Tuesday, 30 September 2008

2009 Challenges

January 1 - December 31, 2009
The A to Z challenge has changed hands. Becky will now be hosting this annual challenge beginning in 2009 (Patti has started the ABC Readers Yahoo Group which is a sister site to the challenge!). The 2009 A to Z Challenge has several options for participants to choose from:
Option A: Read authors A to Z. Commit to reading 26 books theoretically speaking.
Option B: Read titles A to Z. Commit to reading 26 books theoretically speaking.
Option C: Read both authors A to Z and titles A to Z (52 books; this is the challenge Joy created)
Option D: Read internationally A to Z (books representing 26 different countries) (The books could be from international authors (writers from that country); however, it's fine if a book is only set in that country. If need be, instead of countries one could use cities, states, regions, etc. The idea is to use proper place names. If you'd like you could even use a few fictional countries.)
Option E: Read 26 Alphabet books. Embrace your inner child and go visit the children's section!To sign up for 2009, visit the sign up post on the brand new dedicated blog for this challenge! To join the Yahoo group, visit the ABC Readers at Yahoo.

I' going to do option A and B,

Sunday, 28 September 2008

My Thoughts: Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington

This book was a bookring from Bookcrossing, and this will be a very short book review as I really have very little to say about the book. This is a memoir about 3 aboriginal girls (aged 8-15). The girls are of mixed race, as a result the Austrailian Government decided that they should be taken from their homes and trained up for domestic labour. The girls soon realise what is happening and runaway, following the rabbit-proof fence hundreds of miles across Australia to get home. It should be good, right? This book is only 130 pages, it could have done with being longer so the whole thing didn't seem so rushed, just a few moments from the journey are picked out, and the author never manages to depict the girls suffering and determination.

Having said all this, I'm glad I recieved this book as the envelope came stuffed with postcards from all the different places across the world that this book had travelled in the last 4 years.


YA Challenge Book 13/12

Sunday Salon

This has been another poor reading week for me, but when I turned up at school on Monday I found I had to organise English lessons for Friday based around a European theme! This was a huge shock, especially as I was behind with everything else I had to do, because I was ill in bed last Sunday. Anyway it got planned eventually - the originals of fairytales before the Brothers Grimm and Disney got their hands on them and softened them up, the kids loved all the gory bits, and I quite enjoyed reading them so that'll be a book or two added to my wish list.

For Weekly Geeks last week we was supposed to set ourselves a target of things to catch up on, I said my reading, but only managed to finish The Famished Road and start Rabbit Proof Fence so that went down the pan, I didn't even read any short stories this week. As for today, I writing this really early as I'm off to visit my mum for the day, when I get back I'm going to be good and go for a swim, to kick off my keep fit regime, I may manage to read for a little while.
Next week I have Friday off (yay!), a lot of exercise and studying to do, but I plan to read The Stolen Child and Two Caravans, and hopefully start The Hours.

How's your reading week been, has everything gone to plan?

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

My Thoughts: The Famished Road by Ben Okri

This book about the life a a spirit-child, he struggles and fights for his chance to live, and at many times has to fight against the spirits who want him to return to the spirit world.

The book deals with many African political and social problems, including poverty, hunger, lack of stability and the dirty tricks and means used by politicians to capture as man votes as they can. The whole community is filled with spirits and their actions can affect the life of all, yet the boy is the person most affected. He moves between normal life, the spirit world and a time and space where they both converge.

I'll be honest and say that this book was a struggle, I'm sure that their were many references to folk tales, religion and cultural beliefs that I just didn't know enough about to recognise. However, this is a book that I wish I had had the opportunity to study when I was at university, it would have been great to learn about the influences, origins and context of the novel and to attend seminars and hear other peoples views about it.


Book Awards 2: Book 1/10

Other Reviews:

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sunday Salon: A random variety, plus Short Story Sunday

This weeks Sunday Salon is going to include a random mixture of bits and pieces. Firstly, I have to say that reading this week has been slowly, some of that is down to the fact that I started a book I thought I would love and just didn't want to admit to myself that I couldn't be bothered by it, I wasted 3 evenings on A Carnivore's Inquiry, only reading 120 pages when I could had guessed after 30 pages that I would be giving up on this quickly. I also spent 2 evenings with that horrible foggy brain you get before a cold comes out, which has really affected my reading.

I'm now reading The Famished Road, which I'm loving, but wondering how I'm going to review. I'm quite tempted to do a WG style review, so if anyone has any questions about this book that they'd like to ask, ask away here as it will help me structure the review. I'm hoping to finish reading this by mid week.

Talking about Weekly Geeks, this week is catch-up week and while I don't have any outstanding reviews to write up or completed challenges, I have this mammoth reading list for Fall into Reading to tackle, as I really need to catch up with my reading or I won't be completing many challenges in time. So I'm going to try and finish The Famished Road this week, read Coraline and tackle at least one of my bookring reads. Outside of reading, I also need to catch up on my sign language lessons, I haven't been for 9 weeks, largely because of the school holidays (its run at school), but I haven't practised as I should so I've seemingly forgot nearly everything I spent a year learning, and I need to catch up on my A Level course this afternoon.

Less babble about me, now time for Short Story Sunday. This morning I read Keepsakes and Treasures by Neil Gaiman, from his Fragile Things collection. This story is definitely only for adults but is first rate.
This story is about a man who was born to a woman locked away for clinical nymphomania in the 50's, despite being in an asylum she still managed to fall pregnant, and his father can only be one of the men who are supposed to be protecting her. From a young age, the boy has used murder as revenge and punishment for those who harmed him and his mother. His actions are noticed by Mr Alice, one of the world's richest men, but a man who used his money to stop the public finding out who he is. The boy comes to work for Mr Alice for the rest of his life, he is the person who seeks out and fulfills Mr Alice's desires, whether they are business desires or personal ones. Mr Alice's main desire is for young men to have sexual encounters with. The main part of the story centres around Mr Alice's acquisition of the Treasure of Shahinai, a young exquisitely beautiful boy.
This is an excellent story, but avoid if you dislike sexual scenes or bad language.

I also read yesterday Gaiman's excellent story Bitter Grounds, in this story we follow a young man who is clearly bored of life and just looking for an escape. He decides to drive around America, and meets a professor on his way to a lecture. When the professor mysteriously disappears, the man steals his papers and goes to the conference himself, giving a speech about the zombie coffee girls.
These where read for Short Story September

Friday, 19 September 2008

Fall into Reading 2008

This challenge is being held over at Callapidder Days, it starts from the 22nd of September and runs through to December 20th. The idea is to motivate everyone in their reading, you set yourself a goal with a list of books you plan to read in this time frame, and then aim to meet (or beat) your target. I'm hoping this will help me focus in my reading, as I'm a bit slapdash at the moment, and it will set out all the books I need to read for the many challenges I'm falling behind on. I'm doing this a few days early as I'm stuck indoors with a fuzzy head, and a seeming inability to focus on either a film or a book.

My List:

finish The Famished Road, Okri (for 2008 Booker challenge/Unread Authors/Book Awards 2) ***

1. Two Caravans, Lewycka (2nds challenge, and bookring)****

2. The Stolen Child, Donohue (Bookring)****

3. Rabbit Proof Fence, Pilkington (Bookring, YA Challenge) **

4. East of Eden, Steinbeck (Bookcrossing Readalong, Classic Challenge)
5. Out, Kirino (RIP III & Japanese Challenge)

6. The End of Mr Y, Thomas (RIP III)

7. The Ghost Feeler, Wharton (RIP III, Short Story Challenge)

finish The Little Black Book of Stories, Byatt (RIP III, Short Stories Challenge)

8. Selected Tales, Poe (RIP III, Short Stories)

9. V for Vendetta, Moore (Graphic Novel)

10. The Complete Maus, Speigelman (Book Awards 2, The New Classics Challenge)

finish Eldest, Paolini (YA Challenge)

11. The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver (The New Classics Challenge, )

12. Gilead, Robinson (The New Classics Challenge, Book Awards 2)

13. Girlfriend in a Coma, Coupland (2nds Challenge, 2nd Canadian Book Challenge)

14. New Moon, Meyer (Mini Challenge, YA Challenge)

15. Sugar and Other Stories, Byatt (Short Stories Challenge)

16. The Sailor Who Fell with Grace from the Sea, Mishma (Japanese Challenge, 2nds Challenge)

17. The Gathering, Enright (2008 Booker, Book Awards 2)

18. Fugitive Pieces, Micheals (Book Awards 2, The Canadian Book Challenge)

19. Coraline, Gaiman (RIP III, YA Challenge)

20. I Sweep the Sun off Roof Tops, Al-Shaykh (Olympic Challenge)

21. The Book of Chamelons, Agualasa (Olympic Challenge)

22. Allah Is Not Obliged, Kourouma (Olympic Challenge)

23. History: A Novel, Morante (Olympic Challenge)

24. Cry, the Beloved Country, Paton (Olympic Challenge)

Hmm... if I complete this list I will be really chuffed and a little surprised, I also know I have a couple of bookrings which are likely to turn up at some point.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Challenges I'm joining for 2009

This is very early to be joining challenges for 2009, but here goes. I'm joining Becky in 3 of her mini challenges for next year.
The rules are simply to read 2 books by the chosen author within 2009. Becky has chosen 4 authors for the mini challenges and I am partcipating in 3 of these.
My Choices:
Steinbeck = The Pearl & Grapes of Wrath
Defoe = Moll Flanders and ?
Scott Westerfeld = The Uglies and The Pretties.

Looking forward to seeing what ever other challenges are announced and announcing my own!

Short Story September: The Headstrong Historian by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This story can be found here in The New Yorker which has a great selection of short stories.

Nwamgba is looking back over her life, she remembers her fierce stubbonness and determination to marry Obierika despite all the rumours about the infertility which ran through his ancestors. When they marry she suffers many miscarriages, being forced to make sacrifices until her son is born.

Shortly after this birth, her husband dies, Nwamgba decides to send her son to an English school, a decision which leaves her proud but practically cuts her out of her sons life. Her son is renamed Micheal, the Christian Missionary school teaches her nudity is wrong, that sacrifices and the rites performed by African tribes are heathen and should be avoided. This education that he recieves which was supposed to help him, creates a divide between his communities beliefs and his.

When he marries and has children, his Mother wishes that she recieves a grandchild, who is the reincarnation of her husband. This new child Grace, can experience the African world and its beliefs, as well as experience and benefit from the British education system.
Another good read for Short Story September

Booking Through Thursday: Seasons

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school–does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer? - BTT

As a teacher I had a gorgeous six weeks off of school, and as I have no kids, husband etc and most of my friends aren't teachers I have countless hours to myself to read, read, read. Now I'm back at school and have started a course at home my reading time is less. But they'll be a weeks holiday in 4 weeks or so, so I guess I can't whinge. Also they seem to put better shows on the telly in the winter, so that also inflicts on my time.
As to whether my reading choices change, I don't think it has a huge affect. I like to read something spooky near haloween, and some kids book over Christmas but thats it really. Either way I love reading in the winter in hot baths and under blankets, in the summer I always believe I can read outside (on those days the sun shines) but once out there I remember that the neighbour has an annoying screaming kid and the sun is glaring in my eyes.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Short Story September: King Rat by Karen Joy Fowler

A Copy of this story can be found here

This short story is focused around a young girl, who is fascinated with the fairy-tales in a book given to her by a student of her father's. However, she is completely disturbed by the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Children follow the Pied Piper off into a castle of eternal happiness, yet she cannot accept that these children would be happy as they are seperated from their parents. As she tells this story we discover that the student who had given her the book, has a grown son now, who has gone missing and is never likely to be seen again, enforcing her emphasis on the seperation of parent and child.
This story is told in a lovely solemn tone, and is very moving in the final paragraphs

Monday, 15 September 2008

Short Story September: Closing Time by Neil Gaiman (and a wee nod to some bloggers BBAW style).

I think I love Neil Gaiman more and more everytime I read him. I just read this fantastic story while lolling in the bath and had to come and say a few words about it.

Closing time is another of Neil Gaiman's stories within a story. He starts out talking about an old club in London, one damp and misty night, 3 men are sitting in the bar recounting ghost stories, when the narrator announces he has a story of his own to tell:
"I'll tell you a true story, if you like. It's a story I've never told a living soul. It's true - it happened to me, not to a friend of mine - but I don't know if it's a ghost story. It probably isn't."

The story is about his childhood, and a meeting with a group of boys, possibly brothers, who seem out to spoil his innocent childhood. They show his naked pictures, tell him dirty jokes and teach him how to swear. Then one day they take him to the gardens of an abandoned, but very neatly kept, old house. In the garden there is a mock tudor playhouse. Its this playhouse that becomes the place of mystery and suspense, a dare leads to an unexplainable event, one the narrator fears he will never know the answer to.
BBAW kicks off with an opportunity to let everyone know what your favorite blogs are and why. I'm going to name 3, all three contain great reviews of books that I'm interested in, interesting comments and they seem to make great challenge participants. I often visit these blogs looking for reviews and recommendations as they seem to be spot on, and match my taste. They are
A Striped Armchair
An Adventure in Reading
B&b ex libris

Short Story September: The Bear Came Over the Mountain

A copy of this story can be found here.

This short story is about life living with a relative with Altzimer's Disease. Fiona, is gradually losing her memory, forgetting the the names of objects and places, her husbands decides it would be best for her to move into a home to recieve care. Fiona is very positive about the home she is going to, saying:
“I guess I’ll be dressed up all the time,” she said. “Or semi-dressed up. It’ll be sort of like in a hotel.”
For the first month he is not allowed to visit her, as a way to help her settle in, but in that month she loses her recollection of who he is. She has met another man to look after and care about.
The story shows Fiona's demise, but also the way it causes the husband to look back at his own life, particaurly the affairs that he has had in the past.
A moving story.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

[TSS] My Thoughts: The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier

I didn't expect to get this finished at all today, but I sat down to a few chapters and the last 150 pages suddenly whirled past.

"She was called Isabelle, and when she was a small girl her hair changed colour in the time it takes a bird to call to its mate."

The story starts with Isabelle, a young girl with copper hair living in the 16th Century. When her hair first changes to the same colour as the Virgin Mary's she is given the nickname La Rousse, but as time passes and Catholicism and the Virgin Mary are shunned the name starts to become something of a plague. Isabelle soon becomes associated with witchcraft along with her mother, the local midwife.

Isabelle marries a local tyrant, moving in with a Christian family, who shun her because her past, and the red hair she constantly tries to cover. As time moves on the Tournier family are forced from their house moving away to Switzerland. Isabelle's marriage has become one of fear and violence, she lives with a mother-in-law and a son who despise her, always mistrusting her, constantly on the look out for signs of witchcraft. Her only sanctuary is her daughter, who is starting to find copper colour stands in her hair, and shares her mother's passion for the deep blue of Mary's robes.

In the alternate chapters we are introduced to Ella Turner/Tournier, she has moved to France with her husband, and feeling lost she decides to dig through the family history to try and help herself fell like she belongs. Soon her nightmares of the bright blue colour and a pray in French become entwined with her search for her family.

As her marriage breaks down, Ella comes to discover more about her heritage, and to feel like she belongs in this foreign country.
Chevalier manages to make the characters from both the 16th Century and the 20th feel alive and well rounded. I would have quite happily have read another 100 odd pages of this book.

2nds Challenge Book 1 of 4

Other reader's thoughts:

If you have read this add a link to your review and I'll add you in

The Sunday Salon: An unproductive week...

I just seem to be accumulating books rather than reading many this week. In terms of reading I mannaged 1 kids book, a short story and a novel which I have no idea how to write up! The novel was The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho, an author I always enjoy. This was a strange read, I was never sucked into it but the style is easy so I got through it in a few hours. The searching for your angel part and the fact that it was based on his real life just never felt real, and never grabbed me. Anyone else read this?

As for today, I'm off to the library and for a very late breakfast/lunch in a place where the food is all gorgeous and fresh so I don't feel like I'm ruining the second day of the diet. I have some studying to do later, but then I'm hoping to sit down and read some more Maus and The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, a book that I'm absolutely loving.

For the Olympic Challenge, which I'm taking part in over at Bookcrossing.com, I'm looking for reads for each of the various countries in Africa to start with. If anyone has any recommendations, partucuarly for the harder coutries like: Burundi, Chad, Gabon and Libiya just to name a few, I'd be grateful to hear them, the author just has to have been born there.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Short Story September: October's Chair by Neil Gaiman

I love Neil Gaiman so I was expecting to love this story and I did, it's really a story within a story.

The month's of the year have all been personified, with their various personalities and appearances linked to the month they represent. They met reguarly as a council to tell short stories, and this month it is October's turn to lead the meeting. Their actually turns out to be a lack of stories, and a fair bit of squabbling, and then you get to October's gorgeously told short story.

Runt, is as you may have guessed from his name, the youngest, skinniest and most bullied child in the family, and generally doesn't quite seem to fit in anywhere. As life moves on Runt dreams of running away, and accumulates all the items he deems necessary in a tubberware container: Mars Bars, Beef Jerky and 30 odd dolars. When he pulls out the tub one day and realises it is full, he knows that this is the day that he has to run away, to try and make a new life for himself. Despite all his dreams of freedom, Runt has little belief that he will last much longer than a day without being found, but he makes a run for it anyway.

Arriving in a new town, Runt meets a young boy called 'Dearly', this boy knows that he once had another name, yet it is so rubed away he can no longer read it. Runt has no apparent problem with meeting and hanging out with a ghost, they spend the night having fun and enjoying each others company. When it comes to time to part, Runt asks if he can stay with Dearly for good, Dearly points him in the direction of an old and derelict house, saying that in that place they could make that dream come true.

This story was told really well, and would make an excellent read for any short story lover. I found a copy of this story in Gaiman's short story collection, Fargile Things.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

RIP III: Two in One

Two books read for the RIP challenge, one a graphic novel and one a kids book, I will get to a novel soon.

Three Shadows (Graphic Novel) ****

Back then, life was simple and sweet. The taste of cherries, the cool shade, the fresh smell of the river...That was how we lived, in a vale among the hills - sheltered from storms, ignorant of the world, as though on a island, peaceful and untroubled.
And then...
Then everything changed.
Three Shadows starts of with an idyllic family life, out marching in woods, picking fruit and warm nights by the fire. And, as we all know, idyllic family life never lasts. Upon the hill appears three shadows. Everyday the loom over the little family, some times a little closer some times a little further away, but still each day they are there, a threatening presence.
As it becomes clear that is is Jochaim's life they have come to take, the massive father decides to steal his son away, to escape the threat of death. But death is inescapable and will always follow.
The graphics are stunning, full of bright whites and deep blacks to reveal the ever present shadows in the distance. This is the first graphic novel I have read, where the text is fairly sparse, and at first I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but the pictures quickly grabbed my imagination.
Challenge: YA Challenge, RIP III, Olympic Challenge (France), Unread Authors Challenge
Other Reviews: Bart Shuffleboil

Varjak Paw (Kids book) ***
I was really looking forward to reading this novel, but it never quite grabbed me. I read a lot of YA fiction, and this book was aimed at children of 8-10 (I'd guess), which may have been the problem, it was just a little too young for my tastes. Having said that, I think it would be a great book to read to a child who relished scary tales.

The story is about Varjak Paw, a pedigree cat who has spent his whole life inside one house, as his family is believed too precious to risk letting outside. When their owner disappears (a trip to heaven) a man in black enters the house, with his two vicious black cats, Varjak warns the family of the trouble to come. Being the odd one out in the family, Varjak is ignored, so he goes on a hunt to find a dog to help him rescue his family.

Life outside has many lessons for Vajak to learn, some new things he is taught by his new friends and some as part of a dream sequence. The question really is, is outside more dangerous than the threat in the house. Outside you have to face gangs of cats and deal with the Vanishings. And Varjak also has to find and talk to a dog - with one big problem, he has no idea what a dog is.

The illustrations in the novel capture the story perfectly, and add to the scary tone.
Challenges: RIP III, YA Challenge, Olympic Challenge: Lebanon, Unread Authors Challenge

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Book Windfall!

These are all the new books which entered my house today; 5 via a bookcrossing bookbox, 4 from a charity shop. Most of them won't see the top of mount tbr for a while at least

Sunday, 7 September 2008

My Thoughts: Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto

I've heard about Banana Yoshimoto on various blogs and have been meaning to check out her books for a while when I came across this one in the library sale, it also made a great first read for the Japanese Literature Challenge.

Maria has lived in her aunts inn by the sea for the whole of her life, her parents are together yet apart as her dad is having an affair with her mother while he tries and arranges his divorce. Despite the strange living arrangements Maria seems to enjoy her life were she is, living next door to her teenage cousins. Her cousin Tsugumi has a lifelong illness which leaves her tired, feverish and often in and out of hospital with the possibility of death looming frequently.

Because of Tsugumi's illness she gets away with her terrible manners, fierce behaviour and sharp comments - yet underneath this fierce exterior is a young girl desperately battling to stay alive and be treated like a princess by everyone.

Maria, finally gets her family living together in Tokyo and spends one last summer at the seaside in her cousins inn, before it gets sold off. In this summer a boy arrives, who seemingly disolves Tsugumi's emotional barriers.

I'm not sure what I was expecting with this book, but it was completely different to what I expected. It never felt Japanese, which sounds silly, but this seaside and the life they led could easily have been England.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book, or any of the others on my blog please leave a link and I'll add it to my review.

Sunday Salon: My Thoughts: Skin and Other Stories by Roald Dahl

Having to go back to work this week after a lazy six weeks holiday has meant that I haven't had a great amount of time to read this week, I did finish Roald Dahl's Skin, (see below) Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende, a novel I really enjoyed and I have decided to do the Olympic Challenge in time for London 2012, a challenge which has been going on over at the BookCrossing forum for the last few years, this challenge will mean I'll be checking out authors from far fling places across the Globe.
As for reading today, I hope to get finished reading the graphic novel, Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa however, I have an essay to type up and about 50 essays to mark, plus housework so that maybe wishful thinking!

I read this collection of short stories for the RIP III challenge, the Short Story Reading Challenge and for Short Story September, several of the stories I had read before at some point, but I really enjoyed the collection, it was perfect for picking up whilst dinner was cooking or whilst in the bath. I had included a mini review of some, but not all, of the stories in the collection
WARNING: I have tried to avoid saying what the outcome of each story is, but with short stories this is hard and in some descriptions I come pretty close to the end of the tale.

"I want you to paint a picture on my skin, on my back. Then I want you to tattoo over what you have painted so that it will be there always."
As a young man Drioli admired and loved another man's art, so-much-so that he begged this artist, to tattoo a portrait of his wife on his back. He taught the artist to tattoo, and ended up with his whole back as a portrait of his wife's face.
Years passed, 2 World Wars have caused Drioli's tattooing business to fail, and he is left a poor old man. Walking through the streets of Paris he sees a picture by Soutine in the window of the gallery. Going in to admire the art he ends up revealing an early work by Soutine, his tattoo. A poor man he may be, but he is a walking talking masterpiece, the gallery owner wants a piece of him. Just how far will he go to get it?
The African Story
When the Second World War started a young man joined the RAF as he loved to fly. On his first mission his flight failed and he spent two nights at a lonely, desolate farm. There, lived alone an old man who relished the pilot's company. The old man shared a strange story with the pilot, which the pilot later recorded "not in the old man's words, but in his own words, painting it as a picture."
The old man's tale tells of a relationship with his employee, a man with who gets obsessed by repetitive noises, the noise of his masters dog chewing leads him to kill his masters beloved dog. The man's tale tells his story of revenge.
Galloping Foxely
A regular commuter, used to the routine of his daily commute is suddenly struck with horror when a stranger appears and spoils his daily commute, having the audacity to share his carriage. Not only does this stranger upset the daily commute but he also recognises that face as the school bully who tortured him through his days at (a very stereotypical) boarding school. How does he react?
The Wish
A lovely and very short story about the imagination of a small child trying to make his way across an immense carpet of red hot rocks and black child eating snakes.
The Surgeon
In the surgeon, one mans ordinary day as a surgeon ends up turning his life upside down as he saves the life of the Prince of Saudi Arabia. He is given a rare, rather large diamond as a gift of thanks. With no way to store the diamond safely it is locked away inside the freezer in a bock of ice. He returns to find his house destroyed and the diamond missing, yet it turns up again in a rather strange and unfortunate place.
The Champion of the World
When I saw this title my first thought was Danny, but this has nothing to do with that small boy. I'm sure I've read this story before somewhere, maybe when I was at school. The Champion of the world is about Pheasant poaching, all the ways and means of doing it, slyly without the park keepers catching on.
A pair of men believe they have found the ideal way to poach these birds, and having come up with this method they can't just leave it at poaching a few birds, they go to the extreme and get over a hundred birds. But, as we all know, sinners never win.
Lamb to the SlaughterThe husbands annoying you, home late, expecting dinner on the table, he's got quite boring in his old age, and you just want out. Most people would just walk away, but not this lady. A quick smack to the back of the head and she no longer has a husband to worry about anymore, but she does have the small matter of covering up the murder to deal with. What better way than to ensure the the poilce remove all trace of the crime themselves.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Olympic Challenge: London 2012

This is a challenge that I'm participating in through Bookcrossing. There's no prizes etc, its just a chance to challenge yourself and broadern your reading and knowledge of the world. Some people completed this challenge in the run up for the Bejing Olympics, this was the original post:"The goal is to read one author's work from the 202 participating countries by Summer Olympic Games by 2008. I will use my bookshelf to post all countries listed and suggested authors but the list is open to other authors or works. The only requirement is the author must be a citizen of that country (or was if deceased). Who will carry this torch with us?"

Several members didn't finish and are aiming to complete it by the winter olympics or London 2012, so I thought I'd give myself another challenge and attempt this, by London 2012.

As always it's great to have fellow challengers, for company and recommendations, so if any bloggers wish to join me let me know in the comments section. You don't have to read a novel per country, it could be a novel, essay, poetry, non fiction or graphic novel, just so long as the author is a citizen of that country

As I'm aiming to read around the world anyway, this challenge will help me focus and gives me a date to work to:

This is my mamouth list to get through:


ALG Algeria

ANG Angola

BEN Benin

BOT Botswana

BUR Burkina Faso

BDI Burundi

CMR Cameroon

CPV Cape Verde

CAF Central African Republic

CHA Chad

COM Comoros

CGO Congo

CIV Côte d'Ivoire

COD Democratic Republic of the Congo

DJI Djibouti EGY Egypt

GEQ Equatorial Guinea

ERI Eritrea

ETH Ethiopia

GAB Gabon

GAM Gambia

GHA Ghana

GUI Guinea

GBS Guinea-Bissau

KEN Kenya

LES Lesotho

LBR Liberia

LBA Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

MAD Madagascar

MAW Malawi

MLI Mali

MTN Mauritania

MRI Mauritius

MAR Morocco

MOZ Mozambique

NAM Namibia

NIG Niger

RWA Rwanda

STP Sao Tome and Principe

SEN Senegal

SEY Seychelles

SLE Sierra Leone

SOM Somalia

RSA South Africa

SUD Sudan

SWZ Swaziland

TOG Togo

TUN Tunisia

UGA Uganda

TAN United Republic of Tanzania

ZAM Zambia

ZIM Zimbabwe


ASA American Samoa

AUS Australia Rabbit Proof Fence, Pilkington

COK Cook Islands

FSM Federated States of Micronesia

FIJ Fiji

GUM Guam

KIR Kiribati

MHL Marshall Islands

NRU Nauru

NZL New Zealand

PLW Palau

PNG Papua New Guinea

SAM Samoa

SOL Solomon Islands

TGA Tonga

TUV Tuvalu

VAN Vanuatu


AFG Afghanistan

BRN Bahrain

BAN Bangladesh

BHU Bhutan

BRU Brunei Darussalam

CAM Cambodia

TPE Chinese Taipei

PRK Democratic People's Republic of Korea

HKG Hong-Kong

IND India Sea of Poppies, Ghosh

INA Indonesia

IRQ Iraq

IRI Islamic Republic of Iran

JPN Japan Goodbye Tsugumi, Yoshimoto

JOR Jordan

KAZ Kazakhstan

KOR Korea

KUW Kuwait

KGZ Kyrgyzstan

LAO Lao People's Democratic Republic

LIB Lebanon Varjak Paw

MAS Malaysia

MDV Maldives

MGL Mongolia

NEP Nepal

PAK Pakistan

PLE Palestine

CHN People's Republic of China

PHI Philippines

QAT Qatar

KSA Saudi Arabia

SIN Singapore

SRI Sri Lanka

SYR Syrian Arab Republic

TJK Tadjikistan

THA Thailand

TLS Timor-Leste

TKM Turkmenistan

UAE United Arab Emirates

UZB Uzbekistan

VIE Viet Nam

YEM Yemen


ALB Albania

AND Andorra

ARM Armenia

AUT Austria

AZE Azerbaijan

BLR Belarus

BEL Belgium

BIH Bosnia and Herzegovina

BUL Bulgaria

CRO Croatia

CYP Cyprus

CZE Czech Republic Metamorphosis, Kafka

DEN Denmark

EST Estonia

FIN Finland

MKD Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

FRA France Three Shadows, Pedrosa

GEO Georgia

GER Germany

GBR Great Britain

GRE Greece

HUN Hungary

ISL Iceland

IRL Ireland

ISR Israel

ITA Italy

LAT Latvia

LIE Liechtenstein

LTU Lithuania

LUX Luxembourg

MLT Malta

MNE Montenegro

NED Netherlands

NOR Norway

POL Poland

POR Portugal

MDA Republic of Moldova

ROM Romania

RUS Russian Federation

SMR San Marino

SRB Serbia

SVK Slovakia

SLO Slovenia

ESP Spain

SWE Sweden

SUI Switzerland

TUR Turkey

UKR Ukraine


ANT Antigua and Barbuda

ARG Argentina

ARU Aruba

BAH Bahamas

BAR Barbados

BIZ Belize

BER Bermuda

BOL Bolivia

BRA Brazil The Valkyries, Coelho (12/09/08)

IVB British Virgin Islands

CAN Canada

CAY Cayman Islands

COL Colombia

CRC Costa Rica

CUB Cuba

DMA Dominica

DOM Dominican Rhythm Republic

ECU Ecuador

ESA El Salvador

GRN Grenada

GUA Guatemala

GUY Guyana

HAI Haiti

HON Honduras

JAM Jamaica

MEX Mexico

AHO Netherlands Antilles

NCA Nicaragua

PAN Panama

PAR Paraguay

PER Peru

PUR Puerto Rico

SKN Saint Kitts and Nevis

LCA Saint Lucia

VIN Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

SUR Suriname

TRI Trinidad and Tobago

USA United States of America

URU Uruguay

VEN Venezuela

ISV Virgin Islands

Thursday, 4 September 2008

My Thoughts: A Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

A Portrait is Sepia has made me want to devour the rest of Isabel Allende's work. The novel tells the tale of a young girl's life through to adulthood. Aurora is born an orphan, her father had disowned her whilst she was still in the womb and her mother died within hours of her birth. But Aurora will never be alone, she spends the first five years of her life in the constant care of her grandfather Tao. Not for one second can a girl child be left alone in Chinatown, there is too greater risk of a kidnapping and a life in training as a prostitute. For five years Tao is her world.

When he dies she is taken by her grandmother and left with her paternal grandmother; a woman she has no recollection of meeting, a business woman in a world where women stay at home, a women with a huge ornate golden bed. Aurora's grandmother, Paulina, is one of the richest women in San Francisco, a vast number of business deals have left her with a mansion, a cheating husband and lazy, unloving sons. She is not used to caring for anyone, when suddenly this small and emotionally demading child enters her house, a child wracked with shyness and nightmares.

As time passes Aurora becomes used to her new grandmother, and used to the lavish lifestyle that she grows accustomed too. The family move back to Chile, surrounding Aurora with a whole host of relatives, many of whom are ahead of their times: Nivea, who learnt sexual seduction from novels and uses it to bring her husband from the brink of death, and the politcally led men and women who live within her grandmother's house.

Still suffering with her shyness, Aurora develops a passion for photography, which she uses to see the truth about life, a passion which in later life reveals the reason why her husband is so unloving towards her. When she marries she moves away and starts a new life, yet the marriage is short lived she is soon back in Chile, living the life of a seperated woman, with a secret lover in tow.

Allende fills this novel with strong powerful women, women who defy the demands of society and fulfill their needs and wishes. This maybe a feminist comment yet Allende's women are only capable of loving one person, sometimes to the detriment of their love for their own children. The men on the otherhand vary between the saintly, who worship the women they are with to those less desirable types who are too self absorbed. It was like Allende reversed societies judgements, normally powerful man are praised but powerful women are not trusted, but not in this novel.

A Portrait in Sepia contains characters, and descendents of characters from some of Allende's other novels, as I'm fairly new to Allende I had only read one of these novels, but even if I hadn't read any this would still be a fantastic book, because the history of what has gone before to influence their lives is explained in the novel.
The Olympic Challenge: London 2012
Others responses:
If you've reviewed this novel please leave a link in the comments and I'll add it in here.

Booking Through Thursday: Pressure

I was looking through books yesterday at the shops and saw all the Twilight books, which I know basically nothing about. What I do know is that I’m beginning to feel like I’m the *only* person who knows nothing about them.
Despite being almost broke and trying to save money, I almost bought the expensive book (Australian book prices are often completely nutty) just because I felt the need to be ‘up’ on what everyone else was reading.
Have you ever felt pressured to read something because ‘everyone else’ was reading it? Have you ever given in and read the book(s) in question or do you resist? If you are a reviewer, etc, do you feel it’s your duty to keep up on current trends?

I get a lot of recommendations from blogs and forums, and often end up reading the books everyone is raving about, but just to see what the fuss is about, unless it looks like chick-lit.

I started my English degree feeling pressured to try and catch-up with everyone elses reading. I was never going to take an English degree, and had applied and was accepted to take Sociology and law. I changed my mind a week before uni started, and got on an English Lit degree at the same university. Everyone else on the course had been given a recommended reading list in their interview, a list of books we wouldn't study, but would help us to know and be able to refer to. There were 100 books on the list, I had read one. I was also disadvantaged as my school had taught a syllabus of fairly modern literarure, with just one Shakespeare play and 2 classic novels, this was a fairly new course and the majority of schools stuck to the more traditional syllabus which was crammed with classics. After the first day I went home struck with horror at how little I had read (this wasn't helped when a really posh lad stood up and quoted a Shakespearean sonnet!). My mum brought a stack of Penguin classics which I read through over the first year, and boy I felt pressured to do so.