New Read: The Pilgrim’s Progress

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. Back in October we read and met to discuss The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Next up was the classic, Christian allegorical novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, which I put onto my new Classics Club list as soon as I found out we would be tackling it.

Part 1, published in 1678, follows Christian, an everyman, who leaves behind his home, wife and children in the City of Destruction to make the perilous journey to the Celestial City. Along the way he faces many trials, tribulations, monsters and spiritual terrors, as he travels through the Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Doubting Castle and the Delectable Mountains. His pilgrimage is hindered by characters such as Worldly Wiseman, Giant Despair, Talkative and Ignorance, but he is also supported by Evangelist and his travelling companions, Hopeful then Faithful.

All of which is surreally presented as a dream sequence narrated by Bunyan as an omniscient narrator: giving him the power to observe all, but powerless to help. There is no arguing with the content, characters and wisdom in this enormously influential classic – which has been translated into more than 200 languages and has never been out of print – but I did struggle with the style and flow. I found it a bit jerky and I often found I had to go back and re-read sections to fully understand what was being said.

However I found Part 2, published in 1684, a much easier and quicker read. In this second part, Bunyan follows the subsequent pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christiana, their sons and their maidenly neighbour, Mercy. They journey to all the stopping points Christian visited, but they take a longer time as the sons marry, have children and their party grows. They are also guided by the brave hero, Greatheart, who along the way slays four giants and a monster named Legion, that have been terrorising pilgrims.

This second part grabbed me instantly and flowed much better, especially as it has a more natural time frame for the journey – akin to a Christian’s life span. I was fascinated to see Bunyan express some very ‘modern’ thoughts and ideas through out this second pilgrimage too. First in his choice of a female pilgrim, but also in his portrayal and discussion of the important role women have in bringing people to and nurturing faith. I enjoyed it so much, that I actually finished this part in less than half the time the first part had taken me.

So, overall, I was left feeling a little confused about how I felt about this book, with the big difference I experienced between Part 1 and 2. It was not till after my church’s book club eventually met, last week, to discuss this, that I saw in hindsight how much more I enjoyed this than I initially thought. We discussed our struggles with Part 1; our preferment for Part 2 and our universal love of Bunyan’s emblematic characters – many of which are characters you can find in life today. And the general consensus was that the content was great, even if the style and language was problematic.

All in all then, I found The Pilgrim’s Progress to be a clever allegorical look at the journey Christians must take through life. I can’t say it was an easy read – in fact it was in parts hard work – however it was a rewarding read, and this is a book I feel with benefit from re-reading. Good read.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any other classic Christian books?

This is book 5/50 for my Classics Club II reading challenge.

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Challenge: What’s in a Name 2018/2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to round-up my reading for the What’s in a Name 2018 challenge; hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. This was my third 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 another six out of six this year. Okay, I was very inventive on the last one, but they do sing about Christmas being the ‘season’ to be jolly, right?! Sadly, I am very behind on my review writing, so you will have to wait for my thoughts on the last three books.

Did you take part in this challenge too? If yes, what did you read for it?


That’s not all though folks! Now it is time to get ready for What’s in a Name 2019, which this year is being hosted by Andrea at Carolina Book Nook. Here are the new categories and in the brackets are the books I own which I could possibly read for each:

  • A precious stone/metal (The Silver Locket by Margaret James or The Golden Antilles by Tim Severin)
  • A temperature (Cold Fire by Dean Koontz)
  • A month or day of the week (???)
  • A meal – (Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig or The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams)
  • Contains the word “girl” or “woman” (The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins)
  • Contains both the words “of” AND “and” (Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death by M. C. Beaton)

For those new to this challenge it runs from 1st January to 31st December; the books read can be in any format (print, audio, e-book); books cannot overlap categories; and creativity for matching the categories is encouraged! Apart from that I can read what I want in what order I want.

Are you taking part this year? Any recommendations of a book I could read with a day or month in the title?

New Read: A Letter of Mary

Since reading The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I have managed to collect much of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Earlier this year, I read the second book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women and then with the cooler weather and darker nights in October, it seemed the perfect time to pick up the third book, A Letter of Mary.

It is 1923 and Mary Russell and her husband, the retired Sherlock Holmes, have settled into a comfortable, if slightly dull, routine on their Sussex estate. Mary with her books and translations, and Holmes with his newspaper, pipe and bees. When they are visited by an old friend, Miss Dorothy Rushkin, an archaeologist just returned from Palestine. Who leaves in Mary’s care an ancient manuscript that seems to suggest Mary Magdalene was an Apostle of Jesus…. which, if authentic, could whip up a storm of biblical proportions! Then, just days later, Mary and Holmes discover their friend has been tragically killed in a car accident, but was it really an accident?!

So much has changed since we first met lonely 15-year-old Mary, that sunny day in 1915. Now Mary is a strong, brave, intelligent grown woman, who is now an equal to the great Sherlock Holmes’ as she takes on a key role in their investigations. In this case, going undercover alone to gain the trust of a possibly dangerous suspect, Colonel Edwards: the last person known to have seen and spoken to Miss Rushkin. While Holmes goes on his own undercover mission to find out more about Miss Rushkin’s estranged sister.

Since the last book Mary and Holmes’ have married. I wouldn’t say they suddenly fell madly in love. Instead they both just finally admitted how much they need each other. The large age gap was not an issue at all for me this time, because it is so easy to see how well they suit each other. In fact, it was highly amusing to see them both going quietly stir-crazy in their comfortable, settled routine at home together; which culminates in Mary sending herself cross-eyed reading and Holmes disappearing to his office to blow things up!

Then in-steps Miss Rushkin to save their sanity, but sadly lose her life. We then witness their complicated emotions as they mourn the loss of a friend. Mary fainted at the sight of the blood splattered at the scene of this tragic death and Holmes’ anger bubbling under is cool exterior. However they can then barely hide their excitement at the thrill of picking up the scent of a crime and throwing themselves body and soul into finding justice for a good woman. What unfolds is another thrilling mystery full of secrets, danger and disguises, clues, red-herrings and theological arguments.

All in all, I thought A Letter of Mary was another nostalgic and thrilling adventure with Mary Russell and the famous Sherlock Holmes. I look forward to reading more from this series – I already have the next book, The Moor waiting on my TBR pile. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books?

This was also my fourth and final read for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XIII reading event.

The Classics Club: Spin #19 Result

Last week, The Classics Club announced their 19th Spin event. The idea for which is to list 20 books remaining on our Classics Club lists, numbered 1-20, and the number announced today (Tuesday) is the book we have to read by the 31st January 2019. So the results are in and our spin number is…

1

Which means I will be re-reading the wonderful Emma by Jane Austen. Not the longest book on my list, so I think I have got a sweet result!

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

New Read: Kin

After reading Lynn’s wonderful thoughts on the new, Viking murder mystery, Kin by Snorri Kristjansson, I knew I needed to read it. So I immediately requested my own copy from Netgalley, but then patiently saved it for the perfect darker, cooler days of autumn to read it.

In the summer of 970, legendary Viking warlord, Unnthor Reginsson has reached the winter of his years, he’s sixty-two, and has long since retired from raiding. Now Unnthor lives quietly at his farm, Riverside, with his wife, Hildigunnur, their adoptive daughter, Helga and his sworn brother Jaki and his son, Einar. Both Unnthor and his wife are well-respected in the valley and surrounding area, but as much as he denies it, rumours and gossip persists of a large treasure horde secretly buried on his land. All of which is to bubble dangerously to the surface when Unnthor arranges a whole family reunion.

Through the eyes of the young, intelligent and insightful Helga, we witness the preparation and arrival of Unnthor and Hildigunnur’s grown children and their families. There are three sons: the dark, dangerous Karl; the giant Bjorn and the gentle, henpecked Aslak, and one daughter: the lithe, clever Jorunn. With the gathering of the siblings, bad blood simmers and old feuds resurface, as they all make their moves on the old man’s treasure. Then one morning Helga is awakened by screams. Blood has been shed… kin has been slain!

I daren’t go any further with the plot in case of spoilers! What I can say is what follows is a fast, gripping and twisting murder mystery, as Helga races against time to solve this terrible crime, before an innocent is blamed and there can be anymore bloodshed. As an adoptive daughter she has a more objective view and open mind than the others, and she has a wisdom that belies her young years. Also she puts all the cunning traits she has learnt from her wise adoptive mother, Hildigunnur, to work her way through this large cast, wheedling out all their resentments and secrets.

What was a very good murder mystery, which could perhaps be transposed to any time period, was taken to a whole new level by the fantastic, historical Viking setting. The picturesque, wooded Norwegian valley, with the Riverside farm and longhouse nestled within, where life is quiet, isolated and closely tied to the seasons. Then the reunion explodes this life apart with the busy, continuous slaughtering of animals, making beds, cooking food, bringing up the best wine and ale, and entertaining guests. We also have the chance to see traditional Norse games, sports and a blood sacrifice to the gods.

Overall I thought Kin was an excellent Viking murder mystery, which shows a different side to the raiding and pillaging Vikings. On finishing this book, I discovered that it is the first in a planned series, so I look forward to reading more of Helga Finnsdottir’s adventures. Great read.

Thank you to Quercus Books for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other Viking books?

This was also my third read for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XIII reading event.

Challenge: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XIII (End)

Having said goodbye to October, we also have to say goodbye to the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XIII reading event, hosted this year by Heather of My Capricious Life. Here’s what I managed to read:

  1. Cauldstane by Linda Gillard – A book with all the things I love: mystery; romance; history; a big, old house and a touch of the paranormal.
  2. Stop Press Murder by Peter Bartram – A page-turning, nostalgic murder mystery, with ace crime reporter, Colin Crampton in 1960’s Brighton.
  3. Kin by Snorri Kristjansson –  A dark, intense Viking murder mystery, which is the first book in a planned series, so I look forward to more!
  4. A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King – The third nostalgic and thrilling Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery for me.

As I signed up for Peril the First level, I was aiming to read four books, so… nailed it! Although I do have a couple of reviews to catch up with, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

Did you take part in this event? Have you been reading anything dark, creepy or mysterious recently?

Goodbye October, Hello November 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are well? Autumn has truly arrived here in the UK and with our first snow fall in some parts, winter feels very close! It has been a very busy month at work, but I also enjoyed seeing my favourite, long-haired Scotsman, Neil Oliver do a talk on British history, and an amazing, belated birthday, trip to Warner Bros, Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter! Now here is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 3           Non-Fiction: 0

At the start of the month, I finished re-reading the gritty, dystopian Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the second book in Collins’ bestselling young adult trilogy. Next I picked up the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event again, with the dark, intense Viking murder mystery, Kin by Snorri Kristjansson. The gripping first book in a planned series, so I look forward to more! Then I swiftly continued my R.I.P reading with the historical mystery, A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King, the third nostalgic and thrilling Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery for me.

Pick of the Month: Kin

Altogether that is three books finished. Another lower month, however in good news I now have only two reviews to catch up with! Over the month, I have also been reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland. So there are few reviews for you to look forward to and I will also soon be doing a round-up post for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril reading event.

In November, I look forward to several family members’ birthdays and to going to see a stage adaptation of Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four. As well as enjoying more reading, whilst snuggled up in a blanket with copious amounts of hot chocolate, as the nights draw in.

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