Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2016

 
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2016. I've read a lot of new authors this year - 43 according to my stats - and discovered quite a few new favourites, who I am looking forward to reading more from in the future. Here are my top ten:

1. Dorothy Sayers (Gaudy Night, Whose Body?)
2. Jules Verne (Journey to the Centre of the Earth)
3. Stephanie Ricker (A Cinder's Tale, The Battle of Castle Nebula, The Star Bell)
4. Jacqueline Harvey (Alice-Miranda at School)
5. Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)
6. G.K. Chesterton (The Innocence of Father Brown)
7. Susie Day (Pea's Book of Best Friends)
8. Paula Byrne (Belle)
9. Suzannah Rowntree (The Rakshasa's Bride)
10. Henry Van Dyke (The Story of the Other Wise Man)

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review: Rose in Bloom

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Summary (from Goodreads): In this sequel to Eight Cousins, Rose Campbell returns to the "Aunt Hill" after two years of traveling around the world. Suddenly, she is surrounded by male admirers, all expecting her to marry them. But before she marries anyone, Rose is determined to establish herself as an independent young woman. Besides, she suspects that some of her friends like her more for her money than for herself.
 
I read this for the 14th Classics Club Spin. It was my third time participating, and the first that I actually completed my book on time. I'd been meaning to read this for quite some time - since I read Eight Cousins in fact, which was more than three years ago! Because of this I found the beginning part of the book a little confusing as it took me a while to remember who everyone was and so on. But that was more a fault of mine than of the book, and once I got going, I really enjoyed this, more so than Eight Cousins.
 
I thought it was a sweet story. The main question of the story of course is who Rose (and Phebe) will marry but there are other things going on too, as Rose and her cousins mature and try to find their paths and vocations in life. I definitely enjoyed getting to know these characters more and, although I liked some of them a lot more than others, they were all well-drawn and interesting characters. There were one or two pretty sad parts, but the ending was happy and satisfying.

Despite the author's preface claiming that there was no moral to the story, there did seem to be a fair amount of moralising in it, but this was generally coming from the characters rather than the authorial voice, and is part of what is expected from this sort of novel. I didn't find it detracted from the story for me.
 
Overall, I did enjoy this book a lot. It wasn't quite up there with Little Women, but that would have been a hard one to match! I would definitely recommend this, especially if you've enjoyed some of Louisa May Alcott's other books, but I would suggest reading Eight Cousins first.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Monthly Recap: November

How is it already the end of November?! Christmas is nearly here!
 

What I read:
November was a pretty good reading month for me. All of the books I read were pretty good, and there were a few that were really good.
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (****) (review)
Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers (****) (review)
Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston (****)
The Archers of Isca by Caroline Lawrence (****)
The Princess Virginia by A.M. and C.N. Williamson (****) (thoughts on these three)
Penelope's English Experiences by Kate Douglas Wiggin (***) (This was entertaining, but I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the author's other books)
Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin (****) (I really enjoyed this; it reminded me quite a bit of children's classics like Anne of Green Gables and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm)
The Old Peabody Pew by Kate Douglas Wiggin (***) (Enjoyable, but nothing really happened)
 
Book of the Month: This is actually pretty difficult, because The Fellowship of the Ring was very good, but I feel like in terms of sheer enjoyment, The Archers of Isca probably wins. Whose Body? and Mother Carey's Chickens definitely deserve honorary mentions though, as they were both very good too.

Posts:
 
Currently Reading:
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
In Wartime by Tim Judah
God's Undertaker by John Lennox
 
What I Plan to Read Next:
(not that I ever stick to these)
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Sound of Diamonds by Rachelle Rea
The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfeild
 
I'll probably read some Christmassy books in the next few weeks too, but I haven't quite decided what yet. I'd also like to reread some old favourites, since that is definitely something I've neglected far too much this year.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers

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This is the first in Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series, but the second that I have read. Gaudy Night was really good but, since many people consider it the best in the series, I was worried that this book wouldn't live up to it; especially as GN focuses mostly on Harriet Vane, who doesn't appear in this book, and I wasn't sure I would enjoy this as much with only Peter. I needn't have worried though; although this isn't quite as good, it's definitely still very enjoyable.
 
The mystery itself was interesting; it begins with the rather bizarre circumstance of a man discovering a body in his bath, having no idea how it got there. Naturally this is rather intriguing to Lord Peter, who decides to investigate, working with a friend in the police. There are quite a few twists and turns along the way to the conclusion (which I guessed just after Lord Peter had solved it, but before he revealed the solution), which is certainly original. Some aspects were a little gruesome but this wasn't overdone.

Another aspect of the book that I really liked was the characters, who I look forward to getting to know better in later books; it was good to see more of Peter himself in this book, along with his devoted servant/sidekick Bunter, and his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, who are all great characters. It was also just a fairly entertaining read all round. I especially enjoyed the occasional references to detective novels; there are a few times when characters say things like "if we were in a detective novel this would happen, but obviously this is real life," which I found quite entertaining.

There are a few offensive comments made by characters in the book, particularly with regards to the Jews, which has caused some controversy; although the impression I got was that these reflected the views of the characters saying them (and of many people at the time the book was written), and are not necessarily those of the author. Other than that, I can't think of many things I didn't like about this book.

Overall, this was a great book, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Bookish Time Travel Tag

This tag seems to have been going around for quite a while now, as I've seen it on a lot of blogs. I haven't been specifically tagged for it, but it looked fun so I'm going to steal it and fill it out anyway :) It originated from The Library Lizard.
 
What is your favourite historical setting for a book?
Just one?! I've long had an interest in reading about Ancient Rome (started by the Roman Mysteries series, which I loved when I was about thirteen) but I also feel a strong draw seventeenth-century England (the Civil War and so on), although I'm not entirely sure why. More recently I've developed a love of the Middle Ages. Basically anything before about 1700 :) Although I enjoy books with more recent settings too!
 
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What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?
This is another hard one, because I have a lot of favourite authors who are no longer around :) I think I'd like to meet Elizabeth Gaskell, because I really enjoy her books and it seems like she was a nice person. I'd also like to meet C.S. Lewis. Besides others :)

What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?
Alice-Miranda at School, which I read earlier this year and I know I would have loved when I was eight or nine (I enjoyed it quite a lot, mostly for that reason).
 
What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?
There are quite a lot of books that I'd hope I'd still be remembering and re-reading when I'm older! Some that I've read fairly recently that fit into this category are To Kill a Mockingbird, Gaudy Night and Gatty's Tale.

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What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?
I enjoyed the world of the Cendrillon Cycle books by Stephanie Ricker, especially in the latest instalment. It's a future that is exciting with lots of possibility for exploration. (Although I haven't read many books with futuristic settings that I would like to live in!)

What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?
My favourite book ever is probably Anne of Green Gables, which is set in the late Victorian era - so I'll go with that.
 
Spoiler time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?
Yes, I do this sometimes, though not too often. Sometimes I can't deal with the level of tension in a book, or if a story appears to be heading in a direction I don't like, I might peek ahead and see if I want to continue with it or not. I'm not usually that bothered by spoiler, although it depends on the type of book.

If you had a time turner, where would you go and what would you do?
So many options! I honestly don't know where I'd start. I think I'd be too afraid of messing with time to actually do anything, more than just observing, but I think I'd like to go and see various great events from the past. I can't think of anything specific right now though, although I feel I should be able to.

Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in different time periods?
I really like the concept of time travel as I think it includes lots of possibilities that could be really interesting to explore. That said, I haven't actually read that many books that include it, and it often isn't done very well. I have quite enjoyed the first few books of Sarah Woodbury's After Cilmeri series (although this kind of ends up as alternate history). And of course Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, although I don't really think of it as a time travel book since that is only a small part of the plot. But it was always my favourite Harry Potter book and probably my favourite book at one time.

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What book/series do you wish you could go back in time and read again for the first time?
That's quite hard ... I'd actually like to be able to read Harry Potter for the first time again since I don't really remember reading the first few books and I'd like to know how I felt about certain plot twists and whether or not I would have seen them coming.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Mini-Reviews #4: Historical Settings

 
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The Archers of Isca by Caroline Lawrence
The sequel to Escape from Rome; this was almost as good as its predecessor! This book focuses more on Fronto, the eldest sibling, although we also get a lot more of the other characters than the book description implies. I love the characters in this series so much, so that was great. Like the first book, there is a fast-moving plot but it is also quite character-driven, which I like. The ending does feel a bit inconclusive, as there are a few plot strands left quite open, but since this is part of a series that is understandable (although it is quite a long wait until the next book comes out!) There was one twist in the story that, as a Roman Mysteries fan, I found very exciting, but I won't spoil it for you! All in all, this was a very good book, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the story develops through the rest of the series.
 
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Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston
For a Jane Austen sequel, this was actually pretty good! It tells the story of what might have happened had Elizabeth accepted Darcy's first offer of marriage, in Kent. I'm not sure I can quite accept that, but if you can get past the premise, it's a pretty good book. The development of Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship feels fairly realistic, if a little fast; they have quite a lot to work through, since in this version of the story Elizabeth never receives Darcy's letter trying to explain what she perceives as the injuries he has done to those around her, and since she is not entirely honest about just how much she disliked him (until his proposal began to change per perception of him). The author also does a good job of delving into the implications of their decision - for example, what will Bingley's reaction be to his friend doing something that he had recently convinced him not to do (getting engaged to a woman of low connections who doesn't love him)? How will Elizabeth's family and her neighbours react, and how will they get on with Darcy? The characterisation and dialogue is mostly true to the original novel and the time period - although there are a few modern turns of phrase, and one or two historical inaccuracies, these are not major issues - and I enjoyed spotting a few quotes from the original novel.
 
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The Princess Virginia by C.N. & A.M. Williamson
Princess Virginia has always fancied herself in love with the Emperor of Rhaetia (who she has never met), so when he offers to marry her, she ought to be delighted - however, she decides that she only wants to marry him if he truly loves her, so she decides to travel to Rhaetia under an assumed name and try to win his love. Naturally, not everything goes quite as planned, but everything comes right in the end. It's a slightly ridiculous story, but a very entertaining one, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Ten of My Favourite Movies That Were Based on Books

 
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is a movies freebie, so I've decided to list ten of my favourite films that were based on books. I've included miniseries as well, because there were a few that I couldn't not include. There were quite a few others I could have included, but here are ten films/miniseries that I really like and could watch over and over again:
  1. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  2. Wives and Daughters (1999)
  3. Les Miserables (2012)
  4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  5. North and South (2004)
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
  7. Cranford (2007)
  8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
  9. Ballet Shoes (2007)
  10. Little Women (1994)