Festive favourites #1: Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens

I rescued this book from my parents attic a few years back. When I say rescued I mean borrowed. When I say borrowed, I mean stole. I don’t really remember being read it, but I do remember the cover and the smell of it. It’s one of my favourite books on my shelves.

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Synopsis:
“A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth” contains three of Charles Dickens most popular Christmas-time stories. In “A Christmas Carol” we have the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who is visited by ghosts prior to Christmas to show him the error of his ways. In “The Chimes” we have the story of Toby Veck, a poor working-class man who has lost his faith in human nature. On New Year’s Eve he is visited by spirits who show him that nobody is born evil, but rather that crime and poverty are constructs of man. In “The Cricket on the Hearth” we have the story of John Peerybingle and his family who have a guardian angel in the form of a cricket who is constantly chirping on the hearth. These classic holiday tales will delight readers of all ages.

Favourites Friday #14 (Horror October Edition): My Favourite Poe

The Raven is without a doubt my favourite Poe.

What I can’t decide on, is my favourite reading of it. For years it has been the Vincent Price one, despite the bad quality of the video. But there’s a lot to be said about Christopher Lee’s eerie reading too.

So treat yourself to a pre-halloween midnight visit from the mysterious raven. Close the curtains, light a candle and enjoy one of these videos, or even both.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was first published in January 1845.

I found this 1987 collection of Poe’s short stories in a charity shop many moons ago. It introduced me to a few stories that I’d never read before such as The Fall of the House of Usher and Landor’s Cottage.

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What’s your favourite Poe?

Favourites Friday #11: Peter Pan (curse you, Peter!)

Peter Pan was probably the first book I really loved and I generally read it at least once a year. I don’t even know what it is that I love about it so much, it’s just such a comforting read. It warms me up in winter.

A few years ago the lovely Dianne over at Icefloe gave me this amazing copy for my birthday (or maybe Christmas) and I love love love it.

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We are also both big fans of the 2003 live action adaptation mainly because Jeremy Sumpter is the perfect Peter and nailed the arrogant ‘oh the cleverness of me’ side to the character. Leading to the inscription below which cracks me up every time I see it.

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Curse you Peter. You totally led poor Wendy on. And put some clothes on!

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The Verdict: Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith

I have adored the tale of Tristan and Iseult since I stumbled it across it when looking into Arthurian legends. I bloody love Arthurian legends btw. Soon after becoming aware of the story I found an old Puffin version by Rosemary Sutcliff that I’ve loved ever since. Her retelling has always been the only one for me…but recently I discovered this…

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In a land of fog and desperate tribes, Tristan fights to protect western Briton from Saxon invaders. In the wake of battle, he returns to Kernow bearing grave news, and the order of power shifts. As Tristan defends the west, his uncle, King Mark, faces enemies to the east beyond the sea: the Irish Bloodshields. Mark is determined to unite the tribes of Briton and Ireland and forge an alliance that would see an end to war and the beginnings of peace. Iseult, the daughter of Irish kings and a woman of the blood, resigns herself to her inevitable fate: marriage to Lord Morholt. A bloody duel changes her course, and she finds herself stranded on the coast of Kernow bringing with her the possibility of peace. But when she loses her heart to one man and marries another, her future and that of Briton flutters grey. Three people and a hope that will never fade, this is a story of promise; the legend of love. Image and Synopsis from Goodreads.

Due to the aforementioned circumstances I’m sure you can understand why I went into this a bit sceptical. At first I found that the simple, almost brisk sentences came out a bit wooden but after a few paragraphs the style really started to flow and I started to enjoy it, a lot.

It captures the time and essence of the story I know and love really well.

The book is written from both Tristan and Iseult’s point of views – each having alternative chapters – which I thought would annoy me but it actually turned out to be really great. This way Iseult is able to show us in the very beginning how revolting Morholt, her husband-to-be really is, which kind of helps us realise later why she agrees to marry King Mark when she is clearly in love with Tristan- his Nephew and chosen heir to the throne. Going from something so bad to something ‘safe’ can’t be too bad after all can it?

I did wish that the two characters had more distinct voices though, as they both sounded the same in my head and I had to constantly remind myself whose chapter it was. However, Smith builds up the lust and romance between Tristan and Iseult beautifully. I was absolutely hooked and invested in the story which is probably why I got so angry that Tristan encouraged her to marry Mark in the first place…I mean, the King loves him, all he had to do was say! I’m not sure I was totally convinced that he did it due to his guilt of the King’s son Rufus’ death. But hey ho.

Alas, King Mark and Iseult are married and clearly everyone, apart from the King is miserable. The King in fact just seems to swan off a lot on King-like business leaving Tristan and Iseult alone with a million will they-won’t they moments which was INFURIATING to say the least. Not in a bad way. In a I have to keep reading way.

And then. THEN, we skip to 20 years ahead…are you shitting me J.D Smith?

Anyway (deep breaths), without giving too much away, this is a pretty different retelling than the Suttcliff version and I do think it lacked a certain proportion of passion and excitement due to some choices Smith made with the material but I don’t mean that to sound so bad.

It is a quick, enjoyable read that has captured the essence of the medieval, Celtic folklore that the story originated from, whilst also creating more contemporary feel to it.

I’m tempted to give this 4 out 5 because I was hooked all the way through, but the last third of the story let it down for me so I have settled on 3/5 unicorns. If I could bring myself to chop one in half, I would.

Tristan and Iseult by J.D Smith is published by @TriskeleBooks

Free Books…So Hard To Resist! Damn You, Amazon!

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not a fan of the e-book. The ‘K’ word makes me shudder. I like books. No wait, I LOVE books, physical books that you can touch and smell and crease the spines of. Real books that can sit on my real shelves not something digital and disposable like everything else is becoming.

I don’t really want to get into the debate of e-books wiping out print because everything that needs to be said on the matter has been. There are definitely some pros to e-publishing I’m not debating that, but nothing can beat holding and loving a real book for me. I do however, get really jealous of all the free books you can get with a Kindle or any other e-reader.

I love buying books from shops, whether it’s just Waterstones or an independent bookshop and I wish I could keep them in business but I can’t. I can’t justify spending £13 on a book when I can buy it on Amazon for £7. I don’t have that kind of cash. Most of my books end up coming from Amazon, charity shops & the odd car boot sale and http://www.readitswapit.com and I still end up spending a fortune. The lure of free books is really hard to resist so despite being unwilling to own a Kindle I do have the Kindle app installed on my laptop. Does that make me a hypocrite?

I’m only rambling on about this because I saw an offer on my Twitter feed for a new version of Tristan and Iseult which I’d be interested to read. The paperback is £6.99 and the Kindle version is of course free. DILEMMA.

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I have a copy of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s version which is old (1971) and battered and I love it…it will undoubtedly be on one of my upcoming Favourites Friday posts so I won’t gush about it too much yet. I’ve given in and ‘purchsed’ a Kindle copy, if you can purchase something that is free but now I feel a bit guilty.

Still, interested to see how they match up. You can ‘buy’ yours here.

Favourites Friday #2: Alice in Wonderland and why I have so many copies!

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Is it excessive to have four different versions of a book? Usually I’d say yes, but not where Alice in Wonderland concerned. As I’m sure is the same for a lot of people – Alice has been one of favourites practically from birth. I don’t actually remember my parents reading it to me but I’m sure they did. Along with The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice is a book I always come back to and I can’t ever remember a time of not having a copy close by.

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This is my bog-standard copy that I’ve had since Uni. I love it because it is battered and tatty and full of almost illegible notes from various essays I had to write.
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This was just a cheap copy I picked up in my teens which introduced me to some of Carroll’s other works including his plays and essays. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read it front to back…I really should.

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Then there’s my favourite.
It’s not particularly old, 1980, but you don’t see many Through the Looking Glass stand-alones these days. I found this in a charity shop and had to buy it. The eight full-page illustration plates by Tenniel are beautiful in colour.

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Which also has the addition of The Wasp in a Wig which I’d not seen before. Books 009

And this is a 2009 Penguin Classic special edition with canvas boards and various extra notes on the text that my friend Dora gave to me. So pretty!Books 010

I love them all for all different reasons so I can’t bring myself to get rid of any of them. Oh, and I’m pretty sure if I went rummaging in my parents attic I’d be able to find the copy I grew up with. I’d love to see that again. I bet it smells amazing! I’m actually going home next weekend, I’ll try and find it if I get the time.

It’s WWW Wednesday!

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:

Click to view on GoodReads
Click to view on GoodReads

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares.– Goodreads.

Just Finished:

Click to view on GoodReads.
Click to view on GoodReads.

It took me a whole week to finish this and I keep telling myself it’s because it was so good that I didn’t want it to end, but it was probably because I’ve just been watching a lot of tennis and drinking in a lot of beer gardens (oh, hello, Sun). That said, the former statement was true too. I loved this one as much, if not more than Graceling and it brought all the three stories and the kingdoms together beautifully. I want more. If you liked the Graceling books as much as I did, I highly recommend Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina too, and its cover is just as pretty. Win all round. I’ll be reviewing this for The Gollancz Geeks Blog ASAP.

Up Next:

I’m torn between the next Ruby Redfort book which I totally forgot I’d pre-ordered and a book I was recommended ages ago and really need to read and give back – The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Click to view on GoodReads.
Click to view on GoodReads.
This does sound good…’Gentleman Bastard #1’…haha interesting…and no, it’s obviously not YA but I do like to branch out now and again.

As for Ruby Redfort, I probably never would have picked up the first book, Look Into My Eyes if it hadn’t been released by Harper Collins with its spangly hypnotic silver cover. The previous cover looked a bit too young for me, and the same goes for Take Your Last Breath, the second in the series. Ruby is sassy and witty and fearless and makes a pretty amusing 13 year old secret agent, none of which I get from this cover:

Image from Amazon
Image from Amazon
But this one, on the other hand is much more appealing to my inner teenage spy.
Image from Amazon
Image from Amazon

Leave a comment with your WWW Wednesday books or the link to your post!