New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas

wendy-darling-2

Last year, I read Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars by Colleen Oakes, the start of Oakes’ new, young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s ‘Neverland’, and I didn’t have to wait long to read this, Volume 2: Seas, released later the same year. I actually finished reading this at the very end of last year but I have only just got round to sharing my full thoughts on it.

In the last book, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan through their nursery window, past the stars and on to Neverland! A fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and the freedom of life as a Lost Boy. However, Wendy discovered all was not at all as it appeared which forced her to flee with her youngest brother, Michael, in tow. Only to discover, at the beginning of this book, that they have fallen straight into the clutches of the dreaded Captain Hook aboard his fearsome pirate ship, Sudden Night. Now Wendy must negotiate pirate feuds, mermaids and spies whilst also hiding from Peter, who will stop at nothing to get her back.

As a female myself, it is nice to see Oakes choosing to tell her re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy. A young lady, who in the first book, I found to be naïve and emotional weak – I often wanted to give her a jolly good shake – yet she was also kind and had the potential for more. I am thrilled to say Wendy did grow as a character in this second book. Although her old faults were still there she did also show more strength, intelligence and resourcefulness, especially when trying to protect her adorable little brother Michael. Whilst thankfully her other brother, the thoroughly dislikeable John, stays with Peter so we don’t have to see him much.

While I can’t always say I ‘like’ Oakes re-imagined characters, I can say they are more realistic and much better fleshed out than the originals. And, none is a better example of this than the infamous Captain Hook, who we meet for the first time in this book. I was expecting something different as Oakes has already given us a twisted, maniacal Peter, which to be fair if you were stuck as a boy forever you would probably become pretty crazy too! Yet Oakes hasn’t chosen to give us a completely good, hidden hero in Hook. Instead she has given us a well-balanced and interesting character with nuances of light and dark – who I think is my new favourite.

Previously I have read and loved another of Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, which is a re-imagining of Lewis Carol’s ‘Wonderland’. While I have not loved this new series quite as much as the previous these are still very enjoyable books. With the beautiful description I have come to expect from Oakes. I really could imagine the roaring seas, gleaming beaches, towering peaks, humid jungle, the intoxicating Mermaid Cove and Hook’s awe-inspiring Fallen Night with its macabre bone staircase.

Overall, Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas was another enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of ‘Neverland’. I hope volume 3 of this and the Queen of Hearts series come 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 ‘Neverland’?

The Classics Club: The Man in the Iron Mask

man-in-the-iron-mask

In 2014 I was swept away by the sweeping, romantic French classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Skipping the lesser known D’Artagnan romances, I decided to continue my journey with D’Artagnan, and his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos in the later and better known The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.

Our new tale opens some three or four decades after the adventures of the Three Musketeers, who have now all retired leaving only D’Artagnan, as Captain of the King’s Musketeers, in loyal service to the corrupt King Louis XIV. However unbeknownst to D’Artagnan his old friend Aramis, with the help of trusting Porthos, is the instigator of a treasonous plot to bring about the replacement of the inept king and an audacious break out from the Bastille of a mysterious young man; who has been secretly imprisoned most of his life with no known charge or reason.

The plot is both complicated and thrilling, and yet the actually mystery of ‘the Man in the Iron Mask’ is resolved within the first half of the novel. But it is to have long reaching consequences that ripple out through the rest of the novel. Which will send D’Artagnan out first in hot pursuit of former financier Fouquet and finally against his own friends, Aramis and Porthos, who are held out at the heavily fortified Belle Isle. Now at this point you may be wondering where is Athos?! Athos’ part in this story is a sad and lonely one, as he faces the departure and longs for the return of his only son, Raoul, who has journeyed to North Africa with the Duc de Beaufort. Which leaves him separated from his old friends and sorely missing from the action.

As with The Three Musketeers, this is a highly detailed tale with wordy, eloquent speeches and many interesting characters and threads which again swept me back to 17th century France for more adventures and intrigue. I did feel though there was less of the romance about these adventures and more of the cold, hard realities, such as: death, disgrace, ruin and heartache. This is a powerful, gripping read but the sadder tone and the fact I missed my favourite character, Athos, made this not quite as an enjoyable read as The Three Musketeers.

Overall, The Man in the Iron Mask is a gripping historical adventure full of political intrigue, betrayal and loyalty. There are other D’Artagnan romances by Dumas, which I am seriously tempted to go back to now. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of the other D’Artagnan tales?

The Classics Club – 48/50
What’s in a Name 2016 – An item of clothing (4/6)

New Read: Innocence

innocence

Over the years, my dad has read many of Dean Koontz’s books, he has kept recommending him to me and even lent me his copies of The Demon Seed and Innocence. Both have sat on my to-be-read pile for too long until I finally picked this up in November.

In Innocence, Koontz’s introduces us to Addison Goodheart – a young man who is forced to live a secretive and isolated existence in hidden chambers, and a network of storm drains and service tunnels beneath the city. Due to the overwhelming fear and fury which leads men and women to extreme violence, apparently caused by merely looking at him. His only solace and refuge is in books – a passion he feeds with midnight trips to the central library. Where, in a turn of chance or destiny, he meets Gwyneth – a girl who opens his eyes to a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

This book is solely narrated by Addison – a kind, loving and forgiving soul, who though he is forced to live a painfully isolated life fearing for his life, is still able to find the joy in life and to see the good in others. Koontz cleverly pieces together Addison’s life and reveals his extraordinary nature through short, snap shot chapters that jumps about in time; spanning from when he was an eight year old child living with his mother in a cabin the woods to the present day living alone below ground. His entire life he has had to live a cautious and fearful life due to his unusually appearance.

But that solitude is suddenly broken when he meets the young, beautiful Gwyneth who is running for her life. Gwyneth has her own issues with phobias of crowds and being touched. Unlike Addison though Gwyneth has had the advantage of wealth to help her shape a life of sorts in the world above. In each other they seem to have found their kindred spirit and after just one meeting Addison finds his life turned upside down, as together they race around the city trying to right many wrongs and save lives.

I am so pleased I finally got round to reading Dean Koontz, as this was an interesting, twisting and well crafted thriller, with a touch of the supernatural that compelling grows the deeper you get into it all. While I made a slow start to this book, about a quarter of the way in I was hooked. My only niggle would be that now and again I found the description a little disjointed – I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why – but it wasn’t often and certainly spoil the brilliant story telling.

In conclusion, Innocence was a gripping thriller that followed two extraordinary characters. Now I have enjoyed one of Koontz’s novels, I hope it won’t be long till I pick up The Demon Seed. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Dean Koontz?

New Read: Life of the Beloved

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As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and now I am a member of my church’s book club. After an interesting discussion about our second book, Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright, I was looking forward to reading our third book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri J. M. Nouwen.

When writing Life of the Beloved, Nouwen hoped it would be a book that could communicate to his dear, Jewish friend the powerful and loving invitation of Jesus Christ. Of how accepting that invitation can bring love, happiness and that acceptance we all seem to be chasing in the modern world. Sadly, Nouwen failed to communicate to his friend as he had wished. However, instead this has gone on to be a highly successful guide to living a truly uplifting life in many of today’s secular society; for Christians all over the world.

With Nouwen’s initial hope to communicate and reach out to his friend and other young people from the then growing secular population, he has written this sincere testimony – sharing his own experience of Jesus’ powerful work in his life and those around him – in a clear and down-to-earth manner. Which was easy to read, follow and reflect upon on, but this is clearly still the original edit because Nouwen often opens chapters directly speaking to his friend and referring to his friend’s life. While I give Nouwen kudos for being honest about his initial hope and so not editing the text – I did find it a little annoying as I am not his friend and his life stories are not expanded upon for those who don’t have their shared history.

Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian, who in his life worked and taught at the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School. As well as working with individuals with mental and physical needs at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Ontario, USA. Having lived such a colourful, spiritual and productive life, Nouwen has a wealth of inspiring and touching experiences which he freely and candidly shares with us in this book; particularly from his time at L’Arche. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to share my thoughts on this at the book club meeting, as it landed in a crazily busy week for me which meant I couldn’t attend. I have since received positive feedback from the vicar along with further resources to check out.

In conclusion, I found Life of the Beloved to be a well-written and inspiring guide, that was a good boost for me; living in a majoritively secular society myself. Next up for the club, we will be reading and discussing The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis which will be a re-read for me. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Henri J. M. Nouwen?

New Read: Blood on the Bayou

blood-on-the-bayou

Sadly, Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson was sat gathering dust on my Kindle for far too long! Until the R.I.P reading event finally gave me the push I needed to pick it up and aren’t I pleased it did.

As Donaldson immediately drew me in and completely immersed me into the colourful and superstitious Deep South of America. For a gritty mystery in the famous French Quarter of New Orleans which, during a hot and humid Summer, has been shook by a string of brutal murders. Where the victims seem to have been viciously clawed and then bitten – these frenzied, bloody attacks eerily resemble a werewolf! However the chief medical examiner, Andy Broussard, is not to be fooled or scared by these supernatural tales and, together with criminal psychologist Kit Franklyn, sets out to discover the culprit…the real, human culprit.

This is a detailed, meticulous and graphic, although I felt it was never gratuitous, depiction of a murder investigation. Due to the fact that half the narration is told from medical examiner, Andy Broussard’s point-of-view. Skillfully, though I was never left feeling cold or isolated by his clinical technique as Broussard is a very likeable and multifaceted character, with his quirky love of lemon sweets and an enviable collections of classic T-birds. Plus he takes on an encouraging and supportive role for Kit, who is a young, educated woman in a male dominated world. The other half of the narration is told from Kit’s point-of-view, which made for an interesting but complimentary juxtaposition to Broussard’s.

What I really loved though was the setting, as I have always had a fascination with the deep south especially after watching the first series of HBO’s True Detective. And, I thought Donaldson really made me feel like I was there: feeling it’s hot, humid weather; meeting the colourful, eclectic people with their old traditions and superstitions; and travelling to the small town communities out in the crocodile infested wetlands. The only thing I was left to imagine was that they all spoke like Matthew McConaughey 😉 . While there was less of a supernatural element than I expected, it was these just in a more subtle way – with the eerie resemblance of these brutal attacks with werewolves; the small town people’s folk tales of old and the links to Clinical Lycanthropy.

In conclusion, I found Blood on the Bayou to be a deeply engrossing mystery which I struggled to put down. I would certainly be interested in reading more from this series and author. Great read.

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

Have you read this? Or any other mysteries from the Deep South?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – #5

Re-Read: Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

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After two dark fantasy reads, I decided to lighten up my reading for the R.I.P reading event with a cosy re-read of Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M C Beaton; the second book in the Agatha Raisin crime series.

Smart dressing, high-flying PR guru Agatha Raisin has taken early retirement and now lives in the quiet, picture-perfect Cotswold village of Carsely. Returning from a holiday, Agatha finds all the Carsely women in an uproar over the new, handsome vet Paul Bladen. So, Agatha is thrilled when Bladen asks her out for dinner, but behind the charm on their date there seems to be something cold and calculating. The next day, Bladen is found dead in Lord Pendlebury’s stables where it is believed he accidentally injected himself with a horse tranquilizer. However, after her unpleasant date, Agatha believes it very likely someone would have liked to bump him off!

Agatha isn’t an instantly likeable character, although she is very amusing! As  former boss of a highly successfully PR company, Agatha has become sharp, bossy, cajoling and completely work focused. Once in the quiet, picturesque village of Carsely Agatha has no idea what to do with herself! Hence, why she is so keen to launch herself into another amateur investigation – plus it gives her an excuse to spend time with her handsome neighbour James Lacey without scaring him off. I am not a huge fan of the retired general Lacy, but in this new investigation we also get to see the vicar’s lovely wife Mrs Bloxby and the funny Detective Constable Wong.

In this re-read, it was again a pleasure to return to the charming village of Carsely with it’s eclectic mix of inhabitants for another meddlesome, investigation with Agatha. 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 (and other novels by M C Beaton) are perfect. As the weather cooled and nights drew in, it was lovely to curl up in a blanket, with a cup of tea and this book.

Overall, Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet was a quick, fun and comforting re-read, which lightened up my reading for the R.I.P reading event perfectly. I look forward to re-reading Agatha Raisin and the Potted Garden next.

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

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – 4/4

The Classics Club: The Sign of the Four

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After enjoying all the previous Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle in quite quick succession, I just had to hold out a little for this, The Sign of the Four, my last original Holmes tale to discover for the first time.

At the beginning of this tale, we find Holmes out of his mind on boredom and drugs, and Watson at the end of his tether with him. Both are overjoyed when the young, pretty Miss Mary Morstan arrives, with the case of her missing father and the exquisite pearls that have been mysteriously gifted to her each year since his disappearance. Now, she has received a letter requesting a secret meeting to discuss how she has been ‘wronged’ and she may bring two friends. So Mary asks if Holmes and Watson will be the two to accompany her – Holmes is roused by what he calls this simple, little mystery and jumps at the chance, only to find the plot thickens at every turn.

As with the previous mysteries, I was fascinated by the workings of Holmes’ mind and his eccentric behaviour, however it is his companion Dr Watson I am always most drawn to. With his down-to-earth narration which makes these stories more relatable for me and, I am sure, many other readers too. In this tale, I particularly liked Watson’s shy, tender behaviour towards their new, pretty client Miss Mary Morstan, and the budding romance that follows – while their courtship may seem a tad too fast for us modern readers, I did believe they had genuine feelings for each other.

This may have been the last Holmes’ mystery for me to read, however it is only Doyle’s second novel to feature his famous, private sleuth. While I have read these mysteries out of order, it has not affected my enjoyment of them at all. While I think the gothic and atmospheric, The Hound of the Baskervilles is still my favourite novel, this was a still an excellently mystery and a thoroughly enjoyable read. With it’s ever twisting and multiplying threads, in fact more crimes and deaths occur, as Holmes’ is still investigating the first crime. I also enjoyed the historical links back to India and the bloody Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Overall, I thought The Sign of the Four was another excellently crafted mystery, which was a perfect read for Autumn and the R.I.P XI reading event. Now I have no new, original Holmes tales to look forward to, I better get going on more of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books. Great read.

Have you read this? What is your favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

The Classics Club – 47/50
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI – 3/4