New Read: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness have sat on my to-be-read shelf for far too long. Earlier this month I received The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness which is the final instalment in the All Souls trilogy. So I had no excuse not to start reading them.

A Discovery of Witches introduces the reader to Dr Diana Bishop. An American scholar who has come to the historic Oxford University, England to study old and rare alchemical volumes held in the library. Diana is no ordinary scholar though she is also a witch who comes from an old and famous family; a fact that Diana tries to ignore. Unbeknownst to Diana  she recalls the bewitched Ashmole 782 from the library’s ancient stacks. Once she touches it a string of unusual and dangerous events are to unfold which will see her thrust into the world of witches, vampires and daemons she has been trying so hard to ignore.

Diana our protagonist comes from a long line of powerful Bishop witches yet has never shown any aptitude or urge to use magic herself. Diana is full of anxiety and fear since the brutal death of her parents when she was only a child. I enjoyed watching Diana grow in strength emotionally as a woman through her trials but also to see her start to release her magical power. Diana is joined by a large cast of paranormal characters. The other we really get to know better is Diana’s love interest Professor Matthew Clairmont; an ancient vampire. Matthew is a good mixture of the negative and positive of his race. He drinks blood, and has anger and possessive issues. Then again I love how he has so much history and experience.

A Discovery of Witches is the first novel I have read by Deborah Harkness, and is the first instalment in the All Souls trilogy. From what I’ve read so far I am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. A Discovery of Witches is a well written novel with a detailed and immersive style and world. I simply loved all the historical, alchemical, literature and art references and details that were included; Harkness has clearly done a lot of research for this novel. The only down side for me was the romance. I am not a huge romance fan and this had more romance in it than I had expected. The romance element is strong in this fortunately though there is just enough other things going on that I still enjoyed it. This has dropped it down from a great to a good read.

A Discovery of Witches is a detailed and well written paranormal romance with an interesting measure of history, magic and art. You might enjoy this if you like romance, fantasy, paranormal and/or historical fiction. Good read.

Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other paranormal romances?

A Discovery of Witches is full of magic so I am counting it towards the Once Upon a Time IX event which is hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.

The Classics Club: Three Years Gone

The Classics Club #1

Start Date: 19th March 2012

End Date: 19th March 2017

I joined The Classics Club back in March 2012 which means three years have gone by! Here’s what I have read off my list in the last year:

1. The Beautiful and Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum
3. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
4. Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales
5. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
6. His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle
7. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
8. Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
9. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
10. The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

(click on the titles to see my full thoughts)

Read: 30/50

I am so pleased with my progress so far. 10 books is the average I need to read each year to keep on track to read 50 books altogether. A list of books/links though isn’t that interesting so I decided to use these meme questions to reflect on what classics I have been reading:

Most Anticipated: The Three Musketeers
Most Beautifully Written: The Secret Garden
Most Surprising (In A Good Way!): Shirley
Most Memorable Character/s: Sherlock Holmes and Athos (Musketeer)
Most Recommended-to-Others: The Three Musketeers and The Secret Garden
Favourite New Authors Discovered: Alexandre Dumas and Frances Hodgson Burnett
Multiple Reads of an Author: Arthur Conan Doyle (2) and F Scott Fitzgerald (2)

Ambitions for 2014/2015: Pretty much to continue as I am. I have been impressed with the amount I have read over the last three years. I am looking forward to reading more by Doyle, Dumas and Hodgson Burnett, also I must get back to Austen and Dickens too. Plus who knows what new authors I will fall in love with. Wish me luck!

What classics have you enjoyed over the last year?

The Classics Club: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

I have become quite a fan of short story collections and I hope to continue reading more in 2015. Starting as I mean to go on I picked up The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle the fifth and sadly the final collection.

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is a collection made up of another twelve Sherlock Holmes short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and published in The Strand between 1921 and 1927, much later than previous stories. I think this is perhaps the less well known collection of stories although The Sussex Vampire is probably the most notable story just for its title.  I very much enjoyed The Sussex Vampire, The Creeping Man and Thor Bridge. That being said as usual there were no adventures in this collection I didn’t enjoy, they were all fascinating, the three I have named though particularly captured my imagination.

Like previous collections I have read I thought The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes had a good range of stories which were varied and well-balanced. There was again the wonderful chemistry between the two protagonists that I love to witness during the intricate mysteries. The difference with this collection was that two of the stories was told by Holmes himself not, as is usual, by Watson. While this made an interesting change I still find myself most drawn to Holmes’s companion Dr Watson. As much as I love the mind and foibles of Holmes it is his down-to-earth companion Watson that I find I really connect with.

This is certainly not my first foray into Sherlock Holmes. I have loved the Adventures, Memoirs, Return of Sherlock Holmes and His Last Bow short story collections. I again enjoyed the shorter length of the stories which means I could easily keep the thread of the mystery and fully enjoy all the twists and turns, without the worry of needing a break. Sadly though this is the last collection. I shouldn’t be despondent though because I do still have three novels to read.

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is another fascinating read with more interesting adventures for me to discover. I highly recommend to those interested in classic crime. This is my 30th read off my Classics Club list. Good read.

Have you read this collection? Do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

New Books: March 2015

New Books - March 2015 #1

Hello my fellow bookworms, here’s what goodies I have managed to add to my bookshelf and Kindle recently:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

I picked up these lovely copies of these classics in a recent trip to my favourite charity bookshop. I have read Little Women and A Study in Scarlet before, and I am looking forward to reading The Hound of the Baskervilles for The Classics Club.

New Books - March #2

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Bringing Narnia Home by Devin Brown

The Rise of Thomas Cromwell by Michael Everett

I received paranormal fiction The Book of Life, non-fiction Bringing Narnia Home and historical non-fiction The Rise of Thomas Cromwell for my Kindle from Netgalley. I am really looking forward to all three. Especially the latter as I have not long finished watching the BBC’s Wolf Hall series which has wetted my appetite to find out more about Thomas Cromwell.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J K Rowling

Then last but certainly not least I picked up this Harry Potter first edition with original cover art from another antique shop. I just couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted it. I now have a full set of the series with the original cover art, sadly not all first editions but they do look great on my bookshelf.

Have you read any of these? What new books are you excited about?

New Read: The World Below

The World Below

Near the end of February I picked up urban fantasy The World Below, Book 1 of Mike Phillips’s Chronicles of the Goblin King. The rest of the month I had taken on some heavy reads and I hoped this would be a light, mind soothing adventure.

The World Below takes us below the human streets and homes to a rubbish tip metropolis, populated with magical creatures and ruled over by the nasty Baron Finkbeiner. The Baron is mad, seriously mad after the theft of a priceless, magical sword. He enlists, through blackmail, the help of the powerful Hume to take on goody-two-shoes Lady Elizabeth who he believes has the sword now. Meanwhile…in the human world there is Mitch. A regular guy who is trying to rebuild his life after an industrial accident but something just doesn’t seem quite normal about his apartment building’s basement or his new girlfriend, Elizabeth.

The World Below is peopled with an interesting and quite large cast of characters. Most of the story is told from Mitch’s perspective. He is a nice guy with more potential than he ever realised. I liked Mitch, Elizabeth, the cheeky goblin crew and I even liked reading about nasty Baron Finkbeiner. Sadly I neither liked nor got Hume. Matthew Hume is a human with some serious magical powers who works for the Baron only because his sister’s life is threatened. Good premise but in reality he came across as rude, cruel, petty and far nastier than the Baron. If I was meant to sympathise with him I didn’t!

This is the first book I have read by Mike Phillips. I came to know of it when the author contacted me about it. I thought The World Below was written in a fun, edgy style with some good magical elements and creatures. On the whole it was a light and soothing read for my over worked mind. Sadly the text does need some editing as there were quite a few typos and some grammar issues. Nothing serious though and they could be easily fixed. I was invested enough in the story and characters to read on regardless. I am undecided about whether I would read the rest of the series.

The World Below is a fun and light adventure in a magical world below our feet. You may like this if you enjoy urban fantasy. Okay read.

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

Have you read this? Have you enjoyed other urban fantasy books?

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?