20 Jan 2017

WESSEX TALES.

WESSEX TALES* by THOMAS HARDY.

BACK COVER BLURB: Wars, smuggling, mystery, witchcraft, - the lives of the Wessex villagers may appear quiet and uneventful, but below the surface they are anything but dull.

Solomon Selby's uncle Job nearly comes face to face with Bonaparte one dark night, three mysterious strangers interrupt the festivities of a christening party, and clergyman Richard Stockdale is horrified to discover that the woman he loves is leader of a group of brandy smugglers.

FIRST SENTENCE {THE SEVEN STRANGERS}: Among the few features of agricultural England which retain an appearance but little modified by the lapse of centuries, may be reckoned the long, grassy and furzy downs, coombs or ewe-leases, as they are called according to their kind, that fill a large area of certain counties in the south and south-west.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {THE MELANCHOLY HUSSAR}: She bared her poor curst arm; and Davies, uncovering the face of the corpse, took Gertrude's hand, and held it so that her arm lay across the dead man's neck, upon a line the colour of an unripe blackberry, which surrounded it.

SOURCE: Off my TBR mountain where it has been for longer than I care to remember.

READ FOR: 
  • 2017 Mount TBR challenge (1 book of 24 read)
  • What's In A Name? challenge: 'A title with X in it' category (1 book of 6 read).


MY THOUGHTS: As someone who (a) tends not to enjoy the so-called classics and (b) tends to be left unsatisfied by short stories I was a bit out of my comfort zone with this 1888 collection of stories by Thomas Hardy. However ...

As is generally the case with collections I found some of the stories more enjoyable than others but overall I found myself enjoying this selection more than I had expected.

Apparently one of the 'easier' introductions to newcomers of Hardy's stories such as myself. I don't know if it was because the more I read the more I grew accustomed to the style and use of unfamiliar words but certainly the more I read the better the stories became.

On the whole, more dark, tragic and, yes, even more romantic than I had expected. It came as something of a surprise that I felt such a range of emotions - one of my complaints about short stories being I rarely find myself becoming emotionally engaged.

Just goes to show that stepping outside of your comfort zone can pay off.

* Please note the book I have linked to is not the edition I read which was a Macmillan publication published in 1976 for the princely sum of 95p. An on-line edition is available here.


18 Jan 2017

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER IN DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THE BOOKS THAT ARE MY TBR MOUNTAIN.

Thanks to Kelly for pointing me in the direction of this, the ...


as featured here on the My Reader's Block blog. (Please click on link for full details. TT)

Yes, Christmas is but a distant memory apart from those few remaining boxes of chocolates, the glitter that no amount of hoovering will pick up AND, of course, the new books that now top our TBR piles.

Determined to do something about the To Be Read pile that once again has become something of a mountain, what better way than to sign up for this challenge?

Running from January 1st through to December 31st 2017, no books purchased after January the 1st nor library books are permissible, the levels are as follows ...

  • Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
  • Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
  • Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
  • Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
  • El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
  • Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
  • Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s ...
Hmm! I think I'll go with Mount Blanc which more or less represents a quarter of the books I'm hoping to read this year, though, of course, as the rules state, whilst I'm locked into at least this number I can always 'upgrade' and tackle a higher mountain.

What about you? Any plans to tackle your TBR mountain?

13 Jan 2017

JORIE AND THE MAGIC STONES.

JORIE AND THE MAGIC STONES by A.H. RICHARDSON.

BACK COVER BLURB: Jorie is greeted in the magic land of Carbrynthius as the Child with Hair of Fire who will find the missing Stones of Maalog, foretold in an ancient book about dragons. She and her best friend Rufus are challenged to find the Three Stones and restore them to the Great Grootmonya.

The nine-year-olds face evil dragons, greedy creatures, caves of fire, rocky mountain trails, even a poisonous butterfly as they discover their own courage, stamina, and the unexplainable.

FIRST SENTENCE {1. LORD FODOMALK'S RETREAT}: Night fell slowly over the somber land of Shyloxia, and blackening clouds threw oddly twisted shapes and shadows over the dreary landscape.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: "Well, can't you say some magic words and make him all better? Jorie blurted out, her tears flowing once more.

"Sometimes we need more than magic words to make a situation better. Many times we carry our own magic within us, an inner magic that takes many forms, such as love, friendship, courage and tolerance."

SOURCE: Received for review from Kelsey of Book Publicity Services.

MY THOUGHTS: Two chapters in and I knew the childhood me would have loved this book. What about the adult me though?

So many things to recommend this novel - a mysterious old book hidden beneath the floorboards, dragons, magical lands, a wonderfully feisty female lead who is such a positive role model, a friendship that knows no bounds. Yeah, I think we can safely say the adult me loved Jorie And The Magic Stones.

Whilst I do have admiration for some of the more adult issues featured in some of today's children's books, that authors feel able to write about the issues effecting some children, I must admit to finding it refreshing that here was good 'old-fashioned' story telling at its best. 

A girl: smart and polite, a boy: a bit of a rascal and yet with a sensitive side, a wonderful adventure with just the right amount of peril for what I think of as a book aimed at those 10+. 

Whilst not ending on a cliff-hanger, indeed this particular adventure, the search for three stones, concluded well, the story was however left wide open for another adventure. An adventure that I was delighted to discover ensues in the next instalment, Jorie And The Gold Key.

11 Jan 2017

(A PHARAOH'S CAT NOVEL #2): THE EYE OF NEFERTITI.

THE EYE OF NEFERTITI by MARIA LUISA LANG.

BACK COVER BLURB: The Eye of Nefertiti is both a stand-alone novel and a sequel to The Pharaoh’s Cat. The time-traveling ancient Egyptian feline with human powers returns together with his beloved Pharaoh and his close friends, the High Priest of Amun-Ra and Elena, an Egyptologist’s daughter.

The cat is quick-witted, wise-cracking narrator as well as free-spirited, ever-curious protagonist, and the story he tells is an exotic, imaginative, spell-binding tragicomedy. The cat travels from present-day New York City to England, both ancient and modern, then to ancient Egypt, where he confronts a horrible demon and experiences a sublime emotion. Once back in England, he descends into a psychological abyss so deep only the Pharaoh can save him.

The Eye of Nefertiti interweaves feline and human, past and present, natural and supernatural. It contains numerous surprises, twists and turns, intriguing characters, both human and animal, fascinating revelations about ancient Egyptian history and culture, and an ingenious application of the Tarot and an Italian opera

FIRST SENTENCE {CHAPTER 1}: It's summer, and I'm stretched out on a windowsill in my bedroom with the sunlight warming the fur on my back.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {PAGE 102/103}: "You see immortality as a curse, but many people would see it as a blessing."

"They are fools. I am a slave to all I have witnessed over the centuries. You cannot know, Wrappa-Hamen, what it means to live with ancient memories that remain as fresh as the rose you picked for Elena in the garden."

SOURCE: Received for review from the author.

MY THOUGHTS: A sequel to the author's 2015 novel, The Pharaoh's Cat. Whilst this, the second instalment, reads perfectly well as a novel in its own right, its predecessor is well worth reading.

Certainly not short on intrigue, for me The Eye Of Nefertiti had the feel of a cosy mystery ... albeit it a 'cosy' with a difference.

And yet is it really accurate to term it as such?

Certainly our 'sleuths' are amateur 'detectives'. 'Bouncing off' each other so to speak, it is the interaction (much of it humorous) between the High Priest and the Pharaoh's cat, Wrappa-Hamen (aka Puss-In-Boat), which makes the book for me.

The supporting 'cast' most definitely eccentric. Equally as well written as the major characters, Elena goes from strength to strength as a character. Rosa (a 'stocky woman with a glint of mischief in her eyes), Nanette and Pauline's story incredibly moving. The very British 'man servant' John a nice touch. 

The pieces of the puzzle all there, slowly revealed as we travel from present day New York to Ancient Egypt by way of Stonehenge circa 1500 - 1000 B.C and present day Bath (England).

Either way, whatever the genre, a fun, well-paced, entertaining read. The author, proving herself a more than competent writer and gifted story teller. I'm hoping for yet more adventures with The Pharaoh's Cat.