical fiction Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir, the American classic This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ronald Reagan: A Very Brief History by Mark Black.

In March, I look forward to celebrating my dad’s birthday and Mother’s Day, as well as more quality reading time and a bit warmer weather please!

What did you do and read in February? What are your plans for March?


Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10…Books I Could Re-Read Forever

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:

Books I Could Re-read Forever

One of my goals each year is to make more time for re-reading old favourites. So here are ten books I have enjoyed re-reading in the past and I look forward to re-reading some more:

  1. The Bible – As a practicing Christian this is a book I hope I will turn to again and again, for inspiration, strength, guidance and comfort for the rest of my life.
  2. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien – This fantasy children’s classic has been my favourite book since childhood. I have read it many times and I can’t see myself ever tiring of this comforting, magical adventure.
  3. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien – Like Christopher Lee, I think this epic fantasy classic should come out every few years to be re-discovered. Each time I read it I get something more from it!
  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – So far I have only read this beautifully written, gothic classic twice, but I see another read on the horizon, especially as this year it is the 200th anniversary of its release.
  5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis – Another fantasy children’s classic that I have fond, comforting memories of. Every few years, I hope to re-read the whole wonderful Chronicles of Narnia series.
  6. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – Through my new Classics Club list, I am planning to re-read all of Austen’s classic, inspiring tales of Regency women, but I think this is still my favourite of them all.
  7. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett – I can’t see me ever tiring of this wonderfully theatrical, madcap and hilarious take on Macbeth, from Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld series.
  8. The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis – A book I think it is important to keep re-reading: 1) because it is a great read and 2) because it is a reminder of how easily humans can be led astray.
  9. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman – Last year, I enjoyed my first comforting re-read of this fantasy adventure with the spirited Lyra Belacqua and I look forward to more!
  10. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling – Also, last year, I enjoyed a comforting re-read of this magical book (via audiobook). Its wonderful characters will have me returning again and again. They are like old friends.

Have you read any of my choices? What books could you re-read forever? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.

Cookbooks: January – February 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, January and February have continued to be very cold months, which has called for more warming, comfort food. So I gave these new recipes a go:

Super Leek & Potato Soup
Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver
Soups – Page 214

This recipe takes the humble, classic leek and potato soup to the next level with the addition of curly kale. Together the leeks and kale gives us vitamin B3 that helps to keep us awake and alert. Super easy to make, super tasty and super good for us, so win, win! I will definitely be making this again. Great recipe.

Wild Mushroom Soup
The Hairy Dieters (4) Fast Food by Si King & Dave Myers
Soups and Starters – Page 40

A rich, aromatic soup made with a mixture of dried and fresh mushrooms. I found this recipe easy enough to make as a weekday meal for us, however it also feels luxurious enough to serve to dinner guests and they will never realise it is low-calorie! Also you can make it more everyday affordable by using portobello, chestnut or button mushrooms instead of wild. Good recipe.

Cajun Spiced Chicken with Potato Wedges
The Hairy Dieters 1 by Si King & Dave Myers
Grills & Roasts – Page 72-73

Inspired by the spicy Cajun flavours from their trip down the Mississippi, King and Myers’ created this surprisingly low-fat recipe. I decided to try it as a healthier alternative to our usual ready-made southern fried chicken and chips favourite. Final dish was delicious but I found the cooking times a bit tricky, with a little practice this could be a great replacement. Good recipe.

That is another three new recipes tried over the last month and half. Over that time, I re-made The Hairy Dieter’s comforting Chilli Con Carne and their fab fakeway Chicken Chow Mein too. I also got on a cookbook reading roll: finishing the brilliant Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver in January and the brand-new The Hairy Dieters (5) Go Veggie by Si King & Dave Myers in February; 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: The Case for Grace

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. Last month we read the international bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. Next up was The Case for Grace by New York Times bestselling author Lee Strobel.

As an award-winning journalist, Lee Strobel is well known for his ‘The Case for…’ books, where he has explored the evidence for the Creator, Christ, Faith and The Real Jesus. In this book, Strobel investigates the very heart of God and His transforming work in the lives of men and women today through the power of grace. Grace – the favour shown by God to sinners – is perhaps God’s most amazing gift to man. A gift which we can neither earn or lose, but which is instead always there for us, no matter how low we may sink.

With true candour, Strobel shares his own journey from Atheism to Christianity, as an example of God’s redeeming love for spiritually wayward people. Also he travels around the world to capture the inspiring stories of other people, whose lives have radically changed and who have come to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of God’s amazing grace. I was particularly interested to encounter the stories of an addict, a prodigal son, an adulterer and even a murderer. As well as stories about people riddled with guilt and people rendered bitter, who have learnt to forgive themselves and others.

Through these stories I was encouraged to think about how God’s grace could further transform my own life and relationships. However I didn’t get a firm definition of what grace is. What Strobel does do is discuss different views on grace and how it is unique to Christianity. Interestingly the cat school of bhakti Hinduism and the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism come close, but the Christian teachings on grace are unparalleled in world religions. I would have liked more discussion like this, however Strobel didn’t want this to be a textbook on grace. Instead he wanted to illustrate God’s power to change our lives, for which I think he was successful.

Overall, I thought The Case for Grace was a compelling collection of inspiring stories of grace and transformation – I look forward to discussing it at my book group’s meeting next week. Our next read is But is it Real?: Answering 10 Common Objections to the Christian Faith by Amy Orr-Ewing. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read any of Lee Strobel’s other books?

New Books: February 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms. After a bit of a large book binge over Christmas and January, I have had a far more moderate February. Only acquiring these four new goodies for my bookshelf:

The Moor by Laurie R. King

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

First, I picked up these two books at The Works, as part of the 3 of £10 deal, from series I am collecting. The Moor is the fourth Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, which is great timing as I have just read finished reading the second book: A Monstrous Regiment of Women. And The Hanging Tree is the sixth book from the Rivers of London series, but I have yet to start these. (Plus to complete the deal I got my dad The Obelisk Gate, the second book from the Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin).

The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier

Across the Wall by Garth Nix

Then during a rummage in my favourite charity book shop, I was pleased to spot these two books by two authors I already love. After loving My Cousin Rachel last year, I am as keen as ever to read more by du Maurier and The Loving Spirit is perhaps one of her less well known works. While a few years ago I started reading Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, which I am looking forward to finishing – hopefully this year! And it would be great to then continue on to Across the Wall: a short story collection set in the same world.

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

New Read: A Monstrous Regiment of Women

After enjoying The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, by Laurie R. King, I started collecting more books from the series. Unfortunately I had to wait till the end of last year to find a copy of the second book in the series: A Monstrous Regiment of Women, but as you can see I didn’t wait long to read it!

It is 1920 and Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant, young apprentice Mary Russell is now a grown woman, an Oxford graduate and on the cusp of gaining her longed for independence along with her large family inheritance. With this new found freedom and her passion for divinity, Mary finds herself drawn to the New Temple in God and its charismatic leader Margery Childe, a self-proclaimed suffragette and mystic. However when a prominent bluestocking from Childe’s most inner-circle at the Temple is found dead, it seems Mary has stumbled upon another baffling and dangerous mystery to solve.

When we first met Mary Russell, that sunny day in 1915, she was a lonely 15-year-old orphan. Now Mary has bloomed, under Holmes’ tutelage, into a strong, brave, intelligent woman, who on reaching her majority is able to rid herself of her unpleasant aunt and so step out into the world on her own for the first time. While in the first book I found the age gap between Mary and Holmes a little creepy, now Mary is all grown up it is even easier to see how well they suit each other and this book sees the burgeoning of a deeper affection between them.

This new mystery also sees Mary stepping up and taking the lead, with Holmes taking a back seat; but you know he always has her back. As Mary delves deeper, it is revealed that three more women have mysteriously died and what makes it even more suspicious is how each victim had just changed their wills to benefit the Temple. Putting herself in extreme danger, Mary decides to use her own new wealth as bait to whoever it is committing these terrible crimes. What ensures is another thrilling mystery full of secrets, danger and disguises, with the added glitz, glam, drugs and freedom that came in the age between the wars.

And then of course you have Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes isn’t the main protagonist of this book, I do think King has continued to draw 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 and true to Doyle’s original. I think I will always prefer Doyle’s classic stories, however I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Holmes, even if in a smaller role, in another mystery through this book and I look forward to more.

In conclusion, I thought A Monstrous Regiment of Women was another nostalgic and thrilling mystery. I look forward to reading more from this series – I already have the next book, A Letter of Mary. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10…Recent Reads with Love & Romance in

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:

Love Freebie
(Romances, swoons, OTPs, kisses, sexy scenes, etc.)

This isn’t the greatest topic for me, as I am not a huge fan of romance as a genre in its own right. However there are a fair few books with elements of love and romance in I have enjoyed, so here are ten of my recent favourites from the last year:

  1. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – In this atmospheric modern classic, I discovered a twisting tale of love, loss, jealousy and suspicion, all stemming from the beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel.
  2. First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson – An historical fiction that focuses on the life of the often side-lined Jasper Tudor; an enthralling tale of civil war, love, family and loyalty.
  3. Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley – From one of my favourite authors, comes another wonderfully immersive, gripping mystery with touches of romance and the supernatural; all set in the beautiful villa Il Piacere, in Italy.
  4. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory – The first book in Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series, follows the life of the extraordinarily beautiful and ambitious Elizabeth Woodville; a wonderful tale of civil war, love, mystery and magic.
  5. Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M C Beaton – The fifth book in this long-running, cosy-crime series, sees Agatha’s romance with James halted by the appearance and death of her husband!
  6. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – I thought this classic novel was a touching and important look into Victorian life, love and society, and the huge upheaval that arose from industrialisation
  7. The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien – The latest offering from one of my favourite historical authors, swept me back to 1340 to meet the beautiful, headstrong Joan of Kent; who had a rather thrilling and racy life with three salacious marriages!
  8. Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – The first book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s had more detailed sexy scenes than I prefer, but it was such as a fantastical, time-travelling romp I didn’t mind!
  9. The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon – There was more romance in this historical fiction than I anticipated,  but I was enjoying the mystery and characters so much I was happy to go with it.
  10. Indiana Belle by John A Heldt – The third book in the American Journeys series took me back to the 1920s, one of my favourite decades,  for a nostalgic mystery, with nice touches of time travel and romance.

Have you read any of my choices? What recent romance reads would you recommend? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.