Re-Read: The Two Towers

The Two Towers

Peter Jackson’s epic film franchise based on J R R Tolkien’s novels has sadly now come to an end. While I regularly re-read The Hobbit it has been over 10 years since I re-read The Lord of the Rings. The start of April saw me reaching for The Two Towers to continue my long over due re-read.

This is the second book of the trilogy so this post may contain spoilers.

The Two Towers  returns us to Middle-Earth after the destruction of the fellowship. Frodo, the ring bearer, has gone on with only his trusted friend Sam. Together they must trust Gollum, an unlikely guide, to find a secret path over and through the mountains into Mordor. Meanwhile Merry and Pippin have been kidnapped by a cruel band of orcs working for the traitor wizard Saruman. Those that remain of the fellowship set out on a dangerous and gruelling chase to rescue them before they reach Isengard, and surely torture and death.

The destruction of the fellowship makes for some really interesting character development and dynamics. Frodo and Sam’s friendship becomes only stronger but they now must contend with the duplicity of Gollum. Merry and Pippin’s kidnap gives them the opportunity to stand on their own two feet and show perhaps they aren’t so naïve and foolish. However it is the journey and camaraderie of the survivors of the fellowship that I found most interesting; Aragorn, Legolas the woodland elf and Gimli the dwarf. I particular loved the unlikely friendship that forms between Legolas and Gimli.

I have only previously read The Lord of the Rings trilogy twice and while I have enjoyed them they don’t quite hold the same sort of place in my heart as The Hobbit. On re-reading The Two Towers I found it to be another intricate and enchanting tale. Every word is precious to Tolkien and again he uses them here perfectly to really bring Middle-Earth alive. I found The Two Towers a quicker and easier read than The Fellowship of Ring. Introductions have been made and now it is time to get on with the real adventure. However that is not to say new lands, creatures and characters are not introduced but the core characters and background are there to support the reader.

The Two Towers is an intricate, epic, and enchanting tale. I highly recommend to those who enjoy epic fantasy. I look forward to re-reading The Return of the King next. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you watched the films?

This classic fantasy is my second read towards the Once Upon a Time IX event which is hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

New Read: Rebellion

Rebellion

In 2013 I read Tudors the 2nd volume of Peter Ackroyd’s The History of England and I found it fascinating. So when I saw the 3rd volume Rebellion subtitled The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution I had to give it a go. In this post I will refer to this book as Rebellion which is the US title because that is the title my copy came with however the UK title is Civil War.

Rebellion chronicles the Stuart monarchs. On the death of Elizabeth I the throne went to James I; previously James VI of Scotland. We probably only know James for the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ so it was interesting to find out more about him. The throne then went to his second son Charles I. Sadly Charles is very well known for the Civil War which he lost and subsequently he also lost his head. Here there is a gap in the Stuart line where Oliver Cromwell rules over England as Lord Protector; a hard-line Puritan reign. No wonder on Cromwell’s death the Stuart heir Charles II was welcomed back. Unfortunately he was a disappointment and his brother James I was even worse. James is a Catholic so is replaced by his daughter Mary II and her husband William of Orange without any bloodshed.

Before reading this I always thought my sympathies lay with the Royalist cause. Mainly because the Puritan reign sounds hellish without any theatre, festivals or fun! On reading more about James I and Charles I though I can totally sympathise why you would want to get rid of them. They spent well beyond their means, and totally disregarded parliament and English common law. However when Oliver Cromwell and the army took power they didn’t come across as any better either. I think really the people were stuck between a stone and a hard place for the entirety of this time period.

This is the second book I have read by Peter Ackroyd and I would like to read more. Ackroyd is a prolific writer so I have plenty to read as well as looking forward to the release of the 4th volume of The History of England.  I thought Rebellion was well written using enough academic language and detail without going off over my head. It has been well researched and I enjoyed the extra references to literature, theatre, art and science of the time period. The structure was a little of a disappointment for me though as a huge chunk of the book is given way to the Civil War which of course was long, complicated and important but that did seem to leave little space to then discuss Charles II and James I. They felt a bit squeezed in at the end.

I thought Rebellion was a detailed and fascinating look into the Stuart monarchs, their downfalls, and the Civil War. I recommend to those interested in English history. Good read.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Ackroyd? 

New Read: Red Rose, White Rose

Red Rose White Rose

As we changed the clocks for British summertime we were unfortunately treated to many gloomy, cold and wet days. In which case I was happy to escape into the past with Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson.

Red Rose, White Rose takes us back to the year 1433 as Cicely Neville the ‘Rose of Raby’ is to become the bride of Richard, the Duke of York. A dynastic marriage to bring together the house of York and Lancaster. While the marriage is a success there is still tension in the land. There is an uneasy and turbulent relationship between the strong Duke of York and the weak Lancastrian King Henry and his French Queen. A relationship which is to break down in 1455 with disastrous consequences sweeping Cicely, her whole family, and the country into a bloody war. What we now know as the War of the Roses.

Red Rose, White Rose is narrated by Cicely and her (fictionalised) half brother Cuthbert. Cicely is a strong and beautiful woman who also has the much deserved nickname of ‘Proud Cis’ from her siblings. While I found it fascinating to read about Cicely I’m not sure I always liked her. I had much more of an affinity for Cuthbert. The illegitimate son of Ralph Neville who is taken in by his father’s new wife and trained as a knight. Cuthbert is down to earth, loving and loyal. He is able to give us a glimpse of the lower classes and the battle field which Cicely is unable to.

Red Rose, White Rose is the first novel I have read by Joanna Hickson. I am pleased to say I also have The Agincourt Bride waiting for me on my Kindle. I thought that Red Rose, White Rose was well written, detailed and very believable; only a few chapters in I was swept away with it all. I think Cicely Neville was a good choice for a protagonist. I have only encountered her once before in the BBC’s adaptation of The White Queen. Hickson has chosen only to show Cicely’s life up to the crowning of her son Edward. I couldn’t help not seeing this as a happy ending though knowing the drama that was still to come. Hickson has of course had to fictionalise some conversations and characters such as Cuthbert. At the end of the novel there is a short  section where Hickson discusses the real historical characters, events and facts she took inspiration from.

Red Rose, White Rose is an interesting look into the earlier life of the mother of Edward IV and Richard III. I recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction and British history. Good read.

Thank you to Harper Collins UK, Harper Fiction/Blue Door for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Joanna Hickson?

New Read: Beautiful Attitudes

Beautiful Attitudes

As a practicing Christian 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 The Ancient Path by John Michael Talbot I chose Beautiful Attitudes: Living out the Christian Manifesto by Scott Evans from my Kindle to-be-read folder.

In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Jesus shared his revolutionary ideas, values and teachings. These were to be some of the founding beliefs of the disciples and the new Christian followers, and those that were to follow them. In Beautiful Attitudes Evans discusses the set of teachings called the Beatitudes which Jesus began the sermon with in more detail and tries to relate them to life today.

Beautiful Attitudes is the first book I have read by Scott Evans; he is not an author I had heard of before. My attention was brought to this work when I saw it offered for free on Amazon. I thought Beautiful Attitudes was well written and interesting with a nice mixture of references and personal stories. I found it a comforting read and it did help reinforce some thoughts I have had myself. I did not find it as profound or as challenging as some of my previous Christian reads.

Beautiful Attitudes is an interesting look into the relevance of the Beatitudes in our lives as modern Christians. You may enjoy this if you are interested in Christian non-fiction. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or other work about the Beatitudes?

The Classics Club: Spin #9 Result

The Classics Club #1

A quick update for you fellow bookworms the result for the 9th Classics Club Spin is in!

The number randomly selected is: 2

Which means I will be reading: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I am really pleased with this choice. I love the Just So Stories while this will be my first novel by Kipling. I am currently reading The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens once I’ve finished this I will pick up The Jungle Book which should hopefully be an interesting change.

What has the spin chosen for you?

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.