Book Review: Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley is the fourth book in the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Agatha Raisin is always a fun and entertaining read and this was no exception. Cosy village murder mystery at its finest! 4 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

After six gruelling months spent in London, Agatha Raisin returns to her beloved Cotswolds village of Carsely – and to her attractive neighbour, James Lacey. True, James is less than thrilled to see her, but Agatha is soon consoled by a sensational murder.

The victim, found in a field, is hiker Jessica Tartinck, who spent her life enraging wealthy landowners by insisting on her walking club’s right to hike over their properties. And now she has been found in a cornfield, battered over the head. Agatha lures the reluctant James into helping with her investigation – and there are so many leads to follow, for Jessica’s fellow walkers seem able, even willing to commit her murder!

Favourite Quote

‘It’s not that they suffer from material poverty,’ he said. ‘It’s a poverty of the mind, wouldn’t you say?’

Deborah, head down, murmured, ‘Oh, ignore them.  They might have knives.’

(From Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley, page 103)

Review

I mentioned in one of my Bookish Reflections post earlier in the year, that I was given a bag full of books by a family member.  In it were a handful of Agatha Raisin books, some I had read, others I hadn’t.  And, recalling how I attempted to read a few of the books out of order and not enjoying the experience…and one of the books in said bag being the next one in the proper reading order, I thought I would revisit these cosy mysteries, so expect a handful in quick succession 😉

I really enjoy these books.  They don’t require too much effort on my part, and they are always entertaining.  The characters are colourful, especially Agatha with her mean streak which you can visibly see fading the longer she is in Carsely. I found this book to be the funniest I’ve read so far.  Fast-paced and witty, this is cosy village murder mystery at its finest.  I enjoy the interplay between Agatha and James, their sometimes awkward friendship reads as authentic.

There’s a bit of an extensive cast of characters in this book, mainly because the ramblers come from another Cotswold village, but it’s not so vast that you can’t keep track of who’s who.  There’s nothing overly complex here but there are plenty of suspects to ensure that the story remains engaging. Light and undemanding, this is the sort of stress-free reading I love.

I had already read the next book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage, but as soon as I finished this one, I re-read it and updated the review posted on this site.  You can find that here.  Soon I hope to get around to reading book six, Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – November 2020

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

My main focus for November was NaNoWriMo, so posting around here went a little quite.  However, I did get a few reviews written in November, even if I didn’t get around to posting them all until the first few days of December. Surprisingly, my level of reading didn’t slow in November as it usually does when I’m concentrating on NaNo, so there is as always, an ever-growing pile of books awaiting to be reviewed here…

On my list are a couple of Christmas reads from last year, which I didn’t get around to reviewing, as well as some new Festive reads for 2020, because Festive Reads Fortnight begins on 11 December. If anyone has any Christmas or wintry themed book recommendations I would gladly hear them.  Also, any author out there with a Christmas / winter-themed book / collection / poetry pamphlet etc, who would like to have their work reviewed on Sammi Loves Books, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can find all the information regarding Review Requests here. Ignore the “Currently Closed To Review Requests” status; I’m closed to general requests at this time but not Christmas-themed reads.

As we draw towards the end of the year, naturally my mind turns to my plans for this site for 2021.  I am thinking of starting a Classic Reads Book Club or Reading Challenge.  If anyone would be interested in joining in, please do let me know, and I can finalise and share the book list.

I am also thinking of moving away from reviewing absolutely everything I read (because it is getting a little exhausting, and I’m struggling to find the time to keep up with it).  Instead, my focus here would be on review requests and book blogging, with more informal posts about what I’m reading, planning on reading, and what I’ve been enjoying.

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

  • None

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • The Mezzotint by M. R. James

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • None this month – woohoo!

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • My reading time has been limited to physical books recently rather than ebooks / digital books to help reduce my screen time…

November’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • A handful of M.R. James short stories (Halloween Reads 2020)
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • The Shakespeare Secret by J.L Carrell

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading and reviewing in December

  • Agatha Raisin and The Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and The Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • The Gift of The Magi by O. Henry
  • A Strange Christmas Game by Charlotte Riddell

Basic Book Review Challenge 2020

To post (at least) one book review a week, to reach a target of 52 over the course of the year.

Month started at: 39 / 52

Month finished at: 45 / 52

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started last year, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • No new challenges have been completed since August 😦. I can see this challenge rolling over into 2021…

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 7 / 12

Total: 15 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • Completed

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 21 / 20 * Completed *

  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • The Shakespeare Secret by J.L. Carrell
  • Plus, 3 books I read ages ago and / or no longer wish to keep (Evermore by Alyson Noel, Odin’s Wolves by Giles Kristian, Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl), a Sweet-shop recipe book, and a knitting book

Short Story Review: A Selection of Ghost Stories by M.R. James

For my Halloween Reads 2020, I read four spooky short stories by M.R. James, and although I am going to review each one separately – and briefly – I thought a single post was a more efficient use of time and blog space 😉

Count Magnus

Summary – Mr Wraxhall, a travel-writer, goes to Sweden, where he comes across the interesting character of Count Magnus in the local history. But interest quickly turns into something far more deadly…

Favourite Quote – “…and found myself (as before) turning in at the churchyard gate, and, I believe, singing or chanting some such words as, ‘Are you awake, Count Magnus? Are you asleep, Count Magnus?’…”

Review – It took me a little while to get into this story, but when I did I found the sense of place that M.R. James conjured was captivating.  As the story progressed, it gained momentum and the tension certainly increased. Although there are certainly horror elements to the tale, I think it’s the psychological element of this one that makes it memorable.

Rating

The Mezzotint

Summary – The story of a picture that is so much more than it seems at first glance…

Favourite Quote – “What he saw made him very nearly drop the candle on the floor, and he declares now that if he had been left in the dark at that moment he would have had a fit.”

Review – The Mezzotint was my favourite of the four short stories I read.  It was tense, atmospheric and dramatic. Some paintings do have eerie qualities to them, so for this one to achieve what it did and tell such a sinister story…all I can say is that it was the perfect Halloween Read! Chilling. Highly recommended!

Rating

‘Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’

Summary – A college professor takes a short holiday on the East Coast, and is asked by a colleague to check out a site for an archaeological dig. But he finds so much more than he expects…

Favourite Quote – “Few people can resist the temptation to try a little amateur research in a department quite outside their own, if only for the satisfaction of showing how successful they would have been had they only taken it up seriously.”

Review – This story took a little while to get going, but once it did, my! As I mentioned in the previous two reviews, the tension builds quite dramatically, and I must confess, unexpectedly, because at first, I wasn’t quite sure I was that hooked into the story.  There’s an almost nightmarish quality to this one, so if like me, you feel the beginning is too slow, stick with it. I wasn’t disappointed, and I hope neither will you be.

Rating

Casting the Runes

Summary – Mr Karswell writes books on esoteric subjects, but good luck to the reviewer whose finds his writing less than remarkable…

Favourite Quote – “Why, my dear, just as present Mr Karswell is a very angry man.  But I don’t know much about him otherwise, except that he is a person of wealth, his address is Lufford Abbey, Warwickshire, and he’s an alchemist, apparently, and wants to tell us all about…”

Review – My least favourite of the four stories, this one felt it took a great deal of time to get going, and probably suffered for being the last one I read.  I thought it more of a mystery with an almost fantasy bent to it than a truly ghostly read like the other three. The story was interesting, and I was keen to see how the tale was resolved, but I wasn’t particularly drawn to the characters. The locations were interesting too, but unfortunately, this probably wasn’t a good choice on my part for a Halloween Read.

Rating

Book Review: The Shakespeare Secret by J.L. Carrell

The Shakespeare Secret is the first book by J.L Carrell to feature Kate Stanley.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A complex, fast-paced adventure through the world of Shakespeare, both past and present, which kept me entertained. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A modern serial killer – hunting an ancient secret.

A woman is left to die as the rebuilt Globe theatre burns. Another woman is drowned like Ophelia, skirts swirling in the water. A professor has his throat slashed open on the steps of Washington’s Capitol building.

A deadly serial killer is on the loose, modelling his murders on Shakespeare’s plays. But why is he killing? And how can he be stopped?

Favourite Quote

The book that had rolled from the presses at last was a beautiful thing – a blatant bid to shift the author from the rowdy, disreputable world of the theatre to the eternal truths of poetry.

(From The Shakespeare Secret by J. L. Carrell, page 55)

Review

For the most part, I enjoyed this story.  It was an entertaining tale, full of action and adventure, and with plenty of twists and turns, reminding me in no small way of the writing of Dan Brown, especially the Da Vinci Code.  I had an idea of how the story was going to end, but I couldn’t quiet guess how it would get there, so it certainly kept me interested.

The story is presented as a Shakespeare play, with the modern story taking place during the “Acts” and the historical flashbacks / contexts taking place in the “Interludes” between. I understand the reason behind doing this, but I wonder if the book might have read better without the historical scenes.  The Acts were far longer than the interludes and the modern story complicated enough without stepping back in time to another cast of characters, whose own storylines themselves were convoluted.  Political and religious intrigues of the Elizabethan era, not to mention family trees, are complex, and when there is more than one character called “Will”, or the person in question is being referred to by their family name or title…yeah, it can be hard to keep up.

If you don’t like Shakespeare, or have no interest in his plays and sonnets, you probably won’t enjoy this book. Neither will you appreciate the references to his writing and life, made throughout the story, which were cleverly woven into the plot. Also, if you take Shakespeare and everything about him quite seriously, again you might not enjoy this book, especially if you have a firm view on whether Shakespeare was really the man behind the works attributed to him. But if you can separate the fictional entertainment from the scholarly aspects of the subject, I do think you will enjoy it.

I loved all the locations the story meanders through, some of which I’ve visited myself – Stratford-upon-Avon, and some you wouldn’t necessarily think of – Valladolid, Spain. The author clearly knows a lot about the subject, and this knowledge filters down through the storytelling.

It wasn’t until I was writing the review for The Shakespeare Secret that I realised the author has penned another book featuring Kate Stanley, Haunt Me Still, inspired by Macbeth.  Having been well-entertained with the first book, I would gladly give this second book a read.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy is the third book, chronologically, in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A fairy tale-like story full of beautiful landscapes and adventure. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

The Horse and his Boy is a stirring and dramatic fantasy story that finds a young boy named Shasta on the run from his homeland with the talking horse, Bree. When the pair discover a deadly plot by the Calormen people to conquer the land of Narnia, the race is on to warn the inhabitants of the impending danger and to rescue them all from certain death.

Favourite Quote

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

(From The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, page 130)

Review

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. It had a fairy tale quality to it which I liked. I didn’t expect most of the tale to take place outside of Narnia, in the kingdom to south called Calormen, but I found the location fascinating.

One of my favourite parts was the description of the journey north, and the different landscapes they passed through as they try to reach Narnia. I liked the characters.  Bree and Shasta, and Hwin and Aravis were interesting and I liked how Shasta and Aravis interacted. Aravis’s shy, gentle talking horse was my favourite. And, although the main characters were different, we still got to meet the Pevensies, who were now all grown up.

What I really didn’t like about the book was that you can’t get away from the undertone of racism in some of descriptions of the people. This certainly dates the book back to a time when this was acceptable, and it did hamper my enjoyment of it, hence the loss of a star, though I wonder if it should have lost another…I did struggle to rate this book because of this.

I noted a couple of similarities between Lewis’s Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The first was the use of the name “Bree”.  The second was a description of the city of Tashbaan, which reminded me a little of Minas Tirith.  I still prefer Middle Earth over Narnia, both in terms of location and stories, but I am really enjoying this series and am happy to be working my way through it, from beginning to end.

Chronologically-speaking, The Horse and His Boy, is the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia, but it was the fifth book to be published. The next book in the series is Prince Caspian, which I am really looking forward to reading. I hope I get around to doing so soon.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – September and October 2020

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

I’m super late in posting this, and did wonder if it might not just be better holding off for another couple of weeks and then include my November bookish content with it…The problem with that idea was that I’ve been neglecting the blog and so there isn’t any.  Sigh…

I was pretty good at reading and catching up with my reviews in September and early October, and the majority of books I worked my way through were ones that were heading for my “Read, Review, Rehome” pile, so I’ve made a small (read: barely perceptible 😉 ) dent in my To Read List.

November’s review list is slowly growing, thanks to the three spooky short stories by M.R. James which I read for this year’s Halloweens Read.  And next month, with the arrival of the festive season, we have Festive Reads Fortnight. If any there are any authors with Christmas-themes stories out there who would like to see their books reviewed as part of Festive Reads Fortnight, please do get in touch.  You can find all the information regarding Review Requests here. Ignore the “Currently Closed To Review Requests” status; I’m closed to general requests at this time but not Christmas-themed reads.

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

  • None

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

Now here’s the thing…*cough*… a great big bag full of books found their way into my house in September, the result of a combination of going on holiday for a few days (and while I’m on holiday I have to buy books as I just can’t seem to resist them), and seeing family that we hadn’t seen since March.  I’ll not list them all here because I’d quickly run out of space, but here are a few highlights from the newly acquired volumes:

  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • The Man in the Green Coat by Carola Dunn

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • My reading time has been limited to physical books recently rather than ebooks / digital books to help reduce my screen time…

August’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvatar

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading and reviewing in November

  • A handful of M.R. James short stories (Halloween Reads 2020)
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • The Shakespeare Secret by J.L Carrell

Basic Book Review Challenge 2020

To post (at least) one book review a week, to reach a target of 52 over the course of the year.

Month started at: 33 / 52

Month finished at: 39 / 52

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started last year, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • No new challenges have been completed since August 😦

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 7 / 12

Total: 15 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • Complete! Woohoo! With a review posted of “Dunstan” by Conn Iggulden, I now have an author listed under each category of my A to Z Index! Yay!

Challenge status: 2 / 2

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 14 / 20

  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Lights, Camera by Carolyn Keene
  • Death at The Priory by James Ruddock
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Book Review: Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Very readable, this fictionalised account of Dunstan is interesting and entertaining.  A very good read! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

In the year 937, King Æthelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to throw a great spear into the north. His dream of a kingdom of all England will stand or fall on one field and the passage of a single day.

At his side is Dunstan of Glastonbury, full of ambition and wit, perhaps enough to damn his soul. His talents will take him from the villages of Wessex to the royal court, to the hills of Rome – from exile to exaltation.

Through Dunstan’s vision, by his guiding hand, England may come together as one great country – or fall back into anarchy and misrule . . .

From one of our finest historical writers, Dunstan is an intimate portrait of a priest and performer, a visionary, a traitor and confessor to kings – the man who changed the fate of England.

Favourite Quote

All the philosophers of Greece and Rome had long sunny days to stroll and think.  In England, we had to build roofs or freeze.

(From Dunstan by Conn Iggulden, page 276)

Review

It has been many years since I read Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series, charting the life of Julius Caesar.  Since then, I have acquired a number of his books, including those of The War of the Roses series and The Conqueror series.  Yet, with a very full and extensive “To Be Read” list, those books remain hidden on shelves, unread.  However, a chance find in a bookshop last month, saw me stumbling across Dunstan, and thus I returned to the stories of one of my favourite historical fiction authors.

Conn Iggulden writes believable, authentic historical fiction.  His prose, descriptions and character portrayals ensure the reader is fully immersed in the period the story is set.  The Anglo-Saxon world felt very real as I read Dunstan’s story.  I had heard of Dunstan prior to reading this, but this depiction brought him to life and made him relatable, even across the span of over a thousand years…

So, Dunstan…who was he?  A popular saint in England in the centuries after his death, he is mostly remembered for building Glastonbury Abbey and for monastic reform in England. He witnessed the fight for and the cementing of a nation, under seven different kings, with all the political intrigue and bloody fighting that went with it, as well as travelling to and from Rome, and at one time fleeing from the kingdom because he had insulted the king!

I enjoyed the descriptions of a number of the settings: Glastonbury Abbey and Tor, the main settlement of Anglo-Saxon territory, Winchester, and the bustling town of London, now growing in importance. I also liked reading about Dunstan’s ability as a master craftsman.  It is clear that he was a very talented man, and though he was made a saint, he arguably didn’t act very much like one. He could be bullying, manipulative, vengeful…how close this portrayal is to the truth, I cannot attest, but can people climb so high without getting their hands dirty, even a little? I would like to think so, but… Regardless, this made for a very good, very interesting, very believable story.

Highly recommended to those who enjoy historical fiction and / or tenth century history.

Rating

Book Review: Death at the Priory by James Ruddick

Death at The Priory: Love, Sex and Murder in Victorian England, by James Ruddick.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A well-written true crime mystery and an in-depth look into the role of women in the Victorian period. Compelling reading! 4 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

In 1875, the beautiful and vivacious widow Florence Ricardo married Charles Bravo, a dashing barrister. The marriage seemed a happy one, but one night, four months after the wedding, Bravo collapsed. For the next fifty-five hours, with some of London’s most distinguished physicians in attendance, Charles suffered a slow and agonizing death.  All the doctors agreed: Charles Bravo had been poisoned.

The dramatic investigation that followed was covered in sensational detail by the press. So great was public interest in the case that coverage of it eclipsed the prime minister’s negotiations with Egypt, the Prince of Wales’ Indian tour and the conflict in the Balkans. The finger of suspicion pointed at various times at suicide, at Mrs Cox the housekeeper, at George Griffiths, a stableman with a grudge, and at the remarkable figure of Florence Bravo herself.

Death at the Priory is a gripping historical reconstruction and startling portrait of a woman, a marriage and a society. The brilliant conclusion uses new evidence discovered by the author to demonstrate conclusively who really murdered Charles Bravo.

Favourite Quote

“An unhappy woman with easy access to weedkiller had to be watched carefully.”

(From Death at The Prioy, by James Ruddick, page 172)

Review

It’s not often that I review non-fiction on Sammi Loves Books, because I tend to dip in and out of it, but I read “Death at The Priory” from cover to cover, and was completely gripped by the case.

I enjoy reading about true crime, especially if in an historical context, and especially if said crime remained unsolved, and if it could be classed as a type of “locked room” mystery.  I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the death of Charles Bravo before, given my interest in Victorian history and true crime.  By all accounts, it was covered with relish in the media of the day, eclipsing events on the world stage, even.

Death at the Priory is extremely well-written.  The evidence is presented clearly, in an easy to understand, easy to digest manner, without becoming heavy or requiring the author to dress it up with dramatic prose.  Although some passages are quite graphic – yes, there is a reference to sex in the book’s subtitle – it does help in providing a context in which Charles Bravo’s death occurred.

Florence Bravo, wife of the dead man, was certainly an interesting woman to read about, with a colourful life, and a tragic ending. She had been unfortunate in as much as she’d had to endure two unhappy marriages to husbands who were abusive towards her. The prevailing opinion of the day was that this was a woman’s lot, and she had to suffer it with grace and silence.  Florence, unconventionally for the time, did not believe she had to accept this.  She believed she had a right to be happy and if that meant away from her husband, she would not be forced to remain with him…

Charles Bravo is not painted as a sympathetic character at all, and I found myself having little concern for him in his plight.  I thought the author’s conclusions in his attempt to solve the case were definitely plausible, but of course, after the passage of so much time, and with all those being involved long dead, we will never know the truth for certain.

A fascinating read, one which I recommend to those interested in true crime, or who are interested in the role of women in Victorian society.

Rating

Book Review: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Enchanting and unforgettable, a wonderful fantasy read for both children and adults alike. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Narnia…the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch’s sinister spell.

Favourite Quote

There were so many to choose from, but in the end I picked this one:

“…Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”

(From The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, page 17)

Review

It’s been many years since I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and having read the first book (chronologically speaking, not in terms of publication order) in The Chronicles of Narnia earlier in the year, I thought it was time to read the most famous instalment in the series.  I must confess to feelings of slight trepidation as I opened the book.  I didn’t enjoy The Magician’s Nephew as much as I hoped I would, and so couldn’t help but wonder if I would find this book as enjoyable reading it as an adult as I did as a child…

My fears were completely unfounded.  I loved it.  The characters were engaging, the world-building enchanting and the story itself, certainly unforgettable.  I enjoyed reading it as much as I did when I was younger.  It’s nice to know that the story has stood the test of time (at least for myself).  There’s a comfort aspect to reading something you enjoyed as a child.

The characters, of course, are memorable: Aslan’s personification of “good” versus the White Witch’s “evil”, Mr Tumnus the Faun and the four children.  Lucy was always my favourite of the latter, but this time round, I did feel a lot more sympathy towards Edmund.  There were a few I had forgotten until I started reading: Mr and Mrs Beaver, but perhaps more importantly, a rather well-known seasonal figure…

The Christian themes that are woven through the tale / inspired the tale, are clearly visible to me now, though at a younger age they probably didn’t even register with me.  I have always been one to get swept up in a story without necessarily paying attention to hidden themes and subtext.  However, this time I did notice but I didn’t find them overbearing.  I just noted it and moved on as the story carried me away.

I liked how the narrator was separate from the story and spoke directly to the reader. It meant that the tale was peppered with little snippets, such as hoping the reader never felt as sad as…, which really added something to the storytelling.

One of my favourite lines comes from the dedication at the start of the book, and I just think it is so magical:

“…But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Over all, I still prefer Tolkien’s writing, and Middle Earth to Narnia, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed this book any less because of it, and I have no doubt, I will return to re-read it, again, and again, and again…

The next book in The Chronicles of Narnia is The Horse and His Boy, which I don’t think I read as a child…

Rating

Book Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles is the third novel by Arthur Conan Doyle to feature Sherlock Holmes.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Dramatic and atmospheric, The Hound of the Baskervilles has everything an entertaining and captivating story needs: a legend, a mysterious death and a very eerie setting. Fantastic reading! 5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

It was a brave man who would cross the wild Devon moorlands in darkness.

For the ancient legend of the hound of the Baskervilles had persisted in family history for generations.  Indeed it was Sir Charles’s mysterious death in the grounds of Baskerville Hall that brought Sherlock Holmes to the scene of one of his most famous and intriguing cases.

‘He was running, Watson – running desperately, running for his life, running until he burst his heart and fell dead upon his face…’ What had it been, looming through the darkness, that could have inspired such terror? A spectral hound loosed from hell; or a creature of infinite patience and cunning, with a smiling face and a murderous heart…

Favourite Quote

‘It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.’

(From The Hound of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, page 12)

Review

I really enjoyed The Hound of The Baskervilles, much more so than the previous one, even though I did like The Sign of Four too.  Whereas The Sign of Four was melodramatic and came across as a little outlandish in places, The Hound of The Baskervilles was dramatic and atmospheric, and completely captivating.

Our first meeting with Dr James Mortimer is strange to say the least, as during that initial conversation he tells Holmes, “I confess that I covet your skull.”. With that revelation out of the way, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson learn what has brought their guest to them that morning…a tale of a curse that has already claimed a victim.

The legend of the hound of the Baskervilles sets up this mystery very nicely. And, as much as I enjoy superstitions and the paranormal, the ending was very good, very sound, and very clever.

The descriptions of the moor and tor are certainly evocative and help create the eeriness required to make the legend ring with the sound of authenticity, and even possibility.  Will you guess the culprit before it is revealed?  Probably.  I did.  However, this is a classic, and is perhaps the most famous and well-known of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and as such, should not be missed.

Rating