New Books: August 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, after an almost saintly June and July, I have had a complete blow out in August; acquiring a whopping 15 books! In my defence, I didn’t go out with the intention of buying lots of books, instead it was mainly due to my favourite charity shops having an abundance of books I wanted this month. Here’s what I got:

Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia by Emilio Salgari

Cleopatra by Ernle Bradford

Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragorn, The True Queen by Alison Weir

To my Kindle, I have added the quite modest amount of three books. First, I happily accepted a copy of the second Sandokan novel after thoroughly enjoying Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem. Then I received a free copy of non-fiction Cleopatra from Endeavour Press and I snapped up a bargain copy of historical fiction Katherine of Aragorn, which was on my Amazon wish list as I already have the next book from the series: Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin

Order of Darkness, Volumes I – III by Philippa Gregory

The first addition to my bookshelves came when my father treated me to copies of these, using his store discount, which are by two authors I am eager to read more from.

Mary Russell’s War by Laurie R. King

Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett

Next on a trip into town for a podiatrist appointment, I spotted Mary Russell’s War, the newest book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, in The Works – Sadly, or in hindsight fortunately, there weren’t any other books I fancied to complete the 3 for £10 deal! During the same trip, I also snapped up a bargain copy of childhood favourite Johnny and the Bomb in the library sale.

The Game by Laurie R. King

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

Dissolution by C. J. Sansom

Finally, I picked up my largest haul of books on one single day from my two favourite charity book shops, while visiting the local city where I get my hair cut. In the St Giles Bookshop, I discovered two more books from the King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series and as the shop’s deal is 4 books for £5, I obviously had to pick up two more books!

Truckers by Terry Pratchett

Diggers by Terry Pratchett

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

Crooked House by Agatha Christie

While in the Oxfam bookshop, I found good copies of childhood favourites Truckers and Diggers, and new-to-me Discworld novel Sourcery. Then by chance, I spotted a lovely vintage style copy of one of Christie’s ‘Golden Age’ crime novels. I often find this with charity shops, there is nothing I will want for several months and then loads come along at once!

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

New Read: The Lioness and the Spellspinners

Earlier this year, I read The People the Fairies Forget by Cheryl Mahoney, the third charming, fairy tale re-imagining I have enjoyed from Cheryl’s Beyond the Tales series. Luckily for me, I already had the fourth book and prequel to the series, The Lioness and the Spellspinners, lined up to read. (If you are unfamiliar with this author or series, never fear, I don’t think these books necessarily need to be read in order).

This book takes us back to Marilegh (before the famous dancing princes curse) which is a kingdom made up of many islands. On one of the smallest, remotest islands lives young Forrest and his family, who enjoy a quiet, peaceful life of farming intertwined with the family tradition of magical spellspinning. However Forrest’s safe world is to be dramatically turned upside down by the arrival of a more unpredictable and dangerous form of magic, that also coincides with him unceremoniously finding Karina, a prickly, knife-wielding girl, sleeping-rough in his family’s barn one morning.

Stuck on the island, Karina is taken in by Forrest’s kindly, indomitable mother, no questions asked, but after growing up as an orphan on the tough streets of the capital, she finds it hard to trust this strangely hospitable and trusting family. And when they claim they can knit spells of protection, luck and health into their garments, that really doesn’t help either. From her dark past she knows magic exists, but magical knitting that’s just ridiculous … right?! This scoffing at their family tradition raises the hackles of the protective Forrest, who initially eyes this newcomer with suspicion yet, like the rest of his family, he is willing to give her a chance.

However when the chickens start laying golden eggs; the horse starts talking in rhyming couplets and Forrest’s parents are suddenly called away, Forrest and Karina will crucially need to get over their misgivings and work together to figure out the cause of this series of fantastical and inexplicable magic before it can become something more dangerous. So unravels a new tale of magic, friendship, danger, theft and betrayal – all of which is brought to life beautifully by Cheryl with some great description, imagination and humour. Also, for those who have read the other books in the series, there are subtle, clever nods to characters and adventures that are to come, with an amusing cameo from a younger incarnation of a certain ‘Good Fairy’; sparkles and all!

Overall, I thought The Lioness and the Spellspinners was another well written, witty and thrilling adventure, that still gently pokes fun at the traditional fairy tale tropes. Both refreshing and comforting to read. Now, I need to wait (not so) patiently for Cheryl to write another book. Great read.

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

Have you read this? Or anything else by Cheryl Mahoney?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 7/10

Goodbye July, Hello August 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Fortunately, July was a calmer month for me with the more relaxed wind down to the end of term and a quieter social life too. All of which left me with a bit more time for cooking, television and reading. Here’s what I managed to read:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 1

At the beginning of the month, during the run down to the end of term, I escaped into Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow by Colleen Oakes; which was an enjoyable and satisfying end to this refreshing re-imagining of Peter Pan. Next, I started The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, the first book in her popular Cousins’ War series, however it wasn’t till the start of the holidays that I was able to fully throw myself into this fascinating look at the life of Elizabeth Woodville. Once I could though, I was magically transported back in time.

I continued the magical theme, with The Lioness and the Spellspinners by Cheryl Mahoney, a witty and charming prequel in her wonderful Beyond the Tales series, that gently pokes fun at the traditional fairy tale tropes. Finally, with only a day to spare, I finished listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling, which was read by the hilarious Stephen Fry. My full thoughts on these last three books are still to be posted, so keep your eyes peeled for them in August. Also I am still making good progress with the 10 Books of Summer 2017 challenge, with three of these books being off my list; meaning only three more to go!

Alongside these fictions, I also finished reading naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. It was back in May, I actually started reading this, so not a quick read but I found I needed to take my time with this vivid, touching and candid recount of Chris’ childhood as an introverted, nature-loving boy in a world that didn’t understand him.

Pick of the Month: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

Altogether that is five books completed in July, that is one more than last month and I am thrilled to say the quality has remained just as high – so much so it was hard to choose just one for my ‘pick of the month’! During the month, I have also continued to read the classic North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and I started a re-read of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman.

In August, I look forward to my friend’s wedding; helping with my church’s kids club; a holiday to Rome and hopefully some lazy days of reading too!

What did you do and read in July? What are your plans for August?

New Books: June – July 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, over the past month, I have been rather unintentionally good and find I only have three new acquisitions to share with you:

Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver

Back in June, I was totally over the moon to finally get my hands on a copy of this – the second of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Super Food’ cookbooks – which was going for a bargain price in W H Smith. I have been looking out for affordable copies of these cookbooks since enjoying Oliver’s TV series of the same name.

Queens of Conquest by Alison Weir

Hannah’s Moon by John A. Heldt

Then only last week, I received a copy of Weir’s Queens of Conquest, a history of Medieval queens, via Netgalley and a copy of Heldt’s Hannah’s Moon, the final instalment in his American Journey series, from the author himself. Previously, I have enjoyed books by both of these authors, so I am keen to read more.

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

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow

After devouring Volume 1, last year, and Volume 2, earlier this year, I was very keen to get my hands on this: the third and final volume in Colleen Oakes’ young adult Wendy Darling series, inspired by J M Barrie’s Peter Pan. (If you are unfamiliar with this author or series you may instead want to check out my thoughts on the first book: Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars).

At the beginning of this series, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan to Neverland; a fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and freedom. However, Wendy soon discovered all was not as it seemed and she was forced to take shelter with the dreaded Captain Hook. Together they have hatched a dangerous plan to bring down the blood-crazed Peter for good, but it will involve Wendy returning to Pan Island and the clutches of Peter. The fate of her brothers, her beloved Booth and the whole of Neverland is in her hands.

It was wonderful to see this interesting re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy, and she was again joined by a host of colourful characters, including: the adorable Michael; the thoroughly dislikeable John; the big-hearted Smith (Smee!) and, my personal favourite, the infamous Captain Hook. While I haven’t always ‘liked’ Colleen Oakes’ re-imagined characters I do think they are realistic and much better fleshed out than in J M Barrie’s original tale. I also loved being able to delve deeper into the settings too, which Oakes’ brought vividly to life through her beautiful descriptions.

Sadly I did have a small issue with some of the language used in this final instalment – considering the main protagonists are meant to be from Edwardian London. There was the more harmless use of the Americanised ‘toy store’ instead of toy shop, but then there was the far more dubious use of ‘f*nny’ … Now, I believe in America this is slang for ‘ass’ or ‘bottom’. Here in the UK though, it means a much more intimate part of a lady! Fortunately, Oakes weaved such a wonderful tale of adventure, danger, magic and love with so many twists and turns, that the small slips in language didn’t majorly affect my overall enjoyment. Plus what an ending – I didn’t see that coming!

Overall, I thought Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow was another enjoyable fantasy adventure and a satisfying end to this interesting re-imagining of Peter Pan. Previously I have read and loved another of Colleen Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, and I really, really hope the final instalment of this comes 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 Peter Pan?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 5/10

(Coincidentally, Wendy Darling, Volume 1 was also my 5th read for last year’s 10 Books of Summer!)

New Read: Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem

After enjoying several swashbuckling classics, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read another, Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari, by its translator Nico Lorenzutti. So I put it on my 10 Books of Summer 2017 list to make sure I got to it at last.

Sandokan, the feared “Tiger of Malaysia”, and his loyal band of rebel pirates are the scourge of the colonial powers of the Dutch and British empires in the South China sea. Mercilessly they roam the seas attacking ships and islands seeking vengeance, wealth and the destruction of their Western oppressors. Then return with their bounty to the safety of their fortified island of Mompracem, where they have lived happily and untouched for many years. But the fate and fortune of Sandokan and his “tigers” is to suddenly change when they learn of the lauded “Pearl of Labuan”.

While on the surface our protagonist Sandokan appears to just be a blood thirsty villain, as we read on we come to discover he is actually a prince, who was brought low to piracy after the British and their local allies murdered his family and stole his throne. Since then Sandokan has sailed the seas in righteous anger. With his faithful friend Yanez De Gomera, a Portuguese wanderer and adventurer, by his side. Yanez is a more charming and cool headed character, who is a more instantly likeable character. But the love and devotion Yanez and the “tigers” have for their leader helps to show a more likeable side to Sandokan.

However everything is to change when Sandokan hears of the extraordinary “Pearl of Labuan” and risks a trip with two of his ships to the island of Labuan in hopes of catching sight of her. Yes her, as the “Pearl” is not the type of treasure you may have first imagined, but instead she is a young Western woman; famed for her beauty, golden hair and her kindness to the natives of the island. Pretty much on first sight Sandokan falls in love with the “Pearl” and decides to move heaven and earth to obtain her. In the process selfishly risking the lives of all his men and their home of Mompracem, although if he didn’t we wouldn’t have an exciting story to read.

Apparently since Emilio Salgari wrote this adventure novel in 1900 it has been, for more than a century, Italy’s second most famous love story. As a modern reader though I couldn’t help thinking the love was all a bit quick and while we are assured it is a mutual feeling, we get to know little about how the lady thinks or feels. In fact she sadly proves to play a small, passive role in the adventure, except for crying and fainting quite a bit. This is a reflection of the time period is was written in though. Fortunately I didn’t pick this up for love. Instead I was looking for adventure and boy did Salgari give me that in spade loads. With battles at sea, deadly storms, jungle ambushes, clandestine meetings, disguises, sharks, faked deaths and impossible odds! And it is this that kept me wanting to read more.

Overall, I thought Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem was a rip-roaring adventure (and love story) that swept me back in time and across the seas to an exotic dangerous land. Good read.

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

Have you read this? Or any of Sandokan’s other adventures?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 4/10

Meme: Six in Six 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I can’t believe it but we are already half way through the year! Good news though, this means it is time for the sixth Six in Six meme, the brain child of Jo at The Book Jotter, which is a great way to reflect on our reading at the half-way mark of the year. So here are my six authors or books in six different categories from the last six months:

Six new authors to me:

  1. John Ortberg
  2. William Paul Young
  3. Harriet Evans
  4. Richard Foster
  5. Geoffrey Trease
  6. Rosy Thornton

Six authors I have read before:

  1. Louisa May Alcott
  2. Charles Dickens
  3. Elizabeth Gaskell
  4. Cheryl Mahoney
  5. Daphne du Maurier
  6. Joanna Hickson

Six books I have read on my Kindle:

  1. 90 Days Through the New Testament by Ron Rhodes
  2. Flower Fables by Louisa May Alcott
  3. Faith and Moonlight by Mark Gelineau & Joe King
  4. Seven Stages by Geoffrey Trease
  5. The People the Fairies Forget by Cheryl Mahoney
  6. Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore

Six physical books I have read:

  1. If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
  2. The Shack by William Paul Young
  3. The Servant Queen by Mark Greene & Catherine Butcher
  4. The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans
  5. Sandlands by Rosy Thornton
  6. Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Six books that took me by the hand and led me into the past:

  1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  2. My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. Indiana Belle by John A. Heldt
  4. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
  5. First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson
  6. Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari

Six series of books read, continued or started:

  1. A Very Short History by Mark Black
  2. Echo of the Ascended by Mark Gelineau & Joe King
  3. Agatha Raisin by M C Beaton
  4. American Journey by John A. Heldt
  5. Beyond the Tales by Cheryl Mahoney
  6. Discworld by Terry Pratchett

What books and authors have you enjoyed so far this year? Please let me know if you have taken part in this meme too.