Re-Read: The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment

Battersea Park Road

I first read inspirational memoir, The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment by Isabel Losada, more years ago than I can or wish to count. Needless to say I thought it was high time for a re-read to see if I still enjoyed it.

In The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment Losada chronicles her search for love and acceptance, from herself and others. So starts her slight obsession with going on courses and looking for new experiences. To name a few Losada tries T’ai Chi, colonic irrigation, a weekend retreat with nuns, an Insight seminar, a past lives session, an Astrological reading, and even naked inner Goddess workshops. While I don’t fancy trying even half of the things Losada tries I did find it inspirational how open and brave she was. Losada’s journey is honest, funny and emotional.

I love Losada’s down-to-earth and honest writing style. It didn’t feel like reading a book but instead an informal chat with a friend over a cup of tea. Although in the case of ‘Starbuck’s addict’ Losada, she would perhaps prefer a coffee. Also when I say honest, I mean really honest. Losada’s honesty is often hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking and sometimes painful but I truly appreciated it. I was originally drawn to The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment because I adored From Tibet with Love a previous read by Losada. For my re-read I decided to read them in publication order to see how Losada’s experiences and writing progresses. I look forward to re-reading From Tibet with Love next as I have fond memories of enjoying that even more than this.

The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment is a funny and inspirational memoir. It is hard to know exactly who to recommend this too, as it covers so much! I do highly recommend though. Perhaps you will enjoy this too if you like memoirs, new experiences, and inspirational and faith literature. Good read.

Have you read this too? Have you perhaps tried some of Losada’s experiences?

New Read: The Lady of Misrule

The Lady of Misrule

April was a fantasy fiction filled month for me. To change things up a little at the beginning of May I picked up historical fiction The Lady of Misrule by Suzannah Dunn.

The Lady of Misrule takes us back to 1553 as Elizabeth Tilney arrives at The Tower of London to chaperone Lady Jane Grey. Jane reigned as Queen of England for only 9 days before she was overthrown by the supporters of her Catholic cousin Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII. Now Jane and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, are to be imprisoned in the Tower as traitors. Elizabeth while only there to attend goes on to form an unlikely friendship with Jane and Guildford in the last few months of their young lives. The quiet and isolation is to also give Elizabeth time to reflect on her own life and beliefs.

With all of the action being confined to the Tower, The Lady of Misrule really is a character driven story. Elizabeth is rebellious, naïve and Catholic, though truly she has no real belief system and only follows what is expected of her. In stark contrast we have Jane who is well-educated and has a strong Protestant faith, which she is willing to die for.  I found the forced closeness of these polar opposite young girls and the ensuing fragile friendship interesting, however I’m not sure I liked either Elizabeth or Jane. In fact I think I preferred Guildford. He begins off pompous and all for show, but underneath it I think he is perhaps the most honest and down-to-earth.

The Lady of Misrule is the 2nd novel I have read by Suzannah Dunn. Last year I read The May Bride, which went on to be one of my favourite reads of 2014. I was eager to read more by Dunn. I didn’t quite enjoy this as much. I think this was mainly due to Elizabeth and Jane who I just wasn’t as fond of as young Jane Seymour from The May Bride. However I again found Dunn’s writing style comforting and familiar. Dunn’s beautiful description swept me off  and immersed me into the confined, daily life in the Tower. The repetitive routine of rising, dressing, eating, reading, praying, watching from the window, and then retiring to bed was all brought vividly back to life. To achieve this Dunn has obviously filled in some historical gaps and added some fictionalised characters; I thought it was all well done though. Then the brutal ending, even though I knew it was coming, really wrenched at my heart and felt so real.

The Lady of Misrule is a well written, interesting and intimate glimpse into the final months of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey. I highly recommend to those interested in historical fiction and English history. I would still like to read more of Suzannah Dunn. Good read.

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK  for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read Suzannah Dunn? Any recommendations?

The Classics Club: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes

I have become quite a fan of short story collections and I hope to continue reading more in 2015. Starting as I mean to go on I picked up The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle the fifth and sadly the final collection.

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is a collection made up of another twelve Sherlock Holmes short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote and published in The Strand between 1921 and 1927, much later than previous stories. I think this is perhaps the less well known collection of stories although The Sussex Vampire is probably the most notable story just for its title.  I very much enjoyed The Sussex Vampire, The Creeping Man and Thor Bridge. That being said as usual there were no adventures in this collection I didn’t enjoy, they were all fascinating, the three I have named though particularly captured my imagination.

Like previous collections I have read I thought The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes had a good range of stories which were varied and well-balanced. There was again the wonderful chemistry between the two protagonists that I love to witness during the intricate mysteries. The difference with this collection was that two of the stories was told by Holmes himself not, as is usual, by Watson. While this made an interesting change I still find myself most drawn to Holmes’s companion Dr Watson. As much as I love the mind and foibles of Holmes it is his down-to-earth companion Watson that I find I really connect with.

This is certainly not my first foray into Sherlock Holmes. I have loved the Adventures, Memoirs, Return of Sherlock Holmes and His Last Bow short story collections. I again enjoyed the shorter length of the stories which means I could easily keep the thread of the mystery and fully enjoy all the twists and turns, without the worry of needing a break. Sadly though this is the last collection. I shouldn’t be despondent though because I do still have three novels to read.

The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes is another fascinating read with more interesting adventures for me to discover. I highly recommend to those interested in classic crime. This is my 30th read off my Classics Club list. Good read.

Have you read this collection? Do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes story?

New Read: The World According to Bob

The World According to Bob

Last year I read and adored A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen. Ever since I heard there was a second memoir I have wanted to read it. This year The World According to Bob by James Bowen came out in paperback and my father snapped up a copy for us both. I managed to hold back my impatience while my father read it first then in June it was finally my turn.

The World According to Bob continues the touching and up-lifting tale of James and his cat Bob. When James meets Bob the street cat on the stairs of his sheltered accommodation block he has been addicted to drugs and living rough on the streets of London for many years. Through their friendship James finds himself a job selling the Big Issue, reunites with his family, becomes clean from drugs, and lands the opportunity to write a book about it all. While the book is still a pipe dream James and Bob still have several adventures and misadventures to have. Again I thought The World According to Bob was a charming tale which I found rather hard to put down because I really wanted to find out what happened to the pair next. I found I was really invested in finding out if they were going to be okay. James’s descriptions of his life selling the Big Issue on the streets is a sad one and really makes you think harder about your own life.

Both James and Bob are really likeable characters. James has made many mistakes in his life which he is open and candid about in both memoirs. James is at heart a good guy and has been learning from the mistakes of his past. He has got himself off the streets and clean of drugs which it just great. James starts this second memoir off with more hope than the last but there are still more challenges for his to traverse but alongside him he has Bob which makes everything feel better even in the worst of time. Bob is of course still an intelligent ginger tom with a lot of love and hope to give. I think the pair are pretty much made for each other and I loved reading more about their transformative relationship.

 A Street Cat Named Bob was the brain child of literary agent Mary Pachnos who approached James and Bob while they were selling the Big Issue on the streets of London. James not long after sat down with the writer Garry Jenkins to form his life into a coherent story which is described further in this second memoir The World According to Bob. James may have been surprised to get one book published but with the huge success of the first memoir he now three books published which I think is amazing. Again the style of The World According to Bob is simple and easy; no pretensions are taken with the language used. It felt like James was given the freedom to use his own words as much as possible which meant again the memoir felt natural and contained a lot of the personality of James and Bob. I think their friendship has really inspired me as about a month ago I adopted a black cat called Bonnie from the RSPCA (she is currently curled up in the sun behind me as I type!).

The World According to Bob is another utterly charming memoir of the touching and transformative friendship of James and his cat Bob. I highly recommend to all. Good read.

Have you read about James and Bob?

New Read: The Rev. Diaries

The Rev Diaries

During the busy months of April and May I have been laughing and soothing my soul by watching the third series of BBC’s wonderful comedy Rev. . I think this last series is perhaps the best of all of them so far; at the end of which I found myself wanting more. Luckily for me I had a copy of BBC’s tie-in book The Rev. Diaries by the Reverend Adam Smallbone.

The Rev. Diaries follows the Reverend Adam Smallbone an Anglican priest who has moved from his small country parish church to the hustle and bustle of an inner London church, St Saviour in the Marshes…although the hustle and bustle is London not the church where Adam is lucky to get more than ten in his service on Sunday. While the move to the city sees Adam’s wife career as a lawyer flourish Adam himself has what feels like a nigh-on impossible task to raise money and numbers to keep St Saviour’s alive. Adam is to face many adversities, find help in the oddest places and have some funny and downright cringe worthy adventures along the way with his wife Alex, Nigel the up tight and in the closet lay reader, faithful congregation members Colin a homeless drunk and smothering Adoha, and the scathingly sarcastic Archdeacon Robert.

The Reverend Adam Smallbone the protagonist of The Rev. Diaries is an Anglican priest who came to the calling after a beautiful…drug induced epiphany. Even after the unexpected calling to the church Adam really does believe in God and really tries his hardest to make St Saviour in the Marshes a success even though it might be a lost cause. I love Adam and I think most people who read this or watch the TV series will love him too. He is certainly not perfect he makes mistakes, sins and loses faith but at heart he is a good guy. I think Adam gives a more human face to the Church of England.

As I mentioned above I been watching the BBC’s wonderful comedy series Rev. which stars Tom Hollander and Olivia Coleman for which The Rev. Diaries by the Reverend Adam Smallbone is a tie-in book. I am really pleased I requested to read this because I thought it was really good and it is my second BBC tie-in book I have enjoyed this year. I previously read and loved A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley. Like the TV series The Rev. Diaries is told entirely from Adam’s perspective often in the flow of his thoughts to God. In the TV series and this book I love hearing Adam’s thoughts to God as he can be so honest in those moments. I felt the first part of the book was almost a carbon copy of the TV series as if they had just transposed the TV script into book form but as I read on I didn’t have that same feeling whether because they did add more detail or because I become comfortable and lost in Adam’s life I’m not sure but it worked either way. While I felt both the TV series and book were as equally as funny as each other I did find myself enjoying the closer intimacy the book seemed to offer me as a solo reader. My only wish is that there had been more! As this book does not cover series 3 that I have just finished watching perhaps that means they’ll do another book. We can but hope!

The Rev. Diaries is a funny and touching look into the life and thoughts of an inner city vicar of a failing church. I highly recommend to those who are fans of comedy and diaries. Good read.

Thank you to Penguin Books (UK) for providing a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you watched the BBC’s comedy series Rev.?

The Classics Club: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

My result for The Classics Club’s last wonderful Spin feature was The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. I was pleased with this result as have been keen to read more of Dickens’s work. Sadly when the Christmas holiday finally arrived my brain needed a rest and I couldn’t face the length of The Pickwick Papers. Instead I decided to go with A Christmas Carol a shorter and more seasonal work by Dickens.

A Christmas Carol joins the famous miser Ebenezer Scrooge and his clerk Bob Cratchit who are still working on Christmas Eve. Scrooge finally allows Cratchit to leave and agrees to him having Christmas day off as long as he starts early on Boxing day. With that Scrooge returns to his dingy rooms to spend Christmas alone. But Scrooge’s lonely revelry is broken when his dead business partner Jacob Marley comes to him to warn him that he is to be visited by three spirits. The first spirit is the ghost of Christmas past, next the ghost of Christmas present and finally the ghost of Christmas future. All show him scenes to reflect his life and the life to come if he doesn’t change his ways. The story of A Christmas Carol is probably known to most people whether you’ve read the book or not due to all the different film, TV and stage adaptations. I grew up watching The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) as a child. The fact I knew the story already didn’t take anything away from this wonderful tale though.

Ebenezer Scrooge the protagonist of A Christmas Carol is as well known if not more so than the story itself. The name Scrooge along with ‘bah-humbug’ has long been in our vocabulary for a miserable, ungenerous and Christmas spoiling individual. Ebenezer is a great character I can see why he has stayed in the imaginations of so many people. He starts off twisted, miserable and completely devoid of hope. You’d like to hate him but he is too pitiable for that for me. Then as the three spirits show him scenes from his past, present and those that could happen in the future. Ebenezer goes through an almost magical transformation as the layers of greed, age and bad experiences are peeled away from him. Revealing the nicer person he had the possibility to become as a child.

 A Christmas Carol is the first work by Dickens where I didn’t find his language convoluted or too highly detailed in fact I thought the language was just right. A Christmas Carol is only a novella unlike Dickens’s other much longer works but he still manages to pack a real good story into its pages. The plot was simpler and there were far less main characters than previous works I have read. I really enjoyed seeing Dickens focus in so intently on one character. I found it refreshing. Of course Ebenezer isn’t alone Dickens still fits some of his colourful characters into the story including: poor Bob Cratchit, his wife and children particularly Tiny Tim, miserly Jacob Marley, warm-hearted Mr and Mrs Fezziwig, Ebenezer’s long-lost lover and his kind and friendly nephew Fred.

A Christmas Carol is a slightly creepy but warm-hearted tale of redemption perfect for the Christmas holiday. I highly recommend reading this novella. This is my 19th read off my Classics Club list. I look forward to reading The Pickwick Papers soon.

Have you read A Christmas Carol?

The Classics Club: Bleak House

Bleak House

After finishing The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald the last novel I read off my Classics Club list I found myself in the mood for Dickens. As if it was fate my result from  The Classics Club Spin was Bleak House by Charles Dickens! I started this book during the unpredictable weather of June and finished it in the glorious heat of July. I didn’t quite finish it in time to post about it for the 1st July deadline but I am still very proud to have finished this very long classic.

Bleak House is mysterious, harrowing, and thrilling in equal parts. This twisting tale is narrated by Esther a young orphan. Esther’s childhood isn’t a loving one on the death of her aunt Esther is sent to a boarding school where she starts to discover love. Finally as a young woman she is sent for by her mysterious benefactor Mr Jarndyce who wishes her to become a companion and house keeper. It is living at Bleak House with Mr Jarndyce, and his two other wards Ada and Richard that Esther finally finds real contentment. However there is a cloud looming over the inhabitants of Bleak House and that is the Jarndyce vs Jarndyce case. A law suit that has been raging for years of which Mr Jarndyce, Ada, and Richard are all embroiled in. Esther seems to be the only one with the heart to bring them all together away from the disturbing influence of that draining case. Yet Esther is to be faced with her own problems when the death of an unknown man ‘Nemo’ is to bring to light secrets from her own past. Bleak House is one of Dickens longest novels for good reason; there is just so much going on! I found the beginning of the novel was a little slower to get into what with the vast cast of characters I had to be introduced to. Once all the characters and threads were introduced though I couldn’t put this book down.

Bleak House similarly to my two previous Dickens reads Oliver Twist and Great Expectations is narrated by an orphan, but unlike the two previous this orphan is a female which I thought made a refreshing change. Esther is a wonderful character who I instantly liked. She is kind, loving, sensible, brave and almost completely self-less. However she isn’t perfect and she does recognise that which makes a more believable character. In Bleak House Esther is joined by a host of interesting and colourful characters. I wouldn’t expect any less from Dickens. We have the kind but rather eccentric Mr Jarndyce, the beautiful Ada, hopeless Richard, the childish Mr Skimpole, the boisterous Mr Boythorn, the calculating Mr Tulkinghorn, the distant Lady Dedlock, the brave Mr George, the devious Grandfather Smallweed, and many, many more than I could possibly name here! As I said above it did take sometime to be introduced to all these characters, and to get them all straight in my head. Once I had though they all added something to the mystery and enjoyment of this novel. Although as there were so many I’m not sure individuals were as memorable as those from my previous reads.

I still find that Dickens’s use of language is rather convoluted and highly detailed but the more of his work I read the easy I find it is to get into the flow of his style. Once I’m into the style I find I am free to just get lost in the story. And boy, can Dickens weave a great story. I said this about my previous Dickens read Great Expectations but this time I really mean it. Bleak House really is the most intricate and twisting tales I’ve read of his so far! There were a lot of characters and threads in this novel which made it at first a slow start but I think Dickens weaved them all together beautifully by the end of the novel. And even though I knew the basic premise of the story from a TV adaptation I had watched before I still found Dickens had some surprises up his sleeves for me. Hence why I tried to keep my summary of the story as vague as possible. I would hate to spoil the mystery for anyone who hasn’t read this yet.

 Bleak House was a mysterious and thrilling look into the light and dark aspects of Victorian London. I highly recommend reading this novel. This is now my 14th read off my Classics Club list. I now have a copy of The Pickwick Papers, and digital copies of A Christmas Carol and  A Tale of Two Cities to choose from for my next Dickens read.

Are you a fan of Charles Dickens? What Dickens’s novel do you think I should read next?