Monday, 31 October 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


IMWAYR is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey and is a little round-up of the week for bloggers that read.

Happy Halloween! I'm going to make the effort to write more articles from now on. I never intended the blog to be purely reviews but they seem to have taken over. Of course I'll still be reading and reviewing lots but will have some extra stuff for you to read inbetween.

Books I've read:
Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill 4/5
Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult 2/5
America Unchained by Dave Gorman 4/5

Currently reading:
The Bomber by Liza Marklund

Upcoming reads:
I think I might give up telling you what I'm going to read next. I never do it, do I?

I also blogged about:
Top Ten Halloween Reads | Halloween Giveaway! | Book Blogger Hop | Incoming! | B is for... Baba Yaga

Sunday, 30 October 2011

B is for... Baba Yaga

You may remember I started an A-Z of mythology. Maybe not as I never got past the letter A. There is reasoning behind this as I wanted to feature Baba Yaga for the letter B and had plans to read the Canongate Myth, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, before writing the article. I even got as far as getting the book out the library but it never got read. I will buy myself a copy next year but in the meantime, here's what I found out out this Slavic witch.

Baba Yaga, like many wicked witches, is known for kidnapping children and threatening to eat them. She's quite a bony old lady so I can only surmise that she doesn't get to eat many of them. She's not the most conventional which however and travels in a giant pestle, using the mortar to steer. Her broomstick is reserved for removing traces of where she's been but the pestle and mortar combo does enable her to fly. She lives in a little wooden hut which stands on chicken legs.

She is a common character in Russian and Eastern European mythology. These stories are very similar to those of the brothers Grimm, full of innocent maidens, mean stepmothers and unwanted children. The story of Vasilisa is one of the best known and it has several familiar elements to it. The full story can be read here. Although she is a fearsome character, if treated with respect she will do the same and the villain of the stories is usually not her.

She does crop up now and then in modern fantasy fiction. I recognised the name in one of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books, where Baba Yaga is fae. I know I've seen it elsewhere too but she never gets a starring role.



Some books featuring Baba Yaga that you might find interesting (links go through to amazon.co.uk):



Have you read any books featuring Baba Yaga that you'd like to add?

Incoming!

AKA In My Mailbox

So I got lax with posting my weekly incoming books. You may have been thinking I have been a good girl and have curbed the book hoarding but alas not. I've got little piles of review books that I'm not going to get round to reading any time soon, so to lessen my guilt, I'll be joining in with The Story Siren's IMM meme each Sunday, just so you know what cool books are out there.

Of course this week are two books that I will be reading promptly. It's always a joy to receive them from Canongate as they take a lot of care in producing a beautiful looking book.




Wildwood is written by the singer-songwriters of The Decemberists, Colin Meloy, and illustrated by his wife, Carson Ellis. I admit to not being familiar with the band and will have to have a little listen whilst reading. It's Canongate's first foray into children's publishing. Quite a big looking book, but beautifully bound and illustrated, it's the story of what happens when Prue's little brother gets kidnapped by crows. Prue and her friend must journey into the wilderness known as Wildwood to get him back where they discover a secret world. It got me at "kidnapped by crows".

Pyg is the memoir of a pig (though actually written by Russell Potter). The book itself is a very pretty pink and gold edition which I think will attract a few magpiesque shoppers in the stores. It's due to be released on my birthday (3rd November).

Saturday, 29 October 2011

America Unchained

I was after a bit of roadtrip inspiration and picked up Dave Gorman's America Unchained off the shelves. After doing a US tour, he came home thinking he didn't like America very much but his problem was that he had only seem the soulless corporate side. He sets himself a mission to cross the country without giving any money to The Man, avoiding hotels, gas stations, cafes and shops that are part of any chain.

The journey ends up a little bit like one of those Top Gear specials where they buy old cars and they start to fall apart, except that Dave doesn't really know anything about cars. He buys a 70s Ford Torino on the west coast and the car is as much a part of the book as the social side. I've never know a trip to the mechanic to be a gripping narrative before! One thing that does stand out is how friendly and helpful folks are in the west and midwest.

Of course, it's one opinion of America from a liberal and British point of view so it may not appeal to all readers. I certainly wouldn't recommend to a Mormon because after educating himself on the religion, Dave starts to find them a little bit scary. I blame the lack of tea... what kind of religion bans tea?

It strikes me that whilst relying on mom and pop businesses in America is still just about possible, you wouldn't be able to do the same trip in the UK. Yes we have plenty of fantastic independent hotels and B&Bs and places to eat and buy food...but when was the last time you saw an indie petrol station? The big supermarket chains pretty much rule the roost here and I'm not sure what would drive an individual to even attempt to compete.

You can view photos from Dave's roadtrip here.



My copy was second hand and I found a little bookmark between the pages:

Friday, 28 October 2011

Book Blogger Hop

This could be the last Book Blogger Hop @ Crazy For Books so I feel an obligation to join in...


Book Blogger Hop


“What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Even if you don’t celebrate, what kinds of costumes do you like?”


I don't go out much for Halloween, it's not quite as big here as in America. I do like painting my face though, which I do all year round in my photography! One year I went out as a zombie bunny which was fun. Maybe one year I'll be a patchwork bunny!

302:365 Closing In
298:365 Hammer Horror
181:365 Fluke
074:365 What's For Dinner?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Harvesting the Heart

Paige's mother left her when she was five years old. Now she is a mother herself could she possibly be capable of doing the same thing? She didn't plan the pregnancy and she's having trouble coping which isn't helped by the fact her husband is a busy surgeon, working his way to the top.



I can usually sit down and read a Jodi P in a day, they are so absorbing, however I struggled with Harvesting the Heart. Although it was only published in the UK last year, it is an older work which may have something to do with it. The story starts near the end and then goes back in time which ruins any kind of suspense. We know that Nicholas won't let Paige see her son so we know they got together, they had a child and she ran away all from the get go. The initial relationship between Paige and Nicholas seems a bit cliched, poor teenager leaves home and meets rich, handsome trainee doctor. Hrm.

I liked the idea that when Paige draws she sees an extra side of a person but it sort of disappeared after it had been used as a plot device to get her talking to Nicholas. I understand that she felt like she lost herself in the marriage but felt more could have been made of it. There were lots of bits and pieces that didn't seem to fit and the book was overlong.

It did pick up nearer the end, possibly because it got back to the starting point and the plot was an unknown once more. I think she does the moving back in time better in more recent books.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Halloween Giveaway!

If you liked the sound of the books on yesterday's Top Ten Halloween Reads then this giveaway is for you. I'll be giving the lucky winner their choice of scary read from my list.



Choice of books: Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, Eutopia by David Nickle, Tokyo (The Devil of Nanking) by Mo Hayder, World War Z by Max Brooks, It by Stephen King, Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Dracula by Bram Stoker (Vintage or Penguin edition), The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey or Poems and Poe by Edgar Allen Poe.

Rules:

1. The book will be ordered from The Book Depository or Amazon.
2. Entry is open internationally to any country The Book Depository ship to for free.
3. Entrants must be 16 or over.
4. Entry by form only.
5. Open to followers only.
6. Closing date: 31st October 2011

Killed at the Whim of a Hat

Jimm Juree is a crime reporter, working her way to the top with national Thai newspapers until the day her mother sells up the family shop and buys a holiday resort on the Gulf of Siam. There's not a lot of news in the small fishing village she now calls home and she's soon fed up of eating fish. When two skeletons are discovered buried underground, Jimm can smell a story and begins an investigation posing as a big city reporter helping the police. Then when a monk is found dead, all the connects the two cases is the presence of a hat.

It's a real entertaining read with a cast of unusual and interesting characters there are never taken too far into farce. It's a great slice of modern Thailand, a country where tradition meets technology in every day life. There's Jimm's brother who is now her sister,embroiled in a number of internet scams and dubious websites and her body builder brother who is eternally single. Her mother who lovse the stray dogs of the neighbourhood and trying to matchmake Jimm with the less than inspiring locals.

The title is taken from a George Bush quote where he got his metaphors mixed up. Each chapter starts with a quote from the ex-president which seems odd at first but it is explained.

The author, Colin Cotterill, is an Englishman who now lives in Thailand. I think his outsider perspective is the ideal way to observe some of the idiosyncrasies of the country's way of life. I will definitely be reading more of his books (and lucky me, Quercus has just sent me Slash and Burn).

Killed at the Whim of a Hat is currently a standalone novel but I believe a series is planned. It's currently available to buy in paperback in the UK. Many thanks to Quercus for sending me a copy to review.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Top Ten Halloween Reads

This week's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is full of scary reads recommended for Halloween!


Dark Matter - Michelle Paver
An unsettling tale set in the isolation of an Antartic winter.

Eutopia - David Nickle
Blimmin creepy, I had trouble sleeping after this one. You can read my review here and an interview with the author here.

Tokyo - Mo Hayder
Actually several of Mo Hayder's books have left me not wanting to turn the light off and she isn't a really a horror writer! I think some of the subject matter in Tokyo (alternative title The Devil of Nanking) is pretty disturbing but I also learned a little bit of history.

World War Z - Max Brooks
I don't think it's all that scary but you can't have a Halloween list without zombies and this is one of my faves.

It - Stephen King
Gaaaah scary clown! Seriously, were clowns even scary before Stephen King came along? I'm not that sure. Though pretty much any Stephen King will set you up for this Halloween.



Undead and Unwed - MaryJanice Davidson
Halloween has it's fun side too and even if the series goes downhill, the first Queen Betsy book is a hilarious take on the vampire sub-genre.

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
A boy who lives in a graveyard and has ghosts for friends. I find Neil's children's books charming without being patronising and this has the perfect tone for Halloween if you don't want a heavy going read.

Dracula - Bram Stoker
Classic horror. It might not seem all that scary to modern readers, but imagine you were living in 1897 when it was released. I bet it was pretty shocking to its contemporary audience.


The Gashlycrumb Tinies - Edward Gorey
This is actually an illustrated poem but I love it's macabre ABC of children who fall foul to horrible deaths!


The Poems of Edgar Allen Poe
Turn down the lights and read aloud...

Monday, 24 October 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


IMWAYR is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey and is a little round-up of the week for bloggers that read.

A lot of you will be recovering from Dewey's readathon this week. It can pretty much account for all the books I've read this week, I didn't even post last Monday as I'd only read Deadline and have been struggling through Harvesting the Heart.

I did however raise a fantastic £143.27 for the Alzheimer's Society.

Books I've read:
Snuff by Terry Pratchett 4/5
Star Gazing by Linda Gillard 5/5
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 5/5

Currently reading:
Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill
Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult

Upcoming reads:
Maybe something scary for Halloween, any suggestions?

I also blogged about:
I Feel I've Been Neglecting You | #readathon 0:00 | #readathon 0:20 | #readathon 2:00 | #readathon 4:00 | #readathon 8:35 | #readathon 12:00 | #readathon 13:00 | #readathon 17:00 | #readathon #19:00 | #readathon 22:20 | #readathon 24:00

Good luck to those of you partaking in the week-long Bout of Books readathon!

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

It's been a while since I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy so I picked it as a re-read for the readathon. Unfortunately I've now ended up with a film tie-in edition for a pretty bad film. Don't watch it! I can recommend the cheesy BBC TV series or the Radio 4 recordings if you are after something other than the book.

It's hard to review a book you've grown up with. In my mind everyone knows the significance of 42 and what a Babelfish is. However if you aren't familiar, it's the first in a "trilogy of five parts" of sci-fi comedy in which the world is destroyed to make space for an intergalactic highway and the sole survivor, Arthur Dent, is rescued by his alien friend, Ford Prefect, and end up on a journey through space on a ship powered by an improbability drive. And what is the question of life, the universe and everything if the answer is 42?

Let's face it, the actual book in the book was the forefather of the Kindle. I'm quite tempted to hack mine to give it a Don't Panic screensaver. The passages out of the guide are the best parts. Actually they were the only thing well done in the recent remake (voiced by the wonderful Stephen Fry).

I don't think the book works by itself, if you're reading for the first time, get at least three books to read back-to-back. I don't think the humour has dated too much considering it was written in the late 70s. I think most of us can at least remember the obsession with digital watches and the philosophy is still as relevant as ever.




P.S. It looks like you can watch the whole BBC series on You Tube. It's quite old now so I don't think anyone minds it being on there.


Star Gazing

It's hard to imagine how anyone would experience the world if they had been blind from birth. Widowed Marianne never saw her husband's face or what colours are. Her world is full of sound, smells, taste and touch. One day she drops her keeps on her Edinburgh doorstep and is helped by a stranger, Keir, a man from Skye who she thanks but never expects to meet again.

Of course, she does meet Keir again and he does the one thing no one else does, he isn't apologetic towards her condition. As their relationship forms, the reader slowly learns more about Marianne's life, what's holding her back and how she deals with the every day. The narration is split between first person from Marianne and her sister Laura's points of view and third person, although never Keir's giving him that edge of mystery.

Linda has obviously done excellent research for this book. Although I will never really be able to get my head around how Marianne imagines the world she can't see, the writing does an excellent job of conveying how important music and scent is to her. When she's trying to get an idea if Keir is attractive, she asks him to describe the colour of his hair as if it were a smell.

It's a slow but powerful story. When losing your bearings becomes terrifying, I don't think you need to exaggerate events and Linda hasn't been tempted to do that. The idea of the sensory pleasure of a remote island is an excellent one.

Snuff

“Well, dear, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man with a lot of wood must be in need of a wife who can handle a great big-”

Oh yes Vimes and Lady Sybil are off for a holiday in the country and it's not voluntary on his part. Of course she own a great big house with all the staff and customs of the aristocracy. Vimes can think of nothing better than returning to the city and his job. But as luck would have it, he's soon being framed for a murder without a body and discovering more than he ever thought possible about goblins.

Like a few of Sir Terry's recent books, there are strong themes of equality and prejudice. Don't expect the Pride and Prejudice plot though but there are plenty of references for fans of Austen. The oppressed race in this case are the goblins but one of the wonderful things about the last few books as they really don't need to be set in a fantasy world at all. They are stories that don't rely on magic or mysticism to work and the goblins could be substituted for any persecuted group of people.

There were lots of laugh out loud lines and even a few awww moments. His wit and way of looking at the world is one of the best things about any Discworld book. I did feel the ending dragged a little and I don't think there were any surprises to be had.

Young Sam has graduated from Where's My Cow to The World of Poo and delights the reader with his obsession. I'd love to see The World of Poo released as its own book like they did with the picture book for Where's My Cow. I bet loads of us would buy it!

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