Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Creep Week

Halloween is in two days time folks, so it's officially Creep Week! 

I am a total scaredy cat, so I try to avoid truly creepy/scary books.  Bring on all things witchy, supernatural, ghostly etc...

1.  The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively.  My first ghost story.  I loved this, and last Christmas gave a copy to my niece, she loved it to (she says).

2.  Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, a recent read, very creepy and from about half way through I could only read during the day.

3.  The Magic Cottage by James Herbert.  My Aunt loved horror stories and thought I might enjoy them too... Thought I'd give this one a read, scared me silly as a teenager.

4.  Needful Things by Stephen King.  I read this in 2002, on a beach in the caribbean.  It's brilliant, but I hated it, way too scary for me.  I forced myself to finish it or I'd still be thinking about it now.  If you like to be scared you should definitely try this one.

5.  The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson, this months book club read.  Based on actual court records of 1612 Pendle Witch Trials.  Review to come soon(ish).

6.  The Boonsboro Inn trilogy by Nora Roberts.  Not remotely scary, and only moments of light creepiness.  Ms Roberts recently renovated an old Inn in the town of Boonsboro in real life, and decided to write a trilogy based on the renovation.  The heroes are the men who renovated it and their romantic relationships.  The Inn has a resident mystery ghost which along with the renovation works tied the books together.  Ms Roberts writes rather a lot of trilogies, and I have to say that her supernatural stories are my favourites.  See also - the Three Sisters Island trilogy,  Key trilogy, In the Garden trilogy, the Circle trilogy, the Sign of Seven trilogy,

7.  The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.  Hmmm, not bad.

8.  Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper.  Good magic vs Bad magic.  I've read only the first three so far, and they are fantastic.  I've heard great things about the last two books which are on my shelf.

9.  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  Brilliant.  not at all scary, but a wonderful story about a boy raised by ghosts.  Neverwhere was excellent too, also by Neil Gaiman.

10.  Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris.  They aren't brilliant fiction, not too well written, but easy reads and cheap to buy.  I kind of enjoyed this mystery series about a young woman who can sense the dead and how they died.

This meme is courtesy of The Broke and The Bookish

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Unusual or Favourite Character Names

I love this list from The Broke and The Bookish, there's been some good ones in recent weeks.

This week's TTT is all about Great Character Names.  Be they unusual or just my favourites.  A few sprang immediately to mind, others I had to think about, but I struggled to keep it to 10.  As usual I've bent the rules a bit to suit myself, but what else is new?

Locke Lamora from The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch.  In fact Locke is not Locke's real name, which is as yet unknown to us/me (don't ruin it for me if you happen to know).  What I really love is that Locke's name doesn't just lyrically roll off the tongue, but it also reflects his character... If you move the L in Lamora to the end you get Amoral.  Which is exactly what he is - though loyal to the end to his friends which is his near enough only redeeming feature.

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  Also many of the other character names, which are apparently inspired from Greek and Roman history, Classic Literature etc... In fact there is even a book about the names from this series...

Harry Flashman from The Flashman Papers series by Gordon McDonald Fraser.  Like Locke Lamora above this is a brilliant name for a brilliant character.  Flashman, or Flashy, is a total asshole, all 'flash' and no substance.  He's a character who is completely and unashamedly amoral, and in fact makes Locke Lamora look like a fair candidate for sainthood.

Sookie Stackhouse from The Southern Vampire series (aka True Blood books) by Charlaine Harris.  Can't help it, love that name, especaially when drawled by Bill... "Sookeh!"  lol.  He surname makes me think that she should buy out Merlotte's and change the name to The Stackhouse Steakhouse.

Buttercup, Westley etc... from The Princess Bride by William Goldman.  If I'm honest I'd have to say nearly every name I can remember from this book!  Not only are they brilliant names but who can possibly resist calling out "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prrrreparre to die" every now and then.  Names of note - Fezzik, Dread Pirate Roberts, Miracle Max.

Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Maybe it was Colin Firth striding purposefully out of the lake, but I just want to sigh and swoon.

Lyra from the His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman.  I love it, seriously I would consider this name if I had a daughter.

Thursday Next from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde.  I love the playful names that Fforde uses.  She's the daughter of a Chronoguard (Time Travel Police) Officer, so a name that suggests a future time would be completely appropriate.  Other names of note - I love that she named her children Tuesday and Friday, and her on/off husband is Landen Park-Laine, colleague Braxton Hicks etc etc...

A-Through-L from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland... from the Fairyland series by Catherynne M Valente.  I am totally and utterly in love with this book.  The character of A-Through-L is just wonderful, he's charming and sweet and a devoted friend to the heroine September (whose name I also love).  He is perfectly named having grown up in a Library in the sections A through L.  His character was a fabulous idea and completely original.  Everyone should have a Wyverary for a best friend.

Pretty much any character from the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett.  Yep, you might have noticed from my list I have a penchant for fantasy names, names which reflect the character, or the nature of the character, and this is what Terry Pratchett does with extreme success!  Who can forget Moist von Lipwig, or Death's assistant Mort.  There are hundreds more.

Monday, October 21, 2013


I saw this on Chrissi Reads blog after she left a comment on my TTT list, and I returned the favour and read a little of her blog...

I love the idea of challenges, and so if she doesn't mind, I have decided to set myself a formal challenge.

In November I challenge myself to write up all the reviews of the books I read over the summer and publish them on here.

I'm good at work, but in my personal life I'm not particularly disciplined, so this is quite a challenge as I read rather a lot over the summer months.

Potential upcoming challenges:

  • Finish all the books from my first Mr B's Spa, which took place in July 2012!
  • Finish all the books I've started and abandoned.  - A possible December challenge methinks, which will also clear the shelves a bit.  No bad thing!
  • Read the unread books on my Kindle - I'm away for several weeks in January/February on holiday, Kindle is perfect for that!!
  • Go through all my books and clear out the ones I don't want to really keep, do a Car Boot Sale/Charity Shop dump.  I plan on moving house in 2014, so a clear out will be good.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Best Books I was forced to read

This weeks Top Ten Tuesday list is the Top Ten Books you were forced to read, no matter the source, e.g. a school assignment, a book club, etc...  I was so happy when this Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish came up, as it's often the great books that are forced on you that seem to make the deepest impressions.  I've split them up into their sources, as you will see below.

School Books

I don't remember much from school, I think I've blocked the bad memories.  Anyway, what I do remember is that I could have been assigned the Best Book In The World Ever and I would still have hated it, simply because I hated school.  Because of this, I didn't enjoy them at the time, and only came to appreciate them recently...

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Book Spa books

These are books recommended to me by a brilliant bookstore in Bath, England.  The recommendations are based on discussion with the booksellers about my likes and dislikes, so they probably have a better than average chance of being ones I'll like...

3. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
5. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Book Club books

6. Very Good, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse.
7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
9. My cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
10. The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Honorary Mention Book Club Books...  These were all books that more than deserve top ranking, but which I had already read before they were selected for book club.  Even though these all beat the Book Club book list above, I wasn't technically forced to read them for the first time, but they are SO GOOD that I had to include them somehow.

11. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
12. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
13. Nightfall by Isaac Asmiov
14. Dark Matter by by Michelle Paver

Friday, October 11, 2013

Damn You Karou!

I should have known better... I don't have the ready cash at the moment to start reading a series, but I was a little bored with what I was reading, so I turned to my bookshelf and picked Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

I haven't finished it yet but I know I'm going to want to read the others in the series, and not wait til Christmas in the unlikely event that my family check my wishlist on Amazon.

On the positive side my copy of Republic of Thieves is winging it's merry way to me now *dances around the room*...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Best or Worst Series Enders?

Todays Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and The Bookish is all about Series Endings...

I'm not sure if I've read enough series through to completion to give 10 responses, and many would have been so long ago that I'm not sure I can remember how good or bad they were, or why I loved/hated them.  I certainly couldn't have predicted that 30 years after reading some books I would be blogging about why I thought they ended well or not.  With our family history of early onset Alzheimer's I'm lucky I remember reading anything at all.  Anyway... most of these are from my childhood, as I never seem to get to the end of series these days.

I'm looking forward to having a lot through other peoples TTT's.

Here's what I have:

Nora Roberts' series... So many to choose from!  I've read I think nearly every trilogy/quadrilogy she has written.  All end well, as you might expect.  Karma wins out and every good person lives happily ever after.  What's not to love?

The Chronicles of Narnia - I thoroughly enjoyed the series when I read it 30 years ago.  I can't remember if I was happy with the ending or not, but I loved the series nonetheless.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman - I only read this a few years ago, and I can't remember how I felt specifically about the ending, just that I loved loved loved the books.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Worst/Best? - Ermmmm, bit of both really.  Brilliant series, somewhat satisfying end to the revolution, I actually think some of it was absolute genius, but the way that Katniss was left at the end left me a little disappointed.

Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde - The Woman who died a lot was meant to be the book that ended it, but the best ending was there is another book due!  So I guess it doesn't truly qualify, but like I said, I don't have many choices.

The Famous Five, The Faraway Tree, Mallory Towers, St Clare's etc etc... by Enid Blyton.   I loved these books, and while I didn't want them to end, and can't remember how they ended, I have very fond memories of them.

The Sweet Valley High series (ghostwritten) by Francine Pascal.  I think this qualifies as WORST... at the time I enjoyed them though would probably hate them now.  I think I brand them worst because they just never seem to end.  I could go on and on and on, but won't.

Monday, October 7, 2013

To Poe or not to Poe?

When we were throwing around ideas for October's book club read Edgar Allan Poe was suggested as a possible option.  We wanted creepy, in keeping with the time of year, and he seemed to fit.  He wasn't my suggestion, as all I knew about Poe at the time was he'd written a poem called The Raven.

We didn't select Poe in the end for our book club, but in researching available editions of his works I found a few complete works of Poe on Amazon for the Kindle for just 77p.  Can't be bad for 77p for everything he wrote right?

October was supposed to be a cheap month but has been anything but cheap, so I haven't invested yet but intend to when I'm not having to be quite so careful.  Having spent years not knowing much at all about Poe suddenly everywhere I turn his name is appearing.

There was a Documentary on BBC FOUR last week which I recorded, looking at his life, and relationships with women, so important to his writing. I found it on You Tube for those who might be interested and who don't have access to BBC Four, or BBC iPlayer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HYfAZ6D0gE

Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics
ISBN: 9780141185101

This has probably been reviewed to death over the last few decades, so I'll try not to show myself up too much...

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have an issue with 'the classics', even the modern classics.  Bad school experiences of reading classics and years of being put down by teachers and peers meant I didn't think I could handle them.  At my school we never studied Of Mice and Men.  I remember Romeo and Juliet (which I hated then and now) but I don't remember much else, except we didn't read this book.  I really wish we had.  I loved it.

For those who might this story, here's the short synopsis:  George and Lennie are itinerant workers, moving from farm to farm in 1930's California.  They dream of one day owning their own farm, but they never stay long enough anywhere to be paid enough to save up the money needed to buy a place.  George wants to work his own land and have the security and stability of staying in one place, whereas Lennie just wants to keep pet rabbits that he can stroke.  George is sharp-witted, and a protector to his friend Lennie, who is a giant of a man, as dim and strong as he is tall.  Unfortunately for Lennie, he has a tendency toward unintentional violence when panicked and his strength means he can be very dangerous.  George and Lennie find themselves jobs on a new farm where the prospects of owning their own farm begin to improve.  The wife of the farm manager provokes Lennie and things come to a head.  Suddenly their dream becomes impossible and George and Lennie's friendship is tested to the extreme.

I did read the introduction to the book, which may have helped, but I found Steinbeck a master of scene setting and characterisation, so it didn't matter that I'm not American, and I haven't studied American history.  The book is very short but nonetheless he created George and Lennie's world very convincingly, and made them totally real for me.

There are a number of themes running through the book... Racism, 1930's California farm setting, Poverty, Death, but the strongest theme for me was Friendship.  George and Lennie are chalk and cheese, but there's no splitting them up.  I think of Friendship as almost having a scale, with friends that are like family at one end, and deadly enemies at the other.  The scale is fluid and flexible, and this story touches every part of that scale.  It pushes and flexes and tests every point until the final scene, which utterly broke my heart.

I am definitely going to be reading more of Steinbeck's work, and I couldn't be happier to have made another step into the 'classics'.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Top Ten Tuesdays - Total Turn off's

The Broke and The Bookish hosted a Top Ten Tuesday a few weeks back with a topic of what books would make you not pick up a book, this weeks is a twist on that topic... What would turn you off a book you were reading and make you want to put it down, and probably not pick it up again.

In my old age I've become less patient, so my list is probably going to sound quite harsh. I just don't have time in my life to waste on not very well written plot devices, badly drawn characters etc...

Love Triangles - I've seen this on a few other lists, and can only agree.  Particularly when it's not needed in the story and has been so obviously shoe horned in where it doesn't really fit.

Questionable Points of View - where there are multiple narrators who have nothing to add to the story. In one book I read a couple of years ago it was a dog.  Seriously.  I love dogs, but no.

Jumping around in time apparently randomly - Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't.  In The Time Traveller's Wife which you would expect to jump around a bit it was fine, as it was pivotal to the story and mostly you were following Clare's timeline.  In The Night Circus I can't see the point really, and I think this is the main reason I am struggling to finish it a year after I started it.

Mills and Boon style couples - The big powerful rich handsome guy wooing the sweet virginal pretty unassuming submissive and poor woman.  Urgh!  I think as a woman I object to the simplification of female romantic characters.  They don't have to be like that at all, give me Eve Dallas any day of the week!

You're running out of pages and there's no way the story can be wrapped up in time - Sadly it's too late to put the book down with this one...  The book you are reading has no chance to complete all it's plot lines, and so you know one of two things will happen...
  1. you're going to have to invest in a series when you weren't expecting to, or
  2. all the plot lines converge and resolve in an unlikely fashion, leaving you rather unsatisfied overall.

Characters die without hardly a word mentioned - Many will probably know which book I am talking about.  I don't have a problem with main characters that I've come to care about being killed off, but do it right!  For heavens sake don't be running around a city and then suddenly say 'Where's X?' 'Oh, him?  He died back there!'  WTF? Seriously it was like the book was intended for another edit that didn't happen.  Also 'Yes, I started a revolution for my sister and then she died anyway, so I'm going to live in a state of shock for the rest of my life'.  Please!

Super-Perfect Characters - All the characters are super rich/pretty/successful/funny/charming blah blah blah. It gets boring when everyone is good at everything, when all your characters are white, with perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect skin.  Not a blemish, bad hair day or disability among them!

Unlikely ridiculous plot twists - Like Bobby emerging from the shower and Pam realises she's dreamt the last year or so.  W.T.F.?  Yeah I know my example is from TV, but you get my drift.

All consuming Love to the exclusion of everything else - this bugs me in real life, so you can imagine I HATE it in books.  A girl gets a guy and suddenly nothing else matters, she ceases to be a person and becomes a half person, only complete when with her man.  She forgets her friends, her career and loses her independence and spirit.  No, the fire in her belly she gets when he smiles/winks/breathes is NOT a substitute for a fire in her spirit!  This, but especially when it's instalove!  Funnily enough this doesn't seem to happen to male characters (or men in real life).

Bad Language/Grammar - I'm not talking about profanity.  I mean incomplete staccato sentences, text speak, 'dis' instead of 'this' etc etc...  c'mon!  I know people talk like that sometimes, but they just sound stupid.  Authors - don't make your characters sound dumb, unless they are meant to be, in which case do your research and treat them with some respect, they won't speak in text speak!

I thought this would be a difficult list, but I've reached ten and feel like I'm only just getting started!