New Read: Queen of Hearts, Volume 3: War of the Cards

I really can’t believe that it was back in 2014 that I read the fantastic Volume 1: The Crown and Volume 2: The Wonder of Colleen Oakes’ twisted YA Wonderland re-imagining, Queen of Hearts. Finally, three years, a new publisher and republications of the earlier two volumes later, we have the concluding part, Volume 3: War of the Cards! (Warning: this will probably contain spoilers for the earlier volumes).

In this final volume, we re-join Dinah, the exiled princess of Wonderland, as she marches her fractious army of Spades and Yurkei warriors on to the palace of Wonderland. Where her father, the cruel King of Hearts, and his deadly army of Hearts await for a final, bloody showdown. Although gripped by fear and doubt, Dinah is propelled on by a burning rage that seeks revenge for the brutal murder of her beloved brother Charles and to claim the throne which is rightfully hers. But an inner battle rages within Dinah too – with such all-consuming love and fury can she be the ruler the kingdom needs? Or will her tumultuous nature bring Wonderland to its knees?

Through-out this trilogy, I have been fascinated to watch our young, head-strong and rebellious protagonist grow and survive through so many harsh trials and tribulations. Now she is a strong, brave woman with such high expectations on her shoulders to be a strong, wise and victorious leader. I couldn’t help but to continue to pity her in this book. However Dinah is an imperfect character. In particular, in this conclusion, there is one absolutely horrific incident, which, while I could sympathise with how she came to feel so hurt and angry, I could never condone her terrible reaction. If only she could hear me shouting stop!

Although if Dinah didn’t have a darker side to her, she wouldn’t be a very convincing Queen of Hearts now would she! And I do have to praise Oakes’ better fleshed out and more realistic take on the quintessential characters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, such as Cheshire, the royal advisor; the Caterpillar, a Yurkei witch-doctor and Charles, the Mad Hatter. Also I loved Oakes’ clever twists on the classic elements of the cards, magical food and the Jabberwocky. Even though I went into this knowing what should become of Dinah, Oakes was still able to generate tension, throw me some real curve balls and leave me with a hopeful note.

All in all, I thought War of the Cards was a fitting and very satisfying ending to this clever and refreshing re-imagining of Wonderland. It was worth the wait! After enjoying this and her Wendy Darling series, I am interested to see what Oakes will do next. Great 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 any other re-imaginings of classic tales?

I am also including this book towards my What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge, as a title with a shape in it. (1/5)

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The Classics Club: Spin #17 Result

This week saw the arrival of The Classic Club’s 17th Spin, which is my first spin since creating my brand-spanking new list. To join in all you simply had to do was list and number any 20 books that remain on your Classics Club list before Friday, 9th March, when the club would announce the winning number. So the results are in and our spin number is…

3

Which means I have The Tenant of Wildfel Hall by Anne Brontë to read by Monday, 30th April. I am really pleased with my result because I have long wanted to read something by Anne, as I have already enjoyed books by both of her sisters, Emily and Charlotte Brontë.

Now my only dilemma is do I wait till I have finished This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald or abandon the former to start this?!

Have you read this? If you also took part, what was your result?

The Classics Club: New List!

After successfully completing my first Classics Club list back in March last year, I decided to take a break before deciding whether to do another list. For those of you who have been waiting, of course I was going to join in again and here is my new list:

  1. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
  3. Emma by Jane Austen [re-read]
  4. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen [re-read]
  5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [re-read]
  6. Persuasion by Jane Austen [re-read]
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen [re-read]
  8. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen [re-read]
  9. The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank L Baum
  10. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  11. The Tenant of Wildfel Hall by Anne Brontë
  12. The Professor by Charlotte Brontë
  13. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  14. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  16. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  17. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  18. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  19. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  20. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  21. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens [re-read]
  22. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  23. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  24. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  25. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  26. Romola by George Eliot
  27. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  28. This Side of Paradise by F Scott Fitzgerald
  29. A Passage to India by E M Forster
  30. A Room with a View by E M Forster
  31. Howards End by E M Forster
  32. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  33. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  34. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy [re-read]
  35. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  36. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  37. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  38. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  39. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  40. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  41. The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit
  42. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  43. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott [Re-Read]
  44. Heidi by Johann Spyri
  45. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  46. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  47. The Time Machine by H G Wells
  48. War of the Worlds by H G Wells
  49. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  50. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

For those unfamiliar with The Classics Club it was created for all those who would like to read more Classics. All you need to do to take part is make a list of 50+ Classics you’d like to read in five years. (To find out more please check out the projects official site here).

Unlike my last list, I have included re-reads on this list but as before I am leaving my list open to alteration, so I can add or remove books to reflect my mood and experiences. Starting today my aim is to read 50 books from this list in the next five years.

Any recommendations what I should read first? Are you taking part in The Classics Club?

Challenge: What’s in a Name 2017/2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to round-up my reading for the What’s in a Name 2017 challenge; hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. This was my second time taking part and the premise is very simple: read books with a title that fits the six categories provided. Here is what I read for this year’s categories:

Woohoo! That’s six out of six which is the challenge well and truly completed this year.


That’s not all though folks! Now it is time to get ready for What’s in a Name 2018, that is again being hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. Here are the new categories for next year, and in the brackets are the books I own which I could possibly read for each:

  • The word ‘the’ used twice (The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory or The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney or The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier)
  • A fruit or vegetable (Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip)
  • A shape (Heartstones by Kate Glanville or The Loyal Heart by Merry Farmer)
  • A title that begins with Z – can be after ‘The’ or ‘A’ (Zombie edited by Christopher Golden)
  • A nationality (Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier)
  • A season (Summer by Edith Wharton or Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett)

For those new to this challenge it runs from January to December; the books read can be in 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 this year? Do you fancy taking part next year? Which book do you think I should read first?

Goodbye November, Hello December 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Can anyone tell me where November went?! Except for a sunny, albeit cold, trip down south to celebrate my mum’s and stepdad’s birthdays, I am not sure what has kept me so busy for the time to fly by so quick. During this speedy month, I have read:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 1

Firstly, I read another wonderful mystery Season of Storms by, one of my favourite authors, Susanna Kearsley; which swept me away from the cold and wet of the UK to the drama of the gorgeous villa Il Piacere, Italy. Then at the end of the month, I finally finished the classic North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It may have been a slow burner but I did find it a touching and important look into Victorian life and society. This also rounded off nicely my What’s in a Name 2017 challenge, as a title with a compass direction in it.

Alongside these fictions, I also read Christian non-fiction Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung for the return of my church’s book club. A quick, down-to-earth book that offers restful cures for our modern, crazy-busy lives. At the end of the month, I also really enjoyed our small but thought-provoking and lively group meeting to discuss it.

Pick of the Month: Season of Storms

Altogether that is three books completed in November, which makes it my lowest month of the year! However I am a hair’s breadth from finishing The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien, so I can’t feel too bad because if I counted that it would take my total up to my average four books. Also this month, I started reading an interesting history of Cleopatra by Ernle Bradford; I continued listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; and I am eyeing up Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia by Emilio Salgari, as my next classic read.

In December, I am looking forward to present buying, mince pies, writing cards, my church’s Christingle service and all the other wonderful things that lead up to the big day… of Christmas! Oh and hopefully, in between all the excitement, I have some quiet time to snuggle up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book too!

What did you do and read in November? What are your plans for December?

New Read: North and South

As part of The Classics Club, I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Cranford Chronicles, which is made up of the novellas: Cranford, Mr Harrison’s Confession and My Lady Ludlow. After them it seemed high time to read one of Gaskell’s full novels and it just so happened I had Gaskell’s 1854 novel North and South on my to-be-read shelf.

North and South tells the story of Margaret Hale, a young, clever and spirited young woman who is to have her comfortable life turned upside down. Firstly, by the marriage of her close companion and cousin, Edith, then by the shock revelation that her father wishes to retire from the church. This means the family must leave their quiet, rural vicarage, their neighbours and all they know to settle in the smoggy, bustling northern industrial town of Milton. Immediately on arriving Margaret has a ready sympathy for the discontented mill workers and their cause, which will sit uneasily with her growing attraction to the charismatic mill owner, John Thornton.

What immediately struck me about the relationship between Margaret and Mr Thornton is its similarity to Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Now I own they are very different as characters, however both pairs have in common that they are blinded by pride and led by their own prejudices. Margaret thinks he is cold, coarse and money driven, while Thornton believes she is haughty and misled. I actually liked both Margaret and Thornton, although I often found myself wanting to knock their heads together! So a delicious (if not sometimes infuriating) will they, won’t they narrative runs through out the novel.

But there is much more to North and South than a rocky love story. Within the story Gaskell also poses and explores fundamental questions about the nature of Victorian social authority and obedience: ranging from religious crises of conscience (Mr Hale); to the ethics of Naval Mutiny (Frederick Hale) and industrial action (Thornton and the mill workers). This is also an emotional rollercoaster which Gaskell so vividly and realistically portrays, that it made me feel I was right there alongside Margaret; as she fights her internal conflicts which mirror the turbulence that surrounds her.

For that reason this wasn’t a quick or easy read like Gaskell’s novellas were for me. I still enjoyed Gaskell’s detailed, meticulous and personable style with her eye for the small details, but I found this was less comforting than her previous stories. Instead with its hard-hitting issues, I found I needed to take my time to mull over and absorb it all. It actually took me from July to November to read three-quarters of this book, yet I whipped through the last quarter in a matter of days as the pace and drama really ramped up.

In conclusion, I thought North and South was a touching and important look into Victorian life, love and society, and the huge upheaval that arose from industrialisation. I suspect I will enjoy this even more on re-reading it. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Gaskell?

What’s in a Name 2017 – 6/6 (a title with a compass direction)

New Read: Season of Storms

Mid-Autumn felt like the perfect time to pick up another of Susanna Kearsley’s wonderful mystery novels: Season of Storms. Kearsley is one of my favourite authors – I simply love how her writing style is so comforting and familiar for me, like a favourite jumper. Sadly though it has been over a year since I read my last of her novels: Named of the Dragon!

In the early 1900s, in the elegant and isolated villa Il Piacere, Italy, the playwright Galeazzo D’Ascanio is inspired to write his most stunning and original play, for the beautiful, English actress Celia Sands: his love and muse. However the night before she was to take to the stage in the leading role, Celia disappeared. Now, decades later, Alessandro D’Ascanio is preparing to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece, and another young, beautiful English actress, who shares Celia Sands’ name, has agreed to star. Within a theatre in the grounds of Il Piacere, not only will Galeazzo’s play come back to life but so will secrets and ghosts from the past.

Initially, our protagonist the ‘new’ Celia Sands is reluctant to take the job because she has long avoided using her famous name to boost her fledgling career. Instead she has been known as Celia Sullivan so as to make it in her own right; which you can only admire her for. She only agrees when she learns that this is to be her old friend, Rupert’s last directorial role before he retires. Rupert and his partner Brian have been surrogate parents to Celia since she was a small girl, while her glamorous actress mother has flitted from place to place and man to man. They are joined in the production by dashing stage manager Den O’Malley; the famous actress Madeleine Hedrick and the roguish actor Nicholas Rutherford (Madeleine’s lover).

As soon as Celia stepped into the large, decadent and labyrinthine villa Il Piacere, with its impeccable gardens; stunning lake views and its handsome, compelling and compassionate master, Alessandro, I was completely swept away! Even more so when its past secrets start resurfacing and though Celia knows she should let the past go, in the dark, as she dreams, it comes back none the less; as if the first Celia is reaching out to her. Again I think Kearsley has weaved a mystery full of history, theatrical details, stunning settings, and a touch of romance and the supernatural. My only niggle would be the end which was a little anticlimactic, however there is reason for there not being a grand reveal so it really is only a minor niggle.

Overall, I found Season of Storms to be a wonderfully immersive and gripping mystery, that took me away from the cold and wet of the UK. I really must not allow another year to go by before I read more by Kearsley, and there is no excuse to either as I have The Firebird on my to-be-read pile, as well as a new copy of, my favourite, The Rose Garden lined up for a re-read. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you read any of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII – 4/4