Re-Read: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring

With the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) Peter Jackson’s epic film franchise based on J R R Tolkien’s novels has sadly now come to an end. While I regularly re-read The Hobbit I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings in over 10 years! So the start of February saw me reaching for The Fellowship of the Ring as I thought it was high time for a re-read.

The Fellowship of the Ring takes us back to Middle-Earth 60 years after Bilbo Baggins’s original adventure to the Lonely Mountain. In the quiet and beautiful Shire, Bilbo and his heir Frodo are celebrating landmark birthdays. Frodo now comes into his inheritance which includes Bilbo’s magic ring. Some troubling information has come to light about the ring though that sets Frodo on a dangerous mission in a fellowship with men, hobbits, elf, dwarf and wizard. Bilbo didn’t just find any old ring he has in fact found the one ring of power that Sauron himself forged in Mount Doom, and only there can it be destroyed.

What I particularly love about Tolkien’s work is the unlikely protagonists of hobbits. Small creatures with curly hair, pointy ears, large hairy feet and brightly coloured clothes; who live comfortable lives full of food, walks and routine. In The Fellowship of the Ring we have 4 hobbits Frodo, his gardener Sam, and his cousins Merry and Pippin. They are joined later on by Gandalf the Wizard, Legolas a woodland elf, Gimli a dwarf, and two men Boromir and Aragorn. I love the mixture and diversity of the members of the fellowship, and find it compelling how they journey and interact with each other.

The Hobbit is my favourite book from childhood and I have read it more times than I can count! However I have only previously read The Lord of the Rings trilogy twice and while I have enjoyed them they don’t quite hold the same sort of place in my heart. On re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring I found it to be an intricate and enchanting tale. Every word is precious to Tolkien and again he uses them here perfectly to really bring Middle-Earth alive. The Fellowship of the Ring is probably the longest of the reads from the trilogy because there is a lot of characters to introduce, history to relay, and adventure to establish. I found on this re-read though the slowness and familiarity of it to be very comforting.

The Fellowship of the Ring is a slow but intricate, epic, and enchanting tale. I highly recommend to those who enjoy epic fantasy. I look forward to re-reading The Two Towers next. Great read.

Have you read this? Have you watched the films?

New Read: The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah

January was a month of art, history, love, adventure, the old world and even a little magic. Looking to mix my reading up I turned to The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman, a contemporary fiction based in the USA with an Old Testament twist.

The Book of Jonah introduces us to Jonah Jacobstein a corporate lawyer living the high life in Manhattan. Jonah is working every hour God gives to become a partner in one of the largest law firms in New York by doing the dirty work of a large pharmaceutical company. Whilst also juggling between the affections of two beautiful women; one a long-term girlfriend and another who is sexy and fun. Life couldn’t get any better, then Jonah has a chance encounter with a Hasidic Jew who tells him God has other plans for him.

Jonah Jacobstein is young, handsome, ambitious and not likeable at all. He is the author Feldman’s modern equivalent of Jonah from the Old Testament; who was swallowed by a giant fish (whale) when he tried to run away from God’s mission for him. So predictably it takes a lot of trouble and strife before Jonah Jacobstein begins to pay attention. As Jonah begins to change his life it is to become entwined with Judith. A young, attractive and highly ambitious woman who has been hurt and has utterly lost her faith in life. Jonah and Judith are not easy characters to read about but I was interested in the transformations they go through.

The Book of Jonah is the debut novel of Joshua Max Feldman. I don’t read a large amount of contemporary fiction but I was intrigued by the idea of a modern retelling of the well known tale of ‘Jonah and the Whale’ from the Old Testament. I think Feldman has done a clever and imaginative job of transplanting characters, events and places to the modern world. For example Jonah’s journey in the belly of the whale has become a drug fuelled stay on a canal boat in Amsterdam and instead of God sending Jonah to Nineveh he is sent to Las Vegas. This was a slow read for me as half way through I lost my impetus for it because inevitably this is a dark, gritty and sad tale which depressingly highlights many of the negative, cruel and selfish aspects of modern society. After a break though I returned and finished this novel, and I am pleased I persevered.

The Book of the Jonah is a modern and imaginative retelling of an Old Testament story. I recommend to those interested in contemporary fiction and Biblical retellings. Okay read.

Thank you to Henry Holt and Co for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Have you read any other Biblical retellings?

New Books: February 2015

New Books - February #1

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

The Curse Keepers Collection by Denise Grover Swank
(including 3 novels and 3 prequel novellas)

The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland

Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Michael Newton

I received this really interesting mixture of fantasy and supernatural novels, novellas and short story collection for my Kindle from Netgalley.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling

My father picked these up for me from an antique shop as they are first editions with the original cover art. My Potter books currently have several different covers which my OCD nature doesn’t like. These two books help me along to making one complete, matching set.

New Books - February #2

The Hairy Dieters: Eat For Life by Si King & Dave Myers

The Hairy Dieters: Good Eating by Si King & Dave Myers

For a while I have been keeping my eyes peeled for these cookbooks so when I saw them for only £8 each I had to get them. These are from the nation’s (UK) beloved ‘Hairy Biker’ chefs. I am not looking to lose weight particularly but I love how down to earth and well balanced these recipes are.

Elizabeth I and Her Circle by Susan Doran

I also received this historical non-fiction for my Kindle from Netgalley. I just couldn’t resist clicking download as it’s about one of my favourite historical characters.

Have you read any of these? What new books are you excited about?

The Classics Club: Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night

I decided in January to try to always have a classic novel or short story collection on the go, alongside one fiction and non-fiction. Starting as I mean to go on after finishing Shirley by Charlotte Brontë I picked up Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Tender is the Night takes us to the beautiful south of France in the summer of 1925. Wealthy, American couple Dick and Nicole Diver, and their social clique are enjoying the sun, sea and beach from their villa on the French Riviera. The equilibrium is to be altered with the arrival of the young movie star Rosemary Hoyt and her mother. This new friendship will go on to reveal the cracks in the Divers’ friendships and even their own marriage. I love the 1920’s world of Fitzgerald’s novels; the clothes, parties and glamour while in this novel the beautiful French setting was an extra bonus.

While the setting is intoxicating I often find the society, outlook and opinions of the age unattractive and in turn so are the characters in Fitzgerald’s novels. In Tender is the Night Rosemary and many of the Divers’ other friends and family are over privileged, aloof, shallow and live with no thought of consequence. When we first meet the Divers they too come across like this however when you come to the middle of the novel we are taken back in time to when they first met. Nicole was in a mental illness institute and Dick a young doctor. Knowing the hardships they have been through and the love and need they once had for each other did make me soften to them.

Tender is the Night is the third novel I have read by F Scott Fitzgerald, the previous being The Great Gatsby and The Beautiful and the Damned. I find Fitzgerald’s writing to be detailed, eloquent, but quite meandering. Fitzgerald is certainly not a direct writer. Rather than this annoying me though I find this style adds to the precocious, aloof, and flamboyant mood of the age and setting. Again it particularly works in this novel because of the mind sets of the Divers. Dick is a man who is coming to think too much while Nicole has her mental illness to come to terms with. Again not sure this style would work for me in anything but a Fitzgerald novel.

Tender is the Night is a glitzy and gritty look into the lives of 1920’s American socialites in Europe. I recommend to those interested in the 1920’s and classic American literature. This is my 28th read off my Classics Club list. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or another of Fitzgerald’s novels?

Reflection: January 2015

January 2015

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? It has been a very cold month here in the UK, we’ve even had some snow. January has been brightened by several birthdays; including my own which I celebrated with a wonderful meal at my favourite Mediterranean restaurant. The cold has also promoted my reading as in the evening all I have wanted to do is tuck myself in bed with a good book. Here is what I have managed to finish:

Fiction: 4     Non-Fiction: 2     Poetry: 0

I started the month off with Inferno another great thriller by Dan Brown. I loved re-uniting with Robert Langdon for an adventure following clues through the streets, buildings, and history of Florence, Italy. In parallel to Inferno I was dipping in and out of the classic Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. A slow and comforting read about life, love and death in a rural community in England’s past.

Next for a change of pace I read The Reflections of Queen Snow White an adult re-imagining of the classic fairy tale by David Meredith. A quick and interesting read. I also raced through Mariana another historical suspense by Susanna Kearsley. A wonderful dual time period novel set in the beautiful countryside that I simply didn’t want to put down.

Alongside these fictions I also read two non-fictions. First The Moor by William Atkins. A discussion of the geography, history, inhabitants, ownership and uses for the moors, and the literature and art they have inspired. Then Christian non-fiction Love So Amazing by Pam Rhodes a delightful and interesting reflection on 40 favourite hymns.

Pick of the Month: Inferno and Mariana

And those are just the books I finished. A new aim for 2015 for me is to always have a classic on the go so after finishing Shirley by Charlotte Brontë I moved on to Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald. I think so far it is my favourite by this author. I started reading the modern fiction The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman but half way through I have lost my enthusiasm, hopefully it comes back soon. I have also started a lovely memoir Our Zoo by June Mottershead; the youngest daughter of George Mottershead the founder of Chester Zoo.

What did you read in January?

New Read: Mariana

Mariana

I haven’t long owned Mariana by Susanna Kearsley however I have read and heard such positive things about it from other readers that I just couldn’t wait to start it.

Mariana takes us to the sleepy countryside of England where for the third time in her life Julia Beckett has been inextricably drawn to Greywethers, an old farmhouse in a small village off the beaten track. Feeling that this surely has to be a sign Julia buys the house. Upon moving in Julia finds the landscape and  peace inspiring, and finds the locals friendly too however it is not long before Julia begins connecting with a young woman, who lived in the house many years ago, called Mariana through disturbing out-of-time experiences.

Julia Beckett is an illustrator for children’s books (what a great job) who for most of her adult life has lived in London but when we meet her Julia finds herself drawn to the countryside, in particular to Greywethers. Julia is a likeable protagonist; being clever, artistic, friendly and a book lover! Julia is joined in this story by her brother Tom a vicar whose parish is near by, Vivien the local pub owner, Iain a neighbouring farmer, Geoff the handsome lord, and of course Mariana and those she knew in the past. There are several interesting romances between these characters running through out the story, present and past, I will go no further in my description though because they are complicated and I wouldn’t want to ruin any surprises.

Mariana is the third novel I have read by Susanna Kearsley, and like those two previous novels I really enjoyed this. What I particularly like about Kearsley is her writing style which I find just so comforting and familiar, like a favourite jumper. I find a few pages into her novels I am already lost in the tales of life, love and history. I also like dual time periods and I feel Kearsley is great at them. While I often find myself in these sorts of novels drawn to one period or another (usually the past) in this I found myself enjoying and being invested in both time periods. I think perhaps this now my joint favourite of Kearsley’s novels alongside The Rose Garden.

Mariana is a beautiful dual time period novel of life, love and history. I highly recommend and I look forward to reading more by Kearsley. I have Season of Storms and The Shadowy Horses on my to-be-read pile. Great read.

Have you read any of Susanna Kearsley’s novels? Any recommendations?

New Read: The Reflections of Queen Snow White

Reflections of Queen Snow White

I snapped up The Reflections of Queen of Snow White by David Meredith interested to see how Meredith would re-imagine this classic fairy tale. Recently here in the UK it has been dark, cold and we’ve even had some snow. What better time to tuck oneself in bed with a fairy tale.

The Reflections of Queen of Snow White re-introduces us to Snow White a year into mourning for her husband, king and one true love, Charming. From which not even the upcoming marriage of her only child Princess Raven can break her. One day whilst fleeing the wedding preparations, guests and the never ending questions Snow White finds herself in a disused part of the castle. These are Snow White’s late, evil stepmother’s quarters which were closed off after she was overthrown. Whilst there Snow White discovers an old, large mirror which gives her the power to reflect back on important moments in her life (an interest twist I thought).

Though Snow White now has streaks of white in her black hair and a few wrinkles on her snow white skin, she is still a beautiful and healthy woman. Mentally though she comes across young and a little weak, she really doesn’t think she can go own without Charming to guide and protect her. Through the reflections Snow White was reminded of what hard times she had endured and how Charming wasn’t always there to save her. I felt Snow White grew as a character through this experience.

The Reflections of Queen of Snow White is the first novel I have read by David Meredith. I was contacted by the author about this novel and decided to take a punt on it as I was interested to see a re-imagining of this classic fairy tale. I was not to disappointed on that front, Meredith has written an interesting, adult re-imagining of the story and the character of Snow White. The text does need some editing though. There were quite a few typos and I found an excessive use of adjectives however I was invested enough in Snow White and her journey that I happily read on.

The Reflections of Queen of Snow White is an interesting re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale. This does contain violent and sexual content so I recommend for adults only. Okay read.

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

Have read this? Or any other re-imagining of Snow White?