Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

I am about to make a bold statement: this is my favourite Pratchett ever (so far – as I am reading them in order).

I was late to discovering Pratchett. Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse is a big fan so I decided I should give the Discworld novels a go, especially once the beautiful hardback books were published.

I have to admit that sometimes I am not entirely sure what has happened in the stories but I have always enjoyed them. However, ‘Pyramids’ seems to have changed that. I managed to keep the thread of the story even without chapters (that has really taken some getting used to). ‘Pyramids’ is infused with Pratchett’s gentle humour and witty observations that create his Discworld parallels to our world. Their version of Ancient Egypt is highly ridiculous with a whole host of highly comical and equally ridiculous characters. Yet, the odd voice of reason comes in the shape of our hero, Teppic, his ghostly father and a camel (well, he offers thoughts of reason).

This book has certainly reignited my joy in being part of Discworld. I accept that chapters are not a thing and sometimes I will need a character list to keep me on track, but the escapism is totally worth it (and the giggles).

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Bookstagram community has been one of the best spaces I have found. It has brought together so many fabulous bookish people and it has encouraged me to read all sorts of books that I may not have read or have had on the to-be-read pile for a while.

My latest read-along (that I actually managed to complete and stick to) was ‘The Moonstone’, as part of the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’. This has been a lovely community where, in the month of November, we read a section a week shared our thoughts. There have been great discussions and such a friendly atmosphere (and the end of November does not mean that the chatting stops).

And, now to the novel, my only regret has been that I did not read this sooner. ‘The Moonstone’ is a story I have known for a long time thanks to TV and Radio adaptations, but I had never got round to picking the book up. What wasted time that was because I absolutely loved this!

From the moment I started this book I could not put it down. Collins created a wonderful detective story (some say the first modern one in fact) from the word go. You are drawn into the narrative by how ‘The Moonstone’ ended up leaving India and arriving in England. Even that simple introduction is shrouded in mystery just as the rest of the tale is. Collins creates a colourful cast of characters who become mixed up in the mystery of ‘The Moonstone’. However, together, they eventually also manage to solve the mystery of this magnificent stone.

This is a tale that has stood the test of time as it can still engage modern audiences. However, it is also a novel of its time with references specific to the period but all of that is the context of the era.

Reading ‘The Moonstone’ has firmly cemented Wilkie Collins in the territory of one of my favourite authors of the classics. I can not wait for the next read with the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’, which is ‘The Woman in White’ in January.

Nemesis by Agatha Christie

I was excited when ‘Maidens of Murder’ picked ‘Nemesis’ (a Miss Marple mystery) as the November book club choice. This was a story that, although I had never read, I loved from the days of the BBC adaptations of the novels with the wonderful Joan Hickson in the role of our elderly sleuth. So, when I picked up the book, I had high hopes…

However, I was left a little deflated when I started. The pace of the novel was slow – and I think I had been so spoiled from being familiar with the story that I wanted action to happen almost immediately. This is not a bad novel at all, I just found it a struggle to get into. Although, once we did reach a little bit more of the action and the tension began to build, I found myself more engrossed. There was possibly a little too much scene-setting, as a cold case rather than a current investigation is the main focus.

There is, however, all the way through, the charm we are all used to when we join a Miss Marple investigation. There is great characterisation as Miss Marple meets her cast of characters on her coach holiday paid for by her ‘Nemesis’ – our dear friend Mr Rafiel.

Yet the one big question I had by the end (other than why the ITV versions always strayed from the novels) is why, in the TV adaptations, does she always take a nephew with her on this trip – when, in the novel, she is such a tough, independent lady? Let’s give Miss Marple all the credit she deserves.

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig

2018 has been a funny old year so far, but one constant has been my enjoyment of books by Matt Haig, both fictional and factual. I did, in fact, read his Children’s Christmas fiction first and was intrigued when this year he released his first Children’s book that really tackled those issues he can be so outspoken about on social media.

Although ‘The Truth Pixie’ is a Children’s book it is a book, I think everyone should read it. The Truth Pixie is a little bit of an unhappy soul at the start of the book. However, her chance encounter with a little girl who is finding things tough helps them both find some happiness. In fact, the truth our pixie friends speaks is a truth about life that we should all try to learn from.

This book, for me, was not only a beautiful read from cover to cover, with great illustrations from Chris Mould, but will also be a little reference guide. You can turn to a number of pages and you will find a spark of inspiration or motivation for any number of difficult situations.

So, I urge adults and children alike to read this book – or why not read it together? After all, most of my fondest memories with those I love are of when we shared a book together!

To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

When I was in Canada (a blog post will be coming soon) I ran out of books – not cool for a Bookworm – but luckily we knew that there was the Indigo Spirit Bookshop which would no doubt save the day. And it did!

I chose a holiday read – mainly because I was a little bit overwhelmed by choice, but also was worried about the different formats on my bookshelves (such a book geek I know). So, for the second time, Netflix inspired my book choice with ‘To All the Boys I Loved Before’, as I had watched the film and always want to read the books if there is one.

This is such a lovely read. It is a girly YA book, but there is something rather wonderful about it. For me, it was a great coming of age novel and seemed very relateable for anyone who ever had a teenage crush growing up. The journey of Lara-Jean goes on is one that I am pretty sure we all went on. (Although, I am till glad that I did not grow up with social media).

However, the real joy and emotional ride for me was the family unit with their dad bringing up 3 girls. I may have shed a little tear at the sweet moments in the story where they had family traditions and kept the memory of their mum alive.

This was an easy read but enjoyable – perfect for a relaxing holiday (or it can make it into the festive read category as it does cross into Christmas) – and I may well find my way to read the rest of the series (and rewatch the film).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

With Netflix releasing its adaptation of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, I decided it was time that I tried to read some of Jackson’s work.

I am usually not one for spooky novels but, as I have started to want to read books that fit seasons this year, I made a change. I could not put this book down once I started it. Shirley Jackson writes in a wonderfully accessible style which sucks you in – and also adds to how much she manages to spook her readers. Although it was clear that the TV adaptation was only really inspired by, rather than fully based, on the book both are wonderful in their own way.

Again, I do not want to spoil the novel for anyone who may want to read it. However, if you do, you will be as drawn into the mystery of Hill House as its inhabitants. I did not find it a terrifying read but it certainly can play on your mind as the story unfolds. What is real in the house and what isn’t? Is everyone having the same experience or is there more to it?

I am certainly glad that I chose to read this book in October, as it is idea for autumn. I am also glad that I did not assume I knew the story from the Netflix series – well, for me anyway. So, I have now discovered another author whose books I would like to read more.

Have you read any Shirley Jackson novels? What are your thoughts?

The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

So, I spotted that this was considered a must-read for autumn, which was the final little piece of encouragement I needed to pick up a copy – as, basically, I wanted to read it anyway – haha!

This is a brilliant thriller and I was genuinely surprised it was a debut novel. It is a clever and sophisticated plot with a twist on what seemed like every page. The tale is told in the past as well as the present – giving us the context around the strange events playing out, or almost, repeated in Eddie’s life. I genuinely can not say much about this book but I do not want to even hint at a spoiler for anyone who would want to pick it up. However, I would have liked a little bit more of the ‘spooky’ side of the tale – but this does not negatively impact the tale at allĀ merely a personal preference.

I also could not believe the final chapter – it was not what I was expecting at all – maybe some of you would have spotted it, but I didn’t, so it was an excellent twist.

The Chalk Man – which works on more than one level in the story – is correctly identified as an excellent autumn/winter read. It is ideal for those dark nights when many of us like to be a little bit spooked.

Really excited to see what C J Tudor’s next book brings…

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I had spotted this book in the Bookstagram world, so when it was a bargain then I had to pick up a copy. Now, I had no idea what this novel was about, just that it was by the same author as ‘Gone Girl’.

When I started reading I was instantly hooked as there were so many strands to this novel that you simply wanted to know ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why, How’. There is a clever study of human nature and psychological throughout. The interactions between the characters are absolutely fascinating. Especially, when you realise the impact that someone’s actions and attitudes can have on someone else. Camille and her mother have a very strange and strained relationship but as secrets are uncovered there are even more surprises ahead for all. As well as the solution to the mystery gripping Wind Gap.

This book is not a comfortable read, as it deals with some very difficult issues, but it is compelling. I am glad I have read it and it will certainly stay with me for a long time to come – a good autumnal choice.

Have you read any Gillian Flynn novels?

Troilus and Cressida

Arriving at The RSC on a Saturday evening (two weeks ago – oops) in October, I realised that I did not have a clue what Troilus and Cressida is about. All I knew was that there was a ‘Mad Max’ feel to the production (confession number two – never seen it) and there had been a lot of positive hype about the production we were about to see.

Just before the play began, Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse offered me a whistle-stop synopsis which basically told me it was set during the Trojan War (something else that is not my forte). However, once the action began, my lack of background knowledge was not a problem. This story contains everything that I think makes a good play – humour, intrigue, action and a little bit of tragedy. You certainly can’t fully categorise this play into any niche as it is peppered with a little bit of everything.

Central to the plot is the power struggle between Greece and Troy. Well, in fact, power struggles as a whole. There are a lot of games played throughout to really find out who is top dog, or so that someone gets exactly what they want. Our star-crossed lovers (I know, traditionally a different play) are caught up amongst all the power plays, mainly thanks to Pandarus. This play certainly keeps you on your toes as the tension builds and the action unfolds.

The setting of this play may not be traditional but it works. The costumes are stunning, the set so versatile and the casting excellent. Although some characters may not be their ‘traditional’ gender, it is certainly the best actors in the role in every case.

The percussion, from the imagination of Evelyn Glennie, is perfect. Wonderfully performed throughout, it gels with the whole production.

So, for dare I say it, little known Shakespeare play, I was enthralled (and certainly need to brush up on my ancient history) and, for me, it has one of the best closing lines ever – ‘And at that time bequeath you my diseases’ (delivered perefectly by Oliver Ford-Davies).

War Horse (The UK Tour)

In this centenary year of the end of World War One, I can not think of a more emotional and wonderful play to have seen.

I have been a fan of the writing of Michael Morpurgo since I was a child. War Horse is, of course, one of the books I have read and taken to heart. So, over the last decade, this show has been on my to-be-seen list and it was so exciting to tick this one of the off the list on Saturday.

You arrive at the theatre already very full of emotions – well I did. World War One evokes so many emotions (as any war does) that you know you need to be prepared for quite an experience in the theatre. As soon as the show starts, you are engrossed in what is unfolding on the stage. It is so simple and yet so powerful. The beautiful use of folk music sets the scene and stirs the emotions. The beautiful ‘puppets’ that are the horse (and goose) almost make you forget they are puppets as they bond with the characters on the stage.

The reality of the experiences of those men in 1914-18 are not glossed over, but handled with care. Nothing is hidden when it comes to the horror of war for the soldiers, animals and civilians but it is cleverly portrayed and it more thought-provoking than shocking.

Something that this story does, which I always like to make the students I teach think about, is emphasise that these men were doing what their country told themĀ  was right – on whichever side, the ordinary men were all victims of war.

By the end of this beautiful play I was quite a jumble of emotions, as you are fully invested in every single aspect of the story. The bond that Albert and Joey have is beautiful but also the support Joey and Topthorn gave others that they encountered is deeply moving. I may have shed some tears as I thought about all those people who had been touched by WWI and those of us who still are.

If you can catch this show, please do – every single member of this cast does the memory of World War One justice.