Goodbye May, Hello June 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are well? Happily, here in the UK, there have been many more days of sunshine to indulge in reading on the patio this month, as well as some spectacular thunderstorms! I have also celebrated several birthdays; had a trip to Drayton Manor theme park; and enjoyed a few days on the south coast, during the half term break, with my mum. All in all a good month. Here’s what I have been reading in the sun:

Fiction: 5          Non-Fiction: 0

First this month, I read the brilliant Queen of Hearts, Volume 3: War of the Cards by Colleen Oakes, the long-awaited finale to Oakes’ twisted, young adult re-imagining of Wonderland. Next I lost myself in the historical fiction Peach Blossom Pavilion by Mingmei Yip, with its exotic setting and heart-breaking tale. Then at the end of the month, I started and finished within a few days, the cosy crime Headline Murder by Peter Bartram, which is the first book to follow journalist Colin Crampton and his investigations back in 1960s Brighton.

Also this month, I finished my slow but steady read of the classic The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, a wonderful novel I felt I needed to take my time with, and I finished my re-read via Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Audiobook) by J.K. Rowling and narrated by the hilarious Stephen Fry, which I have been enjoying immensely while I do my ironing. However you may have noticed I finished no non-fiction this month! Although, for the best part of the month, I have had two longer, heftier non-fictions on the go.

As well as a quality month of reading this was a very productive month too. As Queen of Hearts, Volume 3: War of the Cards and Peach Blossom Pavilion ticked off two categories on my What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge. While The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was my March spin result and my second book off my new Classics Club list. However I am not up-to-date with my reviews, mainly because a lot of these books I finished right at the end of the month. So you have three May reviews to look forward to in June.

Pick of the Month: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Altogether that is fives books finished, which is up on the previous few months and equals the earlier months of January and February. Carrying on into June, I have non-fictions: Charles II, Biography of an Infamous King by John Miller and Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey (for my church’s next book club meeting).

In June, I look forward to starting my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge with The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier and continuing my Classics Club reading with Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia by Emilio Salgari. Plus I have a WWII school trip (I am planning to dress up as a land girl), an Olly Murs tribute night and my book club meeting to discuss Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey. Looks like it could be another good month.

What did you do and read in May? What are your plans for June?


New Books: April & May 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, it has been a while but as I only got my hands on a handful of new books each month, I decided to wait and combine my post for April and May. So here are the goodies I have added to my Kindle and shelves:

The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle

The Testament of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

In April, I was thrilled to get my hands on, via NetGalley, copies of historical mystery The Poison Bed (a new direction for Fremantle, who is best known for her Tudor novels) and The Testament of Loki, the second book of Harris’ brilliant re-imagining of Norse Gods and legends. Having previously enjoyed both these authors I look forward to reading more.

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Also in April, from World of Books, I ordered a bargain, second-hand copy of this Christian non-fiction. In which best-selling evangelical author, Yancey discusses whatever happened to the good news? This is my May read for my church’s book club.

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

Then at the beginning of May, I snapped up this, the second book in Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s series, for just 99p from Amazon (UK), which I put on my wish list after really enjoying the first book, Just One Damned Thing After Another last year.

The Memory Tree by John A Heldt

Next I was contacted and happily accepted a review copy of Heldt’s new time-travel novel, which is the second book in his Carson Chronicles series. I have enjoyed several books from Heldt’s earlier American Journey series, so I look forward to trying more.

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

And finally, but certainly not least I acquired, from NetGalley, copies of these two brand-new, dual-narrative/time-shifting novels… if you read this blog regularly you will know this is like one of my favourite genres AND that Kearsley is one of favourite authors! I am immensely looking forward to reading both of these!

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

New Read: Queen of Hearts, Volume 3: War of the Cards

I really can’t believe that it was back in 2014 that I read the fantastic Volume 1: The Crown and Volume 2: The Wonder of Colleen Oakes’ twisted YA Wonderland re-imagining, Queen of Hearts. Finally, three years, a new publisher and republications of the earlier two volumes later, we have the concluding part, Volume 3: War of the Cards! (Warning: this will probably contain spoilers for the earlier volumes).

In this final volume, we re-join Dinah, the exiled princess of Wonderland, as she marches her fractious army of Spades and Yurkei warriors on to the palace of Wonderland. Where her father, the cruel King of Hearts, and his deadly army of Hearts await for a final, bloody showdown. Although gripped by fear and doubt, Dinah is propelled on by a burning rage that seeks revenge for the brutal murder of her beloved brother Charles and to claim the throne which is rightfully hers. But an inner battle rages within Dinah too – with such all-consuming love and fury can she be the ruler the kingdom needs? Or will her tumultuous nature bring Wonderland to its knees?

Through-out this trilogy, I have been fascinated to watch our young, head-strong and rebellious protagonist grow and survive through so many harsh trials and tribulations. Now she is a strong, brave woman with such high expectations on her shoulders to be a strong, wise and victorious leader. I couldn’t help but to continue to pity her in this book. However Dinah is an imperfect character. In particular, in this conclusion, there is one absolutely horrific incident, which, while I could sympathise with how she came to feel so hurt and angry, I could never condone her terrible reaction. If only she could hear me shouting stop!

Although if Dinah didn’t have a darker side to her, she wouldn’t be a very convincing Queen of Hearts now would she! And I do have to praise Oakes’ better fleshed out and more realistic take on the quintessential characters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, such as Cheshire, the royal advisor; the Caterpillar, a Yurkei witch-doctor and Charles, the Mad Hatter. Also I loved Oakes’ clever twists on the classic elements of the cards, magical food and the Jabberwocky. Even though I went into this knowing what should become of Dinah, Oakes was still able to generate tension, throw me some real curve balls and leave me with a hopeful note.

All in all, I thought War of the Cards was a fitting and very satisfying ending to this clever and refreshing re-imagining of Wonderland. It was worth the wait! After enjoying this and her Wendy Darling series, I am interested to see what Oakes will do next. 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? Or any other re-imaginings of classic tales?

I am also including this book towards my What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge, as a title with a shape in it. (1/5)

Goodbye April, Hello May 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are well? Well as you can see from my photo above, Bonnie and I got out to enjoy the few days of sunshine we had this month, although sadly it didn’t last! I also enjoyed celebrating Easter with friends and family, as well as taking a well-earned break over the Easter break. Over the month, here is what I’ve been reading:

Fiction: 2          Non-Fiction: 1

First I finished urban fantasy Hazard of Shadows by Mike Phillips, the second book in Phillip’s Chronicles of the Goblin King series. While I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as the first book, The World Below, it was a fun, light read. Then I was totally gripped by the brilliantly written historical fiction The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, the second book in Gregory’s popular Cousins’ War series, which shows the War of the Roses from the perspective of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.

Alongside these fictions, I also read the Christian classic God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, the inspirational true story of how a young Dutchman brought hope to persecuted Christians in Communist Eastern Europe. This was my April read for my church’s book club and I look forward to discussing it at our next meeting. My full thoughts on it are still to be posted – look out for my post later this week.

Pick of the Month: God’s Smuggler

Altogether that is three books finished, which is the same amount as last month. Carrying on into May, I have non-fiction, Charles II, Biography of an Infamous King by John Miller; young adult fantasy, Queen of Hearts, Volume 3: War of the Cards by Colleen Oakes and my Classic Club spin result: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.

In May, I am looking forward to celebrating the birthdays of several friends and family members; my book club meeting to discuss God’s Smuggler and of course more quality time reading.

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

New Read: Hazard of Shadows

Finally, I got round to reading Hazard of Shadows by Mike Phillips, the second book in Phillip’s Chronicles of the Goblin King series, after I read the first book, The World Below a couple of years ago now! (While this is the second book I think you could read this as a stand-alone book, as there is plenty of throwback information from the first book).

This book returns us to a world where enchanted creatures of legend still exist, hidden away from an age of camera phones and government labs in a secret, rubbish-tip metropolis, in caves and tunnels below the human streets. After over-throwing the nasty Baron Finkbeiner, Lady Elizabeth’s champion, Mitch Hardy is the new leader of The World Below, where he hopes to introduce law, order and democracy. However unbeknownst to them all, the ancient faerie, Lord Stokelas and his minions seek to revenge the death of the Baron and recover the mysterious Blade of Caro. Soon Mitch and his friends will be fighting for their lives and freedom against a pack of hellish monsters.

I really enjoyed catching up with Mitch, Elizabeth and the cheeky goblin crew, who are still up to their funny tricks. Most of the story is still told from Mitch’s perspective, but also intermittently from the point-of-view of a new character, Simon Beene, who is a dangerous faerie recently escaped from Lady Elizabeth’s splinter world prison for him. While Beene is not a very pleasant fellow, it is interesting to read about his creepy antics. On top of that we also have a fun, colourful cast of other characters, including: trolls, ogres, minotaurs, weres, vampires and of course a few oblivious humans!

Again, like The World Below, I thought this was written in a fun, edgy style with some good magical elements and creatures; and while there were still some small typos issues they were far less frequent than before. However something new I noticed – and not in a good way – was how the author felt the need to describe the size of every female characters’ breasts! Which I could understand coming from sleazy Simon Beene, but it seemed to bleed over to every male character, including good guy Mitch! Fortunately I was invested enough in the story and characters to read on.

Overall, I thought Hazard of Shadows was another fun and light adventure in a magical world below our feet, but if the odd, new breast obsession continues I am unsure whether I would read the rest of the series. 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?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Look Forward to Re-Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Freebie (create your own topic)

As one of my goals this year is to continue to make time for re-reading old favourites, I thought I would encourage myself by sharing with you the ten books I am most looking forward to re-reading soon:

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – My favourite of all of Austen’s wonderful novels, that follows the trials and tribulations of the Dashwood sisters. I look forward to seeing if it retains its top spot after a second read.
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – The first book in Collins’ popular dystopian, young adult trilogy, which I haven’t read since they were adapted into the highly successful film franchise with an all-star cast.
  3. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley – My first and favourite novel I read by Kearsley. I look forward to returning to the beautiful Trelowarth on the Cornish coast and seeing if I fall in love with it all over again.
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling – Over the last year or so, I have been enjoying a comforting re-read of Rowling’s magical Harry Potter series, via the audiobooks read by the brilliant Stephen Fry.
  5. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – I am hoping a re-read of this, the hopelessly romantic and tragic tale of Gabriel and Bathsheba, will spur me on to read more of Hardy’s novels.
  6. Sabriel by Garth Nix – After re-reading this and Lirael, the first and second books in Nix’s Old Kingdom series, I hope I will finally be able to get round to finishing the series with Abhorsen.
  7. Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard – My first and favourite novel I read by Gillard. I look forward to re-reading this powerful tale, as well as reading two new-to-me books I have by this wonderful author.
  8. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott – It has been many years since I read Scott’s classic novel. So long ago I remember little about it, except for a vague feeling that I enjoyed it. High time for a re-read don’t you think?!
  9. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens – Since reading this I read many of Dickens’ classic novels, and now it feels like the right time to go back and remind myself of this old favourite.
  10. Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton – At first, I thought this would be a new read in my continued journey through Beaton’s hilarious Agatha Raisin series, but on closer inspection I recognised the premise; so re-read it is!

Have you read any of these? What books would you like to re-read? Also, please leave a link in the comments below if you have taken part in this week’s TTT topic too.

New Books: March 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, it is a little late but here are the books I got my hands on in March:

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

First, I snapped up these cool new Amazon editions of four classic novels which I have long wanted to read, and how could I not when they were all being offered for free?! Three of which are now on my new Classics Club list.

The Tower is Full of Ghosts Today by Alison Weir

Also from Amazon I got this free short e-book, which is a companion read to Alison Weir’s Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession, the second novel in her spellbinding Six Tudor Queens series about Henry VIII’s wives. Recently, I read and loved the first book, Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen and so I look forward to reading more.

Theatre Royal by Michael Coren

Next, through Endeavour Press’ weekly e-newsletter, I got a free copy of this history of the ups and downs of The Theatre Royal in Stratford. After loving another theatre history, Seven Stages by Geoffrey Trease, from this publisher, I have high hopes for this one too.

The Dragon’s Blade: Veiled Intentions by Michael R. Miller

Then, after enjoying The Dragon’s Blade: The Reborn King, the first book in Michael R. Miller’s fantasy trilogy, I was thrilled when the author offered me a review copy of the second book.

Justice Hall by Laurie R. King

On a trip to The Works, I bought a copy of this, the sixth of King’s Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which filled in a gap in my collection nicely. Earlier this year, I enjoyed the second book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and now I can look forward to reading straight through from book three to nine.

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

Last, but certainly not least, I ordered a bargain, second-hand copy of this, an inspiring true story of how a young Dutchman risked his life to bring hope to Christians behind the Iron Curtain, from World of Books via Amazon. This is my next read for my church’s book club.

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