Re-Read: The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment

Battersea Park Road

I first read inspirational memoir, The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment by Isabel Losada, more years ago than I can or wish to count. Needless to say I thought it was high time for a re-read to see if I still enjoyed it.

In The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment Losada chronicles her search for love and acceptance, from herself and others. So starts her slight obsession with going on courses and looking for new experiences. To name a few Losada tries T’ai Chi, colonic irrigation, a weekend retreat with nuns, an Insight seminar, a past lives session, an Astrological reading, and even naked inner Goddess workshops. While I don’t fancy trying even half of the things Losada tries I did find it inspirational how open and brave she was. Losada’s journey is honest, funny and emotional.

I love Losada’s down-to-earth and honest writing style. It didn’t feel like reading a book but instead an informal chat with a friend over a cup of tea. Although in the case of ‘Starbuck’s addict’ Losada, she would perhaps prefer a coffee. Also when I say honest, I mean really honest. Losada’s honesty is often hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking and sometimes painful but I truly appreciated it. I was originally drawn to The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment because I adored From Tibet with Love a previous read by Losada. For my re-read I decided to read them in publication order to see how Losada’s experiences and writing progresses. I look forward to re-reading From Tibet with Love next as I have fond memories of enjoying that even more than this.

The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment is a funny and inspirational memoir. It is hard to know exactly who to recommend this too, as it covers so much! I do highly recommend though. Perhaps you will enjoy this too if you like memoirs, new experiences, and inspirational and faith literature. Good read.

Have you read this too? Have you perhaps tried some of Losada’s experiences?

New Read: The Lady of Misrule

The Lady of Misrule

April was a fantasy fiction filled month for me. To change things up a little at the beginning of May I picked up historical fiction The Lady of Misrule by Suzannah Dunn.

The Lady of Misrule takes us back to 1553 as Elizabeth Tilney arrives at The Tower of London to chaperone Lady Jane Grey. Jane reigned as Queen of England for only 9 days before she was overthrown by the supporters of her Catholic cousin Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Now Jane and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, are to be imprisoned in the Tower as traitors. Elizabeth while only there to attend goes on to form an unlikely friendship with Jane and Guildford in the last few months of their young lives. The quiet and isolation is to also give Elizabeth time to reflect on her own life and beliefs.

With all of the action being confined to the Tower, The Lady of Misrule really is a character driven story. Elizabeth is rebellious, naïve and Catholic, though truly she has no real belief system and only follows what is expected of her. In stark contrast we have Jane who is well-educated and has a strong Protestant faith, which she is willing to die for.  I found the forced closeness of these polar opposite young girls and the ensuing fragile friendship interesting, however I’m not sure I liked either Elizabeth or Jane. In fact I think I preferred Guildford. He begins off pompous and all for show, but underneath it I think he is perhaps the most honest and down-to-earth.

The Lady of Misrule is the 2nd novel I have read by Suzannah Dunn. Last year I read The May Bride, which went on to be one of my favourite reads of 2014. I was eager to read more by Dunn. I didn’t quite enjoy this as much. I think this was mainly due to Elizabeth and Jane who I just wasn’t as fond of as young Jane Seymour from The May Bride. However I again found Dunn’s writing style comforting and familiar. Dunn’s beautiful description swept me off  and immersed me into the confined, daily life in the Tower. The repetitive routine of rising, dressing, eating, reading, praying, watching from the window, and then retiring to bed was all brought vividly back to life. To achieve this Dunn has obviously filled in some historical gaps and added some fictionalised characters; I thought it was all well done though. Then the brutal ending, even though I knew it was coming, really wrenched at my heart and felt so real.

The Lady of Misrule is a well written, interesting and intimate glimpse into the final months of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey. I highly recommend to those interested in historical fiction and English history. I would still like to read more of Suzannah Dunn. Good read.

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK  for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Suzannah Dunn? Any recommendations?

New Read: Mort

Mort

At the end of last year I started to work my way through, from the beginning, books from the epic Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, which between us my father and I own. With the sad passing of Sir Terry in March I thought it would be fitting in April to pick up Mort; the fourth published Discworld novel.

In Mort we return to Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld, to a farm just below the Ramtop Mountains. Where a boy is madly running through a field trying, ineffectually, to scare away birds. Mort tries hard but he is, well, pretty useless. So think his uncle and father too as they plan to apprentice him off. Surely someone could train him or be fool enough to try. In steps Death with an unusual job offer and when Mort is reassured that being dead or skeletal is not compulsory he accepts. New clothes, three hot square meals a day, and perhaps the oddest, on-the-job training are to be Mort’s new life.

I have always loved Pratchett’s dark humoured and cat loving character Death, who pops up regularly in other Discworld novels. This is the first time I’ve read a novel where he has been a main part though. Death is having something of a mid-life crisis and so wanting some time off decides to train up Mort to take some of the load. As I said though Mort is pretty useless. When allowed out on his own for the first time his teenage crush fuelled, rash decision is to end, funnily for us, but disastrously for the time line continuum, Death, and the small kingdom of Sto Lat. Mort is the main protagonist and while I think he is an interesting vehicle for change and chaos. I sadly didn’t grow particularly fond of him. Unlike Death who love even more now!

Terry Pratchett is a well loved author of mine and I was very sad to hear of his passing. To me the best way to do him tribute is to read and share all his wonderful books. Mort is the sixth Discworld novel I have read although I haven’t read them in any particular order before. I don’t believe this is a series you necessarily have to read in order. The stories often follow various different characters. While I already knew Death. Mort, Death’s adopted daughter, and the inhabitants of Sto Lat were all new characters for me. Mort is a relatively short, funny, fantastical, and simple adventure to follow. My grandmother always said Mort was her favourite Discworld novel. She always remembered fondly Death falling over and uttering ‘Oh, bugger’. So I am really pleased to have finally read it. I don’t think I’ll ever cease to be amazed and amused by Pratchett’s wonderful imagination.

Mort is a darkly funny Discworld adventure. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and comedy. I am looking forward to reading more adventures in Pratchett’s Discworld. Good read.

Have you read this? Or other Discworld adventures?

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

New Read: The Wanderers

The Wanderers

After a wonderful Easter weekend I sadly found myself under the weather for the first week of my holiday. I decided to take comfort in escaping into the fairy tale re-imagining The Wanderers by Cheryl Mahoney.

The Wanderers introduces us to Jasper a ‘wandering adventurer’ who travels across the land fighting witches, ogres, evil wizards and rescuing young maidens. When we meet Jasper he is singlehandedly taking on an evil wizard who is turning people into stone however he is unexpectantly helped by Tom a talking cat. Jasper and Tom then go on to travel together breaking Jasper’s rule about travelling alone but Tom is a cat not a human so perhaps it doesn’t count. This is only to be the first rule that Jasper breaks. The more rules he breaks the harder his adventures get but perhaps the happier he becomes?

I would call Jasper a hero but he stubbornly prefers ‘wandering adventurer’. Hero to him means all those rich, silly and pompous princes while Jasper is a commoner who does it as a profession. I liked Jasper he is kind and brave, and there is also a lot going on under the surface to discover as well. His life is run by a set of tight, self-imposed rules one of which I have mentioned is to travel alone. Jasper breaks this rule for Tom the talking cat who I just loved. Tom is smart, witty, obsessed with fish but also loving underneath it all. I would really like my own Tom! Jasper also unexpectantly breaks this rule for Julie who he rescues from a witch. Julie is to prove that not all girls that need rescuing are just pretty, dumb and silly.

The Wanderers is the first book I read by author and fellow blogger Cheryl Mahoney. I have really been looking forward to reading this and I am pleased I have The Storyteller and Her Sisters waiting on my Kindle. I thought The Wanderers was a light, fun and well written book which is broken up into different adventures. I loved the fairy tale tropes that Mahoney used and sometimes poked a bit of fun at too; I particularly liked the lucky but useless third son. Also one of the largest adventures was a re-imagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses which is one of my favourites from my childhood. I simply raced through this book as I enjoyed the characters, the adventures, the humour and the comforting familiarity of it.

The Wanderers is a well written, witty and charming adventure. I highly recommend if you enjoy fairy tale re-imaginings. I am really looking forward to reading The Storyteller and Her Sisters next. Great read.

Have you read this? Or some other fairy tale re-imaginings?

This charming, fairy tale re-imagining is my third read towards the Once Upon a Time IX event which is hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

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?