New Read – Bringing Narnia Home

Bringing Narnia Home

Earlier this year I read Devin Brown’s biography Tolkien and while I thought it was interesting it wasn’t quite the book for me. However I received a copy of another of Brown’s books, Bringing Narnia Home, at the same time. I love Narnia just as much as Middle-Earth. I picked this up hoping it would suit me better.

Unlike my previous Brown read this is not a biography of the author. Instead it is a look at and a discussion of the lessons that Lewis conveys through The Chronicles of Narnia series. I have always known that this series contained Christian messages and some allegory, although these magical and quaint tales have been enjoyed by those with and without faith. Brown believes there are lessons within these stories that we can all use to bring a little happiness and magic into our own lives.

This book is broken down into twelve chapters all with a title and a message which reflect the lesson covered in each. There are some lovely chapter titles, like ‘Of Mice and Minotaurs’ and ‘Live Like it’s Always Christmas and Never Winter’. I particularly liked chapter 10 ‘The Virtuous Life is a Real Adventure’ which has the message ‘Yes, one that includes real hardship, but one you don’t want to miss’. That is so true! I have always appreciated how Lewis didn’t shy away from putting some upsetting and tough things into his books, because that’s what happens in real life. While you want to entertain children reading you also want them to be aware that life is not always perfect. Of course Lewis also balance his stories well by having hope and those willing to fight to make things better.

As I mentioned at the start, this is the second book I have read by Devin Brown. I am so pleased I gave this book a chance because I had none of the issues I had in the previous book. I found this an easy and quick read which I dipped in and out of; usually I read  one chapter a night tucked in bed just before I went to sleep. I found myself inspired by some of the lessons and comforted by the familiarity and magic.

Bringing Narnia Home was a charming and comforting read for me. I think you’d enjoy this if you love Narnia too. 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 anything else about Narnia or C S Lewis?

New Read: Lamp Black, Wolf Grey

Lamp Black, Wolf Grey

Sadly on the 31st October I had to say goodbye to the R.I.P event, but that didn’t mean I had to stop my dark and atmospheric reading. I decided to continue it with the supernatural Lamp Black, Wolf Grey by Paula Brackston.

Laura and Dan Matthews have a strained relationship as the lack of children begins to wear them down. Hoping to renew their love and give them a better chance at conceiving Laura makes the drastic choice to up sticks, from the hustle and bustle of London, and make a new home in the beautiful Welsh mountains. For Laura this seemingly idyllic place is to hold history, magic, danger, terrible regrets and the legendary figure of Merlin. For once Merlin walked these very same mountains and visited Laura’s new home to see his true love, Megan. Laura is to find that her life is inescapably intertwined with those of the past.

I love dual time period novels and this is an interesting one. We have Laura, a young artist, narrate the present time and Megan, the nurse-maid to the Lord’s sons,  in the past; both are brave, strong and relatable women. While we have the chance to get to know Merlin and his powers in the past and present. I found both threads of the story and both narrators interesting to read about. Although I think I liked Megan more because Laura makes some terrible decisions, which I know she needed to make for the story to continue but they still upset me. However it is these terrible decisions that also make the present story the most gripping of the two.

The wild, isolated and beautiful setting of the Welsh mountains was almost itself a character. I have never read anything by Paula Brackston before and what drew me to this book was the Welsh setting and the legendary Merlin. I love magic and I love Wales; it being a place I grew up visiting every summer holidays. Brackston really took me back there with her words. The lush green valleys, lonely farmsteads, castles and shady woods which can be illuminated by glorious sunshine or where the fog and storm clouds can so quickly cover.

The only downside for me was the stronger focus on romance and sex this had then I was expecting. I found Merlin and Megan’s relationship really lovely. As I thought their interactions came across natural and innocent. Sadly however I didn’t enjoy Laura’s relationships. This was because of the erotic detail which made some of those terrible decisions, I spoke of earlier, even less relatable for me. This is just my personal taste though and I can see how Brackston did this for effect.

 Lamp Black, Wolf Grey was a gripping book which swept me off to a world of magic, history and legend. 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 anything else by Paula Brackston?

New Read: Better Relationships, Better Life

Better Relationships, Better Life

As a practicing Christian I am always on the look out for interesting Christian non-fiction to help me grow in my faith. I decided to give Better Relationships, Better Life by Pam Ovwigho a go as I think we all wish for better relationships, whether that’s with spouses, partners, friends and family.

I have never read anything by Pam Ovwigho before. I do not know if she has written any other books however her day job is as an executive director of scheme to encourage bible engagement In this book, using the timeless insights and wise counsel of Colossians 3, Ovwigho aims to show how through forgiveness, communication, and a strong desire to  change things; any relationship can improve. However if we continue to focus on other’s faults and are not prepared to change ourselves things will never get better.

This book is broken down into chapters focused on relationships with church members, work colleagues, friends, family and spouses. As I am not married and don’t have children some of the chapters weren’t that relevant to me. I enjoyed and found the other chapters interesting though. I particularly liked the relationship examples Ovwigho used to highlight what was done wrong and what could have been done instead. My only criticism would be that I would have preferred the book to be a bit longer and more detailed, so really I just wanted a bit more! What I will really take away from this book is the importance of the Christian virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.

Better Relationships, Better Life was a quick, interesting and helpful read. I would be interested to read more in this area. Okay 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? Have you read anything about better relationships?

The Classics Club: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles

I enjoyed reading The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle in September so much that I barely managed to wait a month before going back for another mystery. Next I picked up The Hound of the Baskervilles, the third Sherlock Holmes novel.

Dr James Mortimer comes to Sherlock Holmes with a legend of a diabolical hound out on the moors that hunts all the Baskerville descendants, in revenge for a murderous past deed. Mortimer has lived many years out on the moors and had never taken much store in these superstitions before until the shocking death of his good friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. He hopes Holmes’ can get to the truth and protect Henry; the heir and last remaining Baskerville. Holmes is intrigued by the case but is busy working on another so he puts his trust in Dr Watson. Who returns with Mortimer and Henry to the lonely Baskerville Hall on Dartmoor to investigate further.

I loved getting to explore this intricate and supernatural mystery with Dr Watson. As much as I enjoy the workings of Holmes’ mind and find his eccentricities fascinating. It is Holmes’ companion Dr Watson I am most drawn to. The down-to-earth narration of Watson is what makes these stories more relatable for me. To have a whole investigation where he took the lead was wonderful. Holmes isn’t too far away though because Watson is in constant contact with him and it is through these letters we see a lot of the facts unfold. There is also a twist to come later in the book!

I think this may now be my favourite Holmes mystery. I loved the foggy, lonely moors, scattered with the remnants of ancient inhabitants, with the isolated Baskerville Hall stranded in the middle of it. Doyle really builds a creepy atmosphere and that is even before the hound comes on the scene, which is described as large, dark and vicious by any locals who have had the misfortune to see it. Plus it seems to be able to frighten you to death! This was a great mystery with an interesting collection of characters who are all thrown together because of the loneliness of their situation.

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a creepy and atmospheric mystery which I simply loved. A cosy and comforting read for autumn and the R.I.P event. I highly recommend to fans of Sherlock Holmes and those who enjoy classic crime. Sadly I only have The Sign of the Four  left to read. Great read.

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

The Classics Club – 36/50
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X – 4/4

New Read: The Rise of Thomas Cromwell

The Rise of Thomas Cromwell

This year I enjoyed the BBC’s wonderful adaptation of Wolf Hall a meaty historical drama about Thomas Cromwell; with a copy of the novel by Hilary Mantel waiting for me on my bookshelf. They have encouraged me to read more about the notorious character that inspired them. So it was lucky for me I got my hands on a copy of The Rise of Thomas Cromwell by Michael Everett.

Thomas Cromwell grew from humble beginnings as the son of a blacksmith to become a lawyer, a statesmen, to an Earl and the first minister of Henry VIII. Everett explains straight away that this is not a book looking at the height of Cromwell’s political career, which saw the fall of the king’s second wife Anne Boleyn, the reformation of the churches, closure of the monasteries, the debacle of the king’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves, and Cromwell’s subsequent fall from grace and execution. Instead Everett wants to go back and investigate how Cromwell gained his knowledge, work, skills and came to the notice of the king. Cromwell is a notorious character, who has historians torn,  but through this book Everett has shown that Cromwell is a far more complicated character than simply villain or saint.

Theories have included that Cromwell schemed to make himself first minister, that he was a liberal reformer and the mastermind behind the reformation of the church and the break with Rome and the Pope, and that he was a corrupt minister which led to his charge of treason and subsequent execution. Everett definitely agrees Cromwell was an ambitious man however Cromwell also worked very hard, successfully collaborated with others and was a practical, loyal man who used to get the job done. It was these qualities that saw him subsequently find favour with Cardinal Wolsey, the Duke of York and finally the king. As for Cromwell being a liberal reformer there is no evidence either way for this. And while Cromwell is known to have taken gifts and bribes he doesn’t appear to have been anymore corrupt than any other minster of the time.

While this doesn’t cover some of the dramatic elements of Cromwell’s career I found the back story and all the small details of his life fascinating. I could go on and on with how many interesting facts and historical reference there are in this book, but I fear you may become sick of this post! I thought Everett crammed a lot into this book with an extensive use of Cromwell’s letters, historical records and cross examinations of other historians to back up his ideas. This was a slow read for me. It didn’t quite grip me like my previous non-fiction read Elizabeth I and Her Circle by Susan Doran did. That was mostly due to the fact I needed to take my time to absorb all the information. Plus while Thomas Cromwell is fascinating I don’t think he will ever over take my love of Elizabeth I as a person to read about.

I thought The Rise of Thomas Cromwell was a really interesting read and I would like to read more. I recommend it if your interested in English and Tudor history. I am looking forward to reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel even more now. 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 Wolf Hall? Any recommendations of what I should read next?

New Read: Airs Above the Ground

Airs Above the Ground

After finishing The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland, a dark supernatural read, I was hoping for a lighter book to continue my R.I.P reading. So I reached for modern classic Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart. Since reading The Gabriel Hounds last year I have been longing to read more by Stewart.

This novel swept me off to Austria with Vanessa March and her young charge Timothy Lacy. Vanessa is a married woman on a spur of the moment mission of the heart. While Timothy is a young man seeking freedom and a connection with his long lost father. They’re two people thrown together seeking something, who form an unlikely but sweet friendship. Together they will try to discover what Mr March is really up to, and in the process find themselves embroiled in a dangerous mystery surrounding a travelling circus and the famous Lipizzan stallions of Vienna.

At the beginning of the story we’ve barely been introduced to Vanessa when Stewart hits us with a mystery. Malicious Carmel Lacy, Tim’s overbearing mother, let’s slip that she saw Vanessa’s husband in an Austrian newsreel when he’s meant to be in Sweden. Thus she persuades Vanessa to chaperone her son. I liked Vanessa and Tim. They initially form a friendship of respect and common goals, however they also discover a love of horses. Vanessa is a trained vet and Tim harbours a dream to join the Spanish Riding School in Vienna which also helps them infiltrate the travelling circus and the mystery surrounding a fatal fire. Once fully immersed in the mystery we are introduced to other interesting character including: colourful performers, quaint locals and the secretive Englishman Lee Elliott.

I found this to be another nostalgic mystery from Stewart full of intrigue, secrets, suspicion, lies, betrayal, twists and turns. I think Stewart has a wonderfully comforting style which in cooperates a mixture of suspense, romance, and society issues. I also loved the beautiful descriptions of the Austrian countryside and mountains, the lively circus, the quaint villages and historical castle. And it was fascinating to find out the history and tradition of the Spanish Riding School and their famous Lipizzan stallions, who are trained in the difficult and beautiful moves known as the ‘airs above the ground’.

Airs Above the Ground is a nostalgic suspense set in the beautiful Austrian mountains; a perfect read for Autumn and the R.I.P event. I highly recommend this sadly I have no more of Stewart’s novels on my to-be-read shelf. I will have to look out for more. Great read.

Have you read this? Are you a fan of Mary Stewart?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X – 3/4

Guest Post: The People the Fairies Forget

Guest Post

I am pleased to welcome Cheryl Mahoney back to my blog for the third time. I don’t usually host guest posts but I always make a special exception for Cheryl; a fellow book blogger at Tales of the Marvelous, and the author of The Wanderers and The Storyteller and Her Sisters. Take it away Cheryl…

I had a lot of fun in this book playing with traditional fairy tale characters—which I hope readers will enjoy too! There are certain charactersThe People the Fairies Forget we all know, and have all seen portrayed in a variety of books and movies, and there are recognizable things about them. I decided to take some of those characteristics and features to their logical, but absurd, extreme!

The Good Fairy or Fairy Godmother – Readers of my last two books have already met Marjoram, a certified Good Fairy. We learn much more about just what that means here, and see Marj wreak quite a bit of havoc. I noticed in the original fairy tales that the “good” fairies can be awfully overpowering with their spells, and very ruthless towards people who aren’t their chosen ones to help. Many fairy tales feature extreme punishments in the name of justice, and sometimes even the efforts to “help” seem questionable! In The People the Fairies Forget, we get the story from Tarry, who has known Marj for centuries and knows all about her more ruthless side. And then, of course, I also just have enormous fun making Marj an extreme Good Fairy in appearance—pink and sparkly and shedding glitter everywhere she goes!

Sleeping Beauty – We all know that Sleeping Beauty received a number of fairy gifts at her christening, gifts that give her talents or change her appearance—or, like “an angelic disposition,” would actually change her personality! My Sleeping Beauty is only a very minor character in the story, and I went a sadder direction with her. Tarry has the ability to read people’s auras to learn something about who they are, but in the case of Princess Rosaline, who she really is is hopelessly obscured by all the characteristics put on her by her christening gifts.

Prince Charming – I have never understood why Cinderella’s prince had to find her by trying a shoe on girls, instead of actually, you know, asking for her by name. So my Prince Roderick is a play on that issue—he’s hopelessly self-absorbed and never bothers to ask or remember anyone’s name. He has to find Cinderella with the shoe because he doesn’t remember anything else about her! And when confronted with someone who doesn’t want to marry him, he finds this utterly incomprehensible.

I’ll tell you a minor secret—Roderick’s role ended up growing in this novel, mostly because I was so enjoying writing him. I hope readers feel that way about reading him!

Thank you Cheryl for another interesting post. I loved your previous books and can’t wait to read your new one! The People the Fairies Forget is now available at Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords.