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.