New Books: February 2017

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Hello my fellow bookworms, here are the goodies I have added to my Kindle and bookshelf recently:

Seven Stages by Geoffrey Trease

The Girl in the Glass Tower by Elizabeth Fremantle

This month, my acquisitions started slowly with me making just two requests to Netgalley. First, for Geoffrey Trease’s history Seven Stages which I couldn’t resist as I love all things to do with performing and the theatre. Then having loved Elizabeth Fremantle’s Sisters of Treason, I just have to give her newer novel The Girl in the Glass Tower a go.

The Lady of the Rivers

The White Queen

The Red Queen

The Kingmaker’s Daughter

by Philippa Gregory

Then I managed to triple my acquisitions with one single trip to The Works where I found all of Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series, which I have long wanted to read, in the 3 for £5 deal. To complete the deal I also got my dad copies of Zom-B Baby by Darren Shan and Mr Murder by Dean Koontz.

Do you fancy any of these? What new books did you got this month?

New Read: Faith and Moonlight

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Last year, I read and enjoyed four of Mark Gelineau’s & Joe King’s novellas from two threads of their fantasy series, Echo of the Ascended. So much so I didn’t wait long into this year to continue my reading with Faith and Moonlight; the first novella in a third thread of their epic series.

Previously I have read about Elinor a brave orphan girl who rose to be the King’s Reaper; in the A Reaper of Stone thread. Also, I have read about another orphan Alys, who is a hardened survivor of the dangerous, poverty-stricken underworld of the capital city; in the Best Left in the Shadows thread. Turns out these orphans all originally knew each other and this novella takes the reader back in time to the tragic fire at their orphanage which saw them separated and scattered across the kingdom.

In Faith and Moonlight, we are introduced to teenage orphans Roan and Kay. Who have been torn from the only home and family they’ve ever known, after a terrible fire destroyed their orphanage and killed most of it’s inhabitants. Now, Roan and Kay are journeying together to the city with hopes and dreams of entering the prestige School of Faith to train to become a legendary Razor. However, on arrival they are given just one month to prove their worth by passing the entry trial of pushing past the veil and touching the magical power within. Failure will mean an end to all their dreams and the prospect of life out in the cold, dark and dangerous world alone.

Unlike the previous novellas I have read, Roan and Kay are not grown up orphans but instead they are still young, naïve and vulnerable. This gives the reader the opportunity to watch them grow and, hopefully, follow their path to success like their fellow orphans Elinor and Alys. It also cleverly gives Gelineau’s and King’s series a young adult thread. Ronan and Kay are very close to each other and have promised to face everything together. Yet on arrival they find themselves divided, as Roan excels in his training Kay desperately struggles to keep up. I really liked them both and found myself willing them on, particularly poor Kay.

Like previous threads this new one gave me a view of another area/side to the kingdom of Aedaron. First, I was taken out onto the wild Marshlands; then I was taken to the dark, seedy Lowside; while this took me to the beautiful and serene School of Faith – a place of peace, education, power and history, with its marble buildings and lush green grass, where there is the opportunity for fame and glory if Roan and Kay are allowed to stay! I enjoyed having this pleasant and safe setting however don’t get thinking this means there is nothing scary. Just outside the gates the bustling, dangerous world threatens and Kay is terrified of going back there.

Overall, I thought Faith and Moonlight was another highly enjoyable young adult thread to this epic fantasy series and I look forward to reading Faith and Moonlight 2 soon! Good read.

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

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

New Read: The Shack

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As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and now I am a member of my church’s book club. After finishing If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg in January, I started reading our February book, The Shack by William Paul Young straight away!

If you hadn’t already figured it out I was super excited to read this international bestseller which I have heard been described as both inspirational and controversial. It all starts with Mack Philips and the abduction of his youngest daughter, Missy, during a family vacation. The hunt for Missy leads investigators to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness, where they discover evidence that she may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness”, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he goes back fearing he is walking back into his darkest nightmares instead what he finds there will change his world forever.

From page one the reader knows that Missy has been abducted and murdered, what follows is a dark, mysterious and agonising look back at the events that lead to this terrible conclusion. We follow Mack – a loving father with a simple, strong faith in God – as he takes his three children on a wonderful camping holiday, yet all the while it is tinged by the horror we know is to come but the characters are heartbreakingly unaware of. I found myself barely able to tear myself away from it all. After these terrible events have unfolded we then witness the dark shadow that falls over Mack and his family, shaking his faith right to the very foundations.

That culminates with Mack returning to the shack, however as he stepped through the door for the big reveal I must confess to being disappointed… and most frustrating of all is I can’t tell you why I was disappointed because that would ruin the surprise for you! What I can say is there was no dramatic booming voice; hosts of angelic beings or blinding white light – I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. However, I persisted and I am pleased I did because there is a method to Young’s surprising U-turn in style and pace which does lead to some beautifully touching moments and some nice surprises too. Plus there are still many twists and turns to be revealed all the way up to the end.

After finishing this book, I can more clearly understand how it has been described as both inspirational and controversial. Through Mack’s experiences, questions and anger with God, Young reveals his vision of God’s personality, nature and vision for us and the world. While I personally found many of Young’s vision beautiful, comforting and inspirational, I can also totally see how many might deem some of them highly controversial. Funnily enough while I found it quite easy to imagine and believe even some of Young’s more out there ideas, it was in fact some of Mack’s reactions to them that I didn’t find natural or comfortable – this could just be the reserved Brit in me though and fortunately there were only a few instances of this.

Overall, The Shack is not perfect but I did find it to be a gripping mystery and an interesting look into where God is in our hardest moments. I must stress the ‘I’ in that though because this is definitely a book that could divide opinion strongly, therefore it should hopefully make for an interesting discussion in our next book club meeting. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of William Paul Young’s other books?

What’s in a Name 2017 – 2/6 (a title with a building)

Goodbye January, Hello February 2017

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Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? The weather has taken a very cold turn here in the UK, but I managed to resist the urge to stay in and hibernate. Instead I have been kept very busy with submitting my assignment for module one of the Pathways to Ministry course and then starting module two. Plus I have enjoyed a school trip to the National Space Centre in Leicester; several meetings for upcoming opportunities at church; and celebrating my birthday! Phew with all that going I am surprised I still managed to read:

Fiction: 1          Non-Fiction: 3

At the beginning of the month I finished reading Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott; a collection of whimsical tales full of magic, fairies, love, morals and life lessons.

Alongside this one fiction, I also read three non-fictions. First, Christian non-fiction 90 Days Through the New Testament by Ron Rhodes which helpfully guides the reader through the New Testament in chronological order. Next, I read the short and concise history of Richard Nixon from Mark Black’s A Very Brief History series*, that ticked-off ‘a title with a ‘x’ in it’ for the What’s a Name 2017 challenge. Then my January read for my church’s book club was inspiring Christian non-fiction If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg. My full thoughts on the latter two are still to be posted.

Pick of the Month: If You Want to Walk on Water

So altogether I’ve read four books which is a pretty good start to this new year, although I am surprised that it is so non-fiction heavy. Also throughout the month I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and I started reading The Shack by William Paul Young (the February book for my church’s book club).

In February, I am looking forward to my book club meeting and a variety of nights out including a trip to the theatre to see an adaptation of Frankenstein.

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

New Read: Flower Fables

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Back in 2012, I read Louisa May Alcott’s most famous work Little Women, which I found to be an utterly charming and inspiring read – in fact it is still one of my favourite reads for The Classics Club. So I was thrilled when last year (2016) I got my hands on a copy of Flower Fables. Originally this collection of Alcott’s lesser known works was published in 1898 and they were brought back together, with thirty-four beautiful illustrations, in this 2015 edition.

I actually picked up this collection of nine magical tales during the Christmas holidays – hoping they would fit into those short moments of quietness between the general craziness of the festive period, which they did perfectly! Each tale takes the reader into a wild and imaginative world full of adventure, magic, nature, fairies, elves, and talking flowers and animals. Where kind fairies tend the flowers and animals; wayward children and naughty fairies learn important lessons; and great adventures are had by all.

There is an innocent and whimsical feel to these tales, but also a strong element of moralising that I realise will not to be everyone’s taste. Apparently this collection grew out of Alcott’s experience of telling stories to the children of her neighbours in Concord, Connecticut. In hindsight, knowing this I can understand and accept the moralising which is on the commendable themes of love, kindness, and responsibility; plus it was much milder than the heavy moralising in The Water Babies which was even a bit too much for me.

Overall I found Flower Fables to be a quick, easy escapist read. Sadly I didn’t love it anywhere near as much as Little Women – I think a big part of that was the lack of main characters to follow – however this was still an enjoyable read. Now I really must try Alcott’s more well known sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys. 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 of Alcott’s other works?

New Books: January 2017

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Hello my fellow bookworms, my number of acquisitions has gone up a fair bit over December and January, however we have had Christmas and this month it was my birthday. If you can’t treat yourself then, when can you?! Here’s what I’ve added to my Kindle and bookshelf this month:

Stormbringers by Philippa Gregory

First, I got the chance to rummage through the January sale in one of my favourite shops The Works, where I found a hardback copy of this for just £1 and also a beautiful prayer journal.

The Shack by William Paul Young

Next, I ordered a copy of this international best-seller from the Book Depository via Amazon, which is the February read for my church’s book club. So excited about this one!

The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller

I also accepted a review copy, from the author, of this fantasy novel that I had seen featured in a cover reveal on Lynn’s Book Blog. It has a gorgeous cover and I love a good dragon story. Then I was very lucky to receive these goodies for my birthday:

Angels by Lee Faber

Plant Based Cookbook by Trish Sebben-Krupka

and audiobooks:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

by J K Rowling and read by Stephen Fry

I received the book about Angels from my brother, the cookbook from my best friend, the Harry Potter audiobooks from my dad and I also received an Amazon voucher – I am so pleased with all of these!

Do you fancy any of these? What new books did you get this month?

New Read: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

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Over the Christmas holiday I read the classic, cosy crime The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, which had been waiting patiently on my Kindle for some time. And, I am really glad I did because I found it the perfect antidote to all of the crazy busyness of the festive period.

This is actually the first mystery to feature Agatha Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters: Hercule Poirot. A small, eccentric Belgian detective who features in thirty-three of Christie’s novels and fifty of her short stories. Previously I have watched and loved many of the TV adaptations starring the wonderful David Suchet, but sadly I had only read one of the original novels Murder on the Orient Express, that was all the way back in 2013 if you can believe it. So I was thrilled to finally get round to reading another and luck would have it that it was the very first.

Poirot’s first mystery opens in England during World War I, when Arthur Hastings – a character we will come to know very well in this series – is invited by his good friend John Cavendish to Styles Court; the family seat out in the Essex countryside. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Hastings, an old friend Hercule Poirot has settled with a small group of other Belgian refugees in the village nearby, with the support of the wealthy widow Emily Cavendish. In fact Emily, the late Mr Cavendish’s second wife, inherited Styles for life as well as the majority of the fortune, trumping her stepsons John and Lawrence.

During his visit Hastings comes to meet all the eclectic inhabitants of Styles, which includes: Emily, her stepsons John and Lawrence, John’s glamorous wife Mary, Emily’s forthright companion Evelyn Howard, and finally Cynthia Murdoch, the poor relation. Things were well with the family but recently tensions and suspicions have risen since Emily chose to marry the much younger Alfred Inglethorp, and it no huge surprise for the reader when Emily dies in suspicious circumstances. With a locked room death and a list of possible suspects longer than his arm, Hastings calls upon Poirot to help solve the matter, before the family are all put through the rumour mill.

I found it really lovely to go back to where it all began for Poirot and Hastings – we are also introduced to Inspector Japp in this book too. It was interesting to see their slightly awkward chemistry as they muddled through their very first investigation together. And, what a good first case together too! I don’t believe I have ever watched a TV adaptation of this as all the clues, twists and turns were all new to me and I didn’t see the final solution coming at all. I think Christie did leave enough clues along the way for the reader to figure it out, however I was enjoying the unravelling tale too much to worry about figuring it out for myself. I daren’t share anymore as I fear spoiling something for you!

So overall, I found The Mysterious Affair at Styles to be a well-written and intriguing mystery, which drew me in and brought me welcome relief from the Christmas craziness around me. I look forward to reading more Christie/Poirot mysteries. Great read.

Have you read this? What is your favourite Poirot mystery?

The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #8