Tough Travels: Snarky Sidekicks

Tough Travels is a monthly meme hosted by Fantasy Faction, which, inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, spotlights each month a different fantasy trope for us to compile lists and have fun with. Last month we discussed MENTORS. This month’s topic is:


SNARKY SIDEKICKS.

‘Why is everyone so serious all the time?  Perhaps they need a friend that is there with a quick bit of wit to liven up the day… even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood.’

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


This was quite a tough topic for me because while I can think of plenty of great sidekicks… I’m not sure I would describe them as ‘snarky’?! However not being one to be defeated, I have had a really good think and here are the ‘snarky’ sidekicks I could think of:

  • Ron Weasley – In J K Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series, Harry’s headstrong and permanently peckish best friend always puts a smile on my face, with a silly quip or with his just plain, outspoken honesty. No sugar-coating from Ron!
  • Rincewind – While this incompetent wizard is a central character in some of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, when we first meet him in The Colour of Magic as the reluctant guide to enthusiastic tourist, Twoflower. His sharp, apathetic running commentary is very funny.
  • Ford Prefect – In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Arthur’s eccentric and joyfully nihilistic alien best friend can always be relied upon in the darkest moments to chip in with his very dark and off-beat humour.
  • Bronn – Together Tyrion and his pragmatic sellsword friend, in George R R Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, are perhaps the snarkiest pair ever. In fact they seem to be in competition with each other to be the snarkiest of them all!
  • Tom – Finally how could I forget the smart, witty and fish obsessed talking cat, who is the unexpected companion to loner ‘wandering adventurer’ Jasper in The Wanderers by Cheryl Mahoney. I want my own Tom!

Do you like my choices? Who are your favourite snarky sidekicks? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

Come back next month for: ELVES.

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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 Books: November 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, here are more new goodies I have added to my Kindle and bookcase in the second half of this month:

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

Firstly, I was very lucky to win e-book copies of new release The Emerald Circus and a new edition of fantasy classic The Forgotten Beasts of Eld in the wonderful Witch Week giveaway, hosted by the lovely Lory at The Emerald City Book Review. Thank you Lory!

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam by M C Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came by M C Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M C Beaton

Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor by M C Beaton

Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison by M C Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body by M C Beaton

And finally, I am also thrilled with this large haul of more instalments from my favourite comfort author M C Beaton’s long-running cosy crime series, and best of all they were all from a charity bookshop. Now I can look forward to plenty more bumbling, amateur investigations with our Agatha!

Do you fancy any of these? What new books have you got recently?

New Books: October & November 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, here are the new goodies I have added to my bookcase and Kindle at the end of last month and the beginning of this one:

Seven Kings of England by Geoffrey Trease

Caligula by Simon Turney

First, at the end of October, I was lucky enough to receive review copies of these via Netgalley (UK). Earlier this year, I loved Geoffrey Trease’s Seven Stages so I am looking forward to another of his histories. While Simon Turney is a new author for me – I just loved the sound of a historical fiction about the infamous Roman Emperor, Caligula!

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnet
(The Lymond Chronicles #1)

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Also in October, I snapped up bargain Kindle copies of these two gems from Amazon (UK). I have not read either author however I have heard great things about both!

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King

A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Finally, at the beginning of November, I had a mooch in a different branch of my favourite charity bookshop and picked up these goodies in their 4 books for £5 deal. After enjoying Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice last year and Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen, earlier this year, I am very pleased to add more books from their respective series to my to-be-read. While after loving the film, I am also pleased to finally give Joanne Harris’ well-loved novel a go.

Do you fancy any of these? What new books have you got recently?

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

New Read: Assassination at Bayou Sauvage

After reading Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson last year, I was eager to read more from this series. So I was absolutely thrilled when I was offered a copy of Assassination at Bayou Sauvage back in April. (Although this is a series, it is suggested that these books can be enjoyed as stand alones too).

As we moved deeper into Autumn, I felt it was the perfect time to join chief medical examiner, Andy Broussard and criminal psychologist, Dr Kit Franklyn for another mystery in the colourful New Orleans. While Broussard is left reeling from the shocking shooting of his uncle Joe at a family picnic, Kit has to step up to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. Soon what seemed like two clear cut cases is thrown into doubt, as Kit’s first solo efforts soon lead back to the murder of Uncle Joe. Sensing the horrendous magnitude of this case, Broussard has to try to move past his emotions to help his colleagues and friends to uncover the truth before it’s too late!

Again Donaldson immediately drew me in and completely immersed me into this detailed, meticulous and graphic, although I felt it was never gratuitous, mystery. It was also great to reunite with Broussard and Kit, who already seem like old friends to me. Although the narration is still split evenly between these two protagonists, it definitely felt like this was more Kit’s investigation; who is temporarily deputized to help the NOPD cope with a work slow-down. This gives Kit the opportunity to really show what she can do intellectual, physically and mentally, as she is pushed to her limits by not just the case but also by the bullies who support the slow-down.

What I also really loved again was the setting – I have always had a fascination with the Deep South of the USA, especially after watching the first series of HBO’s True Detective, and these books play right into that. In fact, the setting almost becomes another character because it is that good and integral to the story. I thought Donaldson brilliantly brought to life the setting and totally made me feel like I was there: feeling it’s hot, humid weather; eating its delicious food; meeting the colourful, eclectic people; and travelling to the smaller communities out in the crocodile infested wetlands.

Overall, I found Assassination at Bayou Sauvage to be another deeply engrossing, audacious mystery which I loathed to put down and absolutely whipped through. I would definitely like to read more Broussard and Franklyn mysteries. Great read.

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

Have you read this? Or any other mysteries set in the Deep South?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII – 3/4