Monday, 28 December 2009

In my bag and under the tree

This last week has been imense in the number of books I have aqcuired. Like any good bookworm I had several on my Christmas list. I recieved Stitch n' Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook by Debbie Stoller (hopefully I will get further than a few inches with these patterns), The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, The Graveyard Book by the wonderful Neil Gaiman, Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.

Whilst Christmas shopping for other people I brought myself Coraline and Other Stories: The Bloomsbury Phantastics and The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes. I then popped into Cambridge believing that their Borders had shut down, but it was in its final days, books were 40 pence or less. There wasn't a great selection left but I still walked away with 14 books, including The Camel Bookmobile which I had wanted to read for ages. The rest of the books are under the piles of Christmas presents I have o put away if I want to sleep tonight.

When I arrived home, my mamouth orders from amazon had arrived, meaning I could barely open the door. I brought myself:
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
Amok and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Life's Little Ironies by Thomas Hardy
The Madwoman in the Attic by S. Gilbert
The London Underworld in the Victorian Period (V.1) BY Henry Mayhew
Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

And, tomorrow I have holds from the library to pick up! I love reading in the winter so hopefully I'll make a fair old dent in this pile quickly

Saturday, 19 December 2009

So I said I was done with challenges....

I had picked my 6 challenges for 2010, I had decided 6 at one time and no more then I read Eva's post, knowing I was weak willed, and saw a challenge I couldn't resist! Grrr!!!!!

Our Mutual Read is a Victorian reading challenge offering participants different levels of participation. I'm going for Level 2: 8 books, at least 4 written during 1837 - 1901. The other books may be Neo-Victorian or non-fiction. I'm also participating in the Short Story Mini Challenge:read 12 short stories written or taking place between 1837 - 1901 and post a review.
I guess in comparrison to most people I have read a lo of Victorian Literature but as an English Literature graduate I feel I should have read so much more. And I'm not going to kick myself too much for participating as I will use it to help me with the 1001 list.

Here is a potential list, I have starred 4 that I definately want to read.
Victorian Literature - Old and trusted friends:
The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G. Wells
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy*
Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens*
Adam Bede – George Eliot
Born in Exile – George Gissing

Victorian Literature - Those I've been meaning to get to:
Hunger – Knut Hamsun (Been on mount tbr forever)
A Woman’s Life – Guy de Maupassant
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Warden – Anthony Trollope
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
The Count of Monte-Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
Endymion - Benjamin Desraeli
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

Victorian Literature - A second chance:
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I must give this another try after a teacher killed it)
Almayer's Folley - Joseph Conrad
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (A reread)*
Kidnapped – Robert Louis Stevenson

Affinity - Sarah Waters (I love this lady's work)*
The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber (I loved this and would love to reread it)
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
The Court of the Air - Stephen Hunt

The Madwoman in the Attic - SM Gilbert (a critique of the representation of women in Victorian fiction)
What the Victorians Did For Us - Adam Hart Davis
The London Underworld in the Victorian Period: Authentic First Person Accounts by Thieves, Beggers and Prostitutes - Henry Mayhew

Short Stories:
Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling
The Yellow Wallpaper and other stories - Charlotte Gilman Perkins

Victorian Children's Stories:
Something from my CS Lewis Anthology
Black Beauty - Anna Sewell (which to my shame I have never read)
The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
The Water Babies - Charles Kinsley

My Reads:
Short Stories:
Amy Foster - Joseph Conrad
The Imaginative Woman - Thomas Hardy
The Boy's Veto - Thomas Hardy

Friday, 18 December 2009

My Thoughts: Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller

I spent my snowy afternoon watching TV and then finishing the novel Fox Girl. The novel is set primarily in America Town in Korea. Sookie and Huyan Jin are best friends from two different parts of the town. Sookie's mum has lots of American GIs as 'boyfriends' whilst Huyan Jin's father dotes on her whilst running a corner shop which sells both Korean and American sweets and drinks. When Sookie's mum suddenly disappears the world her mum works in suddenly becomes apparent. Sookie is soon forced to work the clubs and look for American GIs to be her boyfrind. After a revelation Huyan Jin soon finds that the world of America Town which she had always looked up to is fast becoming her only possible means of escape.

The novel created a world for me which we know exists but tend to shy away from. The girls in the novel have to stoop to the lowest levels to finds means and ways to stay alive, creating women and men who are hardened to their loved ones. The myth of the fox girl runs throughout the novel - a fox who had it all but wanted to become human.
Read for my Olympic Challenge.

Theatre: War Horse

Yesterday was a very good day, not only did school get cancelled for today before even a single drop of snow had fallen - we have about 2 inches now so the whole country has ground to a halt - I got a phone call whilst I was in the pub (Christmas coke after work) asking if I wanted to go and see War Horse in London. Of course I said yes and was on the coach and on my way within 5 minutes.
The play War Horse is based on the fantastic childrens novel by Micheal Morpurgo. Set in the UK just before the Great War Albert is given a horse to raise and train in order to save his father's farm. He and the horse (Joey) become great friends and of course being a kids book the horse becomes the most desired horse in the country. When the war starts horses are sold to the army, including Joey. In grief Albert also joins the war. The story then continues throughout the war showing both of the characters plight during the war.

I rarel say this, but the play was even better than the book. The horses were puppets manouvered through three actors. The movement of the horse was perfect whether it was racing, moving its ears or listening to Albert talk. After a little while you forgot that the horse was a pupppt and didn't 'see' those actors creating its movement. The actors were also perfect. And, being a girl I cried. We took 20 kids from school from 11 to 16 years old, they were perfectly behaved and fascinated by the play, and to make it even better we came out of the theatre to walk through London's theatre land in the snow.

Heres the trailer to tempt you, its been named in The Times the play of the decade and its certainly the best thing I have ever seen:
The Trailer

I'm off to build a snowman and brave the walk to the shops to grab some fish and chips, then will be curled up with a book all afternoon. Bliss

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Sunday Salon

I haven't posted anything on my blog for ages, I have still been reading but only in short snatches and very slowly. In a funny old mood, Christmas and New Year always make me feel strange one minute I'm fine then next sad with no way to explain why even to myself! But, I have one week left at work and then two weeks and 4 days off! I'll be going home for a few days but generally I'll be spending a lot of time in doors chilling out with books, so I thought I'd create a Christmas reading list for myself.

I've got to finish Book 2 (should have done this by Thursday just gone) and Book 3 of Les Miserables. I'm loving this at the moment but need to sit down for a long old session of reading as at the moment I don't feel like I'm getting far.

I've got The Well of Lost Plots and Serena to read, both are bookrings. I don't know anything about Serena accept that it is from my favourite publishers, Cannongate. The Well of Lost Plots will be a great comfort read.

I have a gorgeous boxed edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (with introductions by Will Self and Zadie Smith) which my mum brought me years ago which I'm planning to read over Christmas week.

I've also got a stack of other books which I need to get to, hopefully I'll be able to knock off lots of books off the tbr pile to make space for those I will recieve for Christmas and my birthday

Friday, 4 December 2009

My final challenge for 2010

2010 Social Justice Reading Challenge

I decided in 2010 to cut back on challenges, no more than 6 open at one time. This is my final one, I've been holding back till I found a Non-Fiction challenge which will challenge me and this one looked ideal.

The Social Justice Challenge is held here looked perfect to get me reading about things in the real world and also broaden my knowledge.
The description of the challenge:

Reading opens new worlds to us and can sometimes expose the injustice in our own. We have all been powerfully moved by the injustice we have learned about in books and decided we wanted to host a reading project that would encourage us to learn more about these issues in the world.

It can sometimes be overwhelming and disheartening to read about the powerful obstacles others in the world face. So this reading challenge is different. Not only will we be encouraging you to learn about issues of social injustice in the world through books, essays, blogs, and other media–we will also be challenging you to take an action step and make a difference as a result of what you’ve learned. Let’s put our knowledge into action and make a difference!

We have chosen to focus each month on a different area of social injustice in the world. During that month, we are asking that you read something from the list of resources or watch something suggested by that month’s host. That will complete step one of this challenge: Learn.

Throughout the month we will also be posting ways you can make a difference in this area. Don’t worry, we will provide several different options at many different levels of commitment. The important thing is to take an action step towards doing something to change things! That fulfills step 2–Take Action.

We realize that as the year goes on some months will be busier for you than others. Some themes may be more important to you personally than others. So the challenge is customizable each month to fit your needs by the month.

When you sign up the Social Justice Challenge you are committing to 12 months participation. The amount you participate each month, however, is up to you.

Activist–At this level you are agreeing to participate fully in the activities of the month. You will read at least one full length book as well as choosing something from the other media list. You will also complete an action step. By signing up for the challenge, you agree to do a minimum of 3 months at this level. You do not have to decide which months in advance.

Intern–You agree to either read something from the reading resources (it can be an essay or children’s book) or choose to do something from the other media list. You will complete an action step. You do not have to decide which months in advance.

Volunteer– You agree to read at least one of the recommended blog posts, essays or shorter novels. You will complete an action step. You do not have to decide in advance which months they will be.

Observer — Need a break? Just follow along with the blog for the month. This month has no commitment level. You can only do a maximum of three months at this level.

Topics covered, Jan - Dec in order:
Religious Freedom
Domestic Violence & Child Abuse
AIDS Crisis
Illiteracy and Education
Modern Day Slavery
Homelessness & Refugees
Women’s Rights
Child Soldiers & Children in War

My participation will be varied throughout, I'm hoping to be able to read a book a month but know that this may be a struggle with my other commitments. I'm looking forward to seeing what the activites involve and taking part. I'll be planning my reading a month in advance to give me a chance to grab the books, for January I have ordered Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun as my non-fiction read, I also hope to read Anil's Ghost by Ondaatje which I think I have on my shelves somewhere.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

My Thoughts: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Another rain swept day here in old Blighty, so I decided to stay in and curl up with a book, blanket and lots of cups of tea. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was the perfect book for this type of lazy Sunday afternoon. Its what I would call a comfort book, not much thought or effort needed.

Connie starts the book with her Oral exam in preparation to become a Proffessor of American Colonial history at Harvard. She agress to spend her summer cleaning out an old misused house just a town away from Salem.
Inside the old house she stumbles upon a key and a slip of paper with the words Deliverance Dane written on it. Eager to find out what this means she starts researching the name, and finds that it is that of a woman hung as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials.
This knowledge then leads her to continue her reseacrh to make it part of her dissertation, but the research soon becomes personal and she is on the hunt for a book to prove that some of the women hung in the Salem Trials were actual witches.
Its full of huge coincidences, links to her past, a fit lover and she misses massive clues which you can see spread out before you. Despite that it was a good read if your looking for something easy to curl up with during the holidays.

One thing it has done is make me want to find out more about Witches throughout history. I was thinking that I might do this and link it to the Women Unbound Challenge.
Has any book you've read lead you to read up more about the subject?

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Sunday Salon: Booker Shortlist 2008

Today is a good old lazy Sunday (next week is hectice so this is much needed). I have to do a few boring jobs around the house then I'm free to read. I need to read the next book of A Suitable Boy for my bookcrossing readalong. Then continue with Survival in the Killing Fields and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane both of which I'm really enjoying. I might also rewatch Twilight as I'm off to see New Moon later in the week, or possibly coninue making so homemade photoalbums for friends Christmas gifts.

I am a part of a group of bookcrossers who each purchase a book from the Booker list and then pass it around the circle. So far I have read 5 of the books on the shortlist and have only the winner left to go.
Aravind Adiga The White Tiger
Sebastian Barry The Secret Scripture
Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant The Clothes on Their Backs
Philip Hensher The Northern Clemency
Steve Toltz A Fraction of the Whole

Yesterday I finished reading The Secret Scripture which I was really looking forward to - mainly because of the gorgeous cover work.
This book is divided into two narratives that of a doctor running a mental institute and then his eldest patient. The doctor has to close the institute and in doing so has to assess the patients to decided who will need to be replaced and who will be sent back out into the world. The institute is full of elderly patients who have been secioned there for decades. He is fascinated by one patient Mrs McNutly, she is the oldest surviving, and longest patient to have lived at the institute, her notes are in tatters so he needs to work to find out just why she was placed there in the first place.
Mrs McNutly's section of the novel deals with her desire to write down the past, she knows that her time is growing nearer and feels the need to journal the events leading up to her sectioning. We hear of her family, the much loved father and distant mother. Her teenage years and the early days of her wedding and the events which led her to the institution.

It sounds a great read, but I just felt that it didn't work. The joint narrative meant that we were learning things of her past to quickly. It was her childhood which facinated me. I would have preferred a chronological tale, rather than one held in flashbacks as in this novel they weakened the story. The ending was far to obvious from early on in the novel. What this book really needed was a good editing.

I'm hoping to read The White Tiger before the year is out, I borrowed my brothers copy (he read it in a day) way back in February so really should return it soon. I have to say that I think many of the shortlist where just okay books, with the exception of A Fraction of the Whole I didn't feel any were good enough to be considered for the Booker Prize. The 2009 list however looks much more promising, I have read 2 of those so far and they are of a higher standard.

I'm hoping eventually to have read all of the Booker winners and a large number of the shortlist. Do you have any recommendations? Or do you have any award winning books whose entry ou thought was questionnable?

The Ask and the Answer

After finishing The Knife of Never Letting Go I tried borrowing the next book from 2 different libraries with no success (reservation lists as long as my arm), so I gave in and brought both books from Amazon, so now they can live side-by-side waiting for their final sibling.
*This contain SPOILERS if you haven't read the first book*
The Ask and the Answer continues the story of Todd and Viola in the newly formed town New Prentiss Town. Yet all is not as it seems, a dictorial city is soon created. The men and women are soon seperated, armies formed and Todd and Viola's fight for survival and the good of man kind continues. I really can't say much more without giving away too much.

I loved the way that the chapters alternate between the two central characters in this book, allowing us to see each ones misgivings and assumpions. With this one I didn't feel the desperate need to continue reading to finish it all in one go, I think mainly as the pace was slower. Slower, but not neccessarily a bad thing. In the first book they were on the run, discvering things that they had never even considered before. I felt the slower pace in this one reflected their thinking, their knowledge that they had to suspect everyone, and their growing up.

A fantastic read, and now I can't wait for the next one. I have The Hunger Games and Shiver newly arrived from Amazon and I'm hoping that, like this one, they live up to the hype.

Read for Barts Bookshelf's YA Dystopian Challenge

Friday, 27 November 2009

Challenge: Indi Authors Reading Challenge 2010

Indi Authors challenge, found over at Erotic Horizons challenges to read 12 books in the course of 2010 which have been independently published.
For me this is a great challenge as it will get me reading outside of my normal reading zone and introduce me to new authors and books that everyone isn't already hyping up. And, just finding the books will be fun in itself.
I'm hoping to manage one a month and looking forward to discovering new writers.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sunday Salon: A book and a challenge.

England is back to windiness and rain - typical as I need to get out and buy some food! The Ask and The Answer arrived yesterday and so far I have left the package undone, it is going to be my reward this evening for spending this afternoon marking.

This morning I quickly finished the last few pages of Pretties by Scott Westerfeld, the sequel to Uglies which I reviewed here. This book starts with Tally a Pretty living the Pretty life. Hangovers, parties and a wide choice of clothes. Her friends are part of a group called the Crims who get up to adventures and misdeeds. Tally is eventually made aware of her pledge to test out a drug counteracting the brain lesions which are secretly inserted into people at 16 to make them compliant. She then spends the rest of the novel trying to get herself and her friends out of Pretty Town and on the run to the Old Smoke.
I enjoyed the first book in the series, but didn't like this one anywhere near as much. When Tally was a Pretty the book became very teenish (I so made up that word). And I kept thinking this will disappear, but it kind of stuck with the novel. I didn't feel that this one explored ideas of our lives and our preconceptions anywhere near as much as the first. I will however go onto read the third book Specials just so I have completed the trilogy.

Read for Barts YA Dystopian Reading Challenge.

The Twenty Ten Challenge hosted by the great Bart. This is me signing up for my fourth challenge for 2010 (I'm limiting myself to no more than 6 challenges at a time), luckily this one shouldn't be too hard to complete. To make it a bit more of a challenge I'm going to say that each book has to be by a foreign writer - hopefully helping me work on my Olympic Challenge.
Bart wants us to read 2 books for each of the following categories:
Young Adult
Any book classified as young adult or featuring a teenage protagonist counts for this category.
T.B.R. **
Intended to help reduce the old T.B.R. pile. Books for this category must be already residents of your bookshelves as of 1/11/09.
Shiny & New
Bought a book NEW during 2010 from a bookstore, online, or a supermarket? Then it counts for this category. Second-hand books do not count for this one, but, for those on book-buying bans, books bought for you as gifts or won in a giveaway also count!
Bad Blogger’s ***
Books in this category, should be ones you’ve picked up purely on the recommendation of another blogger count for this category (any reviews you post should also link to the post that convinced you give the book ago).
*** Bad Bloggers: Is hosted by Chris of Stuff as Dreams are Made on.
Support your local charity shops with this category, by picking up books from one of their shops. Again, for those on book-buying bans, books bought for you as gifts also count, as long as they were bought from a charity shop.
New in 2010
This category is for those books newly published in 2010 (whether it be the first time it is has been released, or you had to wait for it to be published in your country, it counts for this one!)
Older Than You
Read two books that were published before you were born, whether that be the day before or 100 years prior!
Win! Win!
Have a couple of books you need to read for another challenge? Then this is the category to use, as long that is, you don’t break the rules of the other challenge by doing so!
Who Are You Again?
This one isn’t just for authors you’ve never read before, this is for those authors you have never even heard of before!
Up to You!
The requirements for this category are up to you! Want to challenge yourself to read some graphic novels? A genre outside your comfort zone? Something completely wild and wacky? Then this is the category to you. The only requirement is that you state it in your sign-up post.

Young Adult
T.B.R. ** Slumdog Millionaire & The White Tiger
Shiny & New
Bad Blogger’s *** After the Dance, Edwidge Danticat
New in 2010
Older Than You
Win! Win!
Who Are You Again? Funny Boy, Shyam Selvadurai
Up to You! (Anthropological Non-Fiction) Sorrow Mountain by Ani Prachen

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Crafty Corner

This is a picture heavy post: Be warned!
I spent my Saturday afternoon crafting away. Delusion spread through me and I thought I could handmake several photo albums in an afternoon: I managed one!
This is for one of my fav girlies at work, in our department there are 3 of us all around the same age and without those two I would go insane. Its very strange as when they both started I thought I wouldn't get on with either of them, but then we gelled and now have to be careful not to exclude the new people.
I'm making them each a photo album that they can then fill with pictures of their choice. There is space for journalling and a little pocket for things like theatre tickets etc.
This one is for Hayley, she's the least girlie out of the 3 of us so I tried to pick papers which would fit her style. Tomorrow I'm going to tackle Mikala's, she's super girlie and I'm already in love with the paper I have chosen for her - it will hurt to give it away!
I've included a picture of the front and back page and a couple of pages inside, there are 12 pages in total in the actual album.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

My Thoughts: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Be warned this is a gushing post!!!!!

So, everyone in the blogging world has read this book except me. And everyone I know who reads will soon be badgered into reading it!
The Knife of Never Letting Go is set in an alternative world where women don't exist (or so he thinks) and where everyone can hear all of your thoughts and no secrets can be kept (or so he thinks). A month before his 13th birthday, the day he, the final boy, will becaome a 'man', he discovers his world is a lie. And he has to run for his life.

When I opened the first page and saw that there were words like 'thru' spelt in text language and the punctuation reminded me vividly of that of some of my kids at school I considered putting it aside. I'll just read the first chapter I said to myself. It didn't take a chapter for me to be gripped, by the bottom of the first page I was emersing myself in Todd's world. The punctuation ended up being a massive driving force. The lack of full stops, the pages with the disjointed sentences running down the page created a frantic pae to fit the frantic mood.

I accepted things which in other books would have made me sigh at the complete lack of reality. I read grimicing through the violence, the 'CRUNCH' I could hear in my head and see vividly in front of me, and boy did my stomach turn.

In short I was fully emersed in this world, and may have to go and buy the next book as 27 people are ahead of me in the library reservation queue!

You can read here a story set before The Knife of Never Letting Go starts, which Ness wrote when he was writer in residence for the Booktrust website

Read for Bart's YA Dystopian Challenge

The GLBT Challenge: The Challenge Which Dare Not Speak Its Name

I saw this challenge last year and didn't sign up as I was already bogged down in challenges. I thought this would be a good challenge to read for as I would be venturing outside of my normal reading Zone.

Amanda has set this up so that there are three different participation levels, at the moment I am going for the smallest level, although I may up it later on. The Lambda Level requires 4 books, and I managed to find 4 books which would fit the challenge on mount tbr :D

Regeneration by Pat Barker
The Swimming Pool Library, Hollinghurst
Funny Boy, Selvadurai READ
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters.
Ash by Mailnda Lo READ

The challenges blog can be found here

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Sunday Salon: A Japanese Pairing

I woke up this morning to sunshine :D although the weather forecast says we will be back to torrential rain and wind by late afternoon :(
I spent a good 10 hours reading yesterday, finishing 2 books and I'm halfway through The Knife of Never Letting Go. When I opened the first page and saw a lack of punctuation and misspelt words I thought I would be abadoning it quickly, but after a page I was gripped. Eye strain was all that made me give in and send myself to bed.
Today I'm being creative Peanut Butter Cookies to bake for work tomorrow, ATC's to be made and then snuggling back down with A Suitable Boy and then The Knife of Never Letting Go!!! Can't wait.

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
I read this book really early in the week and for some reason didn't write anything about it - I always write about books as soon as I finish them.
Sumrie has given up college and work to become a writer, she almost lives in a parallel world to everyone else, she gets up in the afternoon and writes all night. Her only real point of contact in the world is her best friend, our narrator. He is secretly in love with her but knows that she has no feelings for him.
When Sumrie meets Miu at a wedding her life quickly changes. She falls in love with the older woman, who offers her work and thus transforms her life into that of a normal young woman. Things turn strange when Sumrie and Miu travel to Europe together on a business trip.
I read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and a collection of Murakami's short stories, I was expecting this book to be stranger, more magic realsim. What I did love was the smoothness with which it could be read.

Piercing by Ryu Murakami
This book I polished off last night in about 90 minutes. Kawashima is overcome at night by a fierce sweat and the smell of burning, and then the intense desire to stab someone with an ice pick. At this point his desire is to stab his 4 month old baby daughter. Desperate to rid himself of this desire he creates a plan to stab a prostitute, believing that he will then be able to return to a normal life.
What Kawashima doesn't expect is to pick a prostitute who was also abused as a child and who is also suffering the everlasting effects of such abuse.
The tale is a very strange one, violence threatens to spill over on every page, and I often found found myself wincing not knowing if I really wanted to read the next line in case he finally managed to stab her. Despite this, this book was strangely engrossing and I found that I couldn't stop reading because I had a desire to discover what happened next.

Japanese literature reading challenge.

My Thoughts: The Glass Room by Simon Mawer

In my pledge to create myself a mini-read-a-thon this weekend so that I can tackle my huge pile of books I have read for a good 4 and a half hours today and knocked the first book off of the pile :D Only about 50 more to go! lol

The Glass Room is the second book in the 2009 Booker Shortlist which I have read, and it definately deserves to be part of that list. (I've read the winner, and thought that this was the better of the books).

The Glass Room is actually a glass house, a thoroughly modern home built on a hillside over looking a Czech city. The house, built for the Landauer family, becomes the symbol of sexual and emotional relationships as the novel progresses.

Viktor and Lisel Landauer have this home built in the early days of their marriage, when life is a bunch of roses for the family. Viktor is the founder of a famous car manufacturer, and the wealthy couple fill their home with piano recitals and modern art. The glass building becomes a home for their small family, a symbol of oppulance and luxury.
As the marriage cools, Viktor finds comfort away from home, whilst Lisel's life is made exciting through the gossip and behaviour of her sexually adventurous best friend Hana.
When the war looms, Viktor and Lisel are forced to move away, he a Jew and she a German. They escape with his mistress over the border to Switzerland. The house then becomes an empty shell, facing the destruction of bombs, govermental ownership and possession and scientific experimentation.
The characters gripped me from early on, especially Hana and Kata, Viktor's lover. But all in all I wanted to know what happened to the characters, how their life turned out. I felt robbed when I discovered that the book suddenly moved 20 odd years into the future and I had missed out hearing about Ottilie (love that name) and Martin's childhood. The house reminded me of the house in To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. There is a segment in that novel when the war is occuring and the destruction of Britain and the family is characterised by the deterioration of the family home.
A fantastic read, I highly recommend it.

War Through the Generations

Friday, 13 November 2009

Time, time, time...

Feels like a long time since I had the time to sit down and read properly. I have books stacking up. I finally have some free time this weekend as I have no teaching till Wednesday, teacher training Monday and Tuesday. This weekend (which is looking pretty dismal both socailly and weather wise) I'm thinking of doing a mini-read-a-thon on my own. 8-12 hours each day, hopefully that'll knock a few of the books off the piles.
So hopefully you might see some reviews coming up on this sadly neglected blog. My google reader is drowning in several hundred posts, so I'll be marking them all as read and starting afresh.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sunday Salon: A New Challenge

Biblophile by the Sea is hosting the 2010 Reading From My Shelves Project. Participants are asked to decide how many books they want to rid their shelves of during 2010. Books should be read and then found a new home (easy for me as a bookcrosser).
I've decided to aim for 36 books, 3 per month. I could easily have doubled that number but I wanted to be realistic. I've also created a list as I want to focus on books which have been lurking years or that are bookcrossing books which I shouldn't be hoarding.

1. Nights at the Circus, Carter (started twice at least already)
2. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, Calvino
3. Koroko, Soseki
4. In the Skin of a Lion, Ondaatje
5. A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, Barnes
6. Love, Morrison
7. The Dante Club, Pearl
8. Court in the Air, Hunt
9. The Emigrants, Sebald
10. Atomised, Houllebecq
11. The Bridge, Banks
12. Walking on Glass, Banks
13. Senor the Coca Lord, De Bernieres
14. The Notebooks of Don Rigoberta, Volsa
15. North and South, Gaskell
16. Bellefleur, Oates
17. Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald
18. The Robber Bride, Atwood
19. Enduring Love, McEwan
20. East of the Mountains, Guteson
21. Mao, Chang
22. Wild Swans, Chang
23. Krakatoa, Winchester
24. Arthur and George, Barnes
25. Yellow Dog, Amis
26. The Tapestries, Nguyen
27. Death of an Ancient King, Gaude
28. Women in Love, Lawrence
29. A Century of Short Stories by Women, Lee (ed.)
30. My Spoons Came From Woolworths, Comyns
31. America, Kafka
32. Tsotsi, Fugard
33. The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner
34. People's Act of Love, Meek
35. Gilead, Robinson
36. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

My Thoughts: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

It has been a manic couple of weeks since the read-a-thon finished, despite having a school holiday last week I was working, seeing friends or partying all week. Going back to work this week has meant that tons of stuff suddenly had to be done. Our school is sitting the pupils early for their English Language exam, we have to mark all their coursework by this Friday - a couple are still missing pieces, and then they have their exams next week! I'm way more stressed than the kids are. Thats without all the normal school stuff and extra work I have in my new role.
So...rather than picking a nice easy book to read I picked up Wolf Hall, the recent Booker winner.

The novel is 650 pages long, but in hardback so bloody heavy. Its starts with Cromwell's childhood, growing up beaten by an alcoholic father till the age of 15 when he runs away. The book then chronicles his gradual rise in the British monarchy till he became the Henry's right-hand man.

I loved parts of this. Cromwell's relationship with his family, his dealings with Mary Boyelen, all the affairs and his conversations with his son and nephew. It was also a very readable novel. However I felt that I missed out on tons of stuff as I knew nothing of the history of this time, except recognising the names. The author has a huge cast of charcaters and the novel spans 35 years. I was often lost as to which Henry or Mary they were discussing. Segments frequently started with 'he...' and it wasn't until a page later that I could work out who they were talking about.

I'm sending this out on a bookring to 5 other people, it will probably return to me next summertime. I'm thinking that I may do a bit of reading on the period and then try and tackle this again next year when I'm more clued up.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

My Thoughts: Creole Folktales by Patrick Chamoiseau

I love folktales so when this was offerred as a bookring on bookcrossing I jumped at the chance to read it. The folk tales are from Chamoiseau's home island Martinique.

I started off loving this book and each tale, by the end I was enjoying the folktales less I'm not sure if this was the tales themselves which didn't grip me as much or if I had just overdosed in too short a space of time. I'm not going to talk about them all, I've just picked out a couple of those I loved.

'The Rainmaker' is the story of a village often suffering drought, one of the villagers brings a small boy to the village. The boy shows the villagers that with a needle he can draw the rainclouds closer and closer and make them shed their rain. He can even determine how much rain they drop. A village elder wishes for a shower not knowing that this is the only type of rain the village will now get.

'Madame Kelman' This short story reminded me very much of Hansel and Gretel and of several African folktales. A young unwanted daughter is sent into the forest each night with an impossible task to fill, the mother is hoping she will come to harm without the mother having a direct hand in her death. One day she sends the girl out with another errand and the girl searches and searched for the item which doesn't exist and ends up getting lost in the forest. She comes across a house with a witch inside, disgiused as an old lady. The witch promises her she can eat any of the lovely food on display if she brings the witch some water from the river. After drinking gallons of water and not fulfilling her promise the witch says she will feed the starving girl if the girl can find out the witches name. The girl ventures back out into the forest again and eventually discovers the witches name, when this is evealed to the witch the witch has to fulfill her promise. In a rage the witch rips off the horn of a bull, the leg of a donkey and the graceful neck of a crab leaving them all as we see them today.

This book is worth picking out, I think I'll get my own copy as it would be lovely to dip into this every now and again.

For the A-Z challenge

Do you have any particular countries folktales that you love?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Women Unbound Meme

1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?

Feminism means to me the right for women to be equal to men in every sphere of life, to have the same rights and opportunities. It's not about how you dress or act, but the freedom to chose to dress and act how you want.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Yes and no. I have always felt it was important to go out and get what I want in life whether that is a job or to purchase something. I treat the girls in my class in exactly the same way as the boys, and teach them that they can do anything that the boys can do. When I have a family I will ensure that the boys and girls (if I get a mix) are treated the same.
However, I like boys to pay for the first date, I would never ask a guy out on a first date and think a girl is really brave if she can do this. I also still rely on men to come and do those things for me which I'm not strong enough to do - like changing a wheel. And I desperately want to be able to stay home when I have kids till they are in full time education. I still freak out if girls in my class burp or fart in public and can often b heard saying 'thats not very lady-like' when they are messing around with the boys. (Mainly because they are 14 and jumping around in teensy skirts).
I think I'm one of those women who want the best bits of both worlds.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

Women are now expected to be able to have it all, the family, the perfect home, a great job, to go to the gym and attend social functions. Its great that they have a much wider sphere to play in I just wonder if I'd ever be able to fit it all in with a full time job. At school we often see kids whose parents both work full time and aren't there when the kids get home from school. You sometimes get the feeling that they are trying to provide their child with everything, but what the kid really needs is a parent who is home more. That said these children are often the confident kids and often in top sets so it obviously isn't harming them too much. I think it depends on the way both the husband and wife work as a team.

See what everyone else said here

A Challenge: Woman Unbound (Nov 2009 - Nov 2010)

This is going to be one of the 6 challenges that I'm going to join for 2010, in fact this is the first one!

Women Unbound is a challenge to read books about women's studies, the books can be fiction or non fiction. Pop over to the challenge blog or to Eva's blog to get the full details and to see examples of the books which could be read for this challenge.
I've decided to participate at the higest level as a Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

I'm not picking a reading list at the moment as I always end up changing it. But as I had a thing about feminist takes on literature during my degree (and ended up being banned from writing anymore essays analysing books from a feminist angle) I may be picking up some books linked to that, I'd also like to read books about women who have gained power against the odds or in male dominated areas, and some which are set in other cultures. I'm not sure which fiction I'll read at all but I'm sure I'll fine plenty of suggestions from other people's reviews.

I'll be starting with Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi by Katherine Frank as soon as I have finished my current Non-Fiction read.

Books read:
The Virago Book of Wicked Verse, ed. Jill Dawson
Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep, Siba Shakib
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Sunday Salon

The read-a-thon ended for me at lunchtime, I took a good long walk into town (a 3 mile all round trip) picked up some holds from the library, have lazed around a bit and have made 2 handmade bookmarks. Was thinkig I was going on a crafting binge, then got a phone call from my ex, saying he was back in the country after 6 months away. It was very unexpected as he's not due back for a month and I would have like to have been prepared, we're friends but in that uncertain way with exes. So now I'm in a funny ole mood.

Anyway, back to books. I'm going to do a very quick round up of the books I read during the read-a-thon.
Starting with my least favourite The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, I was expecting great things from this, mainly because I had heard that Neil Gaiman (one of my favs) had written the introduction for the new edition and he said it was one of his greatest reads. I was blocking out the fact that I hadn't liked The Wonderful O either. From what I can remember (i was reading it during my mega tired hour, and I was struggling with everything) this is a fairytale type story. The beautiful princess is promised to a man as a child, he sets a challenge for another man to win her hand. There was stuff about jewels and tears and some pictures which I hope were painted in the 1970s. Oh well its another one knocked off the 1001 list. One star.

Ok the rest of this post isn't going to be that whiney.
I also read The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachen. From the synopsis on the back of this I thought it was going to be the aventures of a girl who flies around the town as a detective. Wrong I was. Gwenni has a vivid imagination, she complains that she could fly as a small child but now can only fly in her sleep and she thinks the jugs on the shelf are watching her. She is also a very sensitive child, living in poverty she is fed cheep meat each night, her thoughts about the meat have put me off eatting mince for the rest of my life. She grows queasy at the sight of blood and feels sick if upset.
Her mother is scared the neighbours will think she is mad so she is constantly shouting at the child, and picking on her. Gwenni goes to visit a neighbour on the day of a disappearance, she becomes convinced that this man should be found and sent back to his wife. From this day on her mum becomes 'sensitive' and becomes more and more aggressive towards Gwenni.
It was an average book, clearly a first novel but a fairly easy read-a-thon read. 3 stars

The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat this was a fab read for the read-a-thon, the chapters were short, and it was a good story. Set in Haiti in the time of the problems between the Haitians and those from Dominica. We followed a young girl who had been orphaned as a child. She was rescued by a wealthy man and went to live in his household and trained up as a maid. Her boyfriend is underpaid and treated badly in his job as a cane worker.
When her boss kills one of his friends in a car accident the feelings of oppression which have always bubbles under the surface break and evryone is suddenly pulled into the middle of a civil war. She escapes across the border hoping her boyfriend and friends will manage to make it over and avoid the bullets.
The story was good, but has that feelig of familiarity to it. 4 stars.

My Children! My Friend! by Athol Fugard. I added this play to the pile at the last minute as it was so tiny and looked like something which would be good for those hard hours. I ended up reading this as my final book (I'd had a nap so I wasn't tired when I got to this). The South African play involves only 3 characters, an 18yr old black boy, an 18 white girl and his teacher. It quicks off in the middle of a debate over whether women should have an equal role in their society. The boys arguing along the tradition route while the girl is saying Africa needs to catch up with the rest of the world. Both very intelligent their comments are well formed and a friendship develops.
Despite living very different lifes, not just in terms of culture but also in terms of wealth they are brought together again by their teacher for a literature quiz in which he mentors them. The teachers role is vital to the play, he asks her if she would like to participate while he just tells the boy, he justifies this by saying a teacher in a black school in Africa must demand respect and obediance.
Under the surface we are aware that a rebellion is going on and just waiting for a moment to break out.
If you haven't read this go borrow it from the library and read it. Its only 68 pages and you'll be so glad that you did. 5 stars

read-a-thon hour 24

Books read: 4
Books Finished:The Earth Hums in B Flat, The 13 Clocks, The Farming of Bones, My Children! My Africa!
Current Book:
Running total of pages read since you started: 927

I just finished reading my final book, the play My Children! My Africa! and what a fantastic way to finish. I didn't read as much as I would have hoped, but I felt ill for the most part of it - I feel fine now. I loved the atmosphere of the read-a-thon, how you are somewhere alone but still feel like you are surrounded by people. I'm going to spend the next half an hour cheering on those who are still reading.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 13 when I was feeling poorly and sorry for myself.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? The play My Children! My Africa! by Athol Fugard was a fantastic read and easy to follow as it only had 3 characters speaking. The ideas and story will keep you gripped and at just 68 pages its a quick read.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No, it was great.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? As a cheerleader I knew exactly where to go and having the readers seperated into groups made it less daunting.
5. How many books did you read? 4
6. What were the names of the books you read? I finished: The Earth Hums in B Flat, The 13 Clocks, The Farming of Bones, My Children! My Africa! I also read a section of Nights at the Circus and a few short stories from The Virago Book of Witches
7. Which book did you enjoy most? My Children! My Africa!
8. Which did you enjoy least? I struggled with Nights at the Circus - mainly because of the print but also because of the high amount of speech, so I set it aside to read later in the week.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Be realistic in your targets, I thought I'd get around a lot more people than I did.
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Very likely, would like to read and cheer again. I think next time I would assign myself a group of readers - 50ish, to visit a number of times during the 24 hours rather than going to lots of blogs. I had problems opening blogs I'd never been to which for some reason made my page open 50odd tabs and then close down. I also found blogs where I couldn't comment because I didn't belong to there blogging system. Don't get me wrong I visited some great blogs and will certainly go back to many of them again. I'm also planning to blog hop this evening to see how people got on.

Thanks to those running the read-a-thon, you were fantastic!!!

Read-a-thon: The final stretch

Books read: 3
Books Finished:The Earth Hums in B Flat, The 13 Clocks, The Farming of Bones
Current Book: Up next will be a play My Children! My Africa!
Running total of pages read since you started: 859

I just finished The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat, the best read by me so far. Will be posting about this one later in the day. I'm off to cheerlead for a little while then starting a play (it's tiny).

Read-a-thon Hour?

I think we're in hour 20 or 21? lol.
Books read: 2
Books Finished:The Earth Hums in B Flat, The 13 Clocks
Current Book: Up next will be The Farming of Bones
Running total of pages read since you started: 728

Managed to read 170 pages since I've woken up, plus blog hop and comment. I've also had a bath - I was getting irritated that I felt grubby, I have to wash my hair every morning to feel human again! Now I'm slathered in the Body Shop's Brazil Nut Body Butter and fresh pjs. I've eaten and watered the house plants.

The picture above was taken from my bedroom window a few hours ago when the sun came up, looks like it'll be a gorgeous day so will certainly be getting myself out of the house when this read-a-thon is over.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Read-a-thon: I'm back

I was planning on doing the whole 24 hours but I wasn't planning on feeling ill. My cold has pretty much gone and been replaced with a sore throat and up and down temperature. So last night I decided it was better to have a few hours sleep, I went to bed at half one and got up at 6 (real time, 5 as the clocks changed in the middle of the night). And guess what I dreamed of....blogging the read-a-thon :D
I'm going to check my google reader then read for a while and get some cheerleading in later on.
Hope everyone else is still doing well x

Read-a-thon Hour 11

Books read: 2
Books Finished:The Earth Hums in B Flat, The 13 Clocks
Current Book: Up next will be The Farming of Bones
Running total of pages read since you started: 559

The last hour has been far more productive, I've read a Finnish folk tale about a witches spell and James Thurber's The 13 Clocks, as well as polishing off most of a bag of family size Walker's Sensations and I visited about 20 blogs.
I've completely lost track of the blogs I've visited in total or the total amount of reading time.

Read-a-thon Hour 9

I've finally finished my first book!!!!!!! The Earth Hums in B Flat an okay but average read. I'll be doing mini reviews of my reads early in the week. I haven't been blogging or cheerleading in the last 4 hours because the internet decided to play up earlier, and just kept freezing.

It's now half 9 at night here, I've had dinner and the moon is shining brightly through the window. I'm off to do some cheerleading and get bathed and into my pjs before I start reading again. I'm thinking a few short stories then The 13 Clocks next.

Thanks for all my comments, hopefully I'll get to catch up with what everyone is doing through my cheerleading.

Read-a-thon Hour 4

Books read: 0
Current Book: Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Running total of pages read since you started: 90
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 1 hr and 45 mins
Cheerleading: 28 people visited
Favourite posts:

I've read till the end of the first part of Nights at the Circus, I'll be moving on to a new book after a bit of cheerleading as although I'm enjoying the plot the type is tiny not all that comfortable to read which is slowing me down massively.

Read-a-thon the 3rd hour

Books read: 0
Current Book: Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Running total of pages read since you started: 46
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 55 mins
Cheerleading: 10posts
Favourite posts:

So far this hasn't been going to well, I've been figeting and not concentrating, have had phone calls to deal with and managed to stop at a ton of blogs trying to cheerlead where people haven't started posting yet. Going to try and manage a solid hour of Nights at the Circus, if I still can't concentrate going to change to another read.
Hope everyone else is doing better than I am

Read-a-Thon the Beginning

I had many plans for this morning; a stroll along the river up to the library among crunchy leaves, cleaning the whole house, making vegi bolognase and peanut butter cookies from scratch. However I woke up to the sound of heavy rain and I still have my horrid cold, so I've pottered about and generally just been waiting for the read-a-thon to start. As we're starting in England at 1pm (probably one of the best starting times) I'm starting with fish and chips for my lunch which I've just popped out for and Nights at the Circus:

When I was cleaning my bedroom this morning - crisp fresh bed covers to snuggle up on the sofa with tonight while I read - I kept gazing at the stacks of unread books and mentally picking out ones to read. After I realised I was being unrealistic I've stayed downstairs where the only books in eyesight are these ones which I picked out on Thursday evening:

(The rabbit is a camera w*ore!)
The list:
The Virago Book Of Witches (for the RIP III challenge) - which was missed out of the pic.
The 13 Clocks by James Thurber (a 1001 book)
Piecing by Ryu Murakami (for the Japanese Literature challenge)
My Children my Africa by Athol Fugard (a play)
The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes (Both are for a bookcrossing bookbox)
Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy (for the Twelve Step Poetry Programme)
Creole Folktales by Patrick Chamoiseau
The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Kate Culhane by Hague

Out of this pile the poetry, the two short story collections (Creole Folktales and The Virago Book of Witches) and Wolf Hall will be dipped into. I'm hoping to polish of 4 or 5 of the other books. Possibly more.

I'm hoping to read for 24 hours but will sleep if needs be, my cold has left me with achey shoulders and my eyes have felt tired since I woke up. I'll be curling up with blankets, my stripey slippers and the bunny whatever happens. Oh and I'll also be cheerleading this year!
I'll be making a donation to the Royal National Library for the Blind I've made monthly donations to this charity for years and years, but it has become more important to me since I started teaching as our school has a specialist unit for Visually and Hearing Impaired pupils who are integrated into mainstream education.

Monday, 19 October 2009

My Thoughts: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

After whinging about having readers block I then went and read all afternoon and a lot of the evening, it was still a bit of a struggle, I kept getting figgity but I managed to read for a decent length of time. Luckily I had the rilliant Scott Westerfeld to get me through.

Near about everyone in blogland seems to have read these - although they seem pretty unheard of on English book blogging sites.
Ugles is the first book in a quartet based in a country where between the ages of 12 to 16 you become an Ugly. You leave segregated away from your parents along with all the other uglies. Everyone is normal looking, they have unsymmetrical faces, spots, greasy hair, they may be slightly to fat or a bit to thin. They all look different and therefore are deemed Ugly.
They dream of being 16 of becoming a Pretty from the day of their 16th birthday when they will be whisked off for plastic surgery to make them look perfect. In New Pretty land not only does everyone have large sensual lips and big doe eyes, but they are allowed to party all night and day until they become middle pretties and have jobs and kids and stuff.
Tally can't wait for her chance to be 16, until she meets and befriends Shay, a girl who reveals to her that not everyone wants to be a Pretty and in fact some go off and live in a hidden city over where the Rusties (us) used to live, before we screwed up the world. I was shocked at her decision at the ending, looking forward to seeing where things go next.

A great teen read, good for adults to read as well. I'm looking forward to Pretties, the next book in the series which I have siting on my desk, its fast looking like it is going to be read for the read-a-thon this weekend.

Barts YA Dystopian Chalenge
The Scott Westerfeld Mini Challenge.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Sunday Salon - City of Glass by Paul Auster and Stuff

I'll start with the 'stuff' first. I'm still in a major reading slump, I'm barely finishing a book a week at the moment and keep gving up on books all over the place. Not sure why this is, but its not just affecting reading, also going to the gym, marking school books, crafting and studying have gone down hill.
Despite the slump I'm looking forward to the readathon next week, I'm going to pop to the library tomorrow and pick up my holds and a few grafic novels and picture books so my eyes get a break. As that weekend is the start of the autumn half term I'm going to attempt to stay up all night and cheerlead as well as read. I still haven't thought about what to read, I have tons of books out of the library, bookrings and other stuff I want to read laying around so will just have to see what I fancy on the day. Before then I have to finish Uglies by Scott Westerfeld as its due back to the library Saturday.
Have you ever had a big slump in concentration? How did you get through it?

City of Glass by Paul Auster.
This is the first Paul Auster I have ever read, and I shall certainly be reading some more in the near future. City of Glass is a novella of about 125 pages. The main character Daniel Quinn is a novellist who hides behind his writer's name not even meeting his publishers. One day he recieves a call from a mystery person looking for Paul Auster the detective. At first he passes this off as a wrong number, but when they call again he decides to pretend he is this detective.
Quinn sets off to meet his clients, finding a man in his twenties whose speech and mind are impaired as a result of his father locking him up and never speaking to him for a large portion of his childhood as a scientific experiment. The father is due to be released from prison and Quinn is hired to follow the father and report if he seems that he could become a threat to his son.
Quinn spends months followig this old eccentric man on his walks around New York and becomes more and more embedded in the case, distancing himself from his real life.

I'm off now to mark some coursework, make doughnut muffins to take into work tomorrow and attempt to get some crafting and reading done. Have a good Sunday.

Friday, 9 October 2009

My Thoughts: Secret Hour (Midnighters Series) by Scott Westerfeld

October 9th and I finished my first RIP III book, I'm so behind everyone else on this challenge. In my defense up until this week the weather here was summery and didn't feel autumnal, now in true English style it has rained and been grey and horrid every day, we haven't had a good crip autumn day yet.

The Secret Hour is my first Scott Westerfeld book, and I can't wait to read some more. I already have Uglies and Pretties from the library and Touching Darkness is reserved for me.
The Secret Hour is the first book in the Midnighters Series. The book is set in a tiny town in Oklahoma. Jessica Day is the new girl from the big city, the girl everyone wants to make friends wih because she is 'fresh meat' in a school whee everyone has known each other forever.

Jessica wakes up one night at midnight, her room is filled with an intense blue light, the moon filling the sky. What had awoken her was the sudden silence after a night of rainfall. She steps outside into a froxzen world, the raindrops just hang suspended in the air, as she walks through them those she touch fall to the ground. It sounds beautiful.

Her second night out in the midnight hour isn't quite as serene. Woken by a cat at the window he leads her outside and down the street where he quickly transforms into a panther out to attack her. On the run, Jess clambers up a metal wired fence, as the panther hits the wire it burns.

After this experience Jessica quickly finds out a few members of her school are also Midnighters, Rex, the Seer; Melanie, who can read thoughts; Dess the mathmatical genius (the number 13 and its multiples are lucky) and Jonathan who has the ability to fly during the midnight hour.

Now they just have to figure out what Jess' special charm is and why all the creepy beasts which live in the midnight hour are out to get her.

Others thoughts:
If I missed your review of this book leave a URL in the comments section and I'll add it into the body of the text.

I love the idea of walking through a frozen rain, or finding a frozen thunder bolt or falling star. What would you do if you woke up in the frozen midnight hour?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Library Loot

I've been avoiding the library for a while now as I was trying to tackle the books I had to read without adding more to the pile. Then this week I succumbed and reserved several books because of various read-a-longs and challenges suddenly became very attractive. I still have 5 books reserved so hopefully they will come in soon. Today I picked up these:

Uglies, Scott Westerfeld
I am a Cat, Natsume Soseki (This is for the Japan Read-a-long but I must have a different edition as mine isn't in volumes '~')
Madame Serpent, Jean Plaidy (for a new Historical Novel reading group)
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness (Everyone is talking about it and I hate being left out)
Watchers, Sheila Jacobs( a random grab at the library but looks perfect for Bart's challenge)

I also spent a whopping 90p in the library sale and got The Master and Margarita and The Virago Book Of Witches.

Monday, 5 October 2009

My Thoughts: The Fire-Eaters by David Almond

Hello from a very grey and dreary England, a trip to the gym is planned later but the weather is making me want to curl up in my pjs with a hot chocolate and a book rather than practicing dog pose for an hour.

Last night I grabbed a book off the tbr which has been there for ages, I needed a kids book which wouldn't be too expensive to post to South Africa (for a bookcrossing book exchange)and which I could read fairly fast. The Fire-Eaters has been lurking around the house for a good year since I brought it from the library for 10p.

David Almond is famous for Skellig a book I read every year to the 11yr olds in my class, and every year fall in love with all over again. And this book by him is even better!

The Fire-Eaters is set in a small Northern village, in an area of deprivation. Bobby Burns Spends his days with his friends Joseph, a lad just wanting to finish school ad make some money as a builder and Ailsa. Ailsa, is a gorgeous character, her family sift coal from the sea and beach in order to make a living, and at the age of just 12 she has become their carer since her mother died.
Bobby on the other hand is off to grammar school, a place his parents have dreamed of for his as it will allow him to move up the social ladder. But grammar school means changing friends, being strapped and mixing with a wealthier bunch of boys.
Bobby also has to contend with his father's ill health and the constant news of nuclear testings by Russia and America's threat of going to war with the Russians.

Its one of those novels about life changes, growing up, understanding the world and being at peace with yourself. I haven't explained it very well, but it creates that feeling that you can only get from kids books. Its true, it reminds you that kids lifes aren't easy but also makes you yearn for that period of true friendships and sharedness which you have less time for as an adult.
A must read for kids book lovers.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Audiobook: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

A super quick review.
My love of Neil Gaiman just gets deeper and deeper. And this book has made me think perhaps I should take another look at Terry Pratchett.
Good Omens is a novel about the end of the world. A small boy, Adam is born who is prophesied to be the reason for the worlds end. The devils and angels have all been waiting for this point, for this final fatal battle to decide who really is superior while Adam just whistfully wiles away his summer with his friends.
The book is full of comical moments, as well as religious conundrums - just why would God place an apple on a tree and tell everyone not to eat it unless he meant it to be ate etc.
Stephen Briggs reading brings the whole thing to life and a joy to listen to. Read it!

YA Dystopian Read-a-Long

A few weeks ago I said I wasn't joining anymore challenges then Bart goes and announces this one, grrrr!!!!!! I can't bypass a challenge on two of my favourite genres. Readers have between October 15th and the end of the year to read between 1-5 YA Dystopian books - there are suggestions up at his site.
I'm not making a pool, although I just reserved a few books at the library! I know that I want to read Z for Zachariah which has been sitting unread upstairs for years and Tomorrow, When the War Began which I brought last week.
I'm seeing this challenge as perfect reading for Dewey's 24 hour readathon, the books will be attention grabbing and not too long and thus give a sense of satisfaction.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Crafty Corner: All About Me

A mini update about my other love. Our challenge this month was to make a 4 inch by 4 inch fat page about ourselves to then post off to other participants in the group, we will then recieve their 4x4s and make them into a little book. Sounds easy, but then you realise how small 4inches is.
I cheated and have created a pocket to hold cards with info about me on the other side. There's a card with the meaning of my name on, a list of favourites (foods/authors/films etc), a wishlist of places I want to visit and my favourite poem decorated onto a card.
I'm looking forward to seeing what others send me.
If you click on the picture you can enlarge it.

Dewey's 24 hour read-a-thon: Sign Up

24-25th October 2009. I'm signed up, if you want to join in sign up here

The Sunday Salon: Short Story Sunday RIP III

Autumn finally seems to have arrived in the last few days, the mornings and evenings are freezing but the days are warm as long as you are stood in the sunlight. I was awoken by the winds yesterday morning t around half six and thought that it was a perfect time to start my RIP III reading with a short story.

'The Duchess at Prayer' - Edith Wharton, from The Ghost Feeler: Stories of Terror and the Supernatural SPOILER ALERT

First line:
Have you ever questioned the log shuttered front of an old Italian house, that motionless mask, smooth, mute, equivocal as the face of a priest behind which buzz the secrets of the confessional?

And so the story begins. In the Italian house a beautiful bride was once brought, a bride who was simply a possession, a being her husband saw but twice a year. She spent her days joyously dressing up, dancing, sewing and making music. At the beginnnig she had a campanion in her husbands cousin, but her jealous husband soon had him removed when he discovered her happiness. Undaunted she carried on filling her time with pleasure in the company of her serving women, and them alone. In the crypt an ancient relic, the leg of a Saint lays, the women spends her time in prayer and devotion to this relic.
One night her husband returns unexpected with a marble statue of the woman, he insists that the statue is placed over the crypt as he cannot bare the knowledge of her devotion. In a meal that evening the mistress dies, and a year later a new wife enters the home. When the husband finally dies the statue of the first wife is finally revealed, her face is tortured and has the look of a scream of pain across its face.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Mailbox Monday (on a Tuesday)

Being in a reading slump I did what every girl does to make themselves feel better - I shopped (I'm errr supposed to be on a book buying ban!) I got these beauties in the last 10 days.

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
The Three Muskateers, Alexandre Dumas
Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda, Stassen
The City of Dreaming Books, Walter Moers
Tomorrow, When the Was Began, Marsden
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Footprint (next years 5 week summer holiday)
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel