New Read: Hope’s Rebellion

Hope's Rebellion

For much of July my reading has taken me into the past. I decided it would be fun to go the opposite way; to go into the future with my next read. So I picked up Jade Varden’s dystopian, young adult novel Hope’s Rebellion.

Godenor is a bleak and desolate land, with few resources which must be strictly dealt out to the population. Due to this the population is segregated. At just 3 years old children are either taken to work camps to learn how to serve as Dinwas or work in the mines. Or, the more fortunate children, are taken to education camps to learn a craft. At the end of their education the Allocator decides where they will be assigned. The premise is nothing new but I did think it was well crafted. There is one more thing that can determine your fate; your hair colour. Those children with golden hair are prized above all others.

We find out about this world through the eyes of 3 very different girls. First we have Drexi. Initially assigned to a work camp her bravery earns her a transfer to an education camp. Sadly the stigma of her black hair and her golden-haired mother’s failure is a constant battle for her. Then we have small, quiet, mousey haired Prelly. Accidentally taken to the education camp when she became lost and was found by a kind soldier. Finally but not least we have Rinna, or Rinna of the Gold as she is known. As she has the prized golden hair Rinna’s life was planned out from the day she was born. She is to become a wife and mother. In the education camp these 3 girls become fast friends. A friendship that will be truly tested when they are allocated and become adults.

This is the first book I have read by Jade Varden. I came to know of it when the author contacted me about it. I am really pleased I took a chance on it. As I thought it was a gripping, young adult adventure in an authoritarian, fantasy world. While Drexi, Prelly and Rinna were at school I didn’t really think of it as a dystopian world. The world before and any whiff of rebellion is not discussed until the girls are allocated. The pace of the novel is fast and I found myself flying through it. There were a few moments where the wording jarred a little with me and others where I wish there had been a little more detail. I totally understand that sometimes too much detail would have taken us away from the action and tension that was building though, so was a necessary cut.

Hope’s Rebellion was a gripping and fast read for me, this is an author and world I would like to read more of. I recommend to those who enjoy young adult, fantasy and dystopian books. Good 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 read a good dystopian novel I should try?

New Read: The Praying Woman’s Devotional

The Praying Woman's Devotional

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 Beautiful Attitudes by Scott Evans I chose to read The Praying Woman’s Devotional by Stormie Omartian; my 4th Omartian read.

In a previous book, The Power of a Praying Woman, Omartian reached out to all women who believe in God and his son Jesus Christ, to make prayer a keystone in their lives. In The Praying Woman’s Devotional Omartian continues this idea by suggesting themes, prayers and scripture that can help women to pray.

The book is broken down into more chapters than I could count. Each one has a theme, and begins with a piece of scripture to read and consider. Then there is Omartian’s thoughts and reflections on the theme and scripture. Then each chapter finishes with a unique prayer. I thought the short and neat chapters were a perfect structure, which made it easy to read one chapter a day/night. I have also enjoyed the structure of Omartian’s previous books. I think it is something she is very good at. This structure, and scripture and prayer suggestions were really easy and comforting for me to read. However could be even better for those wishing to read the Bible but who aren’t sure where to begin.

I first discovered Stormie Omartian in 2014 and I have read pretty much everything by her I have been able to get my hands on since. I picked this newest book up in April (2015), don’t let how long it took me to read it daunt you though. I simply took my time. Reading one or two chapters a day/night, and I found it a very effective way to enhance my daily, personal prayer and Bible reading time. There was far less discussion of Omartian’s own personal experiences, however that suited this book which felt more personal for me, as the reader. I was again impressed with the writing, and how many themes and elements in a Christian’s life Omartian managed to cover.

The Praying Woman’s Devotional was an inspiring read for me. I look forward to reading more by Omartian. I highly recommend to women interested in enhancing their personal prayer and Bible reading time. Great read.

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

Have you read anything by Stormie Omartian? Any recommendations for other faith literature?

New Read: The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist

My mother lent me The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, with glowing praise for how much she enjoyed it. I can see the instant appeal for her, as she is herself, a miniaturist. I was excited to read this and it continues my 10 Books of Summer reading.

The Miniaturist takes us back to autumn, 1686 as young Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to start her married life. Nella’s mother has arranged a good match for her with Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant. The reception at her new, grand home is less than appealing, with two unusual servants, a stony sister-in-law and a distant husband. I think there is a really interesting mixture of characters. Through them Burton, the author, is able to bring up difficult issues, including gender roles, sexuality and racism. While I didn’t particular like the characters, not even Nella, I did sympathise and ultimately found them fascinating to read about.

Not long after her arrival Nella is presented with an extravagant and extraordinary wedding gift. A complete and perfect miniature version of her new home. This is when the story really takes off. Nella’s new home is full of secrets, lots of secrets. The ‘miniaturist’ Nella employs to furnish her Dolls House makes exquisite pieces but soon pieces, not ordered, begin to arrive. These unexpected pieces seem to eerily coincide with people and events within the house, which the ‘miniaturist’ shouldn’t possibly be able to know about. As more arrive Nella begins to believe the mysterious ‘miniaturist’ is trying to warn her of the secrets and terrible dangers which are to befall her household.

This is a dark, fast paced and excellently written mystery. From the moment the Dolls House arrived I could barely prize myself away. Being equally scared and excited about what could possibly happen next. I warn you this is not a happy read but it is gripping and tackles some really difficult and important issues. All set in the immersive setting and tense atmosphere of Amsterdam in the 1600s. This is not a time period I know much about. Burton, the author, has brought it all beautifully alive though. I could see the bustling streets and tall houses, I could feel the bitter cold, I could smell the sweet pastries, and I could feel the fear and hysteria in the air. However interesting it was to read about. This is one place and time period I would not like to visit; let alone have lived in.

The Miniaturist is a gripping and immersive read, and Jessie Burton is an author I look forward to seeing more of. I highly recommend to those who enjoy mysteries and historical fiction. I also recommend to those interested in literature that discusses LGBT, race and gender issues. Great read.

Have you read this? What did you think? Any recommendations for other literature set in Amsterdam?

New Read: Victorian Fairy Tales

Victorian Fairy Tales

Over the last few years I have upped my reading of classics, due in large part to The Classics Club, and this has included classic collections of fairy tales and short stories. So when I saw Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Michael Newton for offer I had to give it a go; I thought it sounded just my cup of tea.

Michael Newton has collected together an interesting mixture of fairy tales written and made popular in the Victorian period. The collection begins with stories by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, and Hans Christian Anderson; whom are of course famous for their fairy tales. The collection then moves on to stories by well known Victorian authors, but perhaps not known for writing fairy tales. These include William Makepeace Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Ford Madox Ford, Kenneth Grahame, E Nesbit and Rudyard Kipling. Some of my favourites included:

The Rose and the Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray – One fairy godmother causes magic, mayhem, upheaval and happiness, with her unusual christening blessings and gifts. I enjoyed how it poked a little bit of fun at fairy tale tropes.

The Golden Key by George Macdonald – a surreal tale of how two children travel across fairy land, meeting mother nature and the old man of the sea, as they search for what their golden key opens.

The Little Lame Prince and his Travelling Cloak by Mary de Morgan – a little lame prince is imprisoned by his uncle in a tall tower. The prince can only explore the world outside his tower by the help of a magical cloak, from his fairy godmother.

The Reluctant Dragon by E Nesbit – a circus man regales two children with a tale of a dragon who was neither fearsome or dangerous, but instead just wishes for a quiet life.

While these particularly stood out for me. I actually enjoyed all of the fairy tales in this collection. I thought there was a wonderful mixture of classic, humorous, sad, surreal and magical tales. The collection began with an in-depth introduction to the fairy tales and the authors of the Victorian period. While it had some fascinating ideas in it, it was too academic for what I was looking for. So I skipped it and got straight into reading the stories themselves. However I did read the shorter and simpler introductions, from earlier fairy tale collections, which were included at the end of the collection.

Victorian Fairy Tales is an enchanting collection of fairy tales from some well loved classic authors. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fairy tales and short story collections. Great read.

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

Have you read this? What is your favourite fairy tale or short story collection?

New Read: Titanic

Titanic

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 picked up Titanic, my 2nd from this series this year, in June.

Before reading this I had of course heard of the tragedy of the Titanic. Just after the release of the award-winning film I was fascinated to find out as much as possible about the real life event. So it will be no surprise to you that I didn’t learn the greatest deal from this read. This brief history is broken down into chapters on the construction, mail and cargo, sea trials, passengers and crew, the departure, and the subsequent sinking, rescue, survivors and press frenzy. It was the construction, departure and survivors chapters that I found the most interesting. There were survivors I had not heard about before.

I am glad I discovered Mark Black and his A Very Brief History series in 2013. Now this is called a very brief history and they aren’t lying if you are someone looking for an in-depth history of the Titanic or any history you won’t find it in this series. However I think this series can be a good introduction that can give you a good idea of what you might want to read more about. Personally I would like to read more about the survivors of this tragedy. Again I thought this was a clear, concise and well-written instalment with easy bite-size chapters. I polished this off in just two sittings. However there were a few typos and some of the information was Americanised e.g. sometimes only giving prices and values in dollars.

Titanic is a quick, easy and interesting introduction to the tragedy of this infamous ship. I recommend to those interested in reading more about history. I have twelve editions still to go. Okay read.

Can you recommend any books about the Titanic?

The Classics Club: The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

My result for The Classics Club’s last, wonderful Spin feature was the children’s classic The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. I was really pleased with this choice, but sadly it took me a long time to get to. As first I needed to finish the epic The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.

I was particularly pleased with the choice of The Jungle Book as I love Disney’s animated film and in the first half of the book, lovers of the film will recognise the story of Mowgli. Although the chapters are not in chronological order. First Mowgli is found and adopted by the wolves after Shere Khan, the tiger, snatches him from his village. Later he is kidnapped by the monkeys, and rescued by his friends Baloo, the bear, and Bagheera, the panther, with the unlikely help of Kaa, the deadly python. For some time he also goes to live in a human village and it is here that Mowgli finally gets his revenge on Shere Khan.

This is the story I pretty much expected. What I didn’t realise was the other half of The Jungle Book is made up of other short stories. First we had ‘The White Seal’ Kotick who travels the oceans to find a safe home for him and the other fur seals away from humans. Then ‘Rikki-Tikki-Tavi’ a mongoose who defends his adopted, human family from a pair of deadly, king cobras. Then ‘Toomai of the Elephants’ which tells how a little boy called Toomai is able to see the mysterious elephant dance. Finally ‘Her Majesty’s Servants’ looks into a discussion between all the different animals which work for the British army. I was confused at first, as not sure what fur seals have to do with the jungle? However I enjoyed all these stories and my favourite would have to be ‘Rikki-Tikki-Tavi’.

I have fond childhood memories of the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling so it was nice to discover some more of his short stories. However when The Jungle Book was chosen as my Spin result I was really looking forward to finally reading a novel by Kipling. Sadly of course that still hasn’t happened! While Mowgli’s story was half of the book, it was really still a story not a novel. Therefore I also didn’t get some of character depth I was hoping for but enough of the negative; this was still an enjoyable read. Plus I still have Kim on my Classic Club list, please tell me that’s a novel?

The Jungle Book is an enjoyable collection of short stories, set in the beautiful and deadly Indian jungle. I recommend if you love children’s classics. This is my 32nd read off my Classics Club list. Good read.

Have you read this? Are you a fan of the Disney film?

New Read: My Autobiography (Guy Martin)

My Autobiography

I have rather a soft spot for Guy Martin, and knowing this a family friend lent me her copy of My Autobiography. After the disappointment of the last biography I read I didn’t wait long to start this, and timed it almost perfectly for the Isle of Man TT.

Guy Martin is a road racer, TV presenter and truck fitter; if you asked him though he would probably say truck fitter. Guy is a ‘grafter’ and it is his day job that has kept him sane, grounded, fit and initially paid for his motorcycle career. It was while racing at the Isle of Man TT that Guy took part in the filming of a documentary, Closer to the Edge, about the legendary event. Overnight he became a household name. Not only getting recognised at races but offers came in to do more television. I must admit I know him best from his television documentaries; including The Boat that Guy Built (2011), Speed with Guy Martin (2013), Guy Martin’s Spitfire (2014) and Our Guy in India (2015).

This biography starts with Guy’s childhood which he spent with his parents and three siblings in a small, rural community in North Lincolnshire. From an early age guy was mad on engines. Working hard he saved up his money for engines, bikes and cars. While Guy is best known for racing at the Isle of Man TT. He has had a successful career and raced at many other events; including Cock ‘o the North, Oliver’s Mount, North West 200 and the Ulster Grand Prix. Guy has also now diversified into endurance mountain biking and took on many challenges, for Speed with Guy Martin (2013), such as tobogganing, gravity racing, hydroplaning and even a human powered aircraft.

If you hadn’t guessed already this was a fascinating read. I love the humour, candour and down-to-earth nature that Guy brings to this biography. Plus the history and details he gives you about how everything works. Basically everything that makes him a great TV presenter, is brought to make this a great biography. Guy is also very candid about his relationship with his family, friends and girlfriends, the mistakes he has made, and after struggling with his fame his subsequent diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome. This biography has no airs and graces but in fact feels more like you’ve sat down with Guy for a chat over a cup of tea; and with it being Guy it would have to be a proper ‘builders brew’ (strong tea).

My Autobiography is a funny and honest read, packed with fascinating facts and interesting events. I highly recommend if you are a fan of Guy Martin, and/or love engines, machines and history. Great read.

Have you read this? Are you a fan of Guy Martin and his TV shows?