A little Spring Clean.

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Or more of a Spring merge. See, I have two blogs on WordPress and while I enjoy doing both of them, sometimes one can suffer from neglect. I don’t really enjoy leaving blogs to gather dust. So … it’s time for both blogs to collide and become one much more interesting whole: of words & books.

So come join me over there where the adventure will continue  ….

(also – I would like to say a very big thank you for hitting the ‘follow’ button in the first place. Thank you 🙂 )

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Quotables – Cremated, a Head-on Collision and a bit of Dazzling Ingenuity

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So … I recently went on a Georgette-Heyer’s-detective-novels binge. Consequently, this is Quotable post number two (see the first here). I’ve got three books beside me which have several pieces of a Holland and Barretts’ bag, one receipt and one piece of notepaper all torn up and all marking numerous amusing passages.

Here are a handful of them:

32313Don’t you suggest such a thing!’ said Ermyntrude, quite horrified. ‘Why, her father would turn in his grave – well, as a matter of fact, he was cremated, but what I mean is, if he hadn’t been he would have.

So long!’ replied Wally, adding when his guest was out of earshot: ‘And if you have a head-on collision with a steam-roller it’ll be all right with me!311208

 

No. He just ran through Roget’s Thesaurus for synonyms of Scoundrel, and put them all into the letter.

311180Very nice,’ said Sally. ‘You’ve been reading my books. But let me tell you that I’m not a believer in these sudden flashes of brilliance on the part of murderers. When I think out a bit of dazzling ingenuity for my criminal to indulge in, it usually costs me several hours of brain-racking thought.

Bookish Influences: Phobias

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Words are powerful. Books are powerful. They can give hope and inspire folk to rise above the ordinary and do extraordinary things. They can also install fear of everyday objects.

Like wardrobes.

I first read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at my Uncle and Aunt’s house. Their copy of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a well-worn paperback. I read it. Was I inspired? Was I entranced by Narnia and the adventures of the Pevensie siblings? Maybe. But what I was left with, when you really stripped it down and got to the bare bones of it … was a terrible fear that if I didn’t close my wardrobe doors before I slept, the Wicked Witch would come bursting through it on her chariot with hand raised and expression evil… and kill me.

So the wardrobe doors were always firmly shut, lest worlds seep through and threaten my very existence.

One would think that one burden from the literary realm would be enough; one burden to haunt a little girl would be sufficient. But no. Oh no. Not at all. I was afraid, you see, for a terrible period of time … of the bath.

I wasn’t afraid to bathe, you understand. It was more of what could be in the bath.

Please look at the image below and imagine being someone gifted with an extremely vivid imagination listening to the audiobook with this cover:

Then try to picture how it was to go into the bathroom, at the dead of night, to answer a call of nature. Replace the bobbies with me and …

Thank you.

It was terrifying. Even when it wasn’t night time, a suspicious glance at the bath first just had to be given. To make sure, you know.

I even planned how someone could drag a corpse over the rooftops and dispose of it in our innocent bathtub (they would, perhaps, start at our next door neighbour’s roof and then jump across to our’s. Then with gymnastics worthy of an Olympian climb through the narrow slit of the bathroom window with the body and deposit it in our bath. Logic does not stand up to Fear).

A child’s mind is a fertile thing. Plant a seed by written or spoken word and it will grow. Through Wardrobes and Bathtubs.

In your childhood, were you ever gifted oh so kindly with a phobia by a book? Or perhaps you escape unscathed?

Quotables – Murder, Not-Prejudiced and Hitler

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Look, look! A new series of posts, this time entitled ‘Quotables’. I’ve recently dived into Georgette Heyer’s detective novels, three of ’em to be exact, all bursting with character and wit …

Murder begets murder,’ said Jim. ‘You didn’t murder Clement, Adrian. His murder just put 311138the idea of murdering me into your head.’

Sir Adrian wrinkled his brow. ‘I never take my ideas at second-hand,’ he complained.

Not prejudiced,’ said the Sergeant firmly. ‘I never let myself get prejudiced. All I say is, that he’s a nasty, slimy, double-faced tick who’d murder his own grandmother if he saw a bit of money to be got out of it.

311135

No, darling, you must never think that,’ said her mother gently. ‘Try only to look on the best side of people. Your uncle had some very sterling qualities, and it wasn’t his fault that he was hard, and selfish, and not always very kind to others. We cannot help our natures, though some of us do try.

It’s nothing of the sort! Now, I won’t have you making that Detection Unlimited (Inspector Hemingway Mystery #4)kind of joke, any of you! It’s in very bad taste. Mavis says those things because she thinks one ought not to speak evil of the dead, that’s all.”

‘In what terms does she speak of the Emperor Domitian and the late Adolf Hitler?’ enquired Gavin, interested.

Fly Away Home by Rachel Heffington

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By now, you may have noticed that I don’t really post reviews. My posts are more the recounting of my adventures between book covers and a few of my thoughts thrown in for good measure. Yes, this may be a little eccentric or ‘odd ball’ but it is my way of doing things …

Fly Away Home

by Rachel Heffington

The Rule of Three is a personal favourite of mine, and so I’ll use it for this recounting.

But first off … the description from Goodreads:

Self Preservation has never looked more tempting.

1952 New York City:
Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America’s most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point.

The new friendship sparks, the project soars, and a faint suspicion that she is fall for this uncommon man grows in Callie’s heart. When the secrets of Callie’s past are exhumed and hung over her head as a threat, she is forced to scrutinize Wade Barnett and betray his dirtiest secrets or see her own spilled.

Here there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled. The consequences of either decision will define the rest of her life

The Writing Style

Peppered with humour, references and wonderful turning of phrase, the writing style immersed me in Callie’s world; it is something that you shouldn’t skip through but read slowly, and thus be able to fully appreciate it.

The Characters

At first, I couldn’t really read of Mr Barnett without seeing and hearing this man:

Gregory Peck, ladies and gentlemen

But this faded after a while and it was Mr Barnett himself speaking his own words. I liked him very much so, and found him to be very multi-dimensional. His humming of songs was quite enjoyable and just added that extra ‘umph’ to his personality.

Callie … I struggled with her at first. She seemed to lose her temper easily, her dreams seemed quite vaporous and dare I say, silly – I couldn’t really sympathize with her [… but then, my dreams consisted of saving the world, being excellent in combat and having everyone oooh and ahhh over my gymnastics whilst I saved the world … so really …]. In the end, she had her reasons and there’s ‘nought so queer as folk’ as the saying goes.

I throughly enjoyed reading about Archibald Scarrowby – a side-character who only appears once, yes. But one appearance was enough to earn him a place on my ‘List of Favourite Characters in this Book’.

The Adventure

The plot is solid and it was, overall a very enjoyable adventure – made doubly so by its writing style.

A SIDE NOTE: I have come to the conclusion that Misunderstandings are the bread and butter of most romance novels, and so I applaud a certain Mr Barnett for showing intelligence and good sense.

YET ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: This is a self-published book but the belief that all self-published books are sloppy and badly done doesn’t hold the slightest bit of water here.

OH – LOOK! ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: It has come to be a tradition of mine to include a favourite quote. So, here it is:

Callie, if you never think of the present then you can never do a thing about the future. The future’s just made up on dozens of right-nows strung together.

HONESTLY, THIS IS THE VERY LAST SIDE NOTE: I found the sparrow feeding scene to be my favourite one – the conversation about Christianity was just right and vastly interesting to read. Fine. No more side notes. I promise.

Want to be immersed in the 1950s with a good ol’yarn? Fly Away Home can be found here. Whilst the authoress blogs right here.

Bookish Influences: Ivanhoe

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We’ve all – in one way or another – been influenced by the written word. I was very much a reading child – and thus I was very much influenced by what I read; by the worlds which opened up around me as I turned each page.

So I thought that maybe it would make for an interesting blog series if I wrote about the grand, bookish adventures that I went on in my younger years (which makes me sound oh so old. Ha!).

Ivanhoe

by Walter Scott

When our next door neighbour gave my brother Ivanhoe it was the natural thing for me to read it. And read it I did.

I loved it. The characters oh, the characters.The book would not be so wonderful without such a diverse cast: Wamba, Gurth, Isaac the Jew, Athelstane, Rebecca, the Black Knight …

Perhaps the only one I was not partial to was the title character himself – Wilfred of Ivanhoe. I recall finding him a little, well, bland. He did not have the joyous and clever foolishness of Wamba (Pax vobiscum!) nor the tempestuousness of his father, that stubborn and loyal to the bone Saxon, Cedric.

The adventure itself is such a good one – the Black Knight is brilliant. The funeral scene, hilarious. Rebecca’s trial, suspenseful.

No complaints over arduous descriptions from me – I throughly enjoyed reading this tale.

And did I mention that a certain Outlaw plays a prominent part in this adventure? No? Well he does. So does Friar Tuck … who sings.

Ahem.

And the quote which has stuck itself in my mind and causes me a fair bit of amusement when I think of Ivanhoe?

I forgive you, Sir Knight,” said Rowena, “as a Christian.”

“That means,” said Wamba, “that she does not forgive him at all.

Once, I tried to read another of Sir Walter Scott’s works – the Bride of the Lammermoor. Yeah … but that is another tale for another day.

The problem with writing this type of post is that it makes me want to read the book all over again, I suppose the benefit of reading it as an adult is that one sees the same words with new eyes – the same adventure, but with a greater awareness.

Ivanhoe can be read for free here and bought at a good price here.

The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag

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I learned a vital lesson today – never swap your hound for a bow. Because if you do, you will become a most evil person. The End.

*** warning a very light smattering of spoilers ahead ***

ShadowThingsCoverThe Shadow Things

by Jennifer Freitag

I think that I’ve pretty much established on this blog that I really like Rosemary Sutcliff’s books. This book possesses echoes of her style – in the beautiful prose which almost reads like poetry.

First of all … the description from Goodreads:

The Legions have left the province of Britain and the Western Roman Empire has dissolved into chaos. With the world plunged into darkness, paganism and superstition are as rampant as ever. In the Down country of southern Britain, young Indi has grown up knowing nothing more than his gods of horses and thunder; so when a man from across the sea comes preaching a single God slain on a cross, Indi must choose between his gods or the one God and face the consequences of his decision.

This isn’t a clichéd book. Seriously. It isn’t. The twists and turns I found to be entirely unexpected – especially the ending.

And it isn’t a pleasant ‘let’s eat rainbows and ride unicorns’ tale. Oh no, of course not. There was a particular character who only appeared in a few scenes yet who I grew attached to. I was rooting for her survival. She was so wittle and cute. But then, then … she wasn’t.

The part of this book (this adventure if we’re going with the theme of this blog) which really stood out to be was the scene where Procyon is explaining to Indi about creation. It’s so beautiful, so right.

But all these beauties we see are but dreams in the night, whispers of a hope to come beyond the end of this Age, that wonderful Other Thing.

Even if you don’t fancy going on this particular adventure, this book is worth getting just for this scene, this explanation.

My favourite characters were Llyeln, Tade and Mylor.

And Indi – not for the boy he was, but for the man he becomes.

All in all, this was a book which grew on me. I think that perhaps I enjoyed the latter end rather than the beginning. There were parts which left a frown on my brow – but then, human beings never seem to act in quite the way I expect them to. Apparently, this is the same with fiction.

As the build up to the climax commenced and I realised that a certain something was going to happen, I grew resigned to it – and interested on just how Jennifer Freitag was going to illustrate it. Quite intently interested, to be honest. BUT THEN …

*dramatic music plays*

You can join Indi on his adventure here. Or you can visit the blog of the authoress here.

The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff

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The thing that I’ve always loved about Rosemary Sutcliff is that she doesn’t give you an ‘and they all lived happily ever after’. She gives you, well, the best ending for that story – the most realistic.

But that doesn’t mean that I have like it.

*** beware, there might be a few spoilers ahead ***

 

The Mark of the Horse Lord

by Rosemary Sutcliff

If you are looking for encouraging Christian historical fiction … this isn’t it. It’s rather pagan – in fact, one of the central conflicts is between one people who worship a god and the other which worship a goddess.

Usually (as in Dawn Windthe Lantern Bearers, the Silver Branch etc) Christianity is at least mentioned in passing – one of my favourite quotes (and scenes) in the Silver Branch is this one:

The young Centurion, who had been completely still throughout, said very softly, as though to himself, “Greater love hath no man–” and Justin thought it sounded as though he were quoting someone else.

There is nothing like that in this book as it is set in a purely pagan culture.

The description from Amazon:

‘Take my place, Phaedrus, and with it, take my vengeance . . .’

Phaedrus the gladiator wins his freedom after years of bloody battles in the arena. Soon he finds himself riding north towards the wilds of Caledonia on a strange mission. He is to assume the identity of Midir, Lord of the Horse People, to seek vengeance against the treacherous Liadhan, who has usurped the throne.

Ahead of him lies more adventure and more danger than he had ever known in the arena . . .

As I was nearing the last few pages and the conflict wasn’t resolved, I started to gain a dreadful feeling as to what the ending might be.

And then, of course, I read it. And was hit with – what is it called – the ‘feels’? Yes – I was certainly hit with feels. The ending was the right one for Phaedrus; for the story itself; I couldn’t imagine another way for it to end that didn’t have Phaedrus going against everything that he was and had become.

And that’s (one of) the reasons why I enjoy Sutcliff’s books – because they aren’t all rose-tinted glasses.

Did I love this book? … hmmm … it’s difficult to say. My feelings are rather hard to put into words.

But what I can say is that it was definitely a Bookish Adventure: one with wild tribesmen, tension, Romans, battles, friendships, fire and so, so much more.

You can buy the Mark of the Horse Lord here. Meanwhile I’m off to find therapy for all the ‘feels’ I’ve been subjected to by the reading of this book …

Bookish Influences: The Lantern Bearers

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We’ve all – in one way or another – been influenced by the written word. I was very much a reading child – and thus I was very much influenced by what I read; by the worlds which opened up around me as I turned each page.

So I thought that maybe it would make for an interesting blog series if I wrote about the books which come to the forefront of my mind when I remember the grand, bookish adventures that I went on in my childhood.

So to start it all off … is a book which I have read many a time:

The Lantern Bearers

by Rosemary Sutcliff

This book. This cover. We had the ‘Eagle of the Ninth’ series when I was much younger – and I, being the devourer of all books, got my hands on this one.

I can still remember holding it – the cover was matt, the title written in golden letters. It was so beautiful.

I spent vast amounts of time with Aquila and his world – something about the book drew me in and kept me rereading it. It isn’t a happy book rather, it’s a bittersweet one.

Perhaps that’s why I loved it so much – the relationships and situations that Aquila encounters seemed so much more realistic than those in other books. His reunion with his sister. His relationship with his son. His marriage to his wife isn’t a ‘love match’ – no, he doesn’t want to marry but is ordered to and makes the choice between the beautiful golden sister and little brown one. He chooses Ness – the plainer sister.

And yes, my pen name is Ness Kingsley. After reading this book there was no doubt but that Ness was the best name in existence (and Ness the best heroine).

I could go on and on – about Minnow, about the monk and his bees, Aquila’s captivity, Sutcliff’s prose, the characterizations and so much more. But … sometimes it’s best not to hear about another’s bookish adventure but to go on it yourself.

Aquila is a complex character – yet he is someone who you can understand – you can cheer for him and yet suffer immense heartache on his behalf.

The ending is a beautiful one – a grand one. There isn’t a loud ‘out with a bang’ ending but a quieter, better and more subtle one.

One that leaves you with a strange ache – wanting more but knowing that the ending is perfect as it is. And I think that those are the best endings.

This story so affected me that I needed to write one like it – but with a female heroine named Priscilla. I remember sitting in our bright blue minivan, a notepad on my knee writing in blue ink ‘The Hard Times’ – a very ‘original’ story which in no way mirrored the Lantern Bearers.

*cough*

I don’t have a top ten list as I’m a little bit too indecisive but if I did have one then this book would be very near the top.

You can borrow the ebook version of the Lantern Bearers here.

Captive of Raven Castle by Jessica Greyson

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19245634Captive of Raven Castle

by Jessica Greyson

**Warning!**

**Here Be Spoilers**

Sorry about this. I am afraid she hit her head pretty hard. It will pass, though.” Then he uttered under his breath, “I hope.

That, right up there? Yep, it’s my favourite quote. Why? Because it sums up most of the time spent at Raven Castle (that is, if you define ‘hitting her head’ as an amnesia which lasted thirteen years).

It took awhile before I was able to properly get into this book. In fact, the moment that the Princess steps forward in the council, the adventure – for me at least – truly began.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

The Plot:

Alexandra; a chronically sick and frail Princess of a starving land is ‘nabbed by the evil rebels of Raven Castle. Upon arrival she is told something which turns her world upside down, a lifetime of lies is revealed – what will she believe?

Three Enjoyable Scenes/Moments:

1. The Monologue by King Archibald. The Evil Monologue.

2. Alexandra isn’t a DiD-dy (Damsel in Distress – the ‘dy’ is there just to avoid confusion.) I read the ‘distressing’ scene with a feeling of well, distress: “He isn’t going to come and save her is he? Please no.” He didn’t – and that was a highly pleasing fact.

3. The Trap. I wasn’t really expecting this … of course I knew that maybe, just maybe, there would be a risk of discovery. But then wham! Plot twist.

Most Enjoyable Character(s):

King Aric. Lord Keenan. The Soldier Who Gets Stabbed (his motives for doing what he does are understandable. I don’t think he was named so pardon the title).

Most Disliked Character:

I have to be honest – I quite liked disliking King Archibald, because he was a definite Evil Villain: evil monologue, cruelty and country domination – it’s all there.

Last Thoughts:

There was a quiet Christian element in this book; faith wasn’t the central conflict of the book. It wasn’t a Christian adventure so much as an adventure which had Christians in it. Does that makes sense?

Captive of Raven Castle can be bought here.