Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Forgotten Classics

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's theme is Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre. I've decided go for classics, so I'm listing ten older books that have been mostly forgotten or that I think should be better known:

A Cathedral Courtship by Kate Douglas Wiggin
A sweet romantic tale combined with a tour of English cathedrals

The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Mary Yonge
A tragic Victorian bestseller

White Boots by Noel Streatfeild
A story about family, friendship, and ice skating

The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit
Six children determine to restore their family's fortunes - but things don't really go according to plan

Seven Sisters at Queen Anne's by Evelyn Smith
Seven sisters go off to school for the first time,

Half Magic by Edward Eager
A magic coin that only grants half of what you wish for - what could possibly go wrong?

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery
I've reviewed this recently here.

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin
An entertaining novel about the young Elizabeth I

The Silent Shore by Ruth Elwin Harris
The first in a series about four sisters set during and after World War I

The Girls of St. Wode's by L.T. Meade
A story about six girls at college in the late 1800s

Monday, 28 August 2017

Footnotes: August 2017


Today I'm excited to be joining in with Footnotes, a new link-up created by Emily and Ashley. This involves posting about a quote each month, based on a prompt they supply. As an avid collector of quotes this sounds like a great idea to me! This month's prompt is a quote from an author. Although there are of course many quotes I could supply, I've gone with the first to spring to my mind, which I like a lot and is from one of my favourite books, Anne of Green Gables:
 
 
This is a quote that always makes me happy; it's a reminder that you don't need lots of money or possessions, that there are more important things like friendship, happiness, and imagination. I love Anne's way of putting it, and I love the description of the sea, too, "all silver and shallow and visions of things not seen"; it does describe very well what it looks like in the evening.

There, I don't think my explanation has really done justice at all, and there are so many other good quotes that I could have chosen to share. However, they will have to wait for future months!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Mystery Recommendations

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's theme is Ten Book Recommendations for ______. Since I've been reading a lot of mystery/detective books lately, I thought it would be a good idea to make a list of mystery recommendations. Then I realised I already made a similar list last September ... however, I've read quite a few new ones since then and I think this list is different enough for it to be worthwhile. So, here are ten books I recommend to people who like mysteries (especially of the classic or historical variety.


A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson (mini review)
This is one I've read recently. Set in a small town in 1950s England, featuring a mysterious death which occurred seven years earlier.

One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters
This is the second in Ellis Peters' Cadfael series, and one of the best that I've read so far, although I'd recommend the series as a whole.

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens
The second in Robin Stevens' series featuring schoolgirl detectives in 1930s England. I enjoyed this a lot more than the first book in the series and it can be read as a standalone. The characterisation in this book is really well done, and probably stands out more than the mystery (which is also good, but not spectacular).

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers (review)
The first in Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series, which I've been slowly enjoying my way through. This is one of the shorter books in the series (some are quite long) so it's definitely a good place to start, though for the most part it isn't necessary to read the books in order.


A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
Shockingly, this is the only Agatha Christie book I've read to date (I really need to get on that!). It was very good though. Do I need to say any more?

The Draycott Murder Mystery by Molly Thynne
A lesser-known murder mystery from the 1920s, which has recently been republished by Dean Street Press. This was a good mystery and despite it being a standalone novel rather than a series, I found that the characters were very compelling too.

Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
Set in a women's college in 1930s Oxford; in fact it was published the same year as Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, with the same setting. This is a much more lighthearted book though, with a fair bit of humour as well as good characters and a strong mystery aspect.


The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury
The first in a mystery series set in medieval Wales. This was a Kindle freebie and I didn't really know what to expect, but I enjoyed it a surprising amount, despite some flaws.

The Matters at Mansfield by Carrie Bebris
Set several years on from Pride & Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth have taken up mystery-solving as a hobby. This is actually one of the better Jane Austen sequels I've read, the dialogue felt reasonably authentic (at least it's not jarringly modern) and the mystery is a good story in its own right. This book also features characters from Mansfield Park.

The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence
Featuring four young detectives in Ancient Rome, this is the first in a series of seventeen books (which was one of my favourite series in years gone by). It now has a spin-off series, The Roman Quests, which is very good. (Possibly even better than the original series.)

Monday, 14 August 2017

Mini-Reviews #5: The Selchester Mysteries

I've recently enjoyed three books from the Selchester Mysteries series by Elizabeth Edmondson, so I thought I'd combine my reviews into one post. These are a series of mysteries set in 1950s England, featuring a castle, a cast of eccentric characters, a few puzzling murders, and some Cold War intrigue. I found them very enjoyable.
  
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A Man of Some Repute

 
This was a good book, although not outstanding. The mystery aspect was very intriguing, and well done, and there was at least one twist that took me by surprise. The writing was good enough; there were no bits that stood out particularly, but it wasn't bad.

It took me a while to get invested in the characters; I think because the author had two many points of view, and would often move slightly away from the main characters to have a little bit from the viewpoint of another, more minor character. I guess this was partly to show how characters were seen by other people, but I wish she had stuck to just Hugo and Freya, so that we could get to know them quicker. However, by the end of the story I realised that I actually had become quite attached to the characters and location, and wanted more! This was probably just as well, as the story ends on rather a cliffhanger (although the main mystery is resolved, it's clear that there's a lot more to find out).
 

A Youthful Indiscretion

 
This was a quick read, only 60 pages long. I enjoyed it, although it definitely felt like it was just a bridge between two books rather than a story in its own right. It follows on from the cliffhanger at the end of A Man of Some Repute, but also introduces several new plot elements, such as a new colleague for Hugo, that are seemingly unrelated to this and not really developed in this book. Presumably they will be important later.

The ending was not very satisfying; the main plot thread is only partially resolved, and there are still many questions to be answered.

A Question of Inheritance

 
This book carries on pretty much where the last one left off. It takes a pretty long time to get to the main mystery, with lots of details of the characters' lives, and events which later turn out to be important. I found it harder to keep track of the plot in this book; I'm not sure if this is because it was more complex or just because there are a number of things which don't seem very important at the time but become significant later, and I wasn't paying enough attention to remember them. However, I still enjoyed the book a lot. Fortunately, this one doesn't end on a cliffhanger, although there are still some (rather important) loose ends that need tying up. The next book in the series will presumably do that.
 
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Sadly, the author died before finishing the next book in the series, A Matter of Loyalty, but it has been completed by her son and is being released in October. This is the last one, so hopefully it will clear up all the remaining plotlines. I'm hoping it will be just as good as the previous books in the series, although I'll be sad to leave these characters behind.

Both A Man of Some Repute and A Question of Inheritance are currently 99p on Kindle (at time of posting), so if you are interested in this series now is probably a good time to look into it :)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Book Review: Jane of Lantern Hill (1937)

(minor spoilers follow)
 
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Jane and her mother live in Toronto with her grandmother, who loves her mother but bullies Jane. She has always believed that her father is dead, so she is shocked to find that he is in fact alive and living in Prince Edward Island, and  that he wants her to spend the summer with him. Jane goes determined to hate him, but instead she spends a glorious summer keeping house for her father and making friends with the locals. As time passes, both during and after the summer, Jane finds she has much to learn about herself and about life. She also tries to learn about the reasons for her parents' separation, and dreams that perhaps one day they might all be able to live together...
 
I liked Jane. She is perhaps more ordinary than most of Montgomery's heroines; although she is still imaginative, she's not in the same class as Anne or Emily. However, this doesn't stop her from having plenty of good qualities; she is caring, brave, and determined. Although at the start of the story she is rather awkward and lacking in confidence, as the story goes on she learns to become more confident and to stand up for herself more. She also develops a strong understanding of other people; she can see her parents much more clearly than they can see each other. The other characters are also very well-drawn, and realistic. I liked the story too. It's a gentle, character-driven story, which is my favourite kind, really. The writing is lovely and descriptive (of course).
 
There isn't anything that I strongly disliked about it, though there were some parts that I found hard to believe, like how quickly Jane learns to cook and garden, with no prior experience or training. She's supposed to have a natural gift for it, but I don't believe anyone could really learn that quickly, especially at the age of eleven. I also would have liked to spend more time with Jane's friends and neighbours at Lantern Hill; there were quite a lot of them, and there wasn't really time to get to know most of them in the time we spent there. Some of the parts where Jane's grandmother is being particularly awful were a little uncomfortable to read, and I'd really rather be reading about Lantern Hill. But that isn't necessarily a criticism of the story.
 
Two themes stood out to me as I was reading. One is that of jealousy, of selfish love. We are told that Jane's grandmother loves her mother, but it is a selfish love; she can't bear for anyone else, even Jane, to share in her mother's affections. Both of Jane's parents, too, have a tendency to be jealous, to want to be the exclusive focus of each other's attentions. The other theme was that of home. Jane longs for a proper home; she wants to be away from her grandmother, of course, but she also hates the house they live in. When she and her father are looking for a house in Lantern Hill, it has to be just right, to possess a little "magic". The people in the house matter, but the house itself matters too.
 
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Overall, I thought this was a very good book, which deserves to be better known. It's a shame Montgomery never finished the sequel, because I would have liked to have spent more time with Jane and her friends.

Since family plays a big role in this story (and since, although it's now August, I finished it in July), I'm counting it for the July category of the Old School Kidlit reading challenge, which is "a family story". I'm also counting it for the Back to the Classics challenge, for "a classic set in a place you'd like to visit", because Prince Edward Island is definitely somewhere I'd love to go.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Review: A Wrinkle in Time (1962)

Despite its popularity in the US, this book isn't particularly well known (as far as I can tell) over here in the UK, so I never came across it as a child. This is a shame, because I think I would have loved it had I read it as a child. However, I still enjoyed it very much, and I'm glad I've finally got around to reading it.
 
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Summary (Goodreads): It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
 
This is quite a hard book to review, as it's kind of hard to describe why I liked it. I found it a little odd, but mostly in a good way - the sort of quirkiness that makes you want to find out more. For most of the book I had literally no idea what was going to happen next - it seemed like just about anything could happen. It felt very much like the story told in the book was very much scratching the surface of the world it was set in - that there was a lot that wasn't revealed or explained to us. I liked the sense of mystery that this added. Overall, I found it a very interesting story, dealing with themes of Love over Evil; a common theme, but one which I don't think can be over-done.
 
Personally, I didn't find I was particularly interested in most of the characters; probably this was just due to a lack of time spent developing them, which was probably necessarily the case in a book this length, especially as there is a fair amount of plot to get in. (Although I did like that Meg was good at maths, which is a very underrated skill among book heroines.) However, I think the other aspects of the book made up for this. Mostly, it's left me wanting more; so I am looking forward to reading the sequels.
 
(At the time of posting, I've read A Wind in the Door, which I also enjoyed a lot, though not as much as this.)

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Six in Six 2017

Six in Six is an annual meme hosted by Jo at The Book Jotter. The idea is that you pick six categories which relate to your reading in the first half of the year, and list six things for each category. I enjoyed participating in this last year, so I thought I'd join in again this time.

https://josbookjourney.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/the-sixth-six-in-six-2017-edition/


Six new authors to me
Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time; A Wind in the Door)
Anthony Hope (The Prisoner of Zenda)
Mavis Doriel Hay (Death on the Cherwell)
Marguerite de Angeli (Thee, Hannah!)
John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps)
Elisabeth Grace Foley (The Mountain of the Wolf; The Silver Shawl)
 
Six historical novels
The Thunder Omen - Caroline Lawrence
Raider's Tide - Maggie Prince
The Silver Shawl - Elisabeth Grace Foley
A Plague on Both Your Houses - Susanna Gregory
The Little Duke - Charlotte Mary Yonge
St. Peter's Fair - Ellis Peters
 
Six series I read or started
Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters (St. Peter's Fair; The Leper of St. Giles)
Lord Peter Wimsey - Dorothy Sayers (Unnatural Death)
Paddington - Michael Bond (More About Paddington)
Alice-Miranda - Jacqueline Harvey (Alice-Miranda on Holiday; Alice-Miranda Takes the Lead; Alice-Miranda Shows the Way; Alice-Miranda in Paris)
Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew - Susanna Gregory (A Plague on Both Your Houses)
Chalet School - Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (The Princess of the Chalet School; The New Chalet School)
 
Six classics I have read
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
The Prisoner of Zenda - Anthony Hope
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis (re-read)
The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien
Marmion - Walter Scott
The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan
 
Six non-fiction books
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Fierce Convictions - Karen Swallow Prior
The Year 1000 - Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger
Letters to Malcolm - C.S. Lewis
Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
The Reason I Jump - Naoki Higashida
 
Six re-reads
Saffy's Angel - Hilary McKay
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
The Tanglewoods' Secret - Patricia St. John
Shocks for the Chalet School - Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
Phyllida in Form III - Evelyn Smith
The Little Duke - Charlotte Mary Yonge

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Recent Highlights

photo from Unsplash

It's been rather a long time since I last posted, so I thought I'd do a recap of some recent reading highlights.

Fiction

I've been enjoying quite a few mystery/detective stories recently. I really enjoyed Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay, a murder mystery set in 1930s Oxford. St Peter's Fair and The Leper of St Giles, books four and five in Ellis Peters' Cadfael series, were also very good. Unnatural Death, the third Lord Peter Wimsey book by Dorothy L. Sayers, didn't quite live up to the others in the series I've read, but it was still enjoyable. A Plague on Both Your Houses by Susanna Gregory, set in medieval Cambridge, was good, but not really to my taste; it was a bit more thriller-y than the other books I've mentioned here, with lots of twists and turns and not knowing who to trust, which is not really my sort of thing, although it kept me reading to find out what would happen.

I've also read several lesser-known vintage novels: I really enjoyed A College Girl by Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey (although the title is slightly misleading, as not much of the story is set at college; it's more a coming-of-age tale); The Girls of St. Wode's by L.T. Meade was also very enjoyable, and The Diary of a Goose Girl by Kate Douglas Wiggin was a quick, entertaining read (although rather lacking in plot).

Other books I enjoyed were A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison, several books in the Alice-Miranda series by Jacqueline Harvey, and The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Non-Fiction

Mere Christianity and Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis were both excellent (as Lewis always is). Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien gave me a lot to think about. Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior, a biography of Hannah More, was a great read; she is a fascinating person to read about.

Currently Reading

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (almost finished)
A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson
North Side of the Tree by Maggie Prince (just started, but really enjoying)
The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding
Charlotte Fairlie by D.E. Stevenson


Anticipating

Death in the Arena, the third books in the Roman Quests series by Caroline Lawrence, which comes out this week. I really enjoyed the first two books, so I'm looking forward to this one.


I've got a few reviews hanging around in my drafts that I'll probably post soon, so hopefully there'll be a rather shorter interval between this and my next post.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Ten Books on My Spring TBR. I'm very much of a mood reader and usually not very good at sticking to lists, so there is a good chance my reading over the next few months will be completely different to what I've listed below! That said, I really do intend to read most of them soon - we'll see!


The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (my Classics Club Spin book)
Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (after I finish The Two Towers, which will hopefully be this week)
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (for the Old School Kidlit reading challenge)
Once by various authors
A Man of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson
The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
Thalia by Frances Faviell
The Oxford Inklings by Colin Duriez
 
Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think of them? And what are you looking forward to reading soon?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Classics Club Spin #15

It's time for another Classics Club Spin! I've quite enjoyed participating in these so far, and it's definitely a good incentive to get another book crossed off my list. The idea is that I list twenty unread books from my Classics Club list, and then on Friday a number will be announced, which is the book I have to read and post about by May 1st.
  1. The Watsons by Jane Austen
  2. Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
  3. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  4. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  5. The Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
  6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  7. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  10. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
  11. Elizabeth Captive Princess by Margaret Irwin
  12. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  13. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  14. At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
  15. Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
  16. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
  17. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  18. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  19. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  20. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I'd like it if #8, #9 or #12 came up, but really I think I'd be quite happy with any of these ... although I am a little intimidated by several of them.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Quote of the Week



"It is the small temptations which undermine integrity, unless we watch and pray, and never think them too small to be resisted." - Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott

Photo from Unsplash

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Book Review: The Tanglewoods' Secret (1948)

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Summary (from Goodreads): Ruth and her beloved brother Philip find solace in the expanse of the Tanglewoods' property. There they escape into bird watching, climbing, and general misadventures with their friend Terry.

But life with their Aunt is harsh, and Ruth suffers from an incorrigible temper. Just when she thinks she can't take it anymore, she learns a very special secret about a very special Shepherd. When a dreadful accident hurts one they love, Ruth and Philip learn that the Tanglewoods' Secret isn't meant to be kept a secret.
 
I read this for the Old School Kidlit challenge: a book you loved in childhood. I read this at the age of about six or seven and enjoyed it, but had never revisited it, so I didn't remember much except for a few details. I found that it didn't quite live up on rereading.
 
I think my main problem was that it was just too simplistic. Of course it was written for quite young children, so that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but rereading it now as an adult I just didn't enjoy it as much. Admittedly, the book does make clear that becoming a Christian doesn't make all your troubles and suffering go away, but the issues faced by Ruth and others in the book (including a pretty major tragedy) seem to be got over pretty quickly. I also found myself getting pretty annoyed with Aunt Margaret in the first half of the book; I'm not surprised Ruth keeps being naughty when her aunt is always telling her how bad she is! I also felt that it was unfair that Ruth was often made to help with the housework whilst her older brother was allowed to go out and play, but I suppose that is a sign of when the book was written.
 
The sections I found most interesting were the parts about Ruth and Philip's lives, such as their interest in bird-watching, the games they play together and their schemes for making money so that they can save up to buy a camera, and I wish that there had been more of these in the book. I also liked their relationship - they have a strong friendship as well as being siblings which  always good to read about. I think the messages in the book were mostly good and I liked that it was pointed out that adults (such as Aunt Margaret) also need Jesus and don't necessarily always have it all figured out or do the right thing. I just found the whole story a bit simplistic and the Christian parts quite heavy-handed. But I still found things to enjoy about it, and I did enjoy it more as a child (although not as much as some of Patricia St. John's other books).

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Monthly Review: February 2017

 
What I Read
I re-read two books, Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay and (for the Old School Kidlit challenge) The Tanglewoods' Secret by Patricia St. John. The first of these I enjoyed much more than I did the first time around, the second not as much.
 
I also read quite a lot of other books; mostly classics. I really enjoyed A World of Girls by L.T. Meade, The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, and Half Magic by Edward Eager, and also quite enjoyed The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
 
In terms of modern books, Alice-Miranda on Holiday by Jacqueline Harvey turned out to be just about as good as the first book in the series; St Grizzle's School for Girls, Goats and Random Boys was quite enjoyable, although a little bit silly, and I felt that A Quiet Kind of Thunder, although not in a genre I read much, presented a good representation of a character struggling with anxiety and selective mutism.
 
Reviews I've written are linked in book titles; reviews for some of the other books should appear soon.
 
Reading Challenge Progress
I've had a bit more success this month than last!
Old School Kidlit: This month's theme was a book you loved in childhood. I reread The Tanglewoods' Secret, the review of which should hopefully be up tomorrow.
Mount TBR: Two of the books I read this month counted for this: Saffy's Angel and The Tanglewoods' Secret. Both were rereads but fit the requirements for the challenge (books I read at least five years ago and bought after the first time I read them).
Back to the Classics: I've only just joined this challenge, but I've already managed to cross off one category; A Wrinkle in Time counts as my award-winning classic. My review should be up soon.
 
I re-read two books this month, which puts my total at four. I haven't read any non-fiction, but I read two books last month, so I'm still on track for twelve this year.
 
Posts
I participated in I Love Austen Week, hosted by Hamlette.
I listed Ten Books I Enjoyed More Than I Thought I Would, for Top Ten Tuesday.
I signed up for Back to the Classics 2017.
 
Currently Reading
I'm currently actively reading A College Girl by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey (which I'm really enjoying), A Wiltshire Diary by Francis Kilvert, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle, and I'm rereading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (so good!). I'm trying to make myself finish some of these before I start any more, but we'll see how that goes.


Thursday, 23 February 2017

Back to the Classics 2017

 
So I'm a little bit late to the party, but I've decided to sign up for Back to the Classics 2017, hosted by Books and Chocolate. The aim is to read (up to) twelve books from different categories. I'm not sure whether I'll get all twelve of them completed, but I'm going to give it a go! Below is my rough list of what I plan to read (which will probably change). I've left a couple blank as I'm not sure what I'm going to read for them (suggestions welcome). There's still a few days to sign up if you'd like to participate but haven't yet!
 
1. A 19th century classic: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
2. A 20th century classic: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. A classic by a woman author: Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
4. A classic in translation: The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
5. A classic originally published before 1800: a Shakespeare play
6. A romance classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
7. A Gothic or horror classic: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
8. A classic with a number in the title: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title
10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit:
?
11. An award-winning classic: The Circus is Coming by Noel Streatfeild
12. A Russian classic: ?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Books I Didn't Expect to Like as Much as I Did

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is Books I Liked More/Less Than I Thought I Would. I've decided to go with Books I Liked More Than I Thought I Would, as I decided I'd rather compile a list of books I really enjoyed than ones I didn't like as much.

http://www.brokeandbookish.com
 
The first four books are ones I read at school because they were shortlisted for an award, and I had pretty low expectations for some of them, but they all turned out to be pretty good. The others are ones I chose myself and expected to enjoy, but they exceeded my expectations.
 
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Airman by Eoin Colfer
I read this because it was on the Carnegie shortlist one year, which I was reading through with some others at school. I didn't expect to enjoy it because it looked quite sci-fi-y which wasn't really a genre I enjoyed then. But actually, I really enjoyed it! (It's really more historical than sci-fi; now I'd probably class it as ruritanian).
 
Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson
Also read because it was on the Carnegie shortlist. This wasn't the kind of book I would usually read, and I found the start a bit slow, but once it got going I did enjoy it quite a lot.
 
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Again, this was probably not the kind of book I would usually read, but I thought it was pretty good.
 
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This was on the Red House shortlist. I'd seen it around a lot and thought I might be interested in it, but was hesitant because I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it and it also looked like it could be quite violent/dark. Which it kind of was, but I really enjoyed it anyway.
 
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Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince
I picked this up very cheaply at a school library sale, thinking it might be enjoyable - it's historical fiction which is one of my favourite genres, but I don't think I had massively high expectations for it. However, I really liked it (and discovered on rereading it lately that it still holds up now, which not everything I read as a teenager does).
 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
I mean, I expected to enjoy this but had some reservations about it. However, although I am aware that it had some flaws, I did find it a very entertaining read which I enjoyed a lot (and it would have been amazing to see on stage).
 
Escape from Rome by Caroline Lawrence
This was the first in a sequel-series to one of my favourite series when I was younger, and I wasn't sure whether it would be as good, or whether I would enjoy it as much now as I would have done had it been out eight or ten years ago. But it was really good, and I think I possibly prefer it to the original Roman Mysteries series. (The sequel was very good, too, and I'm now eagerly awaiting book three.)
 
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Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This is not the sort of book I usually tend to read, but I'd heard so many good things about it that I decided to try it, although I was a bit hesitant, and I am glad to say I really enjoyed it.
 
Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay
I love Hilary McKay's books, but the first time I read this book (which was one of the first of hers that I read) I thought it was enjoyable, but nothing special (I rated it three stars). However, on rereading it recently I enjoyed it so much more. I hope to reread some of the other books in the series soon!
 
The Small Woman by Alan Burgess
This was another book I expected to enjoy, but I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Although it's non-fiction, it's also a gripping narrative.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Review: The Thirty-Nine Steps

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Summary: Richard Hannay, recently returned to London after some years in the British colonies, is bored of his life and fed up of English society - until one day a mysterious man turns up in his flat with a rather sensational story. He claims to have uncovered a secret plot, with potentially huge ramifications, and that there are men trying to kill him to prevent him from revealing their secret. When the man is murdered several days later, it seems that his story is indeed true, and Hannay realises that, not only will the men now be after him, but so will the police, as there is strong circumstantial evidence that points to him as the murderer. So he flees to Scotland, where he must try to survive, evading capture by either of the parties after him, long enough to be able to relate the man's story to the relevant authorities - but will they even believe him?
 
I saw the film of this a while ago and enjoyed it, but I didn't remember that much about it. Probably this was a good thing, because it meant that most of the twists in the book still took me by surprise. I found this an enjoyable, entertaining story, although thrillers aren't usually my cup of tea. I enjoy mysteries, but generally prefer ones where the story is focused on the puzzle and the characters, whereas this story is more action-focused, with the main character mostly trying to stay alive and escape from the bad guys. However, Hannay has does have some entertaining adventures along the way, and manages a few clever escapes, and I still enjoyed this book. It's also a very quick read, which I read in one afternoon/evening. If it's the sort of thing you enjoy, then I'd definitely recommend it.

This is book #7 I've reviewed for the Classics Club. I'm just over a year in, so I'm a little behind schedule, but I'm hoping to read and review some more books soon.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

I Love Austen Week Tag!

Hamlette at Hamlette's Soliloquy is hosting I Love Austen Week this week - a week dedicated to all things Jane Austen! Be sure to check out the festivities here if you feel so inclined. Here are my answers to the week's tag.
 
 
1.  Which did you experience first, a Jane Austen book or a movie based on one?
My first proper experience with Jane Austen was the 2005 Pride & Prejudice film. I didn't know much about the story beforehand and wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I LOVED it. So I quickly started searching out other film adaptations, and of course the books themselves. I think I had seen at least one film version of each book before reading it.

2.  What is your favourite Austen book?
Until a few days ago I would have said Sense & Sensibility, but I've recently started rereading Pride & Prejudice and suspect that it is about to take over. There are just so many good bits that I'd forgotten!
 
3.  Favourite heroine?  Why do you like her best?
This is quite a hard question! I think Elinor, Anne and Jane are the ones I would most like to know in real life. But I like all of them (except maybe Emma, but I like her character arc through the story).
 
4.  Favourite hero?  Why do you like him best?
I really like Colonel Brandon (especially Alan Rickman's version). He's just a really nice guy :) Although again, I find it difficult to pick a favourite.
 
5.  Do you have a favourite film adaptation of Austen's work?
My favourite Austen film adaptation (and possibly my overall favourite film) is the 1995 version of Sense & Sensibility. I basically just love everything about it. I also really like the Kate Beckinsale Emma, and both versions of Pride & Prejudice (controversial I know). (I wrote about my thoughts on different adaptations here.)
 
6.  Have your Austen tastes changed over the years?  (Did you start out liking one story best, but now like another better?  Did you think she was boring at first, then changed your mind?  Etc.)
Well, my actual first experience with Jane Austen was watching the first two hours of Emma at a friend's house, and I actually found it quite boring. However a few months later I watched P&P and decided that she was definitely not boring. Since then, though, my opinions have not changed materially, although possible I've come to appreciate different things about her stories than when I was initially introduced to them. [I do like Emma now (although it's not one of my favourite of her books, I really like the Kate Beckinsale film, although I still haven't seen the 2009 one all the way through), but I think it is a story that improves on acquaintance - I enjoy it more knowing the full story than I did before.]
 
7.  Do you have any cool Austen-themed things (mugs, t-shirts, etc)?  (Feel free to share photos if you want.)
No, although I do have a very nice boxed set of all of her novels.
 
8.  If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would you ask her?
I can't think of anything off the top of my head.
 
9.  Imagine someone is making a new film of any Jane Austen story you choose, and you get to cast the leads.  What story do you want filmed, and who would you choose to act in it?
I would like someone to make a good, accurate version of Mansfield Park. I'm not sure about casting though - I don't think I know enough actors to make an informed decision.

10.  Share up to five favourite Jane Austen quotations!
 "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." - Pride & Prejudice (such a good opening line; indeed the whole first chapter of P&P is just so good)

"I cannot make speeches, Emma. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." - Emma
 
 "We all know him to be a proud, unpleasant sort of man; but this would be nothing if you really liked him." - Pride & Prejudice

"People always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them." - Sense & Sensibility

"Oh!" cried Marianne, "with what transporting sensations have I formerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from the sight."
   "It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves."
- Sense & Sensibility

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Monthly Recap: January

 
What I Read:
I read two non-fiction books this month: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (which I enjoyed, and will probably post about at some point), and The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger, which was a fascinating book about life around the time of the first millennium (the early Middle Ages happens to be one of my current favourite historical periods, but there aren't that many books about it, so I was glad to find this).

Fiction-wise, I re-read two books, Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince, a tale of marauding Scots, growing up and (maybe) romance in sixteenth-century England; and The Little Duke by Charlotte Mary Yonge, set in tenth-century Normandy. I also read The Long Vacation, also by Charlotte Mary Yonge, and A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay.

Reading Challenges:
Old School Kidlit Challenge: This month's theme was Award Winners; I was reading The Circus is Coming by Noel Streatfeild, which won the Carnegie medal in 1938, but I haven't got around to finishing it yet. I do still intend to, but it's not top of my reading list at the moment. Hopefully I will do better with next month's theme, which is Books You Loved in Childhood. I plan to re-read The Tanglewoods' Secret by Patricia St. John, which I really enjoyed at the age of about six or seven, but have never revisited. It's pretty short, so it shouldn't be too difficult to fit it in.

Mount TBR: I didn't actually get anything finished this month; but I've made progress on some books that I'm still reading, so hopefully I'll get some finished soon.

I also set a goal for myself to read 12 non-fiction books and 12 re-reads this year; I'm currently ahead on both of these, so that's good :)

Posts:
I joined in with Top Ten Tuesday, listing ten underrated books I've read recently.
I also posted a reading challenge sign-up post, and a list of books I'm looking forward to reading this year. I haven't read any of them yet, but hopefully will get to some next month!

Currently Reading:
As usual I have quite a lot of books on the go! I'm reading The Abbess of Whitby by Jill Dalladay, A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard, The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, L is for Lifestyle by Ruth Valerio, and Millennium by Tom Holland. (As well as a few others that I pick up occasionally.)

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Ten Underrated Books I've Read in the Past Year

http://www.brokeandbookish.com
 
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Ten Underrated Books I've Read in the Past Year. Here are ten books I read last year that I think deserve more recognition:
 
The Bard's Daughter by Sarah Woodbury
A short murder mystery set in medieval Wales, prequel to a longer series of mysteries, of which I've read the first couple.
 
Five Glass Slippers by various authors
This was an anthology of five novellas by different authors all based on "Cinderella". While I liked some of the stories better than others, overall I enjoyed this collection and the last two stories in it were both really good.
 
Alice-Miranda at School by Jacqueline Harvey
This book was aimed at fairly young children, but I still found it very enjoyable. It's the sort of book I'd have absolutely loved as an eight- or nine-year-old, and my enjoyment of it was probably partly nostalgia, but I do think it's a good book, too.
 
Happy and Glorious by Hilary McKay
A collection of entertaining stories about a young Queen, again written for younger readers, but enjoyable for older one too.
 
The Battle of Castle Nebula by Stephanie Ricker
This is a prequel to one of the stories in Five Glass Slippers, which was my favourite of the anthology, and this book did not disappoint. The sequel, The Star Bell, was also very good.
 
Escape from Rome by Caroline Lawrence
(review
The first book in a new series, which is a spin-off of one of my favourite series as a child. Obviously I was going to read it for that reason, but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did; I think in many ways it was better than the original books! The second book in the series, The Archers of Isca, is also out and I enjoyed it almost as much.
 
A Cathedral Courtship by Kate Douglas Wiggin
A sweet romantic tale set in England in the late 1800's.
 
Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin
A story about four siblings growing up in the early twentieth century. It's rather reminiscent of children's classics like Anne of Green Gables, and definitely deserves to be much better known. I enjoyed this book a lot.
 
The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
A beautifully written Christmas tale of the "other", forgotten wise man, who is accidentally left behind when his three friends when they go following the star, and has to make his own way to Bethlehem in order to seek the new King. The story didn't entirely go where I was expecting, but it was very good.
 
Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince
The story of a young girl living in the north of England in the time of Elizabeth I - a time of danger when the people live in fear of marauding Scots come to raid the borderlands, killing, destroying and stealing. A romantic/coming-of-age tale. I'm not sure why I like this as much as I do, but I've read it twice now and enjoyed it a lot both times. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, North Side of the Tree, soon.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

2017 Reading Challenges

I've decided to sign up for a couple of reading challenges this year. First, Mount TBR, hosted by My Reader's Block, because I have a lot of books that I've bought but haven't got around to reading yet, and I really want to make some progress on the stack this year. I've decided to sign up for Mont Blanc, which is 24 books that I already own. This doesn't sound particularly challenging but it's twice as many as I managed last year, so it seems a reasonable number to aim for! I'm including Kindle books that I paid for, but not free ones.

https://myreadersblock.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/2017-mount-tbr-headquarter.html
 
I've also discovered the Old School Kidlit reading challenge hosted by Read-at-Home Mom. This sounds very much my sort of thing, so I decided to participate. The idea is to read classic or older children's books, with monthly themes; January's theme is Award Winners, and I will probably be reading either The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge or The Circus is Coming by Noel Streatfeild, both of which have won the Carnegie award, and both are currently sitting unread on my shelf, so this will also help my progress towards Mount TBR.
 
http://www.readathomemom.com/2016/12/old-school-kidlit-reading-challenge-2017.html
 
Besides these challenges, I'm also going to try to read one book from my Classics Club list, one non-fiction book and one re-read per month. I'm not sure how long this will last, but I'd like to aim for it! This month I'm reading The Two Towers for the Classics Club, L is for Lifestyle by Ruth Valerio for non-fiction (although I have several other non-fiction books on the go which may or may not be finished this month), and I've just finished re-reading Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince, which I recently got the sequel to but realised that I remembered very little about this book! I enjoyed it just as much this time around, and am looking forward to reading the next book, North Side of the Tree.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading This Year

I'm not very good at sticking to reading lists, but this is partly because I tend to list books that I feel I ought to read, because I've had them for a long time or whatever other reason, rather than ones I really want to read. While I'm still hoping to make a significant dent in my TBR pile and to read some important books this year, I thought for now I'd make a list of some of the books that I am currently excited about reading. Most of them are ones I already own, but there's a few I'll have to either buy or get from the library.


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Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag
Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery
Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
North Side of the Tree by Maggie Prince
The Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers
The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Once by various authors

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I'm also intending to make re-reading more of a priority, since only three of the books I read in 2016 were re-reads and I would like it to be a few more than that this year, especially as my "to-re-read" list grows ever longer.