Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So I'm hosting my own challenge in 2009. I loved Dewey's graphic novel challenge in 2008 (please host it again in 2009 Dewey!). It was not my introduction to graphic novels, but it was for many who participated which was the best thing about it. In 2008 I expanded my reading to include manga (Japanese comics essentially). I know a couple of other bloggers who read manga, but thought I would see there were others who were willing to try something new.

It should be a nice easy challenge as it only takes an hour or two to read a manga novel. The rules are:

Read at least 6 manga novels in 2009 (cross overs with other challenges are fine and please feel free to rad more!).
Sign up with Mister Linky below.
I will put up a post each month with a Mister Linky for you to add your reviews to.
You do not need to set a list of books to read in advance, just fill them in as you go if it's easier.

Nymeth's boyfriend kindly made the buttons for me below. Please feel free to use them on your blog and let others know about the challenge.

To give you a taste for some manga reviews from bloggers please see the following reviews:

Darla D - Death Note v1
Becky's Book Reviews - Manga Shakespeare MacBeth
Rhinoa - Death Note v1
Rhinoa - Princess Ai v1
Rhinoa - Legends of the Dark Crystal v1
Rhinoa - Return to Labyrinth v1
Rhinoa - Vampire Doll v1
Rhinoa - Bizenghast v1

Some are serious (Death Note), some are mysterious and gothic (Bizenghast and Princess Ai), some are pure fun (Fruits Basket and Vampire Doll) and others tie in to some great films (Dark Crystal and Labyrinth).

Once again I am signing up for Annie's What's in a Name Challenge. It runs throughout 2009 and you can overlap with other challenges. There are new categories listed below.

1. A book with a "profession" in its title.
2. A book with a "time of day" in its title.
3. A book with a "relative" in its title.
4. A book with a "body part" in its title.
5. A book with a "building" in its title.
6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title.

I will pick my books as I go along but I do have ideas for each category already. Thanks again to Annie for hosting and you can check out the dedicated blog here. I look forward to seeing what prizes are handed out throughout the year.

Challenge with Nymeth

Once again me and Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot are doing our mini challenge. The aim was to pick 5 books we each love for the other to read in 2009. I picked the following for Nymeth:

Piece by Piece by Tori Amos
Here, There be Dragons by James A Owen
Death Note v1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
The Witches by Roald Dahl

And she picked the following for me which I am really looking forward to reading:

1. Gifts by Ursula le Guin
2. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
3. The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar
4. Elementals by A.S. Byatt
5. Looking for Alaska by John Green

Should be a lot of fun.

2008 in Review

2008 was a mega year for reading. I read 168 books and 51,663 pages. I completed 25 reading challenges (sadly I didn't quite finish The Classics Challenge this year). I also saw 19 films in the cinema, but didn't quite get around to reviewing them all. I did review a coupleof games as well in 2008 and when my reading decreased in November and December I found myself playing more so hopefully I will get to review more in 2009 (look out for reviews of Fable II and Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon which I have nearly finished and hopefully Zelda Phantom Hourglass and Final Fantasy IV as well).

So let's see, what were my favourite books of 2008...

Overall Favourite : American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Favourite Fantasy : The Wood Wife - Terri Windling and Tamsin - Peter S Beagle ( I couldn't choose between them sorry!)
Favourite Fairy Tale or Retelling : Briar Rose - Jane Yolen
Favourite YA : Here, There be Dragons - James A Owen
Favourite Graphic Novel : Fables v4 March of the Wooden Soldiers - Bill Willingham
Favourite Manga : Death Note v1 - Tsugumi Ohba
Favourite Urban Fantasy : Iron Kissed - Patricia Briggs (honourable mention Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison)
Favourite Fiction : Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (honourable mention Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides)
Favourite Anthology : Silver Birch, Blood Moon - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Favourite Classic : Perfume - Patrick Suskind
Favourite Non-Fiction : Piece by Piece - Tori Amos & Ann Powers (honourable mention Candy Girl - Diablo Cody)

Books Read 2008

1. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
2. The Complete Ballad of Halo Jones - Alan Moore (writer) and Ian Gibson (artist)
3. Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood
4. Thud! - Terry Pratchett
5. Persepolis (Complete Edition) - Marjane Satrapi
6. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
7. Snow White, Blood Red - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
8. Fire & Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones
9. The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor
10. Seeing Redd - Frank Beddor
11. Ironside - Holly Black
12. Perdido Street Station - China Mieville
13. Black Thorn, White Rose - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
14. Iron Kissed - Patricia Briggs
15. The Secret River - Kate Grenville
16. The Ribbajack & Other Curious Yarns - Brian Jacques
17. Witch Week - Diana Wynne Jones
18. Names of Magic - Dylan Harrocks and Richard Case
19. The Books of Faerie: Auberon's Tale - Bronwyn Carlton and John Ney Rieber
20. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
21. Once Upon a Time: A Treasury of Fantasies and Fairy Tales - Lester Del Rey & Risa Kessler
22. Beowulf - Seamus Heaney
23. On Beauty - Zadie Smith
24. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
25. The Scar - China Mieville
26. The Worst Witch Saves the Day - Jill Murphy
27. Shrine of the Morning Mist v1 - Hiroki Ugawa
28. The Trial - Franz Kafka
29. Sandman v1: Preludes & Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman
30. Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling31. Lucinda, Darkly - Sunny
32. The X Files: Skin Deep - John Rozum
33. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman
34. Roverandom - JRR Tolkien
35. The Onion Girl - Charles de Lint
36. Small Island - Andrea Levy
37. The Books of Magic: Transformations - John Ney Rieber & Peter Gross
38. Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry
39. Black Swan, White Raven - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
40. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
41. Wildwood Dancing - Juliet Marillier
42. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle
43. The Sandman v2: The Doll's House - Neil Gaiman
44. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
45. Black Orchid - Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
46. Snow White and Rose Red - Patricia C Wrede
47. Legends of the Dark Crystal v1 - Barbara Randall Kesel, Heidi Arnhold & Max Kim
48. Tales from the Perilous Realm - JRR Tolkien
49. The Old Man and The Sea - Ernest Hemingway
50. Iron Council - China Mieville
51. Peter Pan in Scarlet - Geraldine McCaughrean
52. Mr Punch - Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
53. Thomas the Rhymer - Ellen Kushner
54. The Accidental - Ali Smith
55. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
56. Broken - Kelley Armstrong
57. The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale
58. The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
59. Storm Front - Jim Butcher
60. Return to Labyrinth v1 - Jake T Forbes & Chris Lie
61. Return to Labyrinth v2 - Jake T Forbes & Chris Lie
62. Nightmares and Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time... - Serena Valentino
63. Tam Lin - Pamela Dean
64. Silver Birch, Blood Moon - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
65. Goddess of the Night - Lynne Ewing
66. Briar Rose - Jane Yolen
67. Slam - Nick Hornby
68. Death Note v1 - Tsugumi Ohba
69. The Invisible Ring - Anne Bishop
70. Death Note v2 - Tsugumi Ohba
71. Bizenghast v1 - M Alice LeGrow
72. No Humans Involved - Kelley Armstong
73. Bizenghast v2 - M Alice LeGrow
74. Bizenghast v3 - M Alice LeGrow
75. Bizenghast v4 - M Alice LeGrow
76. Weight - Jeanette Winterson
77. Lion's Honey - David Grossman
78. Wild Swans - Jung Chang
79. The Wee Free Men - Terry Pratchett
80. Vampire Doll - Erika Kari
81. Perfume - Patrick Suskind
82. Nightmares & Fairy Tales: Beautiful Beasts - Serena Valentino
83. Candy Girl - Diablo Cody
84. The Wood Wife - Terri Windling
85. The Three Incestuous Sisters - Audrey Niffenegger
86. Tarot Tips - Ruth Ann & Wald Amberstone
87. The Magicians' Guild - Trudi Canavan
88. Black Heart, Ivory Rose - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
89. Beauty - Robin McKinley
90. Death: The High Cost of Living - Neil Gaiman
91. A Hat Full of Sky - Terry Pratchett
92. Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman
93. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
94. Transformations - Anne Sexton
95. Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson
96. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
97. Spider Man and The Black Cat: The Evil that Men Do - Kevin Smith
98. Camelot's Shadow - Sarah Zettel
99. Zel - Donna Jo Napoli
100. The House at Riverton - Kate Morton
101. Tangled Webs - Anne Bishop
102. The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke
103. Wintersmith - Terry Pratchett
104. Fables v3: Storybook Love - Bill Willingham
105. The Book of Ballads - Charles Vess
106. Touch the Dark - Karen Chance
107. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
108. Spring-Heeled Jack - Philip Pullman
109. Jack of Fables v1: The Nearly Great Escape - Bill Willingham
110. Hood - Stephen Lawhead
111. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
112. Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
113. Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
114. Piece by Piece - Tori Amos & Ann Powers
115. Messenger - Lois Lowry
116. Bite - Various
117. The Black Tattoo - Sam Enthoven
118. Fables v4: March of the Wooden Soldiers - Bill Willingham
119. The Screwtape Letters - CS Lewis
120. The Complete Maus - Art Spiegelman
121. Camelot's Honour - Sarah Zettel
122. Enna Burning - Shannon Hale
123. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
124. Emily the Strange: Lost, Dark and Bored v1 - Rob Reger
125. Nightmares and Fairy Tales v3: 1140 Rue Royale - Serena Valentino
126. Tarot for Self Discovery - Nina Lee Braden
127. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
128. Coraline - Neil Gaiman
129. Y the Last Man v1: Unmanned - Brian K Vaughan
130. The Novice - Trudi Canavan
131. The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
132. Kin - Holly Black & Ted Naifeh
133. Understanding the Tarot Court - Mary K Greer & Tom Little
134. Minion - LA Banks
135. Tamsin - Peter S Beagle
136. Upon a Time in the North - Philip Pullman
137. Big Fish - Daniel Wallace
138. The Amulet of Samarkand - Jonathan Stroud
139. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
140. Dates from Hell - Various
141. Scent to Her Grave - India Ink
142. River Secrets - Shannon Hale
143. Death Note v3 - Tsugami Ohba & Takeshi Obata
144. Here, There be Dragons - James A Owen
145. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
146. Gloom Cookie v1 - Serena Valentino
147. Gloom Cookie v2 - Serena Valentino
148. Dark Wraith of Shannara - Terry Brooks
149. Stardust - Neil Gaiman
150. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
151. Dark Prince - Christine Feehan
152. The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories - Leo Tolstoy
153. The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
154. The Testament of Gideon Mack - James Robertson
155. The Gathering - Anne Enright
156. The Golem's Eye - Jonethan Stroud
157. Eleanor Rigby - Douglas Coupland
158. High Lord - Trudi Canavan
159. Salem Falls - Jodi Picoult
160. Sky Burial - Xinran
161. On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
162. Ptolemy's Gate - Jonathan Stroud
163. Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison

Challenges Completed 2008

Sci-Fi Experience
Twisted Fairy Tales Challenge
Series Challenge
Spring Reading Thing Challenge
Themed Reading Challenge
Once Upon a Time II Challenge
Book Awards Reading Challenge
Irresistible Review Challenge
End of the World Challenge
Non Fiction 5 Challenge
Young Adult Challenge
The Inklings Challenge
The Graphic Novel Challenge
tl;dr Challenge
RIP III Challenge
Man Booker Challenge
Challenge with Nymeth
Series II Challenge
Chunkster Challenge
What's in a Name Challenge
A~Z Challenge
Mythopoeic Challenge
First in a Series Challenge
2008 TBR Challenge
Short Story Reading Challenge

Films Watched at the Cinema 2008

1. Sweeny Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
2. Jumper
3. Juno
4. Definitely Maybe
5. The Spiderwick Chronicles
6. The Other Boleyn Girl
7. Ironman ****
8. Persepolis ****
9. Sex and the City **1/2
10. Hancock ***
11. Kung Fu Panda ****
12. Wanted ****
13. Batman: The Dark Knight ***
14. Hellboy II: The Golden Army ****
15. Get Smart ***
16. Tropic Thunder ****
17. City of Ember ***
18. Ghost Town ***
19. Burn After Reading ****1/2

Hosted here, the aim was to read 12 books from your TBR (to be read) pile in 2008. I set 12 with a list of 12 alternatives and I read a selection from each list totaling 16 books from my combined list in total. If it says DNR it means did not read next to it and I will hopefully get to it in 2009.

1. The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke
2. The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory : DNR
3. The Divine Comedy - Danta Alighirei
4. Lucinda Darkly - Sunny
5. Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
6. Hood - Stephen Lawhead
7. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak : DNR
8. Middlemarch - George Elliot : DNR
9. Lamb - Christopher Moore : DNR
10. Things Fall Apart - China Achebe
11. The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood : DNR
12. The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter : DNR

1. Storm Front - Jim Butcher
2. Death Note v1 - Takeshi Obata
3. The Invisable Ring - Anne Bishop
4. Madam Bovay - Gustave Flaubert
5. Minion - LA Banks
6. The Trial - Franz Kafka
7. The Magicians Guild - Trudi Canavan
8. Sons and Lovers - DH Lawrence : DNR
9. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemmingway
10. The Book of Lost Things - John Conolly : DNR
11. Midnights Children - Salman Rushdie
12. Touch the Dark - Karen Chance

I loved Lucinda Darkly, Storm Front, Death Note, The Invisible Ring and Midnight's Children the most. My least favourite was easily The Divine COmedy and I wasn't a big fan of Madam Bovary either.

Hosted by Joy here, it ran between 1/1/08 - 31/12/08. The aim was to pick twelve books that are the first in a series to read throughout the year. As I do a lot of series reading I was really looking forward to getting started on this.

1. Storm Front - Jim Butcher
2. Death Note v1 - Takeshi Obata
3. The Magicians Guild - Trudi Canavan
4. Touch the Dark - Karen Chance
5. Hood - Stephen Lawhead
6. The Sandman v1 - Neil Gaiman
7. Minion - LA Banks
8. The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor
9. The Wee Free Man - Terry Pratchett
10. Goddess of the Night - Lynne Ewing
11. Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison
12. Dark Prince - Christine Feehan

I really enjoyed every series I started and have continued (and finished) some of them already (Death Note, The Black Magician Trilogy Trudi Canavan, The Sandman, Frank Beddor and Terry Pratchett). I hope to continue with them all in 2009.
Hosted here there were a number of options to this challenge. I chose to read 10 short story collections throughout 2008.

1. Black Heart, Ivory Bones - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
2. Black Thorn, White Rose - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
3. Snow White, Blood Red - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
4. Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
5. Black Swan, White Raven - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
6. Silver Birch, Blood Moon - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
7. The Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke
8. Bite - Laurell K Hamilton
9. The Ribbajack and Other Curious Yarns - Brian Jacques
10. Dates from Hell - Kelley Armstrong

I substituted the Brian Jacques collection for Angela Carter as I just didn't have time at the end of the year sadly to read both. I loved all the collections, especially the Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling adult fairy tale series. Bite introduced me to Angela Knight who I will definitely be reading more of in the future, she writes some seriously sexy stuff!

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 416
Series : #1 Rachel Morgan
Reason for Reading : First in a Series Challenge

The first in the Rachel Morgan urban fantasy series by Kim Harrison is a great introduction to the characters and world she has created. Rachel is a witch and works for the Inderland Runner Services apprehanding magical criminals in Cincinnati. Her list of tags has been steadily getting worse and the final straw comes when her boss sends her after a lowly leprechauns. She wants to quit, but doing so will put a contract out for her death.

She takes the risk anyway and unwittingly takes living vampire Ivy with her as well as pixy Jenks. Both have many uses she wasn't expecting and help her to evade werefox assigns and evil fairies. The main problem is Ivy. She is a "non-practising" vampire but is still really really scary. Especially when she starts coming on to the very straight Rachel who is unwittingly sending her sexy signals. Ivy loans Rachel a book on how to seduce vampires and she quickly changes to doing the exact opposite of everything it says!

As well as her old employers trying to kill her, Rachel also has to contend with businessman Trent Kalamack. He is suspected of being a drug dealer and murderer, but what Rachel uncovers on him puts him as way more than that. The annoying thing about him is no one knows if he is human, vampire, witch, were or something else altogether. If Rachel can dig up enough evidence and survive her tag, she might be able to bring him in and pay the price off her head...

I really enjoyed this start to the series and hope the rest lives up to the high standard it has set. Rachel is agreat main character. Feisty but not in an annoying way like some other urban fantasy heroines. I also really liked Jenks the pixy and his family who save the day countless times despite being only four inches tall. I can't wait to find out more about Ivy and her past as well as her reasons for helping Rachel. I am also interested to see where Rachel's love life goes from there. I will definitely be reading more in the series in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sorry I am a little late posting this, I hace been away for most of Christmas. My secret santa gift arrived a few days before we went away and I was really excited to see what a thoughtful blogger had bought me. When I opened mypackage it was a set of penguin pencils. They are fact and fiction, word and image pencils with things like Great Expectations and Words and Deeds written on them. I look forward to choosing just the right notebook to use them in. The card was just signed Secret Santa so a big thank you to whoever got them for me.

There is a photo below (not great as taken on my phone) of them with Merlin looking on from the floor. Thanks also to Nymeth for hosting.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The challenge was to read at least 7 Mythopoeic Award winners between 1/1/08 - 31/12/08. See here and here for the choices. I picked the following:

1. Briar Rose - Jane Yolen
2. Anasi Boys - Neil Gaiman
3. A Hat Full of Sky - Terry Pratchett
4. Roverandom - JRR Tolkien
5. The Bartimaeus Trilogy (Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye, Ptolemy's Gate) - Jonathan Stroud
6. Fire and Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones
7. Tam Lin - Pamela Dean

I enjoyed all of them, so much so that I hope to have my own personal challenge and read all of the winners and nominees at some point.

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 515
Series : #3 Bartimeaus Trilogy
Reason for Reading : Mythopoeic Challenge, To finish the series

The conclusion to the Bartmeaus Trilogy sees Nathaniel (John Mandrake), Bartimeaus and Kitty Jones reunited against a common enemy. Bartimeaus is weak from having been kept in the human world, but Nathaniel is reluctant to dismiss him as he knows his true name. Kitty is still living in London under two different assumed names trying to instigate the commoners into rebellion. She is also learning about demons after something Bartimeaus said in the second book caught her attention. She is particularly interested in Bartimeaus and his relationship with his old master Ptolemy.

Another conspiracy against the government is revealed which turns out to be more complicated than it appears when demons get involved. London is laid to waste and it is typicall the commoners who suffer the most. Nathaniel must decide if he is the magician John Mandrake or the boy he once was Nathaniel.

I liked the way it ended. I had guessed correctly about who was behind the conspiracy, but did not see the next part coming. I enjoyed that the end was realistic (as realistic as a fantasy London with demons being summoned can be anyway!) and not everything worked out for all the characters involved. The series definitely picks up after an average start to the second book.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

So today is my day to post on behalf of Marg at Reading Adventures and Kailana at The Written Word. I thought being Pagan I would post about Yule which is celebrated on the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year and longest night). The date varies slightly each year but is usually the 21st or 22nd and this year it is today.

Yule was celebrated before the birth of Christianity and many of the traditions have been incorporated into Christian lore. In the Pagan yearly cycle (called The Wheel by many) this is the time of the year that the Sun God is reborn (at midnight as the year turns and the days begin to get longer again). At thetime the wheel turns and begins it's cycle again.

Another tradition is theat the year is ruled by two Kings. The Holly King rules the waning year (from summer solstice to winter solstice) and the Oak King rules the waxing year (from winter solstice to summer solstice). Holly is used as a decoration at Yule to depict the out going Holly King, usually in the form of a wreath, hung upon the door. Also a Yule Log is brought in (today in the form of a cake) to celebrate his rebirth as Oak King. Mistletoe (sacred to the Sun) is used to invoke fertility and the healing powers of the increasing Sun. Sacred trees are decorated with offerings (the Christmas tree). It is a time of gift giving and thanks giving to the Goddess and God for the gifts that they will bring to us.

At the turning of the year, Yule is a time of awakening to new goals and leaving old regrets behind. I will be celebrating tonight by staying up to watch the sun rise and greet the new Winter King. Tonight is the night I will make any resolutions and set my personal targets for 2010.

I wish you all a Blessed Yule.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 166
Reason for Reading : Library Book Discussion Group

By the author of Atonement and Amsterdam whcih won the Booker Prize, this story follows Edward and Florance on their wedding night. Set in the summer of 1962, both have saved their virginity for this night so the pressure is on. Florance has a fear of sex whereas it is all Edward can think about. Florance assumes Edward has more experience than her and communication is lacking as the tension mounts.

The story alternates between the present and their pasts. We meet them as individuals and learn how they met and what drew them to the other. We see their private thoughts and worries, and we see a couple truely in love. Sadly things do not run smoothly with Edward's worst fear being realised in their awkardness...

I really enjoyed this short novel. My one criticism was that it should have ended in the present and not continued with the future and how things turned out for them in later life. It would have been so much more memorable ending on the night of the wedding knowing how they felt about each other and the outcome of the evening.


Apologies for my lack of presence this week. I came down with the flu last Friday evening and have only just started to feel human again. I haven't been able to use the computer as it made me dizzy or concentrate at all. The worst has been the broedom. I haven't been able to read or even watch a film as my head has been so fuzzy. It's been torture. I am getting there and have finally been able to come online and write this post before returning the library book tomorrow and leaving the house for the first time since I got home on Friday.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

This challenge was hosted by Joy from Thoughts of Joy with a seperate dedicated blog here. The idea was to work your way through the alphabet throughout 2008 for both authors and titles (with no overlaps eg American Gods by Neil Gaiman could be either author G or title A). I decided that I would chose books as I went along. I just completed my final book and below is a list of what I read:

A - Alias Grace
B - Broken
C - Complete Ballad of Halo Jones
D - (The) Doll's House
E - Eclipse
F - Fables 3: Storybook Love
G - (The) God of Small Things
H - (The) House at Riverton
I - Ironside
J - Jack of Fables v1
K - Kin
L - (The) Looking Glass Wars
M - Midnight's Children
N - New Moon
O - Oryx and Crake
P - Persepolis
Q - Quicksilver
R - Roverandom
S - Seeing Redd
T - Thud!
U - Uglies
V - Vampire Doll
W - Wildwood Dancing
X - (The) X Files: Skin Deep
Y - Y the Last Man v1
Z - Zel

A - Chinua Achebe
B - Patricia Briggs
C - Jung Chang
D - Roddy Doyle
E - Lynne Ewing
F - Gustave Flaubert
G - Kate Grenville
H - Seamus Heaney
I - India Ink
J - Brian Jacques
K - Franz Kafka
L - Lois Lowry
M - China Mieville
N - Audrey Niffenegger
O - Tsugumi Ohba
P - Philip Pullman
Q - Daniel Quinn
R - James Robertson
S - Zadie Smith
T - Mark Twain
U - Hiroki Ugawa
V - Serena Valentino
W - Diana Wynne-Jones
X - Xinran
Y - Jane Yolen
Z - Sarah Zettel

This was defintely a challenge, especially letters like Q (author),X (author) and X (title). Thanks to Joy for hosting.

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 164
Reason for Reading : A~Z Challenge

A beautiful love story spanning China and Tibet. The author is called to meet a lady who is Chinese but has spent most of her life living in Tibet. Her name is Shu Wen and it is her story that fills the pages of this novel. Wen has spent decades searching for her husband in Tibet. They got married in their twenties and after 100 days he left to go to war as a doctor. The next thing Wen knew is she received a letter saying he was dead along with the rest of his unit, but that no one could offer an explanation as to how he died. The wording of the letter is different from those usually sent when someone dies in battle for their country.

She does all she can by following him to Tibet to find out what really happened. Along the way her regiment is dogged by Tibetan hunters who are slowly killing them off, two each night (usually the drivers so they have less and less transport across the wild, open lands). Wen saves the life of Tibetan woman Zhuoma who is suffering from exhaustion and who the soldiers want to kill, and is repaid by her kindness over the next few decades.

The story follows both women as they become separated from the other soldiers and end up living with a nomad family. There Wen learns Zhuoma's story as well as adapting to a completely new way of life with different customs, food, marriage laws etc. It turns out Zhuoma is also on a quest for love and the two women are closley bound in their search.

A beautiful book. I loved the descriptive language, especially about Tibet which is a country I know little about. The discussion of the politics between the Chinese and Tibet was well laid out with neither side really seeming to know the truth which seemed about right! The strength of Wen and Zhuoma in spending the rest of their lives looking for their loves was inspiring. Both had not known their partners for long and Zhuoma was not married to hers or had even told him she loved him. The description of the Sky Burial was also fascinating although perhaps a little hard to understand the logic behind it coming from a Western culture. Highly recommended.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Runs between 1/1/08 - 31/12/08 hosted here originally with a dedicated blog here. The aim was to read books from the following categories:

1. A book with a color in its title.
2. A book with an animal in its title.
3. A book with a first name in its title.
4. A book with a place in its title.
5. A book with a weather event in its title.
6. A book with a plant in its title.

I chose and read the following:
6. The Onion Girl - Charles de Lint

It's again difficult to pick a favourite. I loved Salem Falls and The Onion Girl, but also really enjoyed Storm Front and Seeing Redd. My least favourite was probably Huck Finn because it took a while to get going. Once he left his home though it did get a lot better. I hope to join round two next year and have decided to just sign up for lots of challenges and not worry too much if I don't finish them all!

November Summary

After such a great October, November was a real let down. I just had so much else going on. I did manage to complete a couple of challenges and should just about finish my remaining challenges in time for the end of the year. I hope I am able to get some more reading done in December fingers crossed...

Number of Books Read November : 6, Total 159
Number of Pages Read : 2637 Total 50,402
Challenge with Nymeth : 5/5 COMPLETED
What's in a Name Challenge : 6/6 COMPLETED
TBR Challenge 2008 : 6/12 and 10/12 alternatives
First in a Series Challenge : 11/12
Man Booker Prize Challenge : 8/8 COMPLETED
Short Story Reading Challenge : 9/10
Chunkster Challenge : 4/4 COMPLETED
Mythopoeic Challenge : 6/6 plus 2/3 Bartimeaus Trilogy
A~Z Challenge : Titles = 26/26, Authors = 25/26
Guardian 100 Greatest Books of All Time : 33/100 (aiming for 50)
Arthurian Reading Challenge : 2/12
Series Challenge II : 8/8 COMPLETED
Classics Challenge 08 : 3/5

101 Things to do in 1001 Days : 38/101

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 514
Reason for Reading : What's in a Name Challenge

Jack St Bride is accused of raping on of his students at the boarding school he teaches at. He enters into a plea bargain, despite maintaining he didn't do it, which reduces his sentence to 8 months in jail for sexual assualt rather than rape. He lasts the 8 months and leaves jail with no place to go and no on eto turn to. He ends up in sleepy Salem Falls which has a statue to Giles Corey, the only person to have been killed during the Salem witch trials. There he begins to work in a diner in the kitchen washing up despite being a PhD.

The longer he spends there, the more he starts to fall for diner owner Addie Peabody. As they draw closer to each other, other events are set in motion that will leave them both reeling. A girl in the town has a crush on Jack and it is only a matter of time before he lands himself in hot water. The town locals are on to him as he has to sign the sex offenders register as part of his priginal plea bargain and teenage Gillian Duncan is not someone you want to get on the wrong side of.

It's a twist on The Crucible with the witches pointing the fingers this time. Gillian and her three best friends practise Wicca and Gilly doesn't see why she can't use it to get what she wants and who she wants. This time Jack is the one defending his innocence, and being convicted of a similar crime already does not make him look good...

This is the third Picoult novel I have read and so far it has been my favourite. I stayed up until 1:30am just to finish it last night, it was such a page turner. I had some issues with the way the wiccans were portrayed, especially the hippy type who owned the Wiccan Read shop. Overall though it was a gripping story where you begin believing Jack and later question him as the story progresses. I was rooting for him although I wasn't sure how the jury would find at the end. The ending for Gilly was sadly much more obvious. Also it was interesting that the lawyer from The Pact Jordan McAfee turned up representing Jack. Defintely recommended.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Series II Challenge

Details here hosted by Crazy Cosy Murders. Challenge ran from 1/6/08 to 30/11/08. I love reading series so was happy to sign up for the second round of this challenge. The books i picked and read were:

1. Enna Burning - Shannon Hale (Goose Girl Series)
2. River Secrets - Shannon Hale (Goose Girl Series)
3. Tangled Webs - Anne Bishop (Black Jewels Series)
4. Wintersmith - Terry Pratchett (Tiffany Aching Series)
5. Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials)
6. nce Upon a Time in the North - Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials)
7. The Novice - Trudi Canavan (Black Magician Trilogy)
8. The High Lord - Trudi Canavan (Black Magician Trilogy)

I think my favourites were River Secrets and Tangled Webs. I love the Goose Girl series by Shannon Hale and I look forward to the fourth in the series coming out soon. I also love Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series and again am looking forward to the next in the series. My least favourite was easily The Novice by Trudi Canavan. It was such a filler book. It was very long and unnecessary.

Read the following books larger than 450 pages between 7/1/08 - 20/12/08. There is a review site here. Below are the books I picked and read:

1. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
2. Perdido Street Station - China Mieville
3. High Lord - Trudi Canavan (substituted for The Brothers Karamazov)
4. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

Of my chunkster reads I loved The Blind Assassin and Middlesex most of all. I haven't yet read an Atwood book I haven't fallen in love with and Middlesex was a great introduction to Eugenides who I hope to read more of in the future.

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 647
Series : #3 Black Magician Trilogy
Reason for Reading : Series II Challenge, Chunkster Challenge

The conclusion to the Black Magician Trilogy is so much better than the first two in the series. Sonea is still an apprentice to the High Lord who is a Black Magician, something forbidden by the Guild he represents. He does his best to explain to Sonea why he has learnt this forbidden magic and shows her the truth. It is then up to Sonea whether she helps him and how best to do so. There is the option of giving her strength and power to the High Lord, or to learn Bacl Magic herself knowing that punnishment will be either execution or bannishment from the Guild forever.

In the background Dannyl must bring to light a sect of people whoa re not part of the Guild that are trying to learn magic. Another crime that is punnishable by execution. He must trick them into accepting him so he can expose them. To do so he must let them believe he is gay, which is in fact the truth. As the truth comes out and the threat to the city and the Guild is acknolledged, it seems all of their lives will be changed forever. Sonea and the High Lord must try and stop an invasion of the worst kind, powerful Black Magician's with a grudge against the High Lord and the Guild.

As I said, much better than the first two in the series. Lots of action, Canavan takes no prisoners during the battle. Much more action and adventure, suspense and intrigue. It ends in a way that Canavan could continue the series at a later date which I would be interested in reading. It's just such a shame about book two as many people may give up on the series and miss a great conclusion.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Me and Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot had our own mini reading challenge in 2008. We had noticed that we shared similar taste in reading so we each picked 5 of our favourite books for the other to read throughout the year. The 5 that Nymeth put forward for me with links to my reviews were:

1. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
2. Eleanor Rigby - Douglas Coupland
3. Fire and Hemlock - Diana Wynne Jones
4. Big Fish - Daniel Wallace
5. Death: The High Cost of Living - Neil Gaiman

I really enjoyed all of the books Nymeth suggested and I can't wait to do it again next year. I really loved Middlesex and Eleanor Rigby which I think were my favourite two, and I hope to read more by all five authors in the future.

The 5 I put forward with links to Nymeth's reviews were:

The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
Waifs and Strays by Charles de Lint
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 249
Reason for Reading : Challenge with Nymeth

Named after the title of a Beatles song by Lennon and McCartney which inspired it, Eleanor Rigby is a tale about loneliness. Liz Dunn has never really felt like she fit in. She is 36 and has no friends, has never had a relationship, works in a job she doesn't really enjoy with people she doesn't like. The only people she really sees are her beautiful cosmetically enhanced older sister, brother (and his children, but rarely his wife who she doesn't get on with) and her mother who is barely present. One day a comet Hale-Bopp appears in he sky, signifying change and Liz's world is turned upside down when she has a call from the hospital telling her they have her grown son.

From here the story alternates between her childhood and teenage years, the present and seven years earlier when the comet was spotted and she first learnt about her son. We learn more about her family and liz herself. She is self deprecating but honest at the same time. There are lots of mini stories within the novel and I love the way Liz is able to see into others hidden agendas. My edition also has an interview with Coupland at the end which was fascinating.

It is a very sad book, but never falls into depressing. It is humorous and witty and I loved it. I couldn't put it down and was very interested to see how it would all turn out. I won't give it away, but it's enough to tell you I was more than satisfied with it. I will defintely be reading more by Coupland in the future (thanks Nymeth!).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 579
Series : #2 Bartimaeus
Reason for Reading : Mythopoeic Challenge

Nathaniel is back after the first in the series, The Amulet of Samarkand. He has been promoted to being part of the ministry of internal affairs and has been put in charge of capturing and destroying the Resistance. He has n't been doing so well in his assignment, especially when a mysterious entity turns up and destroys much of Piccadilly and the British Museum. Nathaniel turns to his final ally, djinni Bartimaeus.

Bartimaeus is back as witty and argumentative as usual. The chapters alternate between the two and Kitty who is part of the Resistance (we are introduced to her in the first book briefly). We learn Kitty's back story and why she is fighting the magician's. We also meet others of the Resistance and learn of their plans and motivations. It is interesting that they are not so different from the magicians they are fighting.

After the first one hundred pages, it got much more fun and interesting. Nathaniel is a rubbish character, but Kitty and Bartimaeus are great. Lots of twists and turns along the way, I am definitely looking forward to reading the final installment, but I think I worked out early on in this novel who the master villian is (I am happy to be proved wrong). One final thing I enjoy about this series is that they are not fluffy and filled with happily ever afters. There are always some casulties along the way which makes the fantasy more real somehow.

Other Reviews:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rating : 3.0/5
Developer : Mistealker and Artoon
Genre: RPG
Console : XBox 360

The story follows Shu, Kluke and Jiro who live in a villiage terrorised by a landshark which appears when the sky is filled with violet clouds. They come up with a plan to destroy the land shark and save the villiage which sparks their adventure to ulimtaltely destroy Nene. Along the way they meet Marumaro (one of the Devee tribe) and Lady Zola who helps King Jibral fight the monsters from the surrounding land.

These five are able to take on Nene because they are different. They possess magic and have giant blue shadows to aid them in battle. Shu has a dragon, Kluke a phoenix, Jiro a minatour, Marumaro a tiger and Zola a bat. They travel the land saving different villages from Nene's terrors (including a villiage he has turned to ice, a villiage held hostage by a forest and evil tree and many others being besiged by monsters). Ultimately they need to locate Nene and destroy him and his servants once and for all. Nene is the only surviving member of the ancients who had magic and built machines and mechants to do their bidding. He wants to use his magic to be King of the world and rule over all.

I had a few issues with this game. It is too like final fantasy and felt like a direct rip off. The story was based on a design by Hironobu Sakaguchi was is the Final Fantasy series creator. He supervised development and wrote the plot which evidently shows. The class system was very similar and the plot was very linear until near the end. The battle system was pretty standard and I found them all very easy until one particular psycho tree on the final disk (there are 3 disks in total). I was able to defeat the final boss in one go sadly. Marumaro is also very irritating and Shu has an annoying habbit of constantly saying "I will not give up". On the plus side I do love the graphics. I like my RPGs to look like a fantasy game without realistic human graphics. My characters have magical giant blue animal shadows for goodness sakes!

I leave you with some screen shots that give you a feel for the game. Probably more suited to slightly younger players and a little less RPG experience.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Rating : 2.0/5
Number of Pages : 261
Reason for Reading : Library Book Discussion Group, Book Awards Challenge II

The 2007 winner of the Man Booker Prize. The story is mostly set in Ireland (Dublin) with some of the tale in Brighton and South England. Veronica Hegary is one of the nine surviving children in her family and at the start of the novel her brother Liam has just died. She dwells on the past, their life growing up and what it was like for her grandparents. It is only about half way through we learn how Liam died and the circumstances surrounding his death.

Veronica does not really love her husband any more although she cares deeply for their two daughters. She suspects he is having an affair as they are no longer sleeping together. She Spends time rewritting the past and imaging the life her grandmother Ada had with her husband Charlie and his friend Lamb Nuggent. Slowly she remembers the past and what really happened. The events she remembers help piece together the truth behind Liam's death.

I didn't really enjoy this novel. It was just too bleak and I don't think I was really in the mood to read it. The ending was slightly more uplifting with some light at the end of the tunnel which helped a little. It was well written, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

999 Challenge

Ok ok I know I said I would cut down on challenges for 2009, but I can't resist this one as I can use it to read lots of books I have been meaning to get around to for ages! Hosted on Librarything here and the rules are below:

1. Pick 9 categories
2. Read 9 books in each of those categories
3. Complete them in 2009.
4. To make it easier ---The 888 challenge allowed an overlap of 8 books which would fit into more than one category. So for this challenge, you could overlap 9 books, but that's up to you. I didn't overlap any books.
5. To make it harder ---Complete all your books by 9/9/09.

There may or may not be prizes but who cares, it looks fun! It does mean committing to 81 books in 2009, but I should be able to manage it. My categories are:

1. 9 Graphic Novels
2. 9 Manga
3. 9 Urban Fantasy
4. 9 Anthologies
5. 9 Fairy Tales
6. 9 Teenage Fiction
7. 9 TBR
8. 9 Mythology/Folk Tale
9. 9 by one author or in one series eg. 9 by JRR Tolkien or 9 Daughters of the Moon books

I will probably set a couple of books and then just fill them in as I go along throughout 2009 to keep things flexible if I spot something new along the way (apart from the TBR section which needs to be books I already have at home).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hosted be Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf, the aim was to read at least 6 books that have either won the Man Booker prize or have been short or longlisted for it between 1/1/08 - 31/12/08. My list with links to the reviews was:

1. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
2. The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
3. Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle
4. Midnights Children - Salman Rushdie
5. On Beauty - Zadie Smith
6. The Testament of Gideon Mack - James Robertson
7. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
8. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

This was a wonderful challenge, but I am not sure I am "man" enough to do the Complete Booker challenge, we shall see in the future. I enjoyed most of the books on the list with my least favourite being The God of Small Things. I am really glad I read Midnight's Children for the challenge, as it has been awarded the Booker of Bookers prize.

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 387
Reason for Reading : Man Booker Challenge

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2006, this was a fascinating novel. Written as it the incident really happened, Gideon Mack was a minister without any faith. One day he fell into the Black Jaws (a gorge in Scotland) trying to rescue a friend's dog and is pulled out by someone he claimes to be the Devil. The Devil nurses him back to health and sends him back into the wide world where he tells his story. He is summarily denounced, his friends stop speaking to him and he is facing a libel suit as well as being dismissed as a minister. All this ends when he goes mising and months later is found dead.

The novel begins with a prologue by the "publisher" of Gideon's manuscript which gives an outline of the facts of the case reported by the press as well as two witnesses who claim to have seen Gideon after he was supposed to have been killed. Gideon's narrative then begins in ernest starting with his bleak childhood growing up as the son of a minister who never seems to have loved his wife (Gideon's mother). Gideon finds freedom, his best friend, his future wife and future mistress at university before following in his fathers footsteps, despite having lost his faith many years ago (if he ever really had it to begin with). Things tick along in Gideon's life (with the exception of one major tragedy), until one day he finds a mysterious standing stone in a clearing that wasn't there before and that no one else seems able to see. It sets off a series of events which lead to his eventual mysterious death.

It is the characters that make the story. Elsie and Catherine Cragie in particular as well as the Devil obviously, but even down to the publisher, freelance journalist, the barber and Bill Winnyford who isn't quite what he seems. The story moves along and carries the reader with it. It is such a realistic place that you feel like you have walked the streets and run in he woods as well as met the people. I liked the idea that the Devil doesn't know where God is, he has disappeared after they both seem to have tired of humans. As the novel says, who is this time would believe a man has been trapped in a cave and conversed with the Devil for three days, but the end is open enough to allow for anything to be true. You really do wonder if Gideon was indeed mad as many of the townsfolk attest, or if it was bizzarre enough to have really been true.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The RIP II Challenge was hosted again by Carl V at Stainless Steel Droppings. It ran between 1/9/08 - 31/10/08 with a dedicated review site here. There were a number of Perils to choose from and I picked Peril the Second. My goal was to read at least 2 books from Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror or Supernatural subgenres. I ended up reading 6 books in total during the time period:

1. Nightmares and Fairy Tales v3: 1140 Rue Royale - Serena Valentino
6. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

Again this was another great challenge, I loved last years and am hoping there is an RIP IV next year... My favourites were either Tamsin or The Graveyard Book, but there were none that I read that I did not enjoy. I can definitely recommend all six to all.

Hosted by Renay, Bottle of Shine here. The idea of the Herding Cats or tl;dr Challenge was to put forward 10 books you like and then pick 3 to read from other challenge participants between 1/5/08 - 30/11/08. The three I picked to read were:

1. Beauty - Robin McKinley (Book Nut)
2. Stardust - Neil Gaiman (Becky)
3. Tamsin - Peter S Beagle (prplpen)

The list I had put forward for others to choose from was:

1. Waifs and Strays - Charles de Lint (a wonderful collection of his short stories that are a great introduction to his work)
2. High Fidelity - Nick Hornby (my favourite of all of his books, a must for book and music lovers)
3. The Black Jewels Trilogy - Anne Bishop (dark fantasy at it's best, somehow particularly suited to female readers I think)
4. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice (where The Vampire Chronicles all began)
5. The Magicians Nephew - CS Lewis (the first in the Narnia series and often sadly neglected. Perhaps my favourite in the series)
6. The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor (a wonderful re-telling of Alice in Wonderland which turns the whole tale on it's head. Found in the teenage reading/young adult section but will appeal to older readers too)
7. The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale (a fairy tale re-telling I just finished reading and fell in love with. Highly recommended)
8. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (classic tale of man loves young girl, disturbing but one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read)
9. Daughter of the Forest - Juliet Marillier (the first in the Sevenwaters Trilogy based on a fairy tale set in Celtic times)
10. The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood (everyone should read this dystopian novel)

Of the three books I read I loved them all and it is impossible to pick a favourite. Robin McKinley was the only new author to me and I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.