Goodbye March, Hello April 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? March has been a super busy month for me with Shrove Tuesday, my dad’s birthday and Mothering Sunday to celebrate; a school trip to Water World; and a special evening of music and talks about dealing with anxiety and depression at my church. Even with all that going on, I have been able to set time aside to read and here is what I read:

Fiction: 3          Non-Fiction: 1

First I read Lives of Notorious Cooks by Brendan Connell, a 2012 fictionalised collection of surreal, succinct biographies of famous and legendary cooks. Not the type of book I would usually go for, however it made a nice change and it was the lighter, shorter read I was looking for. In parallel I was reading the lovely, easy-going children’s classic, Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, the 1869 sequel to the utterly charming Little Women. After a heavy first year (2018) into my new Classics Club list this was just what I needed.

Finally, I rounded off my lighter March reading fare with a fun re-read of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the last book in Collins’ bestselling, young adult trilogy: The Hunger Games. Still not my favourite instalment in the brilliant series, but I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. It has also been great refreshing my memory of the extra details of the books, after having enjoyed the highly successful film franchise.

Alongside these fictions, I also read Christian non-fiction The Death of Western Christianity by Patrick Sookdheo, a fascinating – if a little depressing – look into not only the decline of Christianity but also the growing opposition from an increasingly secular Western society. Sadly I won’t be able to attend my church’s book club meeting to discuss this, as I will be away for the night on a school residential trip.

Pick of the Month: Mockingjay

Altogether that is a perfectly respectable four books read, which is even more impressive considering how much I have been up to. During the month, I also read a little more of Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley and I started reading historical fiction The Tudor Crown by Joanna Hickson and the turn-of-the-century classic Howards End by E. M. Forster.

Looking forward to April, I have the school residential trip (as mentioned above) to go on and I very much look forward to the Easter break, which should hopefully afford a good rest, some wonderful celebration and plenty of time for reading.

What did you do and read in March? What are your plans for April?

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New Books: February & March 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, here are the new books I have got my hands on over the last two months:

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien

First in February, I spotted on my Amazon wish list, that the time slip romance A Desperate Fortune by, one of my favourite authors, Susanna Kearsley was down to just 99p. So I treated myself to a copy using part of the remaining balance of my gift card from Christmas. Having not long enjoyed Kearsley’s Bellewether, I look forward to reading more by her this year.

Also in February,  I was very lucky to receive, via Netgalley, a review copy of Anne O’Brien’s newest historical fiction, A Tapestry of Treason, which is about Constance of York, Lady Despenser. I have enjoyed many of O’Brien’s novels, the most recent of which was The Shadow Queen. Now I have Queen of the North and this to look forward to reading.

Council by Snorri Kristjansson

The Dragon’s Blade: The Last Guardian by Michael R. Miller

Then at the start of March, I was very lucky again, receiving, via Netgalley, a review copy of Snorri Kristjansson’s second Helga Finnsdottir book, Council. I loved the first book Kin, so I am excited to find out what happens to Helga next. In addition, the author Michael R. Miller was kind enough to send me a review copy of the final book in his Dragon’s Blade trilogy, The Last Guardian, after I enjoyed the previous two books, The Reborn King and Veiled Intentions. Can’t wait to find out how it all ends.

Love Wins by Rob Bell

Into The Blue by Robert Goddard

Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Finally, near the end of the month, I picked up three more books from Amazon using part of the remaining balance of my gift card from Christmas. First Rob Bell’s controversial Christian non-fiction, Love Wins, which is an upcoming read for my church’s book club. Second Robert Goddard’s thriller Into The Blue, which came highly recommended by a member of my book club and was down to just 99p. Last but not least, I spotted on my wish list, that Rachel Held Evans’ highly recommended Christian non-fiction, Searching for Sunday was also reduced to just 99p. Such great bargains, I still have money leftover on my gift card.

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

New Read: Lives of Notorious Cooks

At the start of March, having tackled some big and/or challenging books in the previous two months, I decided that I needed to treat myself to some shorter, lighter reads. With that in mind, I finally picked up the Lives of Notorious Cooks by Brendan Connell, a fictionalised collection of biographies of famous cooks. Which was published back in 2012 and embarrassingly not long after that, I realise now, I must have received a copy from the author.

Making up for lost time, I went into this not really knowing what to expect and the blurb wasn’t much help either, as it simply told me I would ‘Learn of the outrageous and sometimes dubious lives of Peng Zu and fifty other notorious cooks from the pages of history and legend, in a picaresque dictionary of delicious and playful story-telling’. Well it certainly sounded interesting, if a little mysterious too. On reading the book, what I discovered was a collection of very short biographies of fifty cooks, known of whom I can claim to have heard of before, which were written in a surreal prose style.

These cooks included: Peng Zu, a legendary Chinese figure known for cooking excellent soup; Marie-Antione Carême, an early exponent of the elaborate French grande cuisine; Joseph Cooper, a cook to Charles 1, in 1654; Coroebus (Koroibos) of Elis, an Ancient Greek baker and athlete; Lala Sukh Lal Jain, founder of the Ghantewala sweet shop in Delhi, India in 1790; Robert May, author of The Accomplisht Cook (1660); Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces – a Roman baker, whose tomb can still be seen today in Rome; and Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq, compiler of the earliest known Arabic cookbook, in the tenth century.

As you can see, Connell’s has included a wide range of interesting figures, from across history and the world in his collection: spanning the cultures of Ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, China, Japan, Europe and the Middle East. Having not heard of any of them before it meant I learnt a fair bit, even with most of the biographies being very brief. The unusual style in which they were written reminded me of poetry, and so the collection did have a nice flow to it, but at the same time it wasn’t always clear if the cooks were legendary or real. I did find myself looking up the figures on the internet to find out more and to better understand what I was reading.

Overall, I found the Lives of Notorious Cooks to be an interesting collection of  surreal, succinct biographies of cooks from across the globe and throughout history. Not the type of book I would usually go for, however it made a nice change and I was able to dip in and out whenever I liked, thus making it the lighter, shorter read I was looking for. Okay read.

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

Have you read this? Have you read any biographies of famous chefs, past or present?

New Read: Origin

Knowing how much I had loved Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, my dad bought me a paperback copy of Origin by Dan Brown for Christmas. So excited was I to find out what Robert Langdon would possibly get up to next, I bumped this straight to the top of my to-be-read pile.

This new, thrilling adventure starts as Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain to attend the unveiling of a controversial scientific discovery. The evening’s host is one of Langdon’s former students, Edmond Kirsch, who is now a dazzling high-tech billionaire and futurist. But before Kirsch’s precious discovery can be revealed, the meticulously orchestrated evening erupts into chaos. Reeling with shock and fearing imminent danger, Langdon flees with Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director, to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Gripped, I was borne along the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, as Langdon and Vidal follow a trail of modern art and enigmatic symbols, which will take them from the Guggenheim Museum, to Gaudí’s Casa Milà and Sagrada Família, and Barcelona’s Supercomputing Center. All the whilst trying to evade an eerily, all-knowing enemy, who seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace and who will stop at nothing to silence Kirsch’s discovery forever. Racing around fascinating locations is one of my favourite, quintessential elements of Langdon’s adventures, and this one was no exception, although the locations were of a more modern nature than I usually prefer.

Another quintessential element of these books is controversy! After uncovering all the clues, Langdon and Vidal are able to reveal Kirsch’s shocking discovery and the breath-taking truth that has long eluded us: Where did we come from? Where are we going? A truth that Brown builds us up, throughout the novel, to believe will shake the major religions to their core… However for me, who is happy to have science and God, it wasn’t really that Earth-shattering, although I did find it very interesting. There was also an absolutely spine-chilling twist at the end – Unfortunately I had already guessed at it about half way through, but had put it to the back of my mind!

So while Origin was another thrilling adventure, that gripped and fascinated me in parts, it is sadly not to become one of my favourites of the Langdon series. Although it was very good, escapist fun and I did enjoy it more than The Lost Symbol. Good read.

Have you read this? Or other books from the Langdon series?

Goodbye February, Hello March 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well, but where on Earth did February go?! Apart from work and a gloriously sunny half term break, I have no idea what I did to warrant the month racing by so quickly! With nothing else to share personally, here is what I read:

Fiction: 1          Non-Fiction: 1

Most of the month, my reading was dominated by the Christian non-fiction The Story of Reality by Gregory Koukl, which was for my church’s book club. A challenging and in-depth book, that I needed to take my time with – Generally, I read just one or two chapters a day, so I had time to reflect. Once I had finished that, I was able to give my full attention to Origin by Dan Brown, the latest Robert Langdon book. Another thrilling adventure, that had me racing round Spain, as Langdon tries to release his friend’s earth-shattering, scientific discovery.

Pick of the Month: Origin

Altogether that is only two books read, exactly the same as January, again a perfectly reasonable amount for me normally. However I do find myself still rather disheartened, because I actually feel like I read a lot! During the month, I also read some more of Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley and I started reading Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. On the other hand, this down-turn in reading does mean I have caught up with my large back-log of reviews. The only outstanding I now have are the two books from this month.

Looking forward to March, it should be a busier month, what with my dad’s birthday and Mother’s Day to celebrate; a school trip to Water World; and a special evening of music and talks about dealing with anxiety and depression at my church. Hopefully, even with all that going on, I will be able to up my reading – maybe some lighter reads are needed?!

What did you do and read in February? What are your plans for March?

Re-Read: Emma

Back in November, last year, I took part in The Classics Club’s 19th Spin event, which chose Emma by Jane Austen for me. Having loved all of Austen’s finished novels, I took the opportunity, when creating my new list for the club, to include them all for a re-read.

I was thrilled with my result, as Emma, the final novel published during Austen’s lifetime, was the second Austen novel I read, many years ago. Often said to be Austen’s most perfect read about a very imperfect – albeit lovable – heroine… The beautiful, rich and intelligent, Emma Woodhouse, who, having been cosseted by her affectionate father and faithful governess, Miss Taylor, believes it is her duty to help others arrange things just as she thinks they should be. Oh I understand Emma annoys some readers, however I can’t help but love her! While she is spoilt, she is naïve and so, makes some disastrous decisions, through it all her heart is in the right place.

The real trouble starts when – ignoring the advice of good family friend Mr Knightley – Emma sets out to play cupid for her new, favourite companion: the lovely, shy Harriet Smith. In addition, Emma makes a hasty, close intimacy with newcomer Frank Churchill, the estranged son of their convivial neighbour Mr Weston, whose arrival into small, quiet Highbury causes quite the stir. And these two decisions are to lead Emma into schemes and actions that are to fail miserably, and inadvertently hurt people she cares about. If only she could hear us saying stop! Or if only she would listen to the stalwart Mr Knightley!

However through all the trouble and strife, Emma is resilient, makes amends for the hurt she has caused and learns from it all too. In particular, she learns a lot about others and more importantly about herself. Actually if it hadn’t been for her foolish mistakes some important secrets may not have come to light and she may never have discovered a very important thing about herself: where her heart truly lay and always had! Naww, it all ends happily! However some readers do wonder if Emma has really learnt her lesson, I can’t answer that for definite, but I think she has and she now has someone beside her to help her stick to the path.

All in all, I think Emma is an utterly charming, witty and slightly farcical classic, about the coming-of-age pains of a young woman in Regency England. It just makes me smile and it made for a wonderfully comforting re-read – getting re-acquainted with its colourful collection of characters was like meeting up with old friends. I can’t wait to re-read more! Great read.

Have you read this? Or any of Austen’s other novels?

This is book 6/50 for my Classics Club II reading challenge.

The Classics Club: List Adjustments 2019

At the beginning of the month, I reflected back on the first year reading from my second list for The Classics Club. From the start I have left my list open to alteration, so I could add or remove books to reflect my mood and reading experiences. After reflecting on my first, slightly disappointing, year of reading, here are the alterations I have made to my list:

ABC – Additions
ABC – Removals
ABC – Read

  1. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
  3. Emma by Jane Austen [re-read] ***
  4. Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon by Jane Austen
  5. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen [re-read]
  6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [re-read]
  7. Persuasion by Jane Austen [re-read]
  8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen [re-read]
  9. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen [re-read]
  10. The Marvelous Land of Oz by Frank L Baum
  11. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  12. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë ***
  13. The Professor by Charlotte Brontë
  14. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  15. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan **
  16. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  17. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  18. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  19. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  20. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  21. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  22. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  23. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens [re-read]
  24. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  26. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  27. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  28. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  29. Romola by George Eliot
  30. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  31. This Side of Paradise by F Scott Fitzgerald *
  32. A Passage to India by E M Forster
  33. A Room with a View by E M Forster
  34. Howards End by E M Forster
  35. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  36. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  37. King Solomon’s Mine by H. Ryder Haggard
  38. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy [re-read]
  39. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  40. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  41. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  42. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  43. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
  44. The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
  45. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  46. The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit *
  47. Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia by Emilio Salgari **
  48. The Black Corsair by Emilio Salgari
  49. The Queen of the Caribbean by Emilio Salgari
  50. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  51. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott [Re-Read]
  52. Heidi by Johann Spyri
  53. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  54. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  55. The Time Machine by H G Wells
  56. War of the Worlds by H G Wells
  57. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  58. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

That leaves me with a list of 52 books. All the additions are from Lost Worlds: The Ultimate Anthology: 24 Classic Tales edited by Nico Lorenzutti, which I am excited to dive into after getting my hands on a copy of it at the end of last year. While most of my removals are books I don’t own copies of and so would rather prioritise the books I do already own. Except Les Misérables that has been removed after I watched the recent BBC adaptation, because I now know the story is too long and too miserable for me to manage!

What do you think of my changes? Have you read any of the books on my list? Are there any you think I should prioritise?