Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated/Hidden Gems

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So

It is left up to us if we want it to be those published in the past year or just any underrated book we’ve read recently – I am going for the latter as I rarely read books the year they were published. Here is my list of ten underrated/hidden gems I read last year (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

A House Divided by Margaret Skea

a-house-divided

Historical fiction set during the reign of the young James VI in Scotland, that I doubt I would have heard of if the author hadn’t contacted me. This is the sequel to Turn of the Tide.

~ 2 ~

A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Reaper of Stone

The first novella in a fantasy thread of the Echo of the Ascended series which was newly released last year. I also read the sequel Broken Banners.

~ 3 ~

Barton-in-the-Dale series by Gervase Phinn

The School Inspector Calls!

A charming series of books based around a small village school, which I was recommended by a family friend and I have seen passed on to my mum. I have read 3 of the 4 books so far.

~ 4 ~

Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Best Left in the Shadows

The first novella in a crime noir thread of the Echo of the Ascended series which was newly released last year. I also read the sequel Civil Blood.

~ 5 ~

Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson

blood-on-the-bayou

A bloody mystery with a supernatural set in the Deep South of America, that  I doubt I would have heard of if the publisher hadn’t contacted me.

~ 6 ~

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

the-circle-maker

An inspiring Christian non-fiction which I read for my church’s first book club meeting.

~ 7 ~

Innocence by Dean Koontz

innocence

A gripping thriller with a touch of the supernatural that I was lent by my dad., although by a famous author not a book I heard people talk about before.

~ 8 ~

Master of Shadows by Neil Oliver

Master of Shadows

Historical fiction and debut novel of historian and TV presenter Neil Oliver. Who knew he could write novels too?!

~ 9 ~

The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles

The Romanovs

Non-fiction which chronicles the Romanov royal dynasty (1613 to 1917), that could have been forgotten if it hadn’t been republished by Endeavour Press in 2015.

~ 10 ~

The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson

The Villa in Italy

A sweeping, romantic mystery set on the beautiful Italian coast, that I may never have read if it was not for an Amazon.co.uk sale.

What underrated/hidden gems have you read recently? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

Adaptations: December & Christmas 2016

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Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I’ve watched on the big and small screen through December and over the festive period:

Shadowlands (1993)
Film     Television

A beautiful biopic of C S Lewis’ passionate but doomed love affair with American poet Joy Gresham. Directed by the late, great Richard Attenborough and starring the equally great Anthony Hopkins. Not technically an adaptation, however I thought it a worthy mention as these events heavily influenced Lewis’ later writing. Warning: tear jerker!

***


Poldark (Series 2)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

A BBC costume drama which follows Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) and his family; based on the books by Winston Graham. A harrowing and stark tale of mining, smuggling, love, death and war in 1700’s Cornwall. Brought to life by a strong ensemble cast, with stunning scenery and beautiful costumes.

**


Doctor Strange (2016)
Not Read     Film     Cinema

This is the 14th film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which introduces us to acclaimed surgeon Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Who after losing the use of his hands in an accident travels across the world to learn the mystic arts. Another fun, action-packed superhero blockbuster with stunning visuals and a touch of surrealism.

**


Black Sails (Series 2)
Read     TV Series     Television

The exciting second series of this swashbuckling prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which follows the fearsome Captain Flint and newcomer John Silver as they try to get their hands on the gold of the Urca de Lima, a Spanish treasure galleon. A rip-roaring adventure with some beautiful settings, bloody battles and some adult content.

**


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)
Not Read     Film     Digital Copy

Superhero comedy sequel to the 2014 film; inspired by the characters from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series. Shredder and his new sidekicks, Bebop and Rocksteady, are causing havoc and mayhem all over town, and only our ‘heroes in a half-shelf’ can stop them! Not a ground breaking film but it is a fun, spectacular CGI bonanza.

**


The Jungle Book (2016)
Read     Film     Television

Visually stunning live action/CGI film based on Rudyard Kipling’s short-story collection and inspired by Disney’s 1967 film. That follows the young, man-cub Mowgli in his adventures with his animal friends, but not everything in the jungle is friendly! Utterly charming and simply beautiful.

***


Then on the lead up to Christmas I enjoyed re-watches of Alfred Hitchcock’s atmospheric classic Rebecca (1940) and childhood favourite Hook (1991). Then over the festive holiday I enjoyed re-watches of Christmas favourites The Grinch (2000) and all of the Harry Potter films. So altogether that’s 16 adaptations and 1 honorary mention watched!

As for non-adaptations, I watched ITV’s sumptuous period drama Tutankhamun (2016), HBO’s amazing new science-fiction series, Westworld (2016) and the BBC’s super gripping The Missing (Series 2). I also went to the cinema to see the absolutely awesome Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).

Have you watched any of these? What did you watch over Christmas?

New Books: December & Christmas 2016

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Hello my fellow bookworms, the number of acquisitions has gone up a fair bit from my saintly three review copies in November, however it was Christmas! If you can’t treat yourself then, when can you?! Here’s what I added to my Kindle and bookshelf over the festive period:

Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

First up, I was lucky enough to be approved on Netgalley for these three novels from three female authors I have read and enjoyed before. Which are also from two of my favourite genres: fantasy and historical fiction. Happy days!

The Sacred Scarred by Joanna Alonzo

I also accepted a review copy, from the author, of this novel, which was described as a modern-day, Christian retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Sounds like it should be just up my street.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Next, I won a copy of this from the lovely Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog. It arrived just before Christmas – an early Christmas present if you like.

If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

Then, I ordered a copy of this Christian non-fiction from the Book Depository via Amazon, which is the January read for my church’s book club. I’ve never read this author before, but I am a few chapters in now and I am enjoying it so far.

The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Jamie’s 30-minute Meals By Jamie Oliver

Finally, I treated myself to these in the WH Smith’s sale that started just after Christmas. I love Jamie Oliver however his cookbooks tend to keep their value, usually retailing for £20+, so I was thrilled to find 30-minute Meals for £6! I have also previously enjoyed Elizabeth Fremantle.

Now you may well be thinking ‘but Jessica what books did you get for Christmas?’. Well, while I did receive some book related gifts, like a Harry Potter tote bag, I actually received no actually books! Let’s not be down-hearted though, I did use my Christmas money to buy the last two books and my birthday is coming up soon too.

Do you fancy any of these? Did you receive any books this Christmas?

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

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Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016, and what better way to do that than with a few reading stats:

Books Read: 55           New Reads: 51              Re-Reads: 4

Fiction: 43                Non-Fiction: 12

In 2015 I finished 62 books so I am down this year. This might be because while my fiction reading is pretty much like for like my non-fiction reading has almost halved. However, I am still very pleased with the amount and the quality of books I read. Now for some fun meme categories to help me reflect on what I’ve been reading in 2016:

  • Best Fiction A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin
  • Best Non-Fiction The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles
  • Best Classic Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Best Re-ReadThe Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis
  • Best Series You Discovered Psammead by Edith Nesbit, Echo of the Ascended by Mark Gelineau and Joe King and Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes.
  • Favourite New-To-Me Authors – Margaret Skea and Elizabeth Gaskell.
  • Most Memorable Character – The clever and hilarious Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir.
  • Most Read Genre – Fantasy (18), Classics (12), Mystery (10) and Historical Fiction (6)
  • Multiple Reads of an Author – M. C. Beaton (2), Elizabeth Gaskell (2), Mark Gelineau & Joe King (4), Deborah Harkness (2), Edith Nesbit (3), Colleen Oakes (2), Stormie Omartian (2), Gervase Phinn (2), Margaret Skea (2)
  • Ambitions for 2017 – I would really like to make more time for re-reading old favourites and reading new books by favourite authors.

What did you read in 2016? Any ambitions for 2017?

Challenge: What’s in a Name 2016/2017

What's in a Name 2016

Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to round-up my reading for the What’s in a Name 2016 challenge; hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. This was my first time taking part but the premise is simple: read books with a title that fits the six categories provided. Here is what I read:

Annoyingly I had books lined up for the last two categories, but I just didn’t have time to read them. However seeing as this is my first attempt, I am pretty impressed with 4/6 completed.


challenge-name-2017

That’s not all folks! Now it is time for What’s in a Name 2017 challenge; also hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. Here are the new categories and in brackets are the books I could read for each:

  • A number in numbers (Class of ’59 by John A. Heldt)
  • A building (The Shack by William Paul Young)
  • A ‘X’ somewhere in it (Richard Nixon: A Very Brief History by Mark Black)
  • A compass direction (North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell)
  • An item/s of cutlery (re-read: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman)
  • Two words with the same first letter (The Trysting Tree by Linda Gillard)

For those new to this challenge it runs from January to December 2017; the books read can be any format (print, audio, e-book); books cannot overlap categories; and it’s preferred that the books don’t overlap with other challenges. Apart from that I can read what I want in what order I want.

Did you take part in 2016? Are you taking part in 2017?

Goodbye December 2016, Hello New Year!

month-dec-2016

Hello my fellow bookworms and a happy New Year! December whirled by for me in a blur of shopping, writing cards, wrapping presents, visiting family and friends, church services and my work’s Christmas do. Fortunately I got to enjoy the special day with my mum and family in a quiet and relaxed way. In amongst all that I managed to read these:

Fiction: 5          Non-Fiction: 0

I started the month off by finishing, in quick succession, supernatural thriller Innocence by Dean Koontz; the classic The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas and a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis for my churches book club. All of which I actually started reading back in November.

Then later in the month, once I was down at my mum’s house and I had the chance to curl up in the conservatory with a blanket, cup of tea and a good book, I reached for some comforting reads. First, I read fantasy adventure Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas by Colleen Oakes; the second book in Oakes’ young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s Neverland. Then, I immersed myself with Hercule Poirot in his first outing in The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.

(Except for Innocence by Dean Koontz, my full thoughts on these books are still to be posted)

Pick of the Month: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

That’s 5 books finished and a good month of reading I think. Through out the month, I have also been reading 90 Days Through the New Testament by Ron Rhodes (nearly finished!) and I started Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott. I also started but didn’t finish Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom by Brian Petti; due to it not being my kind of humour.

In January, I am looking forward to celebrating my birthday and what the new year will bring me reading wise.

What did you do and read in December? What are your plans for January and the new year?

My Top 10 Books of 2016

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Hello my fellow bookworms, 2016 has been another great year of reading for me. Now it is time to round-up my favourite 10 books from the past year; these are new-to-me books but were not necessarily published in 2016. It took some time to whittle it down to just 10 however here’s my final choices (ordered alphabetically by author):

~ 1 ~

The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles

The Romanovs

An epic non-fiction that chronicles the ups, downs, dreams, disasters and extreme personalities of the Romanov dynasty; from the unwilling Tsar Michael (1613-1645)  to the doomed Tsar Nicholas II (1894-1917). A fascinating, colourful and educational read for me.

~ 2 ~

The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

the-sign-of-the-four

While this was the last one for me to read, it is actually Doyle’s second mystery novel to feature his famous, private sleuth Sherlock Holmes and lovable sidekick Dr Watson. What can I say other than this is another excellently crafted mystery.

~ 3 ~

The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson

The Villa in Italy

A sweeping, romantic suspense set in the Renaissance Villa Dante on the beautiful Italian coast; which had me hooked with family rifts, forbidden love, heartbreak, war, divorce and ethics.

~ 4 ~

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

jane-steele

The highly anticipated retelling of gothic classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. And, with a beautiful, lush setting; a colourful cast of characters; a gripping mystery and a darker edge it didn’t disappoint.

~ 5 ~

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Cranford

Finally I read my first Gaskell! Which was an utterly charming tale of the day-to-day lives, trials, tribulations and joys of a small, rural town’s inhabitants. I loved it so much I read Mr Harrison’s Confessions later in the year.

~ 6 ~

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Named of the Dragon

Another immersive and gripping mystery from one of my favourite authors. This time I was swept away to the beautiful, ancient coastal town of Angle, Pembrokeshire; where I was hooked by the history, Arthurian legend, romance and magic of it all.

~ 7 ~

A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin

a-feast-for-crows

After watching the sixth and perhaps best series of Game of Thrones, I threw myself into the fourth instalment in Martin’s excellent, epic fantasy series. Like the previous books, it was jam-packed with action, adventure, intrigue, love, war, lies, fighting, secrets, and shocks!

~ 8 ~

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad

My eighth jaunt into Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld. Where I re-joined the witches – my favourite set of Discworld characters, so far – Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and young Magrat for another hilarious adventure.

~ 9 ~

Turn of the Tide and A House Divided by Margaret Skea

Turn of the Tide

Technically two books but they both tell the dramatic tale of the bloody feud that ran between the Cunninghames and Montgomeries, during the reign of the young James VI of Scotland. An utterly gripping and fascinating trip back to the 16th century.

~ 10 ~

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

Stunning debut novel that follows astronaut Mark Watney after he is stranded on Mars! A gripping and immersive science-fiction drama which had me on the edge of my seat and, surprisingly, laughing from start to finish.


With so many great reads in 2016 honorary mentions must also go to fictions: Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe, The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson and The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. And Christian non-fictions: Out of Darkness by Stormie Omartian and The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Plus cookbooks: Save With Jamie by Jamie Oliver and The Hairy Dieters: Fast Food by Si King & Dave Myers. Finally, I also loved re-reading The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis.

Have you read any of these? What were your favourite books in 2016?