Book Review – Jane Austen at Home

Last year I went to see Lucy Worsley’s talk about her book Jane Austen at Home. Obviously I am a Jane Austen fan but I also love watching Lucy’s television programmes so I was very much looking forward to it.

I wasn’t disappointed either – Lucy gave a fantastic talk and if you ever get a chance to see her I would thoroughly recommend going. Of course, I had to buy the book and get it signed!

Publisher’s Blurb

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

It took me a while to get around to reading it but it was always hovering at the back of my mind and when I booked to go to the Jane Austen Society study day I knew it would be the perfect companion for me. I was so excited to finally be reading it.

I sometimes struggle to get into non-fiction but I was immediately gripped by this one and I resented having to put it down to do something else. It was just as well as I had a four hour train journey so I needed something that kept me wanting to read!

This was a really interesting way to look at the life of Jane Austen and I did learn some things I hadn’t previously known. I loved Lucy Worsley’s style of writing and I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

Book Details

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

ISBN: 9781473632202

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

RRP: £9.99

Medicinal Reading

For the past few days I have been suffering with a shocking cold which always makes me feel miserable.  At times like this I just want easy, comfort reading. Quite often that means children’s books and this time it is pony books I have been craving.

Anyone who follows my pony adventures will know that I am a huge fan of pony books anyway but over the past two days I have read three pony books and don’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Firstly, I have been catching up with Olivia Tuffin’s A Pony Called Secret series.  I adored the first book but it has taken me ages to get round to reading the others.  I am almost up to date with them now and am enjoying them as much as ever.  This is definitely one of my favourite modern series.

Sadly most of the more vintage pony authors I enjoy have gone out of print and often they are very expensive second hand.  However, I came across three at our local market just before Christmas and I couldn’t resist them.  I am very grateful for that weakness now!  I had only read one Joanna Cannan book before and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed her writing – I will definitely have to seek out more of her books in the future.

From past experience, my pony book obsession will last a few days – or possibly weeks – and I will then feel a desperate need to read something much more meaty.  However, while it lasts I am revelling in it!

Book Review – The Skylarks’ War

My colleague has been raving about Hilary McKay’s new book The Skylarks’ War for months now so when Macmillan Children’s Books sent me a review copy I was rather excited. Not least because I loved reading her Casson Family series as a child.

Publisher’s Blurb

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer.

When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?

I have to admit that when people repeatedly tell me how much I will love something I do start to be a little prejudiced against it. However, I really wanted to like this book so I tried to have an open mind.

It was definitely worth it – the book is beautifully written and I was completely absorbed in the plot. I stayed up far too late reading it! Although this is classed as a children’s book there there are some nuances which feel very adult and grown ups will certainly enjoy it just as much as the children.

Did I love it as much as I was promised? As I was reading it I didn’t think so but now I’ve finished and have had time to absorb it I’m not so sure. I was definitely very moved by it and I found it to be thought provoking. Either way, I didn’t want to stop reading and it has certainly stuck with me. I will definitely be recommending it to many people.

Book Details

The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay

ISBN: 9781509894963

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

RRP: £6.99

Book Review – The Sixteen Trees of the Somme

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting is a book I’ve been thinking about reading for a while – mainly because I’d heard it is similar in feel to All the Light we Cannot See which I loved.

I was therefore extremely pleased that my book club chose to discuss it at our meeting last night – I could add it to my teetering TBR pile without feeling at all guilty!

Publisher’s Blurb

Edvard grows up on a remote mountain farmstead in Norway with his taciturn grandfather, Sverre. The death of his parents, when he was three years old, has always been shrouded in mystery – he has never been told how or where it took place and has only a distant memory of his mother.

But he knows that the fate of his grandfather’s brother, Einar, is somehow bound up with this mystery. One day a coffin is delivered for his grandfather long before his death – a meticulous, beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps Einar is not dead after all.
Edvard’s desperate quest to unlock the family’s tragic secrets takes him on a long journey – from Norway to the Shetlands, and to the battlefields of France – to the discovery of a very unusual inheritance. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is about the love of wood and finding your own self, a beautifully intricate and moving tale that spans an entire century.

I put off reading it until the last minute – as I’ve mentioned before, I like to read cosy wintry favourites over Christmas – mainly children’s books.

I loved this book – and for once so did most of the book club. I thought it was beautifully written and the author’s love of wood and well crafted objects really showed through – his descriptions were wonderful.

Besides that, the mystery element was intriguing and kept me guessing. I found myself riding my pony and occupying my mind with setting out the facts I knew and trying to fill in the gaps. This is a book which will stay with me for a long time and I will definitely be reading the next one.

Book Details

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

ISBN: 9780857056061

Publisher: Maclehose Press

RRP: £8.99

Book Review – Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

For the past year my friend has been telling me how fantastic Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend is but it was only when I booked my Cheltenham tickets that I finally got round to reading it.

Oh my word, I loved it so much! I actually felt a bit bereft after I finished it and not really sure what to do with myself. Imagine how excited I was when a few days later I received a reading copy of book two from Hachette!  By the time I met Jessica at Cheltenham (she was so lovely) I had already devoured this book too.

Publisher’s Blurb

Imagination, discovery and friendship await Morrigan Crow when she escapes her deadly curse and joins the Wundrous Society. It promises her protection and belonging for life – but then Morrigan doesn’t receive the welcome she hoped for…

Has Morrigan’s dream of escaping her cursed life ended before it truly began?

I loved this book. I was having a stressful week and this was everything I needed to relax. I could completely immerse myself in Morrigan’s world and not worry about anything else. It is so wonderful to find a book which will do that.

I very much enjoyed finding out more about Nevermoor and the people within it. When I saw Jessica Townsend at Cheltenham she suggested this might be a nine book series which was fantastic news and I am already looking forward to book three – although as this one isn’t officially published until 31st October I might have a rather long wait!

Book Details

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

ISBN: 9781510104440

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books

RRP: £12.99

Book Review – The Moonstone

I have wanted to read The Moonstone ever since Kate Summerscale talked about it in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – and I read that book years ago!

Somehow though, I just haven’t got around to it before now. When I was in Dartmouth I naturally visited every bookshop I found – including the Community Bookshop. It is a lovely little shop and as I gravitated towards the classics section I found several books with the best covers. They were all published by Alma Classics and I so wanted to have one of those covers! I seemed to own all of the titles already though and it was only a determined second look which unearthed The Moonstone. It’s like it was meant to be!

IMG_20180831_150623_411.jpg

Publisher’s Blurb

When Rachel Verinder’s legacy of a priceless Indian diamond is stolen, all the evidence indicates that it is her beloved, Franklin Blake, who is guilty. Around this central axis of crime and thwarted love, Collins constructs an ingenious plot of teasing twists and surprises, and an elaborate multi-voiced narrative that sustains the tension all the way to its stunning ending.

Described by T.S. Eliot as the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone is an important precursor of the modern mystery and suspense genres.

This was my first proper Wilkie Collins book – I used to have an audio book of The Woman in White but it was a dramatisation and not the full novel.  However, I knew I had enjoyed that so I was fully expecting to like this one too.

I was right – it was an intriguing mystery and although I guessed the culprit fairly early on there were so many twists and turns that I was never quite sure of myself.  I also think that I was basing it more on my dislike of the character than any actual evidence! The methods used to solve the crime were fantastic too and I was very satisfied with the ending.

It was a much easier read than I expected and I very much enjoyed it.  I will definitely be seeking out more of Wilkie Collins’ books.  Perhaps I’ll even finally read the whole of The Woman in White!

DSCF9448

Book Details

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

ISBN: 9781847494221

Publisher: Alma Books

RRP: £5.99

Book Review – ‘Theatrical’ by Maggie Harcourt

I don’t read a great many young adult books. Partly I think because I don’t remember my local libraries or bookshops having young adult sections when I was a teenager. I assume they had them but I just completely skipped them.

Sometimes though, a YA book screams at me to read it and it is only polite to do so. Last year one of those books was Maggie Harcourt’s Unconventional which I loved – if you haven’t read it already then I highly recommend it. At the time I said that it reminded me why I love reading so much.

Therefore, when I saw that Maggie Harcourt had a new book coming out I was very excited indeed. I was lucky enough to be sent a reading copy of Theatrical by Usborne and I could not have been happier.

Publisher’s Blurb
Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume-designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool…and her secret.

I was captivated by this one straight away – the first scene is just wonderful – and I was so pleased to be back in Maggie’s world. I also loved the fact that it ties in with Unconventional.

I thought the book had a great storyline and I very much enjoyed reading it. The best thing for me though was how invested I was in the characters. I have read several books recently – mainly ones chosen for my book club – where I have just not engaged with the characters at all so I didn’t really care what happened to them and thus wasn’t driven to keep reading. I definitely wanted to keep reading this one! I even found myself getting quite emotional as the first night performance was about to start. A few tears may have been shed.

I very much identified with Hope, the main character. There were several times when I paused my reading because she expresses how I feel so well. Moments like this: ‘I can almost feel the quiet seeping into my skin like a dye, a drug. I will always be chasing this; this exact silence, because this is the only place I can find it.’

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and I will definitely be looking out for the next one.

Book Details

Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt

ISBN: 9781474940689

Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd

RRP: £7.99

Classification: Young Adult