New Read: John F Kennedy

Earlier this year, I finally got back into Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series, when I read Richard Nixon for the What’s in a Name 2017 challenge. So I thought I would keep the US president theme going by picking up the John F Kennedy instalment next.

Before reading this, I knew J F Kennedy as the young, handsome president with his glamorous wife, who brought a wave of hope and change with them. Sadly he is also remembered for the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’, the subsequent and disastrous ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion, and his tragic assassination on the 22nd November 1963 (I always find it poignant that on the same day, C S Lewis passed away quietly at home in Oxford). With this in mind, this brief history is probably the one I have learnt the least from. However there were details about how Kennedy organised his new administration, his military service and the ill-health that plagued his younger life, which were all new and interesting to me.

In hindsight, I think I am very lucky to have managed to collect so many of these short histories, as I doubt I would have ever read about Kennedy or any other US president for that matter otherwise. Which would be a shame because it is a place and history I know very little about. This was another clear and concise history (although I spotted a few grammatical/editing mistakes in this one) that is broken down into bite-size chapters on: his early life, military service, political career, winning the presidency, his domestic and foreign policy, and finally his assassination and it’s aftermath. I warn you now though if you already know something of Kennedy or American history I doubt you will learn anything from this. I recommend to those, like me, who know little to nothing.

Overall, John F Kennedy: A Very Brief History was another quick and mostly interesting read. I have nine more editions from this series still to go – it seems appropriate to read The Cuban Missile Crisis instalment next. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or anything else about J F Kennedy?

Tough Travels: Beginnings

Blog - Tough TravelsMy fellow bookworms and fantasy lovers, I am so pleased to announce that the Tough Travels meme is back! For those of you that haven’t heard of it before, it was a weekly meme featured over on the Fantasy Review Barn, that was inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. Now it is returning as a monthly meme over at Fantasy Faction, but otherwise it will follow the same format of spotlighting a different trope and invite other bloggers to compile their own list of examples.

Without further ado, our first topic is: BEGINNINGS.

I missed this topic first time round, so it is great to have another chance to share with you now some of my favourite beginnings:

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort.’

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling

‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.’

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The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

‘When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.’

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Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

‘The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills.
The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: “When shall we three meet again?”
There was a pause.
Finally another voice said, in far more ordinary tones: “Well, I can do next Tuesday.”‘

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Do you like these? What are your favourite beginnings of fantasy novels? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

Awards: One Lovely Blog Award

Hello my fellow bookworms, I am so pleased to share that I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Shameeka’s Fictional World; thank you Shameeka! The rules to take part are simple:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to them.
  • Share 7-15 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 9-15 bloggers you admire and contact them.

10 Facts About Me:

  1. If you read this blog regularly you will know I love to read, but you may not know that this is actually my eighth year blogging here about books.
  2. My favourite genres to read are: fantasy, historical fiction and mystery.
  3. Some of my favourite authors are: JRR Tolkien, Jane Austen, CS Lewis, Daphne du Maurier, Terry Pratchett, Susanna Kearsley and Charles Dickens.
  4. My favourite place to read is snuggled up in a blanket with a mug of tea (preferably peppermint or camomile); even better if my cat Bonnie comes to snuggle with me.
  5. As well as reading, I love to watch adaptations of said books which I discuss in monthly posts.
  6. I also have a new-found love of cooking and cookbooks, so I have also started doing monthly posts for that too.
  7. I particularly enjoy cooking and eating large, comforting one-pot dishes like stews, soups, casseroles and curry…especially curry!
  8. Outside of blogging, I work one-to-one with children that have special educational needs in a primary school.
  9. My other hobbies are: watching television and films; going to the cinema and theatre; and dancing: I have been a member of a local belly dance group for about 7 years.
  10. Finally, but certainly not least, I am a practicing Christian and an active member of my local church. I recently led my first Holy Communion service! However you will usually find me with my hand up a puppet in the kid’s club.

My Nominations:

I have decided not to contact each nomination personally, because I have done this award several times over the years, as I am sure others have too, so I don’t want anyone to feel pressured to join in again. If you do join in, great! If you don’t that’s fine too – I just wanted to say a big thank you for all your wonderful writing and I want others to know about you too.

Re-Read: Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener

During the miserable weather in March, I decided to indulge in a comforting re-read of Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M C Beaton; the third book in Beaton’s long-running, cosy-crime series. (If you are unfamiliar with this author and series you may instead want to check out my thoughts on the first book: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death).

Our smart dressing, retired-PR executive Agatha Raisin returns from holiday to discover to her horror, that she has a new rival for the affections of her handsome neighbour, James Lacey: Mary Fortune. Mary is an attractive and glamorous divorcee, who has the whole village of Carsely in a spin over her pristine garden, delicious baking and charming conversation – how can the stocky, sharp Agatha ever compete? Then Mary is discovered murdered and macabrely planted head first in her own plant pot! Which sets Agatha off on another meddlesome, amateur investigation, where she reveals Mary was not as perfect or as well loved as she seemed.

To be fair Agatha isn’t an instantly likeable character either, although she is very amusing! As the former boss of a highly successfully PR company, Agatha became sharp, bossy, cajoling and completely work focused. Once she took early retirement and settled in the quiet, picturesque village of Carsely her softer side has started to emerge, as she experiences the kindness and friendship of the vicar’s lovely wife Mrs Bloxby and the funny Detective Constable Wong. In fact it is revealed in this horticultural mystery just how popular Agatha has now become with all the villagers, but Agatha (bless her) is still oblivious!

In this re-read, it was again an absolute pleasure to return to the charming village of Carsely; spend time with it’s eclectic mix of inhabitants and follow Agatha for another eccentric, bumbling investigation. I love a good murder mystery however I don’t always want all that gore and gritty realism, which is when a cosy-crime like this is perfect. As I said before, I picked this up during a particularly wet and miserable spell of weather, and it was so comforting to tuck myself in bed with this and a mug of relaxing chamomile tea.

Overall, Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener was another quick, fun and comforting re-read. I hope to get round to a re-read of Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley soon. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read any cosy-crime recently?

New Books: March 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, during March these are the goodies I added to my Kindle and bookshelf:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

First, I popped over to Amazon to order a copy of Celebration of Discipline for my church’s book club. Whilst there I spotted that The Firebird, off my wish list, was being offered for a good price, and together I could have free postage and packaging…so obviously I had to order both!

The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien

The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon

Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Then over the month, I was very lucky to receive these three historical fictions via Netgalley. I have previously enjoyed novels by Anne O’Brien, while Catherine Curzon and Conn Iggulden are new-to-me authors; although I have heard a lot of good stuff about Iggulden.

Freefall by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

Finally, during a mooch around my favourite charity book shops, I snapped up a copy of this; which is book three in Gordon and Williams’ bestselling Tunnels series. I have previously really enjoyed reading the majority of this series, but I borrowed the books so I am now trying to build my own collection. Annoyingly, though I haven’t found book two yet.

Do you fancy any of these? What new books did you get in March?

Goodbye March, Hello April 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? March is another month which seems to have just flown by for me! We celebrated my dad’s birthday early on and later there was Mothers’ Day. I also watched some great adaptations and I managed another trip to the theatre; this time to see a production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Now here are the books I’ve been reading:

Fiction: 3          Non-Fiction: 1

First, I read Faith and Moonlight: Part 2 by Mark Gelineau & Joe King, which continues the young adult thread of their Echo of the Ascended fantasy series. Now, I have run out of their novellas so Mr Gelineau & Mr King please get writing! Next, I read the charming novella My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell – a bittersweet read as it was my fiftieth and final book for The Classics Club. Finally, I indulged in a comforting re-read of Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M C Beaton, which is the third instalment in Beaton’s long-running cosy crime series. My full thoughts on this final book are still to be posted.

Alongside these fictions, I also read a short non-fiction about John F Kennedy from Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series; after having previously read about Richard Nixon, I thought I would keep the president theme going. My full thoughts on this book are also still to be posted.

Also during the month,  I wrapped up my epic five year Classic Club challenge with refection posts: Five Years Gone and My Top Ten Reads..

Pick of the Month: My Lady Ludlow

So altogether I’ve read four books which is a pretty average amount for me. Although, I am very close to finishing a Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster as well. I have also been intermittently re-reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone via audiobook (usually while I do my ironing!) and I’ve started reading Indiana Belle by John A. Heldt and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.

In April, I am looking forward to celebrating Easter and the two week holiday that comes with it – hopefully there will be lots of time to read!

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

Adaptations: March 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I’ve watched during March:

Logan (2017)
Not Read     Film     Cinema

The long-awaited and final instalment in the Wolverine thread of the highly popular X-Men film franchise; based on the characters from Marvel Comics. After an apocalyptic style event wipes out most of the world’s mutants, Logan is left with little to live for until he meets a girl like him. A bloody, gritty and realistic film which is a serious and refreshing change from a regular comic book film.

***


Persuasion (1995)
Read     TV Film     Television

BBC period drama based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, one of six adaptations of her novels produced during the mid-90s, which is the first of this novel I have seen. A mature and realistic portrayal of Anne and Wentworth’s complicated, heart breaking relationship. While the film quality looked a little aged, I think the style and acting performances are timeless.

***


SS-GB (2017)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

New BBC alternate-history drama, based on Len Deighton’s 1978 novel, that takes us back to November 1941 where we follow Detective Archer during a routine murder investigation but in a Nazis occupied Britain. An eerily realistic and stylish look into the uneasy alliances, dangerous tensions and political intrigues between the occupied and occupiers.

***


Wow that’s another three 3* (my highest rating) adaptations; I can already see that picking my top 10 could be harder this year! I also enjoyed a comforting re-watch of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), so altogether I have watched four adaptations in March. Also this month, I continued to enjoy new series The Emerald City; an adult re-working of L Frank Baum’s ‘Oz’.

As for non-adaptations, I watched series one of ITV’s wonderful bio-drama Victoria (2016), which stars the lovely Jenna Coleman as the young Queen Victoria.

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