Could it be Magic? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

21 May 2015

I barely watch television these days which I guess is a good thing.  However, I recently had the urge to shut down my laptop, escape the rabbit hole that is the internet and get lost in a decent bit of telly.  Preferably a piece in another time and place, with a dash of the 'other-worldly' about it, something to draw me in with a rich setting and mysterious characters all tied together in a darkly intriguing tale.

Well it just so happens that BBC 1 has brought to life the story of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - an 'alternative history' novel created by Susanna Clarke.  Episode one brought lantern-lit cobbled alleyways, a vast library filled with books of magic, a tarot card stand-off and the wonderfully named characters of Drawlight, Honeyfoot, Segundus and The Gentleman.  A raggedy street magician, played by Paul Kaye, spits out a prophecy of two magicians restoring magic to England - first is the reclusive Mr. Norrell, the second  a wealthy novice magician Jonathan Strange.

I hope that the quality of that first hour is matched in the following six and I'm glad to finally have a series to look forward to each week. Not only that, I now have another addition for my never-ending to-be-read list! (Once a bookworm, always a bookworm).

There is still time to catch-up on the first episode here.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell returns on Sunday at 9pm.

♥ Some extra reading for bonus points(!) ♥

Miss Transmission's wish list before the cast was revealed is here and if this recommendation by Neil Gaiman doesn't whet your appetite for the book's delights nothing will.

If you are a long-time fan of the book who would your choices for the cast have been?

P.S. Without having read the book, I thought that Eddie Marsan as Mr. Norrell was superb as always, I couldn't stop watching him.  Marc Warren was also on form and brilliantly creepy as The Gentleman.

If you do tune in let me know what you thought?

My Reading Year - Book 3

30 April 2015

I have just finished this, my third book from the wonderful Mr. B's Book Emporium who selected it as one of my Reading Year novels.  The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell follows two stories, one which is set in the present day and centres on Ted and Elina who have just become parents for the first time. Here, O'Farrell brilliantly captures the couple's growing isolation from each other and their struggle to cope with the demands of parenthood.  The second story line, set in the 1950s, focuses on Lexie who flees rural Devon to start a new life in the London art scene.  There she falls for the flamboyant Innes Kent and joins his team of writers for Elsewhere magazine.  Although the novel is well written and the characters grew on me towards the end, this is not a novel I would normally be drawn to in terms of subject matter.  I realise that I often seek out stories that take me into a completely different world, somewhere that is far removed from everyday life as we know it.  

Have you read any of Maggie O'Farrell's books.  What did you think of them?

Reading Challenge: Book 16

23 April 2015


Just a quick post about my current book.  Dracula is one of my all-time favourite novels and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet given it a go.  Bram Stoker (what a fantastic name!) wrote this brilliantly imagined story over one hundred years ago and in doing so created a classic Gothic horror which has intrigued and endured ever since.  Even though this is an old favourite, I actually found it hard to get into this time around.  I think, possibly, because I have been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately and the change of writing took a little adjusting.  It's still definitely worth it.  I shall leave you with a small description of that most sinister and deadly of vampires, Count Dracula. 

'As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder....a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal.  The Count evidently noticing it, drew back...with a grim sort of smile'  

Reading Challenge: March 2015

19 April 2015

It seems an update on my reading challenge is long overdue!  This is the little bundle of books that I read in March and five seems to be the magic number as I have read that amount every month so far. Without further ado, I present to you books 11 to 15 - 

11. The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
12. Post Office - Charles Bukowski
14. Joyland - Stephen King
15. The Last Banquet - Jonathan Grimwood

March started with a book that's been on my bookshelf for a while but I had never quite got around to picking up. With an appealing cover and plenty of good reviews, I dug in hopeful for a mysterious and intriguing read. I have to say I was sorely disappointed with The Night Circus.  Whilst Morgenstern's depictions of the Circus are at times beautiful, I soon found the descriptions to be endless, pointless and in lieu of any satisfying plot or story.  I really dislike being critical of any book but I feel that I have to be honest. This really was not my cup of tea but I know that for many this is one of their absolute favourites.  I would love to know what you made of it.

And now for something completely different.... my first ever Charles Bukowski novel - Post Office. Henry Chinaski is a boozy, tell-it-like-it-is old cynic who relays the daily grind of working for the US postal service.  The story is far from dull, due to its interesting but flawed protagonist and it left me with the harsh reminder that life is short.  A bit of of a wake-up call, that if we are not careful we will spend our blink-of-an-eye, three score years and ten working in a monotonous and tedious job that we really do not give a stuff about.  Hmmmm, food for thought!  If that isn't gloomy enough, you can find some more dirty realism in these novels here.

Next up was book 13, Etta and Otto and Russell and James by debut writer Emma Hooper and oh what a beauty it is!  Far and away my favourite of this bunch and also the best book I have read this year so far.  I actually picked this up in the library after it caught my eye and I had a vague recollection of reading good things about it.  (I'm so glad I did).  Although the story of an 80 year old lady embarking on a 2.000 mile trek to the sea might not be something I would normally go for, I was completely taken with how skilfully and beautifully written this is.  Each word is chosen with such care, giving the story a lovely rhythmic flow which is almost song-like and offers Etta's tale a warm and gentle feel without being twee.  The novel, at times, left me feeling nostalgic for something, I'm not quire sure what - the past, my childhood.  I don't quite know.  Anyway, whenever you are next browsing in the library or your local bookshop, have a little look out for this one.  If you do decide to give this gorgeous story a try, let me know what you think in the comments.

O.K. so with a lot to live up to I moved on to my next novel Joyland by Stephen King.  I actually avoided reading this for a while because I thought it was another of King's horror-fests, turns out it's more of a slightly spooky crime/coming-of-age novel.  It was fairly entertaining and I whipped right through it but I am certain that the author has written much finer novels.  I just need to be brave or maybe keep the light on at night for a few weeks.

Finally, I rounded off the month with a Mr. B's Book Emporium suggestion - The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood.  Quite an odd little book for me, this is another book I would not normally choose myself.  The writing was good and the story kept me fairly  interested.  However, I cannot say whether I actually enjoyed it or not!  The novel is set in Eighteenth Century France and and follows the life of Jean-Marie d'Aumout from orphan to soldier to spy.  His obsession with killing and eating an assortment of animals made me feel a little bit icky - e.g. three snake bouillabaisse, if you will!

So, after my little blogging break, I feel that I have written quite the essay on my March reading wrap-up here.  I hope you are all on track with your reading challenges.  Until next time....


A Reading Ritual (Spring Edition #1)

28 March 2015

I have just finished reading this, my first Stephen King novel would you believe?  Joyland is more of a crime mystery/coming-of-age story compared to the author's usual horror-fests.  I thought I would ease myself in gently.  Set in a theme park in the 1970s, Joyland is a fairly entertaining and easy read with a likeable main character.  However, I am sure there are better King novels out there.  I'll definitely have to be brave and move on to the stronger stuff.  Oh and as for my reading ritual, this time Zippy and Reese joined me too.