Adaptations: March 2015

Adaptations #2I absolutely love adaptations. I know this can sometimes be a controversial subject with book lovers but not for me. I think my real love of them came from my time studying performance at university. There I became fascinated with taking a story and telling it through a different medium; whether that be book, film, TV, or on the stage.

Here are the adaptations I watched at the end of February and during March:

1984 by George Orwell (2015)          Not Read     Play     Theatre
Amateur stage production of George Orwell’s modern classic; adapted for the stage by Matthew Dunster. A simple and effective performance which I thoroughly enjoyed. Good watch.

The Lone Ranger (2013)          Not Read     Film     Television
Western adventure inspired by The Lone Ranger franchise which has included a radio series, books, a TV series, comic books and several films. Rather cheesy but good visual effects, music, and ensemble cast; most notably Johnny Depp. Could have been great just all the elements didn’t quite gel right. Okay watch.

The Casual Vacancy (2015)         Not Read     TV Series     Television
Three part drama based on J K Rowling’s novel. I didn’t fancy reading this however I thought I would give the series a go. This is not a happy watch but a gritty, small village drama. Peopled with some pretty despicable characters played by a great ensemble cast including Michael Gambon and the wonderful Keeley Hawes. Good watch.

The Musketeers (2015)          Read     TV Series     Television
The second series of the BBC’s swashbuckling adventure based on the characters of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel. I had been looking forward to the return of this show. Another fun, interesting and gripping mixture of adventures with great camaraderie and beautiful costumes. Good ensemble cast; with the addition of one of my favourites Marc Warren as the dastardly Rochefort. Good watch.

The Great Ghost Adventure (2011)          Read     Film     Television
Ghostly adventure based on Eva Ibbotson’s children’s novel. A light comedy for all the family. There are a great deal of changes to characters and plot. I can understand the need to modernise the story but I was surprised how much was changed considering its such a short book. Okay watch.

Five adaptations watched in March I think is a good amount. There was an interesting mix of TV, film and stage adaptations; mainly based on novels. I finished two TV series, The Casual Vacancy and The Musketeers, I am continuing with Grimm and Sleeping Hollow has just returned. Plenty more adaptation fun to look forward to in April.

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

New Read: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness have sat on my to-be-read shelf for far too long. Earlier this month I received The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness which is the final instalment in the All Souls trilogy. So I had no excuse not to start reading them.

A Discovery of Witches introduces the reader to Dr Diana Bishop. An American scholar who has come to the historic Oxford University, England to study old and rare alchemical volumes held in the library. Diana is no ordinary scholar though she is also a witch who comes from an old and famous family; a fact that Diana tries to ignore. Unbeknownst to Diana  she recalls the bewitched Ashmole 782 from the library’s ancient stacks. Once she touches it a string of unusual and dangerous events are to unfold which will see her thrust into the world of witches, vampires and daemons she has been trying so hard to ignore.

Diana our protagonist comes from a long line of powerful Bishop witches yet has never shown any aptitude or urge to use magic herself. Diana is full of anxiety and fear since the brutal death of her parents when she was only a child. I enjoyed watching Diana grow in strength emotionally as a woman through her trials but also to see her start to release her magical power. Diana is joined by a large cast of paranormal characters. The other we really get to know better is Diana’s love interest Professor Matthew Clairmont; an ancient vampire. Matthew is a good mixture of the negative and positive of his race. He drinks blood, and has anger and possessive issues. Then again I love how he has so much history and experience.

A Discovery of Witches is the first novel I have read by Deborah Harkness, and is the first instalment in the All Souls trilogy. From what I’ve read so far I am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. A Discovery of Witches is a well written novel with a detailed and immersive style and world. I simply loved all the historical, alchemical, literature and art references and details that were included; Harkness has clearly done a lot of research for this novel. The only down side for me was the romance. I am not a huge romance fan and this had more romance in it than I had expected. The romance element is strong in this fortunately though there is just enough other things going on that I still enjoyed it. This has dropped it down from a great to a good read.

A Discovery of Witches is a detailed and well written paranormal romance with an interesting measure of history, magic and art. You might enjoy this if you like romance, fantasy, paranormal and/or historical fiction. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other paranormal romances?

A Discovery of Witches is full of magic so I am counting it towards the Once Upon a Time IX event which is hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

New Read: Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

In 2013 I collected twenty-one and read six of Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series; while I have enjoyed these I sadly only read one in 2014. In an effort to remedy this in 2015 I had a mooch through the editions I have left and picked Napoleon Bonaparte.

Before reading this I had of course heard of Napoleon Bonaparte but other than the battle of Waterloo and the rumours that he was apparently short I knew almost nothing about him. Black does discuss Napoleon’s childhood, family, marriages and children however the vast amount of this book is about the political and physical battles he waged. I am not a huge fan of battles but it was interesting to see just how many battles and wars he was involved in. Napoleon fought Austria, Russia, Britain, Spain, Italy, several regions which we now know as Germany, other French people and even the Vatican. He also made moves into the Middle East and North Africa in particular he was after the British territory of Egypt. No wonder Europe, particularly Britain, were so keen to stop him.

This brief history of Napoleon Bonaparte is broken down into chapters on his early life, his military career, his campaigns and invasions, his time as Emperor of France, and finally his exiles, abdication, death and legacy. Now this is called a very brief history and they aren’t lying if you are someone looking for an in-depth history of Napoleon you won’t find it here. While many battles are named here not much depth is gone into. However I thought it was a good introduction that could give you a good idea of what you might want to read more about. Personally I would like to read more about his private life.

I am glad I discovered Mark Black and his A Very Brief History series in 2013. Sadly since then I have neglected this series even though I have plenty more editions on my Kindle. I thought Napoleon Bonaparte was clear, concise and well-written. Each chapter was an easy bite-size length and the chapters flowed really well. Previous editions have not taken me long to read and neither did this one. It took me a couple of sittings to finish off as I dipped in and out of it between other books. A good read for when you don’t have a huge amount of time. I easily squeezed one or two chapters in before bed each night.

Napoleon Bonaparte is a simple introduction to this infamous man’s life, military career and political intrigues. I recommend to those interested in reading more about history. I really must get on with reading the other thirteen editions I have from this series. Okay read.

Have you read any non-fiction or fiction about Napoleon?

New Read: The World Below

The World Below

Near the end of February I picked up urban fantasy The World Below, Book 1 of Mike Phillips’s Chronicles of the Goblin King. The rest of the month I had taken on some heavy reads and I hoped this would be a light, mind soothing adventure.

The World Below takes us below the human streets and homes to a rubbish tip metropolis, populated with magical creatures and ruled over by the nasty Baron Finkbeiner. The Baron is mad, seriously mad after the theft of a priceless, magical sword. He enlists, through blackmail, the help of the powerful Hume to take on goody-two-shoes Lady Elizabeth who he believes has the sword now. Meanwhile…in the human world there is Mitch. A regular guy who is trying to rebuild his life after an industrial accident but something just doesn’t seem quite normal about his apartment building’s basement or his new girlfriend, Elizabeth.

The World Below is peopled with an interesting and quite large cast of characters. Most of the story is told from Mitch’s perspective. He is a nice guy with more potential than he ever realised. I liked Mitch, Elizabeth, the cheeky goblin crew and I even liked reading about nasty Baron Finkbeiner. Sadly I neither liked nor got Hume. Matthew Hume is a human with some serious magical powers who works for the Baron only because his sister’s life is threatened. Good premise but in reality he came across as rude, cruel, petty and far nastier than the Baron. If I was meant to sympathise with him I didn’t!

This is the first book I have read by Mike Phillips. I came to know of it when the author contacted me about it. I thought The World Below was written in a fun, edgy style with some good magical elements and creatures. On the whole it was a light and soothing read for my over worked mind. Sadly the text does need some editing as there were quite a few typos and some grammar issues. Nothing serious though and they could be easily fixed. I was invested enough in the story and characters to read on regardless. I am undecided about whether I would read the rest of the series.

The World Below is a fun and light adventure in a magical world below our feet. You may like this if you enjoy urban fantasy. Okay read.

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

Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other urban fantasy books?

New Read: The Ancient Path

The Ancient Path

I am a relatively new Christian having come to faith in my late teens. Now in my twenties I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and to hear what other Christians have to say. After finishing Love So Amazing by Pam Rhodes I chose The Ancient Path by John Michael Talbot (with Michael Aquilina Jnr) from my Kindle to-be-read folder.

Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead and then ascended to Heaven. It was then the turn of his chosen disciples and other followers to spread the word, found and sustain the early Church. In The Ancient Path Talbot looks at the lives, teachings and influence of these founding fathers, and discusses how they can still influence and inspire us today. From reading about these founding fathers Talbot himself has formed a strong, personal faith and gone on to found his own modern day monastic community.

The Ancient Path is the first book I have read by John Michael Talbot; he is not an author I had heard of before. I was drawn to this work because I was interested to find out more about the history of the Church. History and faith being two of my favourite topics. Upon reading this book I also found that Talbot talked about his own life experience which I didn’t expect but was an added bonus. The Ancient Path is a well written and researched book which talks about an interesting range of figures from the Church’s history. I can’t say I’m an expert now however my interest has certainly been wetted and I would like to read more.

The Ancient Path is an interesting and well researched look into the founding fathers of the Church. I highly recommend to those interested in Christian non-fiction and history. Good read.

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

Have you read this? Any recommendations for similar faith literature?

The Classics Club: The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

I decided in January to try to always have a classic novel or short story collection on the go, alongside one fiction and non-fiction. Continuing as I mean to go on after finishing Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald I picked up The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Secret Garden introduces us to Mary Lennox an unloved orphan from India who is sent back to England to live at her uncle’s home, Misselthwaite Manor. Misselthwaite is a sprawling estate out on the Yorkshire moors, an alien surrounding for Mary filled with strange food, customs and people. Mary’s only entertainment is her maid Martha and her daily walks on the estate. One day a friendly robin shows Mary the key and door to a secret garden which for ten years has been locked and forgotten.

When we first meet Mary she is spoilt, sickly and rude but I could sympathise as her behaviour was a product of her selfish parents and scared Indian servants. While the move to Misselthwaite is not easy it is for the best. It is wonderful to see the transformation that Mary goes through as she works in the secret garden. She is joined in the garden by Martha’s younger brother Dickon, a friendly and practical lad who has many animal friends. Together they also convince Mary’s sickly, paranoid and depressed cousin Colin out too. As the garden starts to grow and come back to life so do Mary and Colin.

This is the first time I have read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I am no stranger to the story though as I have fond childhood memories of the 1993 film starring the wonderful Maggie Smith. I am pleased to say I found this just as charming as the film if not more so. I thought The Secret Garden was well-written with a realistic childlike voice, fears and wonders. What perhaps made it more charming than the film was the lack of opposition. The film portrays nearly all the adults as against the children whilst in the novel it is the children’s own fears and troubles they have to fights against. Making this an innocent and personal journey for Mary and Colin which I liked.

The Secret Garden is a charming children’s classic. I highly recommend to those interested in reading English classics. This is my 28th read off my Classics Club list. Good read.

Have you read this? Enjoyed the film?

New Read: Our Zoo

Our Zoo

Last year I watched the BBC’s charming drama series Our Zoo (2014) which dramatised the life and work of George Mottershead and his family who created Chester Zoo. At the end of the series though I was left wanted more so it was fortuitous for me when I spotted the memoir Our Zoo by June Mottershead.

Our Zoo chronicles the up and downs, successes and failures of the Mottershead family. George Mottershead is a determined and hardworking man who has the vision to create a zoological garden for the people, not just the rich, to enjoy where the animals would live in comfortable enclosures without bars. George decides to create his vision at Oakfield Manor in Upton but it is to face many obstacles; funding issues, protests from villagers, sickness, bombing raids, rationing, escapee animals and death. George and his family never give up though and Chester Zoo is still going to this day.

The family consists of George, his wife Lizzie, and their daughters Muriel and June. George’s parents Albert and Lucy also move to Oakfield Manor to help. They are a nice, strong family unit. June our narrator was only 4 years old when they made the move to establish the zoo so has never known any other life. There is a large age gap between June and her sister Muriel, who is virtually an adult and becomes the first keeper at the zoo. Meanwhile June’s friends and playmates become the animals themselves, in particular the cheeky chimpanzee called Mary. I enjoyed hearing from the innocent perspective of June and found it interesting to see how she grew physically and emotionally.

I picked up Our Zoo by June Mottershead because I had enjoyed the BBC’s drama so much. I am pleased to say I enjoyed this just as much. It was wonderfully nostalgic to see what it was like to work in Britain of the 1930’s and 1940’s, touching to see the troubles and deaths they endured but still never lost hope, and inspiring to see how this working class family finally built their dream. There are differences between real life and the TV drama but mainly to do with scope, the real life story is much longer and more intricate than I think the TV drama could have ever covered. I am pleased to have got to know the Mottershead family more closely.

Our Zoo is a nostalgic, touching and inspiring memoir of June, her family and their zoo. I recommend to those interested in memoirs, family, animals, and history. Good read.

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

Have you read this? Did you watch the BBC drama?