New Read: Jo’s Boys

After quite a heavy first year (2018) into my new Classics Club list, I decided to go easier on myself by reading some more of the children’s classics I have on my list. Earlier this year, I read the lovely Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, so it only followed that next I should read the 1886 sequel Jo’s Boys.

Beginning ten years after Little Men, Jo’s Boys revisits Plumfield, where Jo’s and her husband’s small, unconventional school has expanded, due to its success, out of their home into a purpose built college on the grounds. Sadly this does mean we lose the beautiful intimacy I loved so much and subsequently, we don’t get to know the new children half so well as the first cohort. However Jo’s original boys (and girls) are not gone and forgotten, as they keep coming ‘home’ on the holidays, special occasions and for surprise visits to let her know what they have been up to.

Through these wonderful reunions we are able to learn that Mr Bhaer’s strapping nephews, Franz is to be married and Emil is now a dashing sailor full of daring tales; the promising musician Nat is sponsored by Mr Laurence to travel to Europe; the wild Nan has grown into quite the lady and is studying to become a doctor, and has the troublesome Tommy as her adoring shadow; Jo’s sweet-natured nephew Demi is a budding journalist; and the rebellious Dan has been seeking adventure, riches and danger out West.

I really enjoyed these follow-up stories: seeing the boys (and girl) flown from the coup – trying to find their places in the world, making mistakes and learning valuable, often hard-won lessons. For such short reads, it is surprising how invested Alcott can make you! And as this is the last book, by the end, each of the ‘favourites’ is given a suitable ending: some happy, some satisfying, some with more promise to come and one a sad and regretful ending. The latter in particular did tug at my heartstrings, even though it was in character and fitting for him.

Finally, for you Jo March fans, there is progression, although not necessarily conclusion for her character too. She is happy in her marriage and her own two, very different boys, Rob and Teddy are growing fast. Reminiscent of Jo and her sister Amy, there is frightening incident between the two brothers, that ends up bringing them closer. Jo is also having huge success writing her adventure stories for children. However – reflective of Alcott’s own life – as well as the pleasure and income this brings, there is the pressure to write more, the weight of fame and the farcical moments of dodging trophy-seeking-fans who come to call!

So overall I thought Jo’s Boys was the nice, easy read I was looking for, and a sweet and fitting end to the series. Much like Little Men though, its only real downfall is that, well, it’s just not Little Women I’m afraid! Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read Little Women or Little Men?

This is also book 10/50 for my Classics Club II and 1/10 for my 10 Books of Summer 2019 reading challenges.

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Goodbye July, Hello August 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? I must apologise that you haven’t heard much from me recently – this is due to the crazy busyness on the wind down to the end of term at school and then I jetted off for an amazing eight days on the Amalfi Coast (will do a dedicated post about this soon), so I certainly can’t complain really! Here’s what I have been reading:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 1

I began July by finishing off my read of the Norse mythological fantasy, Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris, which I carried over from June and was my second choice from my 10 Books of Summer 2019 reading list. Then to continue my summer reading, I picked up the wonderful historical fiction, The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory, the third book from Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series. Finally, I read the charming, children’s classic, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which was a gentle read – to dip in and out of when times got busy – from my Classics Club list.

Alongside these fictions, I also read the candid memoir Undivided by Christian worship leader, Vicky Beeching about her struggles with her faith and sexuality, which was the July choice for my church’s book club. Unfortunately our planned meeting had to be cancelled – Hopefully we will be able to re-arrange this for after the summer.

Pick of the Month: The Lady of the Rivers

Altogether that is four books read – a good amount considering how busy I have been. Also in July, I made very good progress into the epic fantasy, The Dragon’s Blade: The Last Guardian by Michael R. Miller, and I started reading Christian non-fiction, Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and children’s classic, The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank L Baum.

In August, I am immediately off to spend a long weekend with my mum on the South Coast, so it may remain quiet around here for a little longer, sorry! Then once I am back I have an art installation at my local cathedral to go to and my friend’s hen do to look forward to. I also hope I will have time to catch up with your posts and more reading, especially as I am not doing all that well with my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge!

What did you do and read in July? What are your plans for August?

New Read: The Time Machine

Back in April, I took part in The Classics Club’s 20th Spin event, which chose the classic, science fiction novella, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I was really pleased with my result, because I have long wanted to read this but just didn’t seem to be getting round to it – in fact, it is left over from my first list – so this finally gave me the push I needed. However I wasn’t able to make the  31st May deadline though, as I had Howards End by E. M. Forster to finish first.

Published in 1895, the story that launched H.G. Wells’ as the father of science fiction, begins with a group of free-thinking, Victorian men in-the-midst of a luxurious after-dinner discussion by the fire side. In which their host, who comes to be known as the Time Traveller, raises the argument of time travel and a machine he has been working on. A week later a similar group meet for dinner, but their host, the Time Traveller, is conspicuous by his absence – he was seen entering his laboratory by his servants – then when he reappears he his dishevelled, half-starved and with bare, bloodied feet.

The reader and the guests are kept on tender-hooks as the Time Traveller takes some time to recover, and much speculation circulates the group as they impatiently wait for their host to return and explain. When he does he announces, “I’ve had a most amazing time….” and so begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing account of his journey 800,000 years into the future. Where he discovers two bizarre races: first the ethereal, childlike Eloi and then the creeping, subterranean Morlocks.

I just loved the atmosphere that Wells was able to create with the well-used technique of friends gathering around a fire and to hear a story told – reminiscent of many classic horror stories – which created a clever juxtaposition; as this is not your usual scary story, with its ghosts, ghouls and monsters. Instead this is an new breed of unsettling story, that travels not back but forward in time, to gives us an alarming vision of the future. Where the Earth is slowly dying, our civilisation has long gone, and the symbiotic relationship between Eloi and Morlock taps into some of our worst fears.

My only niggle would be the Time Traveller himself – Instead of the brave explorer I was sort of expecting, I got a pretty foolhardy adventurer. He lolloped about the landscape, like some giant, English dandy on holiday, with little concern for his safety or for the safety of the Eloi; who so innocently and unquestionably befriended him. In hindsight though, was this perhaps an intentional portrayal and damning commentary from Wells on the Western explorers of his time, as they explored deeper into Africa and South America with little concern for the indigenous people?

Niggle aside though, I thought The Time Machine was a truly imaginative and ahead of its time tale of the future, and with the Time Traveller’s gung-ho attitude, the adventure skipped along at a quick, exciting pace too. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you read anything else by Wells?

Goodbye June, Hello July 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Well June has been a month of extreme weather: from week long rain to a mini-Saharan heatwave! It has also been another busy month attending to a local Film and Comic Con; celebrating Father’s Day; a theatre trip to see The Lady Vanishes and going to a local, street food and music event. With all that going on, here is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 1

In June, I had quite a ‘classic’ month of reading. First, I finished reading the classic, science fiction The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, which I carried over from May and was my result for the last Classic Club’s Spin event. Then being eager to see what happened next to Aunt Jo and her boys after Little Men, I picked up the charming, children’s classic, Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott, off of my 10 Books of Summer 2019 reading list. Two gentle, classic reads, that were easy for me to dip in and out of when I found time.

As well as these fictions, I also read, one lazy Sunday morning, the short non-fiction D-Day: A Very Brief History by Mark Black, a super quick bite of World War II history. I’m afraid I am behind on my reviews, so you will have to wait for my thoughts on all three of these.

Pick of the Month: Jo’s Boys

Altogether that is three books read – a perfectly reasonable amount for me, however I can’t help but feel a little disappointed because I feel I was reading more than that. As, through out the month, I was also reading the Norse mythological fantasy, Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris and the memoir Undivided by Christian worship leader, Vicky Beeching.

In July, I look forward to a church ‘fun day’; a joint work’s retirement and leaving do; breaking up for the summer and my holiday to the Amalfi Coast. Also, hopefully, more reading!

What did you do and read in June? What are your plans for July?

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10… Books on My Summer TBR

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

Books On My Summer 2019 TBR

There are many wonderful books awaiting me on my bookshelf and Kindle, however here are ten books, ordered alphabetically, I am looking forward to reading this summer, as part of my 10 Books of Summer challenge:

  1. Cold Fire by Dean Koontz – A mystery recommended by my dad that will be perfect for my What’s in a Name 2019 reading challenge.
  2. The Dragon’s Blade: The Last Guardian by Michael R. Miller – After reading Veiled Intentions, I look forward to finishing this fantasy trilogy.
  3. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott – Looking forward to seeing how Aunt Jo and her boys progress from Alcott’s Little Men.
  4. The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory – After loving The Red Queen, I look forward to continuing Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series.
  5. The Moor by Laurie R. King – I think it is high time to read more from King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery series.
  6. Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien – Sadly I have fallen behind with O’Brien’s newest historical fiction, this is the next one up for me.
  7. Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett – The next book I have, chronologically, from Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series.
  8. River Rising by John A. Heldt – After finishing Heldt’s American Journey series, I look forward to this, the first book in his Carson Chronicles series.
  9. Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris – I am hoping for another refreshing, re-imagining of the Norse Gods and legends, like in The Gospel of Loki.
  10. Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans – A Christian non-fiction that was highly recommended to me by a fellow blogger.

Have you read any of my choices? What books are on your summer TBR? Also, please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.

New Read: Howards End

After watching the BBC’s delightful 2017 adaptation, starring the brilliant Hayley Atwell and Matthew MacFadyen, I was inspired to put E. M. Forster’s turn-of-the-century classic, Howards End onto my new list for The Classics Club. Then in March, I picked this up thinking it would be perfect for spring.

Howards End is considered by many to be Forster’s masterpiece, in which the author explores the slowly changing landscape, social conventions, codes of conduct and relationships in turn-of-the-century England. He does this with humour and pathos through the lives and interactions of three very different London families: the bohemian Schlegels; the rich, capitalist Wilcoxes and the impoverished Basts. The meeting of individuals with such polarised social status, world outlook and economic situation makes for some positive effects, comical blunders but also some disastrous consequences.

What, or should I saw who, really made this novel for me was the engaging Margaret Schlegel, an intelligent, idealistic and independent woman, with a love of the Arts, nature, travelling and social justice. Who, in a time when there were still many constrictions on women, is courageous enough to live the life and be who she wants to be, whilst also lovingly accepting others for who they are. Highlighted in her unwavering love for her rather irritating younger siblings: the flighty Helen and the pompously philosophical Tibby.

Similar it is with her love and compassion that Margaret draws many of the other main characters into the story and drives the plot along. First she befriends Ruth Wilcox, the matriarch of the Wilcox family, who is sick and alone, and in Margaret, Ruth believes she has met a kindred spirit. This later leads to the blossoming romance between Margaret and the widowed Henry Wilcox, who is a kind, practical and unsentimental businessman. Margaret also encourages and tries to help Leonard Bast, a poor Bank clerk with a passion for literature and music, after Helen accidentally takes his umbrella.

A lot of the story takes place in London, a little on the coast and in the country, however in the air always hangs Howards End… This house was the prized possession of Ruth Wilcox, which she wished to bequeath to Margaret, however even though her family don’t feel the same about the place, yet they can’t bare to part with it either. I could so easily picture the old, rambling house set in its semi-wild gardens, surrounded by fields out in the suburbs; that have yet to be swallowed up by London’s gradual expansion. For much of the book the house lies empty and it is Margaret who unintentionally brings life back to it. Forster creates a beautiful symmetry: beginning and ending the story with Howards End.

Oh I could go on, but I will stop. Overall I thought Howards End was a touching, humorous and masterful tale of family, society and change in the early 20th century, with vibrant characters and vivid descriptions of place. This did turn out to be a perfect read for Spring. Great read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by E. M. Forster?

This is book 8/50 for my Classics Club II reading challenge.

Challenge: 10 Books of Summer 2019

The sun is shining and we seem to be hurtling towards summer! So it is with much pleasure that I announce Cathy is hosting her brilliant 20 Books of Summer challenge (with the option of 15 or 10 levels too) again this year. As usual I am aiming for the lower goal and here are the 10 books I hope to read:

  1. Cold Fire by Dean Koontz
  2. The Dragon’s Blade: The Last Guardian by Michael R. Miller
  3. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
  4. The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
  5. The Moor by Laurie R. King
  6. Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien
  7. Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
  8. River Rising by John A. Heldt
  9. Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris
  10. Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

The challenge runs from the 3rd June to the 3rd September, so just after that I will check back in with you all to discuss what I manage to read!

Are you taking part in this summer challenge? Are there any of these books you think I should read first?