New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas

wendy-darling-2

Last year, I read Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars by Colleen Oakes, the start of Oakes’ new, young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s ‘Neverland’, and I didn’t have to wait long to read this, Volume 2: Seas, released later the same year. I actually finished reading this at the very end of last year but I have only just got round to sharing my full thoughts on it.

In the last book, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan through their nursery window, past the stars and on to Neverland! A fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and the freedom of life as a Lost Boy. However, Wendy discovered all was not at all as it appeared which forced her to flee with her youngest brother, Michael, in tow. Only to discover, at the beginning of this book, that they have fallen straight into the clutches of the dreaded Captain Hook aboard his fearsome pirate ship, Sudden Night. Now Wendy must negotiate pirate feuds, mermaids and spies whilst also hiding from Peter, who will stop at nothing to get her back.

As a female myself, it is nice to see Oakes choosing to tell her re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy. A young lady, who in the first book, I found to be naïve and emotional weak – I often wanted to give her a jolly good shake – yet she was also kind and had the potential for more. I am thrilled to say Wendy did grow as a character in this second book. Although her old faults were still there she did also show more strength, intelligence and resourcefulness, especially when trying to protect her adorable little brother Michael. Whilst thankfully her other brother, the thoroughly dislikeable John, stays with Peter so we don’t have to see him much.

While I can’t always say I ‘like’ Oakes re-imagined characters, I can say they are more realistic and much better fleshed out than the originals. And, none is a better example of this than the infamous Captain Hook, who we meet for the first time in this book. I was expecting something different as Oakes has already given us a twisted, maniacal Peter, which to be fair if you were stuck as a boy forever you would probably become pretty crazy too! Yet Oakes hasn’t chosen to give us a completely good, hidden hero in Hook. Instead she has given us a well-balanced and interesting character with nuances of light and dark – who I think is my new favourite.

Previously I have read and loved another of Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, which is a re-imagining of Lewis Carol’s ‘Wonderland’. While I have not loved this new series quite as much as the previous these are still very enjoyable books. With the beautiful description I have come to expect from Oakes. I really could imagine the roaring seas, gleaming beaches, towering peaks, humid jungle, the intoxicating Mermaid Cove and Hook’s awe-inspiring Fallen Night with its macabre bone staircase.

Overall, Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas was another enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of ‘Neverland’. I hope volume 3 of this and the Queen of Hearts series come out soon! Good 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? Or any other books inspired by ‘Neverland’?

New Books: December & Christmas 2016

new-books-jan-2016

Hello my fellow bookworms, the number of acquisitions has gone up a fair bit from my saintly three review copies in November, however it was Christmas! If you can’t treat yourself then, when can you?! Here’s what I added to my Kindle and bookshelf over the festive period:

Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

First up, I was lucky enough to be approved on Netgalley for these three novels from three female authors I have read and enjoyed before. Which are also from two of my favourite genres: fantasy and historical fiction. Happy days!

The Sacred Scarred by Joanna Alonzo

I also accepted a review copy, from the author, of this novel, which was described as a modern-day, Christian retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Sounds like it should be just up my street.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Next, I won a copy of this from the lovely Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog. It arrived just before Christmas – an early Christmas present if you like.

If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

Then, I ordered a copy of this Christian non-fiction from the Book Depository via Amazon, which is the January read for my church’s book club. I’ve never read this author before, but I am a few chapters in now and I am enjoying it so far.

The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Jamie’s 30-minute Meals By Jamie Oliver

Finally, I treated myself to these in the WH Smith’s sale that started just after Christmas. I love Jamie Oliver however his cookbooks tend to keep their value, usually retailing for £20+, so I was thrilled to find 30-minute Meals for £6! I have also previously enjoyed Elizabeth Fremantle.

Now you may well be thinking ‘but Jessica what books did you get for Christmas?’. Well, while I did receive some book related gifts, like a Harry Potter tote bag, I actually received no actually books! Let’s not be down-hearted though, I did use my Christmas money to buy the last two books and my birthday is coming up soon too.

Do you fancy any of these? Did you receive any books this Christmas?

The Classics Club: The Man in the Iron Mask

man-in-the-iron-mask

In 2014 I was swept away by the sweeping, romantic French classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Skipping the lesser known D’Artagnan romances, I decided to continue my journey with D’Artagnan, and his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos in the later and better known The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.

Our new tale opens some three or four decades after the adventures of the Three Musketeers, who have now all retired leaving only D’Artagnan, as Captain of the King’s Musketeers, in loyal service to the corrupt King Louis XIV. However unbeknownst to D’Artagnan his old friend Aramis, with the help of trusting Porthos, is the instigator of a treasonous plot to bring about the replacement of the inept king and an audacious break out from the Bastille of a mysterious young man; who has been secretly imprisoned most of his life with no known charge or reason.

The plot is both complicated and thrilling, and yet the actually mystery of ‘the Man in the Iron Mask’ is resolved within the first half of the novel. But it is to have long reaching consequences that ripple out through the rest of the novel. Which will send D’Artagnan out first in hot pursuit of former financier Fouquet and finally against his own friends, Aramis and Porthos, who are held out at the heavily fortified Belle Isle. Now at this point you may be wondering where is Athos?! Athos’ part in this story is a sad and lonely one, as he faces the departure and longs for the return of his only son, Raoul, who has journeyed to North Africa with the Duc de Beaufort. Which leaves him separated from his old friends and sorely missing from the action.

As with The Three Musketeers, this is a highly detailed tale with wordy, eloquent speeches and many interesting characters and threads which again swept me back to 17th century France for more adventures and intrigue. I did feel though there was less of the romance about these adventures and more of the cold, hard realities, such as: death, disgrace, ruin and heartache. This is a powerful, gripping read but the sadder tone and the fact I missed my favourite character, Athos, made this not quite as an enjoyable read as The Three Musketeers.

Overall, The Man in the Iron Mask is a gripping historical adventure full of political intrigue, betrayal and loyalty. There are other D’Artagnan romances by Dumas, which I am seriously tempted to go back to now. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of the other D’Artagnan tales?

The Classics Club – 48/50
What’s in a Name 2016 – An item of clothing (4/6)

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

blog-2016-stats

Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016, and what better way to do that than with a few reading stats:

Books Read: 55           New Reads: 51              Re-Reads: 4

Fiction: 43                Non-Fiction: 12

In 2015 I finished 62 books so I am down this year. This might be because while my fiction reading is pretty much like for like my non-fiction reading has almost halved. However, I am still very pleased with the amount and the quality of books I read. Now for some fun meme categories to help me reflect on what I’ve been reading in 2016:

  • Best Fiction A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin
  • Best Non-Fiction The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles
  • Best Classic Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Best Re-ReadThe Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis
  • Best Series You Discovered Psammead by Edith Nesbit, Echo of the Ascended by Mark Gelineau and Joe King and Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes.
  • Favourite New-To-Me Authors – Margaret Skea and Elizabeth Gaskell.
  • Most Memorable Character – The clever and hilarious Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir.
  • Most Read Genre – Fantasy (18), Classics (12), Mystery (10) and Historical Fiction (6)
  • Multiple Reads of an Author – M. C. Beaton (2), Elizabeth Gaskell (2), Mark Gelineau & Joe King (4), Deborah Harkness (2), Edith Nesbit (3), Colleen Oakes (2), Stormie Omartian (2), Gervase Phinn (2), Margaret Skea (2)
  • Ambitions for 2017 – I would really like to make more time for re-reading old favourites and reading new books by favourite authors.

What did you read in 2016? Any ambitions for 2017?

Goodbye December 2016, Hello New Year!

month-dec-2016

Hello my fellow bookworms and a happy New Year! December whirled by for me in a blur of shopping, writing cards, wrapping presents, visiting family and friends, church services and my work’s Christmas do. Fortunately I got to enjoy the special day with my mum and family in a quiet and relaxed way. In amongst all that I managed to read these:

Fiction: 5          Non-Fiction: 0

I started the month off by finishing, in quick succession, supernatural thriller Innocence by Dean Koontz; the classic The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas and a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis for my churches book club. All of which I actually started reading back in November.

Then later in the month, once I was down at my mum’s house and I had the chance to curl up in the conservatory with a blanket, cup of tea and a good book, I reached for some comforting reads. First, I read fantasy adventure Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas by Colleen Oakes; the second book in Oakes’ young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s Neverland. Then, I immersed myself with Hercule Poirot in his first outing in The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.

(Except for Innocence by Dean Koontz, my full thoughts on these books are still to be posted)

Pick of the Month: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

That’s 5 books finished and a good month of reading I think. Through out the month, I have also been reading 90 Days Through the New Testament by Ron Rhodes (nearly finished!) and I started Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott. I also started but didn’t finish Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom by Brian Petti; due to it not being my kind of humour.

In January, I am looking forward to celebrating my birthday and what the new year will bring me reading wise.

What did you do and read in December? What are your plans for January and the new year?

My Top 10 Books of 2016

blog-2016-books

Hello my fellow bookworms, 2016 has been another great year of reading for me. Now it is time to round-up my favourite 10 books from the past year; these are new-to-me books but were not necessarily published in 2016. It took some time to whittle it down to just 10 however here’s my final choices (ordered alphabetically by author):

~ 1 ~

The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles

The Romanovs

An epic non-fiction that chronicles the ups, downs, dreams, disasters and extreme personalities of the Romanov dynasty; from the unwilling Tsar Michael (1613-1645)  to the doomed Tsar Nicholas II (1894-1917). A fascinating, colourful and educational read for me.

~ 2 ~

The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

the-sign-of-the-four

While this was the last one for me to read, it is actually Doyle’s second mystery novel to feature his famous, private sleuth Sherlock Holmes and lovable sidekick Dr Watson. What can I say other than this is another excellently crafted mystery.

~ 3 ~

The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson

The Villa in Italy

A sweeping, romantic suspense set in the Renaissance Villa Dante on the beautiful Italian coast; which had me hooked with family rifts, forbidden love, heartbreak, war, divorce and ethics.

~ 4 ~

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

jane-steele

The highly anticipated retelling of gothic classic Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. And, with a beautiful, lush setting; a colourful cast of characters; a gripping mystery and a darker edge it didn’t disappoint.

~ 5 ~

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Cranford

Finally I read my first Gaskell! Which was an utterly charming tale of the day-to-day lives, trials, tribulations and joys of a small, rural town’s inhabitants. I loved it so much I read Mr Harrison’s Confessions later in the year.

~ 6 ~

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Named of the Dragon

Another immersive and gripping mystery from one of my favourite authors. This time I was swept away to the beautiful, ancient coastal town of Angle, Pembrokeshire; where I was hooked by the history, Arthurian legend, romance and magic of it all.

~ 7 ~

A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin

a-feast-for-crows

After watching the sixth and perhaps best series of Game of Thrones, I threw myself into the fourth instalment in Martin’s excellent, epic fantasy series. Like the previous books, it was jam-packed with action, adventure, intrigue, love, war, lies, fighting, secrets, and shocks!

~ 8 ~

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Witches Abroad

My eighth jaunt into Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld. Where I re-joined the witches – my favourite set of Discworld characters, so far – Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and young Magrat for another hilarious adventure.

~ 9 ~

Turn of the Tide and A House Divided by Margaret Skea

Turn of the Tide

Technically two books but they both tell the dramatic tale of the bloody feud that ran between the Cunninghames and Montgomeries, during the reign of the young James VI of Scotland. An utterly gripping and fascinating trip back to the 16th century.

~ 10 ~

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

Stunning debut novel that follows astronaut Mark Watney after he is stranded on Mars! A gripping and immersive science-fiction drama which had me on the edge of my seat and, surprisingly, laughing from start to finish.


With so many great reads in 2016 honorary mentions must also go to fictions: Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe, The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson and The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. And Christian non-fictions: Out of Darkness by Stormie Omartian and The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. Plus cookbooks: Save With Jamie by Jamie Oliver and The Hairy Dieters: Fast Food by Si King & Dave Myers. Finally, I also loved re-reading The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis.

Have you read any of these? What were your favourite books in 2016?

New Read: Innocence

innocence

Over the years, my dad has read many of Dean Koontz’s books, he has kept recommending him to me and even lent me his copies of The Demon Seed and Innocence. Both have sat on my to-be-read pile for too long until I finally picked this up in November.

In Innocence, Koontz’s introduces us to Addison Goodheart – a young man who is forced to live a secretive and isolated existence in hidden chambers, and a network of storm drains and service tunnels beneath the city. Due to the overwhelming fear and fury which leads men and women to extreme violence, apparently caused by merely looking at him. His only solace and refuge is in books – a passion he feeds with midnight trips to the central library. Where, in a turn of chance or destiny, he meets Gwyneth – a girl who opens his eyes to a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

This book is solely narrated by Addison – a kind, loving and forgiving soul, who though he is forced to live a painfully isolated life fearing for his life, is still able to find the joy in life and to see the good in others. Koontz cleverly pieces together Addison’s life and reveals his extraordinary nature through short, snap shot chapters that jumps about in time; spanning from when he was an eight year old child living with his mother in a cabin the woods to the present day living alone below ground. His entire life he has had to live a cautious and fearful life due to his unusually appearance.

But that solitude is suddenly broken when he meets the young, beautiful Gwyneth who is running for her life. Gwyneth has her own issues with phobias of crowds and being touched. Unlike Addison though Gwyneth has had the advantage of wealth to help her shape a life of sorts in the world above. In each other they seem to have found their kindred spirit and after just one meeting Addison finds his life turned upside down, as together they race around the city trying to right many wrongs and save lives.

I am so pleased I finally got round to reading Dean Koontz, as this was an interesting, twisting and well crafted thriller, with a touch of the supernatural that compelling grows the deeper you get into it all. While I made a slow start to this book, about a quarter of the way in I was hooked. My only niggle would be that now and again I found the description a little disjointed – I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why – but it wasn’t often and certainly spoil the brilliant story telling.

In conclusion, Innocence was a gripping thriller that followed two extraordinary characters. Now I have enjoyed one of Koontz’s novels, I hope it won’t be long till I pick up The Demon Seed. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Dean Koontz?