Goodbye July, Hello August 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Fortunately, July was a calmer month for me with the more relaxed wind down to the end of term and a quieter social life too. All of which left me with a bit more time for cooking, television and reading. Here’s what I managed to read:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 1

At the beginning of the month, during the run down to the end of term, I escaped into Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow by Colleen Oakes; which was an enjoyable and satisfying end to this refreshing re-imagining of Peter Pan. Next, I started The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, the first book in her popular Cousins’ War series, however it wasn’t till the start of the holidays that I was able to fully throw myself into this fascinating look at the life of Elizabeth Woodville. Once I could though, I was magically transported back in time.

I continued the magical theme, with The Lioness and the Spellspinners by Cheryl Mahoney, a witty and charming prequel in her wonderful Beyond the Tales series, that gently pokes fun at the traditional fairy tale tropes. Finally, with only a day to spare, I finished listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling, which was read by the hilarious Stephen Fry. My full thoughts on these last three books are still to be posted, so keep your eyes peeled for them in August. Also I am still making good progress with the 10 Books of Summer 2017 challenge, with three of these books being off my list; meaning only three more to go!

Alongside these fictions, I also finished reading naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. It was back in May, I actually started reading this, so not a quick read but I found I needed to take my time with this vivid, touching and candid recount of Chris’ childhood as an introverted, nature-loving boy in a world that didn’t understand him.

Pick of the Month: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

Altogether that is five books completed in July, that is one more than last month and I am thrilled to say the quality has remained just as high – so much so it was hard to choose just one for my ‘pick of the month’! During the month, I have also continued to read the classic North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and I started a re-read of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

In August, I look forward to my friend’s wedding; helping with my church’s kids club; a holiday to Rome and hopefully some lazy days of reading too!

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

Adaptations: July 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I have been watching during this month:

Kidnapped (1960)
Read     Film     Television

One weekend, I accidentally came upon this colourful Walt Disney screen adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure being shown on BBC 2. Whilst this hasn’t been as well thought of as Disney’s earlier adaptation of Treasure Island (1950), I thought it was a perfectly adequate, faithful and charming film – good for a lazy Saturday afternoon. Okay watch.

Grimm (Series 5)
Read     TV Series     Television

Finally, I got to catch up with series 5 of this crime drama with a dark, magical twist, whose characters and creatures are based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Another fun and twisting series that had danger and new enemies round every corner, but it has kept its great cast of core characters, who have brilliant chemistry. I look forward to catching up with series 6, which sadly I believe is the last! Good watch.

The Monuments Men (2014)
Not Read     Film     Television

Interestingly, this WWII film, loosely based on Robert M. Edsel’s and Bret Witter’s history book, follows not soldiers but instead a passionate band of art lovers – who bravely went to the frontline, risking their own lives, to rescue the hoards of art stolen by the Nazis. A fascinating film, with beautiful moments of humour and sadness, and a great ensemble cast. Great watch.

Mirror Mirror (2012)
Read     Film     Television

At the start of my summer holiday, I found this bright, colourful screen adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White being shown on Film4. This is a refreshing take on the classic tale, that sees Snow White (Lily Collins), with the help of seven dwarves, take on the wicked queen (Julia Roberts) and save the prince! A super fun and chilled holiday watch. Good watch.

Altogether that’s four new-to-me adaptations. However, I have also enjoyed comforting re-watches of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012); both being shown on ITV. Which takes my total up to a grand total of six adaptations watched this month. Plus I still have some great adapted works on the go, including: The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), Vikings (Series 4 – Part 1) and Game of Thrones (Series 7)!

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

New Read: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

I have to admit to having had a soft spot for naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, ever since watching the popular children’s wildlife series The Really Wild Show (1986-1995) as a child. More recently I have enjoyed seeing him present the BBC’s annual nature shows Springwatch and Autumnwatch. So as soon as I found out he had written a memoir, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, I had to read it! Plus how good is that title?!

In this memoir, we discover that young Chris was an introverted boy, who was only truly happy when out having feral adventures in fields, rivers, ponds and woods, or hidden in his bedroom; bursting with fox skulls, birds’ eggs and sweaty jam jars of live creatures. But when Chris stole a young kestrel from its nest, he embarked on a friendship that taught him what it meant to love, and which would have a profound affect on him. In this rich, emotional and exposing memoir, Chris brings vividly to life his childhood in suburban 1970s England, with his ever pervading search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn’t understand him.

From his TV persona, I would never have guessed the difficulties Chris has had to face in his life. Although no specific condition is mentioned in this memoir, as an adult, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which would account for the obsessive behaviour that others found so hard to understand. Chris candidly shares moments of hurt, pain, embarrassment and confusion he experienced due to this misunderstanding, balanced with the love, joy, surprise and pleasure he found in the natural world. This made for an emotional rollercoaster ride of a read for me, which I had to take my time over but it was well worth it.

Recently, I read a description that said this memoir will be unlike any you’ve ever read, with which I have to wholeheartedly agree! Chris cleverly subverts our expectations of the memoir genre by writing several events involving himself in the third person, for example through the eyes of his teacher and neighbours. Also, we flick around in time, with the Summer with his kestrel playing a central role, and each sub-book ends with a discussion looking back on his childhood with his therapist; shortly after he almost committed suicide. Not only did this make for a refreshing change in style, I think it also helped to convey Chris’ confusion and frustrations, as well as giving us a view of him from others’ perspective.

Overall, I thought Fingers in the Sparkle Jar was a beautifully wrought, powerful and candid recount of a difficult childhood for Chris Packham. A side to this successful, much loved naturalist and TV personality I never knew about before. 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? Are you a fan of Chris Packham?

New Books: June – July 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, over the past month, I have been rather unintentionally good and find I only have three new acquisitions to share with you:

Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver

Back in June, I was totally over the moon to finally get my hands on a copy of this – the second of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Super Food’ cookbooks – which was going for a bargain price in W H Smith. I have been looking out for affordable copies of these cookbooks since enjoying Oliver’s TV series of the same name.

Queens of Conquest by Alison Weir

Hannah’s Moon by John A. Heldt

Then only last week, I received a copy of Weir’s Queens of Conquest, a history of Medieval queens, via Netgalley and a copy of Heldt’s Hannah’s Moon, the final instalment in his American Journey series, from the author himself. Previously, I have enjoyed books by both of these authors, so I am keen to read more.

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

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow

After devouring Volume 1, last year, and Volume 2, earlier this year, I was very keen to get my hands on this: the third and final volume in Colleen Oakes’ young adult Wendy Darling series, inspired by J M Barrie’s Peter Pan. (If you are unfamiliar with this author or series you may instead want to check out my thoughts on the first book: Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars).

At the beginning of this series, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan to Neverland; a fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and freedom. However, Wendy soon discovered all was not as it seemed and she was forced to take shelter with the dreaded Captain Hook. Together they have hatched a dangerous plan to bring down the blood-crazed Peter for good, but it will involve Wendy returning to Pan Island and the clutches of Peter. The fate of her brothers, her beloved Booth and the whole of Neverland is in her hands.

It was wonderful to see this interesting re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy, and she was again joined by a host of colourful characters, including: the adorable Michael; the thoroughly dislikeable John; the big-hearted Smith (Smee!) and, my personal favourite, the infamous Captain Hook. While I haven’t always ‘liked’ Colleen Oakes’ re-imagined characters I do think they are realistic and much better fleshed out than in J M Barrie’s original tale. I also loved being able to delve deeper into the settings too, which Oakes’ brought vividly to life through her beautiful descriptions.

Sadly I did have a small issue with some of the language used in this final instalment – considering the main protagonists are meant to be from Edwardian London. There was the more harmless use of the Americanised ‘toy store’ instead of toy shop, but then there was the far more dubious use of ‘f*nny’ … Now, I believe in America this is slang for ‘ass’ or ‘bottom’. Here in the UK though, it means a much more intimate part of a lady! Fortunately, Oakes weaved such a wonderful tale of adventure, danger, magic and love with so many twists and turns, that the small slips in language didn’t majorly affect my overall enjoyment. Plus what an ending – I didn’t see that coming!

Overall, I thought Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow was another enjoyable fantasy adventure and a satisfying end to this interesting re-imagining of Peter Pan. Previously I have read and loved another of Colleen Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, and I really, really hope the final instalment of this comes out soon! Good 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? Or any other books inspired by Peter Pan?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 5/10

(Coincidentally, Wendy Darling, Volume 1 was also my 5th read for last year’s 10 Books of Summer!)

Cookbooks: June – July 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, with the exception of one wet week the temperatures have been soaring here in the UK, so it was the perfect time to try out these summery new recipes:

Veggie Bean Burgers
Hairy Dieters 2 – Family Favourites – Page 58

Even though I do eat meat, I do love a good bean burger, so for a recent home BBQ I gave this recipe a go. I found them a little messy but easy to make, and they were enjoyed by meat eaters and vegetarian a like. To be cooked in the oven I adapted for the BBQ. While they did stick, more the one use BBQs fault than recipe, they still turned out yummy which is of course the most important thing.


Tuna Salad with Red Onion and Beans
Hairy Dieters 2 – Snacks and Salads – Page 156

The Hairy Bikers’ take on the Italian classic tonno e fagioli: a filling salad made with tuna, beans, red onion, lettuce, parsley and olives with a tangy dressing. I made the full batch of this and portioned it out in tubs for work lunches when it was far too hot for soup! Not sure about the parsley but everything else worked for me.


Now this next recipe isn’t technically from a cookbook, however the Co-op Food magazines have some wonderful recipes in that are worth sharing:

Tuscan Bean Soup
Co-op Food – July Edition – Page 11

A light but filling soup that is packed full of the good stuff, including: onion, carrot, red pepper, tomatoes, beans, kale and broccoli. A delicious and simple to make, one pot of joy which was perfect for an easy comforting meal on one of our cooler weekends.


Finally you may be wondering where is the obligatory curry recipe? Well never fear I certainly didn’t go without curry, however I didn’t try a new recipe. Instead I chose to remake our new favourite Keralan curry. I have also already remade the delicious Beef Stroganoff.

Overall, I think I have had a great month of cooking and I look forward to more. I still have the Plant Based Cookbook by Trish Sebben-Krupka and Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver to read too.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

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

New Read: Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem

After enjoying several swashbuckling classics, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read another, Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari, by its translator Nico Lorenzutti. So I put it on my 10 Books of Summer 2017 list to make sure I got to it at last.

Sandokan, the feared “Tiger of Malaysia”, and his loyal band of rebel pirates are the scourge of the colonial powers of the Dutch and British empires in the South China sea. Mercilessly they roam the seas attacking ships and islands seeking vengeance, wealth and the destruction of their Western oppressors. Then return with their bounty to the safety of their fortified island of Mompracem, where they have lived happily and untouched for many years. But the fate and fortune of Sandokan and his “tigers” is to suddenly change when they learn of the lauded “Pearl of Labuan”.

While on the surface our protagonist Sandokan appears to just be a blood thirsty villain, as we read on we come to discover he is actually a prince, who was brought low to piracy after the British and their local allies murdered his family and stole his throne. Since then Sandokan has sailed the seas in righteous anger. With his faithful friend Yanez De Gomera, a Portuguese wanderer and adventurer, by his side. Yanez is a more charming and cool headed character, who is a more instantly likeable character. But the love and devotion Yanez and the “tigers” have for their leader helps to show a more likeable side to Sandokan.

However everything is to change when Sandokan hears of the extraordinary “Pearl of Labuan” and risks a trip with two of his ships to the island of Labuan in hopes of catching sight of her. Yes her, as the “Pearl” is not the type of treasure you may have first imagined, but instead she is a young Western woman; famed for her beauty, golden hair and her kindness to the natives of the island. Pretty much on first sight Sandokan falls in love with the “Pearl” and decides to move heaven and earth to obtain her. In the process selfishly risking the lives of all his men and their home of Mompracem, although if he didn’t we wouldn’t have an exciting story to read.

Apparently since Emilio Salgari wrote this adventure novel in 1900 it has been, for more than a century, Italy’s second most famous love story. As a modern reader though I couldn’t help thinking the love was all a bit quick and while we are assured it is a mutual feeling, we get to know little about how the lady thinks or feels. In fact she sadly proves to play a small, passive role in the adventure, except for crying and fainting quite a bit. This is a reflection of the time period is was written in though. Fortunately I didn’t pick this up for love. Instead I was looking for adventure and boy did Salgari give me that in spade loads. With battles at sea, deadly storms, jungle ambushes, clandestine meetings, disguises, sharks, faked deaths and impossible odds! And it is this that kept me wanting to read more.

Overall, I thought Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem was a rip-roaring adventure (and love story) that swept me back in time and across the seas to an exotic dangerous land. Good read.

Thank you to the translator for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of Sandokan’s other adventures?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 4/10