New Books: February 2016

New Books - February

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

The Cranford Chronicles by Elizabeth Gaskell

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Having a little of my birthday money left I popped in a couple of charity shops and found these gems. I adore Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier but I didn’t have my own copy before, and this edition matches my other du Maurier novels. Sadly I still haven’t read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell maybe this lovely Vintage edition of The Cranford Chronicles will finally tempt me.

Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Faith and Moonlight by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

I have just finished reading A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King, which I loved! So I couldn’t resist downloading more of their books from Netgalley. I look forward to reading more.

Turn of the Tide by Margaret Skea

A House Divided by Margaret Skea

Then I was contacted by the author, Margaret Skea, about these final two books. Skea described them as historical fiction which though not overtly Christian are written with Christian values. I enjoy historical fiction and I am a Christian so I just had to give these a go.

Have you read anything by these authors? What new books have you got your hands on recently?

New Read: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King, the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery, has been on my to-be-read pile for far too long! I picked it up a few years ago after starting to read/love Doyle’s classic Holmes stories. Finally taking part in the What’s in a Name event 2016 has encouraged me to read it.

One cool, sunny day in 1915 Mary Russell is taking a walk over the Sussex Downs with her nose firmly planted in a book – where she almost tramples an eccentric gentlemen who is out on the Downs counting bees. This eccentric gentlemen is none other than Sherlock Holmes, the renowned private detective, who in his retirement has moved to the country and taken up bee keeping. They immediately strike up an unlikely friendship. Under Holmes’ tutelage Mary begins to grows in knowledge, strength and confidence until she is able to solve some dastardly crimes herself.

When we first meet Mary Russell that sunny day in 1915 she is only 15 years old. Tragically her parents and brother were killed in a car crash leaving her a wealthy orphan. As she is not of age though she must suffer her unpleasant aunt living with her as her guardian. Her friendship with Holmes gives her an escape from her loneliness and boredom. While the age gap is a little creepy when you think about it I didn’t mind because their personalities suited each other so well. I enjoyed watching Mary grow physically and as a character – until she is 19 years old, studying at Oxford University and ready to start helping Holmes fight crime; because Holmes wouldn’t know how to completely retire even if he wanted too.

One of the first crimes Mary and Holmes tackle is the kidnapping of an American Senator’s young daughter while holidaying in Wales. This crime had everything I could have hoped for: an isolated setting, secrets, danger and Mary and Holmes go incognito as Romany travellers; brilliant! Mary and Holmes learn a lot from this first crime together which will stand them in better stead for when they face real danger to themselves and their friends later in the novel. The first half of this book was slower but once we hit the real danger and mystery I had trouble putting this down!

Since I bought this book I have really fallen in love with Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes novels and short-stories. While I don’t feel Holmes was the main protagonist of this book, I do think Laurie R King has drawn him well – he is older, in a new situation and solving new crimes but I always felt what King had him do and say was believable. I think I will always prefer Doyle’s classic stories however I did thoroughly enjoy getting to join Holmes in more adventures through King in this book. I would definitely be interested in reading more from this series and King.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was a comforting, nostalgic and thrilling adventure for me, which helped me to escape the dreary weather of January. Good read.

Have you read this? Can you recommend any other spin-off Sherlock Holmes books?

What’s in a Name 2016 – a profession 1/6

Goodbye January, Hello February 2016

January 2016

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? I think I blinked and missed January; it seemed to go by so quickly! This month I enjoyed a trip to Birmingham to see the Staffordshire Hoard; even though it was a grey, wet day I was perfectly snug inside with all that glistening Saxon gold. I also celebrated my birthday this month with friends and family at a local restaurant; where we had a Cantonese feast. As for reading, it began a bit slow but I seemed to get my mojo back by the middle of the month:

Fiction: 2     Non-Fiction: 1     Poetry: 0

My reading this month has had a mysterious flavour to it. First I read Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. This 2nd book in Harkness’ All Souls trilogy was a mixture of magic, mystery and romance, which took us and the characters back to Elizabethan England. I hope to read the last book in the trilogy soon. Next I read Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley; who is now one of my favourite comfort authors. I thought it was a fascinating mystery set in the stunning landscape of Pembrokeshire, South Wales which is steeped in history and Arthurian legend. I couldn’t put it down!

Alongside these fictions I also read the candid and inspiring Christian memoir, Out of Darkness by Stormie Omartian. I have enjoyed everything I have read by Omartian and this was no exception – I hope to read more from her this year.

Pick of the Month: Named of the Dragon

I am a little disappointed with 3 books because I feel I’ve read a lot more than I’ve finished! Throughout the month I have continued to read my result from the 11th Classics Club’s Spin; which was David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I also started reading The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles and I am so close to finishing The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R King; my first read for What’s in a Name 2016.

In February I am looking forward to some lighter days, a visit to Hagley Hall, and more time for reading!

What did you do and read in January? Do have any plans for February?

New Read: Named of the Dragon

Named of the Dragon

Last year I enjoyed Mariana and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley; and I couldn’t wait to read more. In mid-January I found myself reaching for Named of the Dragon which was waiting on my Kindle for me.

Literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw travels to the beautiful, ancient coastal town of Angle, Pembrokeshire to spend Christmas with client and friend, Bridget Cooper. Lyn agrees to go to please Bridget but she is also tempted by the chance to meet Bridget’s new flame; successful author James Swift. They are to stay at Castle Farm, a large historic home resplendent with roaring fires, sea views and its own tower. Lyn is soon to find herself drawn into the mystery and legend surrounding the hysterical ravings of their young, widowed neighbour Elen; who believes the ‘dragons’ are trying to take her infant son. Lyn seems to be the only one who fears there may be some truth hiding behind the fantastical details though.

Our protagonist Lyn Ravenshaw is a practical, independent and kind woman who lives and works in bustling London. The complete opposite to the glamorous and self-absorbed children’s writer Bridget, whom she represents, however they do genuinely seem to have formed a sweet and unlikely friendship. While Bridget finds it all annoying Lyn is drawn to protect Elen and her son. It heightens Lyn’s own fears and nightmares about the loss of her own son Justin five years earlier. I couldn’t help but feel for Lyn. She is also joined in this mystery by the dashing James and his roguish brother Christopher, handyman Owen and his busybody wife Dilys, and the elusive playwright Gareth Gwyn Morgan.

This is the 5th novel I have read by Susanna Kearsley; who is now one of my comfort read favourites. I love how Kearsley’s writing style is so comforting and familiar, like a favourite jumper. Only a chapter in and I was swept off into this wonderful mystery which is full of history, Arthurian legend, stunning settings, and a touch of romance, magic and the paranormal. I grew up going on holiday to North Wales, and I still fondly remember the glorious countryside and wild coastline. I have also always been fascinated by tales of King Arthur and Merlin, so this book played right into my hands. I have only once been to South Wales where this is set – it has really made me want to go back.

Named of the Dragon was an immersive and gripping mystery for me. I highly recommend! I can’t wait to read more by Susanna Kearsley – I have Season of Storms on my to-be-read pile. Great read.

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

Have you read this? Have you read any of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels?

New Books: January 2016

New Books - January

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

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My father has just finished reading this and passed it straight on to me. We have both enjoyed all of the Robert Langdon adventures, but we seemed to have missed this one out. I’m hoping to read this really soon.

The Hairy Dieters by Si King & Dave Myers

I already have book 2 and 3 of this cookbook series, from the nation’s beloved ‘Hairy Biker’ chefs, and for about a year I have been keeping my eyes peeled for this original book; that accompanied the TV show. When I saw this for only £4 it had to be bought! I am not looking to lose weight particularly but I love how down to earth and well balanced these recipes are.

A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Broken Banners by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore
(including stories by Jonathan Barnes, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, Foz Meadows and Adrian Tchaikovsky)

Then I received these two fantasy novellas and Shakespearian short story collection from Netgalley. I heard good things about A Reaper of Stone over at BooksbyProxy so when I spotted it was available to read now I went for it; and then I was successfully in requesting the next instalment Broken Banners at the same time. I was also sorely tempted by Monstrous Little Voices too then I heard great things about it from Lynn at her blog after which I just had to go back to request it!

Have you read anything by these authors? What new books have you got your hands on recently?

The Classics Club: The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Early in 2015 I read the charming, childhood classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and it felt only fitting to end the year with another trip down memory lane with The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit. I had previously read neither but I had enjoyed the films.

This was a perfect read for the lead up to Christmas as it swept me back to Edwardian London. Where middle-class siblings Roberta, Phyllis and Peter have had their world turned upside down; as their father is mysteriously taken from them. They are forced to say goodbye to their devoted servants, comfortable villa, and move with their mother to fend for themselves in a small cottage in the country. Here they are to learn to appreciate the simple joys of life, make friends, help strangers, and have many adventures; mostly revolving around the railway at the bottom of the field.

Our three young protagonists are sweet and naïve children, and the younger two could be accused of being a little spoilt. During this novel they are all transformed in some way. Peter needs to learn to think of others and how to go without. Phyllis is often away in the clouds and needs to learn to be more practical. It is only Roberta (Bobby), the eldest, who is already kind, caring and practical; perhaps because of her age. I particularly loved how strong she was for her mother and her younger siblings. They are joined by a colourful mixture of characters who they befriend and who help them along the way; including the eccentric, well-loved station porter Perks and the kind, old gentlemen – both of whom they met during their adventures with the railway.

This is the first time I have read The Railway Children or anything by Edith Nesbit. This felt more like a comforting re-read though as I am no stranger to the story. I have fond memories of watching the 1970 film, which I often settled down to watch with my mother during the Christmas holidays. Happily I found the book as equally charming – it was nice to get to know the characters a little deeper and to find out some extra adventures and details. While nothing particularly thrilling happens I whipped through this book. It was a perfect read to snuggle down in bed with on the long, dark winter nights of December.

The Railway Children is a charming Edwardian children’s classic which was a comforting winter read. After reading this I am keen to read more by Edith Nesbit – I still have Five Children and It on my Classics Club list. Great read.

Have you read this or watched any of the films?

The Classics Club – 37/50

Top 10 Reads of 2015

Blog 2015

Hello my fellow bookworms, 2015 was a great reading year for me where I finished 62 books. It was hard to dwindle it down to 10 but after much thought here are my choices (ordered alphabetically by author):

  1. Inferno by Dan Brown – another gripping thriller that follows Professor Robert Langdon through the history, art and symbols of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. I loved the historical settings of Florence, Venice and Istanbul.
  2. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – a creepy and atmospheric mystery set out on the foggy, lonely moors with a diabolical hound! A cosy and comforting read which I simply loved.
  3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I have fond memories of watching the film as a child. A charming children’s classic with a sweet moral and physical transformation for the little orphan Mary.
  4. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley – a beautiful dual time period novel of life, love and history; all with Kearsley’s comforting, beautiful and familiar writing style.
  5. The Wanderers by Cheryl Mahoney – a well written, witty and charming adventure that pokes fun lovingly at well-known fairy tale tropes. This was my first read by author and fellow blogger Cheryl.
  6. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier – a dark and gothic historical-tale which had me gripped, fascinated and repulsed in equal measure from the start. I can’t wait to read more by Daphne du Maurier.
  7. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit – I again have fond memories of watching the film as a child, so this was another charming trip down memory lane and a perfect read in the lead up to Christmas.
  8. Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Michael Newton – an enchanting collection of fairy tales from some well loved classic authors; some of my favourites stories were by William Makepeace Thackeray, George Macdonald, Mary de Morgan and Edith Nesbit.
  9. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (re-read) – Pratchett’s madcap and hilarious take on Macbeth, which is a wonderfully theatrical, fun and hilarious adventure; and a really comforting re-read. I’d forgotten how good this was!
  10. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien (re-read) – an epic, intricate and enchanting adventure that again swept me off to the stunning, magical Middle-Earth. Re-reading this was like catching up with some old friends; particularly the adorable Samwise Gamgee.

With so many great reads in 2015 honorary mentions must also go to novels: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, The Storyteller and Her Sisters by Cheryl Mahoney, The King’s Sister by Anne O’Brien, The Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. And non-fictions: The Praying Woman’s Devotional by Stormie Omartian, Elizabeth I and Her Circle by Susan Doran, and My Autobiography by Guy Martin.

Have you read any of these? What was your favourite reads of 2015?