Goodbye February, Hello March

February 2015

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? February has been another cold month here in the UK, with some extreme days of rain and days of bright sunshine. Did mean it was another good month for me tucking myself in bed early with a good book though. Here is what I have managed to finish:

Fiction: 4     Non-Fiction: 2     Poetry: 0

I started the month off by finishing Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald, my 28th read off my Classics Club list. A slow read about the glitzy and gritty lives of 1920’s American socialites in Europe. In parallel to Tender is the Night I read The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman. An often dark and sad contemporary fiction with an Old Testament twist.

Next for a change of pace and mood I re-read The Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkien. An intricate, epic, and enchanting tale that brought magic and comfort into the recent cold days. Still in a comfort read mood I next read the children’s classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, my 29th read off my Classics Club list. Another delightful read for the recent cold days; my full thoughts still to be posted.

Alongside these fictions I also read two non-fictions. First the memoir Our Zoo by June Mottershead. A nostalgic, touching and inspiring memoir which I was inspired to read after watching the BBC drama. Then faith non-fiction The Ancient Path by John Michael Talbot an interesting look into the founding fathers of Christianity; my full thoughts still to be posted.

Pick of the Month: The Fellowship of the Ring

And those are just the books I finished. A new aim for 2015 for me is to always have a classic on the go so after finishing The Secret Garden I returned to my favourite sleuth in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I have also not quite finished urban fantasy World Below by Mike Phillips yet (although by the time this post goes out I am hoping I will have finished).

I am looking forward to more good reading, Mother’s day, and my father’s birthday in March.

What did you do and read in February?

Re-Read: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring

With the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) Peter Jackson’s epic film franchise based on J R R Tolkien’s novels has sadly now come to an end. While I regularly re-read The Hobbit I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings in over 10 years! So the start of February saw me reaching for The Fellowship of the Ring as I thought it was high time for a re-read.

The Fellowship of the Ring takes us back to Middle-Earth 60 years after Bilbo Baggins’s original adventure to the Lonely Mountain. In the quiet and beautiful Shire, Bilbo and his heir Frodo are celebrating landmark birthdays. Frodo now comes into his inheritance which includes Bilbo’s magic ring. Some troubling information has come to light about the ring though that sets Frodo on a dangerous mission in a fellowship with men, hobbits, elf, dwarf and wizard. Bilbo didn’t just find any old ring he has in fact found the one ring of power that Sauron himself forged in Mount Doom, and only there can it be destroyed.

What I particularly love about Tolkien’s work is the unlikely protagonists of hobbits. Small creatures with curly hair, pointy ears, large hairy feet and brightly coloured clothes; who live comfortable lives full of food, walks and routine. In The Fellowship of the Ring we have 4 hobbits Frodo, his gardener Sam, and his cousins Merry and Pippin. They are joined later on by Gandalf the Wizard, Legolas a woodland elf, Gimli a dwarf, and two men Boromir and Aragorn. I love the mixture and diversity of the members of the fellowship, and find it compelling how they journey and interact with each other.

The Hobbit is my favourite book from childhood and I have read it more times than I can count! However I have only previously read The Lord of the Rings trilogy twice and while I have enjoyed them they don’t quite hold the same sort of place in my heart. On re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring I found it to be an intricate and enchanting tale. Every word is precious to Tolkien and again he uses them here perfectly to really bring Middle-Earth alive. The Fellowship of the Ring is probably the longest of the reads from the trilogy because there is a lot of characters to introduce, history to relay, and adventure to establish. I found on this re-read though the slowness and familiarity of it to be very comforting.

The Fellowship of the Ring is a slow but intricate, epic, and enchanting tale. I highly recommend to those who enjoy epic fantasy. I look forward to re-reading The Two Towers next. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you watched the films?

Adaptations: January 2015 (1)

Adaptations #2

I absolutely love adaptations. I know this can sometimes be a controversial subject with book lovers but not for me. I think my real love of them came from my time studying performance at university. There I became fascinated with taking a story and telling it through a different medium; whether that be book, film, TV, or on the stage.

Here are the adaptations I have been watching during the Christmas holiday and January:

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)         Read     Film     Television
Fantasy adventure based on L. Frank Baum’s Oz series of novels and a prequel to the classic film The Wizard of Oz (1939). This takes us back to when Oscar Diggs a sideshow magician is swept into a magical land. A nice storyline, stunning special effects and vistas, and a good ensemble cast. Good watch.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)         Not Read     Film     Television
The sixth James Bond thriller, starring George Lazenby, based on Ian Fleming’s tenth Bond novel. There’s a slightly ridiculous toboggan fight but other than that I enjoyed the 1960’s setting, the beautiful Diana Rigg, and the bittersweet ending. Good watch.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)          Not Read     Film     Television
The seventh James Bond thriller, starring Sean Connery, based on Ian Fleming’s fourth Bond novel. I enjoyed the early 1970s setting,  the humorous tone and the return of Connery to the role, he’s definitely one of my favourite Bonds. Good watch.

Atlantis (2014)          Read     TV Series     Television
First half of series 2 of the BBC’s fantasy adventure inspired by Greek Mythology; including Jason, Hercules, Ariadne, Pasiphae and the Grey Sisters. A fun and exciting show as before but this 2nd series seemed to be darker than the previous. I particularly love Mark Addy as the over weight and washed up hero Hercules. I am looking forward to the rest of this series. Good watch.

Ivanhoe (1982)          Read     Film     Television
A sweeping historical TV film based on Sir Walter Scott’s classic novel. A colourful and romantic adaptation with a good ensemble cast including Anthony Andrews, San Neill, John Rhys-Davies, and Olivia Hussey as the beautiful Rebecca. Good watch.

Live and Let Die (1973)          Not Read     Film     Television
The eighth James Bond thriller, starring Roger Moore, based on Ian Fleming’s second Bond novel. Moore isn’t my favourite Bond however I did find him rather amusing in this film. I also liked the mystic/exotic elements, the beautiful Jane Seymour, and the cool theme song. Good watch.

Another good adaptation filled month for me, I can’t actually believe how much I’ve watched and we’re not even technically at the end of January yet. My numbers have been considerably increased by ITV’s showing of the Bond films every Sunday afternoon. They’ve been perfect watches for all the family after our big dinner. I look forward to more Bond next weekend and many more adaptations I have recorded.

Watched any of these? What have you been watching recently?

Top 10 Adaptations of 2014

Blog 2014

I absolutely love adaptations. I know this can sometimes be a controversial subject with book lovers but not for me. I think my real love of them came from my time studying performance at university. There I became fascinated with taking a story and telling it through a different medium; whether that be book, film, TV, or on the stage.

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptations watchers. 2014 was a great adaptation watching year for me so I thought I would do my first top 10 list for it. This is a list of adaptations I watched in 2014 not that were necessarily released in 2014. After much thought here are my choices (ordered alphabetically by title):

1. Captain Phillips (2013)          Not Read     Film     Television
A heart-racing thriller based on a true life account; recounted in A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips (with help from Stephan Talty). The amazing Tom Hanks takes the title role of Captain Richard Phillips who is willing to sacrifice himself when he finds his ship and crew under attack from Somali pirates. Great performances from the whole cast and an all round beautifully made film.

2. Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)          Read     TV Mini-Series     Television
BBC period drama adapted from P D James’ novel which continues Darcy and Elizabeth’s life on after Pride and Prejudice. With beautiful scenery, lavish costumes, a great cast and a good murder mystery, what wasn’t there to enjoy here? I only wish I had watched this mini-series sooner

3. Endeavour (2014)          Not Read     TV Series     Television
A second series of ITV crime drama series based on the characters of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels and prequel to the ITV Inspector Morse (1987-2000) TV series. Endeavour takes us back to the Oxford of 1960s where we see the young detective constable Endeavour Morse solve some of his earliest cases. Mysterious, clever and Shaun Evans does a wonderful job of portraying young Morse.

4. Game of Thrones (2014)          Read      TV Series      Television
Lavish fourth series of the epic fantasy drama based on George R R Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series. Another gripping series of war, intrigue, family, politics, love, lust, lies and dragons! What’s not to love? Again though not for everyone it is jam packed with violence, sex and foul language. (Since watching this I have caught up with the books).

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)          Not Read     Film     Cinema
A action-packed superhero adventure set in space based on Guardians of the Galaxy created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning which is featured in Marvel Comics. A gang of extra-terrestrial misfits fighting and stealing their way around the galaxy in hopes of saving it from Ronan the Accuser. An exciting and fast paced film with great special effects and a cool soundtrack. I enjoyed this even more than I thought I would.

6. Noah (2014)          Read      Film      Cinema
An epic biblically inspired Hollywood film inspired by Noah’s Ark from the Old Testament of The Bible and other similar ancient tales from around the world. Whether you believe in these tales or not I thought this was a stunning and innovative film with a cool science fiction twist. With great performances from Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson and more.

7. Sherlock (2014)          Read     TV Mini-Series     Television
The third series of the BBC’s popular show inspired by the tales of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous private detective Sherlock Holmes. An excellent modern interpretation of Doyle’s characters and mysteries which has been highly anticipated for a return since 2012! As before. All I can say is I hope it won’t be long till there is more..

8. Shetland (2014)          Not Read     TV Series     Television
A second series of BBC crime drama series based on Ann Cleeve’s novels Raven Black, Dead Water and Blue Lightning featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez each novel was covered over three two-part episodes. I thought this series was mysterious and well performed with the isolated, lonely and beautiful setting of the islands of Shetland. I hope there will be more.

9. Thor: The Dark World (2013)          Not Read     Film     Television
An action-packed superhero adventure set in space based on Thor created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby who features in Marvel Comics. I thought The Dark World was another fun and action packed adventure this time set in part on Earth and Asgard, which I loved, as Thor, Jane and Loki battle across the universe with the Dark Elves. I was totally sold on this film.

10. X-Men: Days of the Future Past (2014)          Not Read     Film      Cinema
A Hollywood blockbuster about The X-Men superheroes featured in Marvel Comics with a plot loosely based on a story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Exciting, fast-paced, amazing special effects and great performances from the ensemble cast.

It was hard to dwindle my list down to just 10. Honourable mentions must also go out to TV series Fleming (2014), Hannibal (2014), and Inspector George Gently (2014), and films Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014), and my re-watch of Pride & Prejudice (2005).

What were your favourite films and TV shows you watched in 2014?

Adaptations: December 2014

Adaptations #3

I absolutely love adaptations. I know this can sometimes be a controversial subject with book lovers but not for me. I think my real love of them came from my time studying performance at university. There I became fascinated with taking a story and telling it through a different medium; whether that be book, film, TV, or on the stage.

Hello fellow bookworms, here are the adaptations I have watched during December:

Treasure Island (1972)          Read       Film       Television
A swashbuckling adventure based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island. I really enjoyed the novel and loved Sky’s Treasure Island (2012) family mini-series; with that in mind I thought I would give this a go. Orson Welles gives a good performance as the infamous Long John Silver but the overall film fell short of Sky’s 2012 adaptation. Okay watch.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)          Read       Film       Cinema
Gritty, dystopian adventure based on Suzanne Collins’s successful The Hunger Games trilogy. I enjoyed the previous films from this franchise but was a little reluctant to see the third novel made into two-parts. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Great special effects and cast, correct mood, and they cut out some of the indecision and wandering of the novel I had disliked. Good watch.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)       Read       Film       Cinema
Blockbuster finale to Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on J R R Tolkien’s classic children’s novel The Hobbit. This was another action packed adventure chock full of elaborate fight scenes, stunning vistas and amazing special effects, costumes and casting. I am also really pleased to see they didn’t change the ending which I feared they might. Good watch.

Frozen (2013)          Read       Film       Television
Disney family adventure inspired by The Snow Queen fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It is only loosely inspired with the magic and ice shards elements. Instead of a queen and a boy we have two young princesses who must save their kingdom from deep winter and unlikely enemies.  I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful animation, good characters and some great songs. Good watch.

A good film filled month for me; all of which were based on books/stories I’ve read. From seeing the trailers at the cinema there are plenty more film adaptations coming soon which I am keen to see too.

What have you been watching over the Christmas holiday?

New Read: A Storm of Swords, Book 2

A Storm of Swords 2

With 2015 and the fifth series of the blockbuster TV adaptation Game of Thrones rapidly approaching I thought it was high time to immerse myself back into the trials and tribulations of Westeros. So I reached for A Storm of Swords: 2 Blood and Gold; the fourth instalment in Martin’s epic series.

A Storm of Swords: 2 Blood and Gold is the fourth instalment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The next two paragraphs will contain spoilers for previous instalments.

A Storm of Swords 2 returns us to the action of The Seven Kingdoms to find them still in chaos with bloody war raging across the land. King Robert’s heir apparent Joffrey is still upon The Iron Throne but the kingdoms are filled with terrible rumours that he is not actually Robert’s. This has led to the rise of other claimants to the throne. These include Robert’s brother Stannis, Robb Stark the eldest son of Lord Eddard Stark, and then across the sea Daenarys Targaryen the remaining descendant of the Dragon Lords. To strengthen Joffrey’s position an elaborate wedding to the beautiful and popular Margery Tyrell of Highgarden is being planned. Meanwhile unbeknownst to them all evil is stirring beyond The Wall and there isn’t enough Brothers of the Night Watch left to hold it back much longer. Winter is coming. Oh that phrase continues to send a shiver down my spine!

A Storm of Swords: 1 is peopled with a whole host of interesting characters.  So many I couldn’t possibly discuss them all here so instead I am going to focus on the four remaining protagonists vying for The Iron Throne. First of course we Joffrey who is beautiful, cruel, and vain. I can’t say there is any winning feature about him. He really is a character you love to hate. Next we have Stannis Baratheon who is proud, loyal, fair, but not the most charismatic of characters unlike his brothers Robert and Renley. Next we have Robb Stark son of murdered Eddard Stark. Robb who is young, clever, brave, and yet humble. I fear he has made an unwise marriage decision however. Then finally over the sea we have Daenarys Targaryen the heir of the Dragon Lords who were banished by King Robert. Daenarys is the only female claimant. She is young, beautiful, and ambitious yet she is kind and fair with it. All four claimants are fascinating to read about but I only truly like Robb and Daenarys.

While I have watched the television series, A Storm of Swords 2 the book is new for me. What put me off reading this series originally was the sheer length of these books. A Storm of Swords 2 is just over 550 pages long but length was no issue. I couldn’t put this book down and reached the end before I knew it. Like the previous instalments it is jam-packed with action, adventure, intrigue, love, war, lies, fighting, secrets, and shocks! Martin’s writing is detailed and compelling, and I love how he breaks these books into bite-size chapters shown through the eyes of different characters. I always find myself completely immersed in the Seven Kingdoms as I get to explore different cities, castles, and lands from the view-point of different characters. There are a lot of names, places, and events to remember in this series but I didn’t find it that hard to keep track especially as there is maps and a fantastic appendix to help.

A Storm of Swords 2 is an excellent epic fantasy adventure. I highly recommend to those who enjoy fantasy and historical literature. This series does contain sexual and violent content so recommended for adults only. I look forward to the fifth series of Game of Thrones. Great read.

Are you reading this series? Are you watching the TV series?

Previous instalments of A Song of Ice and Fire series: 1. A Game of Thrones, 2. A Clash of Kings, 3. A Storm of Swords: 1 Steel and Snow.

Re-Read: The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Looking forward to the release of the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s epic film trilogy I thought it was time for a re-read of The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien. Jackson has extended and added to the story extensively so I wanted to refresh my memory of the simpler original story. Plus the fact the dark nights and bitingly cold days of winter are upon us a comfort read was most welcome.

The Hobbit takes us to Middle Earth for the first time. To the quiet and beautiful Shire where we meet Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit, in his comfortable hobbit hole. Bilbo’s quiet existence is to be turned upside down by the arrival of Gandalf the wizard and twelve dwarves. Who sweep him away on an adventure over hill, under hill, through the air, through dark woods and across water. With the aim to regain the dwarves long lost home and treasure from the great dragon Smaug. I have re-read this adventure more times than I can count but I find myself as easily swept away with Bilbo on this adventure as the first time.

What really makes this classic fantasy tale for me is the unlikely protagonist Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo is a hobbit; a small human like creature with curly hair, pointy ears, large hairy feet and brightly coloured clothes. Bilbo lives a comfortable life full of food, walks and routine. He is not adventurous or brave, or so he thinks. We the readers are there every step of the way with him as he suffers from hunger, cold, aching limbs and frequent danger and fear. I love seeing Bilbo grow in strength, courage and to finally reach his full potential through his trials. It makes you feel there is a little hero in all of us.

The Hobbit is my favourite book from childhood. I have also read Tolkien’s, what was originally meant to be The Hobbit 2, epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy but while I enjoyed them too they don’t quite hold the same sort of place in my heart. In The Hobbit Tolkien has created a simple but enchanting tale  Every word is precious to Tolkien and he uses them here perfectly to really bring Middle Earth alive. Combine that with an amazing imagination and great characters makes for me the perfect fantasy adventure. If you are daunted by The Lord of the Rings or haven’t tried Tolkien at all yet I highly recommend reading The Hobbit.

The Hobbit is an enchanting adventure for all the family. Whether you read it for yourself or read it to a child like my father did for me (from this exact copy!). After finishing this I am very tempted to re-read The Lord of the Rings, perhaps in the new year. Great read.

Have you read this? Watched the films so far?