Monday, September 29, 2008

I haven't done one of the read-a-thons before and am really looking forward to the next one on October 18th. The full details are here and it is hosted by the lovely Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf. I am excited about spending 24 hours reading as I am finding it hard to make time for as much reading as I would like at the moment.

It is probably not helped by my 2 new toys. One is an XBox 360 Elite that I bought on Saturday and the other is a Sony EReader which arrvied today woo! The other influencing factor is I have been away a lot. I was away on holiday for a week in New York (photos to follow) and then went straight to Amsterdam on work the next day. Today I am going to Frankfurt for 3 days and next week I am off to Paris for 3 days (all work related). I am very behind on catching up on people's blogs which I appologise for. I haven't forgotten any of you and am slowly making my way around so please do bear with me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I completed the Non Fiction 5 Challenge hosted by Joy at Thoughts of Joy a few days ago. The challenge was simple, read 5 non fiction books between 1/5/08 - 30/9/08. My list was:

1. Candy Girl - Diablo Cody
2. Tarot for Self Discovery - Nina Lee Braden
3. Tarot Tips - Ruth Ann & Wald Amberstone
4. Understanding the Tarot Court - Mary K Greer
5. Piece by Piece - Tori Amos

I did not have time for my alternative Ogham by Paul Rhys Mountfort, but I will read it at some point. My favourites were easily Candy Girl and Piece by Piece which is interesting as I so rarely read autobiographies. I guess they are just two ladies I find particularly interesting.

I finished The End of the World Challenge hosted by Becky at Becky's Book Reviews and she has since put up a wrap up meme.

Would you be interested in having a second IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD (AS WE KNOW IT) reading challenge next summer?
Yes but it depends on how much time I have. I hope to catch up on my series reading so if it fit with that I would love to do it again.

Did you feel there was enough time allotted to read three books? Or would you rather expand the challenge to cover a longer period?
It was ok for me. A little tight with my other reading, but ok.

What was your favorite book read for the challenge?
I read Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I enjoyed all three a lot for different reasons. It is a difficult choice, but I think I will go with Cloud Atlas as it was the most original of the three with the largest lasting impact. I have been recommending it to lots of people everywhere!

Did you have a least favorite book?
I enjoyed them all and it wouldn't be fair to answer this question.

What is one author/one book you'd recommend that others pick up?
Cloud Atlas for sure.

Did your own wishlist/tbr pile grow while reading others' reviews for this challenge?
Not too much this time around although I really do need to read Do Anderoids Dream of Electric Sheep. There were some great reviews and I am glad I picked Uglies to read as lots of other people read it and enjoyed it too.

And yes I am signing up for another challenge. Hold on though before the "what are you doing you crazy challenge addicted person?!?" cries. I plan on catching up with series I started this year in 2009 and I read Uglies this year by Westerfeld and really enjoyed it. The challenge is to read at least 2 more of his novels in 2009 and I want to finish the series:

1. Pretties (Book 2)
2. Specials (Book 3)
3.Extras (Book 4)

So it's not so bad really. Honest! Details found here and it is hosted by Becky again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 304
Number in Series : #1 Vampire Huntress
Reason for Reading : First in a Series Challenge, RIP III Challenge, TBR 2008 Challenge

The first Vampire Huntress Legend sets the scene nicely giving a lot of LA Banks take on the vampire mythology with a mix of demons thrown in for good measure. There is mention of other supernatural races which I hope feature in future novels too. Damali Richards is a young hip hop spoken word artist whose parents died when she was just a baby. She was destined to become the Neteru, basically the supreme vampire slayer, and is extra special being born to cross the millenium. The alignment of the planets becomes importnat giving clues as to the challenges she will face once she comes in to her true powers on her 21st birthday.

She works with a team of Guardians who work on the side of good and are descended from the original twelve tribes of Jacob's sons (remember Joseph of the famous dream coat was one of them). They fight alongside the humans against the fallen angels and monsters out there battling for peoples souls. A Guardian can be from any religion, as long as they have faith. They draw from ancient Egpyptian influences, Indian chakras all the way through to Buddhism and Christianity as their faith helps them in daily life.

Vampires are ruled by a Counsel based in Hell and are usually discret in their kills covering the puncture wounds so as not to arouse human suspicision. There has been a spate of brutal killings that look to be the result of a vampire aligning with a demon which has been previously unheard of. The combined creature brings a new set of powers and terror and Damali's team The Warriors of the Light must find the Master and put him down to release the lost souls and destroy his influence and the rest of his nest.

A great book. More in the style of Anne Rice than some of the newer series which I liked. I enjoyed the legend Banks put in place and it was refreshing to read about a vampire hunter who is not a perky blonde or smooth talking, gun slinging Lara Croft wannabe. Damali is a young black woman just reaching maturity and still trying to find her own identiy seperate from being the Neteru who is easy to empathise with. Her crew were distinct personalities and I enjoyed spending time with them all. I can't wait to continue their adventures in the nex book, The Awakening.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rating : 2.5/5
Number of Pages : 265
Series : Special Topics in Tarot
Reason for Reading : Non-Fiction 5 Challenge

Another book from the Special Topics in Tarot series, this time focusing on reading the 16 court cards. The court cards are similar to the pip cards in a deck of playing cards (Jack, Queen and King). They are usually Page, Knight, Queen and King belonging to one of the four suits Cups, Wands, Swords or Pentacles. They can be a little tricky to read once you get past the usual idea of using them as a significator and to represent different people in the querents life.

The book is divided into different ways of viewing the court cards: their many faces, court cards as a family, in society, within, their relationships and the cosmos. There are pratical exercises throughout as well as charts, pictorial images of different court cards in different decks, a list of meanings and a gloassary. Some knowledge of tarot is assumed for this book and it would be suitable for those who are just past the initial beginner stage of getting a feel for the cards and some of their meanings.

It fell a little flat for me however. I was hoping for something more than just a list of correspondences and ways to use them in self discovery although I do appreciate this is Greer's forte. It didn't really go past the basics particaularly or open up many new ideas for exploration. I might go back to using the tables and ideas for designing my ow deck in the future however, but for now it will go back on the shelf as fairly average for my needs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 117
Number in Series : #1 The Good Neighbours
Reason for Reading : I love Holly Black and was excited she had a new graphic novel out

I saw this when browsing the book shops in New York. I didn't know Holly had written a graphic novel so it was a lovely surprise and it is the first of a series of three. True to form it involves the faery folk as Rue Silver's life begins to change. Her mother has disappeared suddenly and she is starting to see things out of the corner of her eye. Her father is a professor at the local college and one of his students is found strangled, her body dumped in the river. He becomes the number one suspect and with her mother also missing things do not look promising.

Rue digs deeper into her family history and discovers her mother was one of the faery. Her father broke a promise and so her mother had to return to her realm leaving Rue to fend for herself mostly. She searches for her true indentiy, trying to solve the case of the drowned student and try to prove that her father is innocent at the same time.

Beautifully drawn, I fell in love with this tale straight away. I warmed to Rue, as usual Holly describes very realistic characters with real flaws you can truely empathise with. She makes the fantastic feel so much more mundance and possible. The book ends revealing many truths and opening the way for further mystery and exploration. I will be interested to see how things turn out with Rue and her boyfriend in the next installment and the truth about her mother. Recommended to teen readers and adults alike.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 504
Reason for Reading : Guardian 100 Greatest Books, Classics Challenge 08, TBR Challenge 2008

A collection of tales written by poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Origianlly written in Middle English, this was an expertly written modern translation by Nevill Coghill. He managed to keep the rhyming scheme and the rhythm keeping it most suited to being read out loud for maximum effect.

The premise is that the collection of tales form a competition within a group of travellers from all different levels of employment to amuse themselves on their travels to Canterbury. Everything from moral tales to humerous ones, tales of chivalrous love to cautionary tales of cheating spouses. Each tale stands alone and Chaucer deftly captures the different voices and styles of his players.

I particularly enjoyed The Knights Tale, The Miller's Tale,The Wife of Bath's Tale and the seemingly unfinished Squires Tale. From reading the prologue there were a whole host of other tales that Chaucer sadly never got around to writing and this collection remains forever uncomplete. My least favourite was easily the overly moral Clerk's Tale of a woman who has more patience than a saint. It is easy to be daunted by the reputation of this masterpiece, but reading the tales one at a time really helped to make the pieces of the tale easier to digest. I can highly recommend this excellent modern translation.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rating : 2.5/5
Number of Pages : 581
Number in Series : #2 Black Magician Trilogy
Reason for Reading : Series Challenge II

Continuing pretty much straight after Magician's Guild ended, Sonea is now enrolled as a Novice at the Magician's Guild. She is the only Novice the Guild has ever taken on from the slums and she really starts to feel the centre of attention straight away not being from one of the rich houses. One newstudent in particular takes a dislike to her named Regin. From the first time he lays eyes on her he has it in for her and makes her life as difficult as possible, turning the other novices against her. In a desperate attempt to be rid of him, Sonea studies harder to be able to move up a class. Regin has his own surprise in store for her though despite her best efforts.

Meanwhile, Lorlan and Rothen (as well as Sonea) both know Akkarin the High Lord's secret. Independently they decide to begin research into his past and his learning when he travelled outside of the city of Imardin. Both choose Dannyl to be their messenger and researcher and he goes off into the wider world. On his travels old rumours from his past rise up again and he discovers more than he bargained for about himself.

Some new characters are introduced, mostly teachers and new novices, and some of my favourites from the first book barely make an appearence sadly. The thieves are all but forgotten as the story moves to Sonea's more intelligent pursuits. Again not the most novel of storylines and I did not enjoy it nearly so much as The Magician's Guild with the change in focus. Hopefully the last in the series, The High Lord, will end things on a more positive note.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Am not taking a computer so speak to you all when I get back...

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 176
Number in Series : #1
Reason for Reading : Graphic Novel Challenge Extra, A~Z Challenge

Yorick (his father was a drama teacher) is feeling left behind since his friends all went off travelling. His girlfriend Beth is no exception and is off exploring Australia. For company he has a helped money he is supposed to be training he names Ampersand. As he proposes to his girlfriend over a long distance phone call something terrible happens. A mysterious plague sweeps the world killing everything male. Yorick and Ampersand are now the last males of their species.

They set out to try and find out what makes them different to all the other males who have been left for dead. The world is in choas wondering how life will continue without male sperm donors. A group of women nicknamed Amazons are destroying sperm banks and monuments to malesas they believe it is divine justice for all the rapings, seriel killers and abusers. The Amazons burn off one of their breasts when they join up and are particularly violent to the other women.

Yorick is looking for his sister Hero as well as a scientist who may be able to clone him and tell him why him and Ampersand survived. Coming to his aid is the mysterious secret agent called 355 who is part of the Cupler Ring. Alongside that is the wish of some women for him to propogate the species in the usual fashion when all he wants to do is find a way to get to Australia and find Beth.

An adult set of comics published by Vertigo (the home of Fables and The Sandman among many others), this was a fantastic beginning to the series. Apocolyptic but set oin a world not very far away from our own, it looks at the realities of a world of women only (besides Yorick and Ampersand of course). The choices the women make along the way were dealt with very well (eg a former top model becomming a garbage truck driver and rgretting her boob job) and it seemed very realistic. Highly recommended, expecially to those who enjoy darker graphic novels that make you think like Fables and The Sandman.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hosted by Becky at Becky's Book Reviews the aim was to read at least three books about "the end of the world." From Becky's site this includes both apocalyptic fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction along with some overlap with dystopic fiction as well. The challenge ran from 1/5/08 until 15/9/08. My picks are below with links to the reviews:

1. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
2. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
3. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Unfortunately I didn't get time to read my alternative Do Anderoids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, but I am sure I will find time at some point as I really do want to read it. I loved all three books that I read for this challenge and I will continue with the Scott Westerfeld series.

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 185
Reason for Reading : Young Adult Challenge, RIP III Challenge, numerous recomendations

Coraline is an explorer. She moves with her parents into a strange new flat with even stranger neighbours. There are Miss Spink and Miss Forcible who used to be in the theatre and can't seem to let their previouslife go. Upstairs is a crazy man who claims to have a trained mouse band who will perform for her when they are ready. He also keeps calling her Caroline not Coraline much to her frustration.

Neither her father or mother has much time for her, leaving her to amuse herself often while she waits to start her new school. Luckily she has an excellent imagination and is very intelligent. She ignores warnings from the crazy man's mice as well as the tea leaves both Miss Spink and Miss Forcible read telling her she is in danger, by going through a secret door. It leads her into an alternative version of her house inhabited by her other mother and other father with eyes made of buttons. They want her to stay with them where they can love her and spend all their time with her. She will have to choose between staying and having buttons sewn where her eyes are, or going back to her neglectful parents.

She decides to go back home, but things are not so simple. Her other mother is relucant to let her go and agrees to a game to decide Coraline's fate. If she finds her parents who have been hidden somewhere in the fake house by her other mother, along with the souls of three lost children she has captured she can go home. Her other mother is not to be trusted and Coraline pits her wits against the horrors within the house accompanied by a sarcastic black cat.

A chilling and surreal read written for Gaiman's two daughters. It is a children's tale, but I certainly wouldn't read it at night if I was a kid! Lots of bumps in the night and some very graphic imagery as Gaiman does what he is best at. Illustrated by Dave McKean which really ramps up the chill factor. Another great collaboration.

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 529
Reason for Reading : Man Booker Challenge, End of the World Challenge

Where to begin with this fantastic and novel book. It tells separate stories of six different people set in different time periods who come together in unusual and different ways. The atory is The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing and is set in the 1800s. He is a lawyer at sea being treated by a doctor friend for a brain worm. The second tale is Letters from Zedelghem where musician and composer Robert Frobisher writes to his friend and lover Sixsmith in the 1930s. Lusia Del Rey is the subject of the third story The First Lusia Rey Mystery. She is a journalist trying to break a case of an unethical nuclear company in the 1970s. Next follows The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish who accidentally checks himself into the old folks home from hell. He tries escaping and each attempt is more desperate than the last, but all seems futile as he is caught each time. This seems set in the present day time period.

Here things progress in to the future with An Orison of Sonmi~451 who is a fabricant giving her testimony to an archivist before being sentenced to death. She lives in a world of increased technoogy, a utopian society or a dystopian one depending on your point of view and your upbringing and intelligence level. There are said to be no slaves, yet thigns are never quite as they seem. After this is the tale of Sloosha's Crossin. an; Ev'rythin' After which follows Zachery after The Fall has occured and humans are living a more primitive lifestyle without technology again.

Each story stops half way through being told in the order above until you get to Zachery's tale. His goes all the way through and then each story concludes in reverse order ie from the future to the past (Sonmi's tale back to Adam Ewing). Only when you start to go backwards and complete the story do all of the connections and ideas become apparent between the different characters. Each story is written in a different style and it really feels like a different narrator.

Such an immense tale spanning the world and time. I cant recommend it enough. It has something for everyone. Some science fiction and utopian/dystopian aspects, historical aspects, general fiction and a biography feel. It certainly reads like a Booker Prize winner, even though it was nominate and sadly lost out. I will definitely be reading more by mitchell in the future.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

So I went to Tornoto for a week back in June and am finally getting around to putting up some of my photos! It's my birthday on Thursday next week and we are going away on 13th September to New York so please send your recommendations on what to do and where to go my way...

Thephoto below was taken out of my hotel room window when work put me up in a posh place for a couple of nights. After this I stayed in a hostel which was fun but didn't have quite the same impressive views...

A random pole outside the conference centre complete with two woodpeckers sculptured on it.

Toronto's very own Times Square!

Niagra Falls Horseshoe Falls.

Taken from on board The Maid in the Mist boat whilst we were sailing right into the Horseshoe Falls. Very cool but very wet. As you can see they kindly provide you with rain coats/bin bags.

Me after the boat ride a little wet and wind swept standing in front of theAmerican part of the Falls.

Niagra Falls Burger King complete with gargoyles and Frankenstein (you can just see his head o the top right corner of the building).

Another tourist attraction in Niagra with a gothy, vampire feel.

The helicopter the group before me went on. It fleew above the Falls and was fantastic!

Shot from inside the hellicopter looking over the American section of the Falls.

Again taken from the helicopter looking down over the Horseshoe Falls. Beautiful.

One last shot from the helicopter showing the pool and the rapids. You can get a cable car over this portion which I didn't have time to do.

Toronto skyline. It has a little glare from the glass in the bus window, but I like this shot anyway. It is a nice shot of the Toronto tower which I went up the next day.

Taken from the top of the Toronto Tower looking down on the city. I didn't put up the picture of me standing on the glass floor so you can see how far away from the ground you are, but I did stand on it.

I was there during Gay Pride although sadly I missed the parade in the evening due to my flight. This was a guy advertising Trojan condoms and I thought he was the prettiest of the bunch so I got my friend to take a photo of us.

Gay Mounties and the gay brides (stunning drag queens). It was a great atmosphere and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun.

I bought a lot of books while I was away, so many that I had to buy a second suit case to fit them all in! This is pile one...

This is pile two...

There were a couple more that were for my husband Alex that aren't in the pictures as well.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 153
Series : Special Topics in Tarot
Reason for Reading : Non-Fiction Five Challenge

A collection of exercies working with the tarot to gain a deeper understanding of your self. Split into three main sections; easy, intermediate and exercises for special occassions and situations. Covering topics like grief, finding a spiritual path, healing yourself, telling stories, describing who you are etc.

The exercises are laid out in easy-to-follow formats and the beauty of this book is you do not need any knowledge of the tarot before completing the exercises. There is no focus on divination or the meanings of the cards, the focus is purely the imagery depicted on them. That said you really need to use a deck where the minor arcana have pictures and not just 3 swords etc. A lot of the time you are asked to pick cards faceup and then examine your choices.

Mostly this was an interesting book. My only complaint was that the exercises all followed the same format and became a little repetitive. There is a brief chapter on how to write your own exercises as well as some information on chakras and astrology.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 176
Number in Series : #3
Reason for Reading : RIP II Challenge, Graphic Novel Challenge extra, to continue with this fantastic series

The third in the series by Serena Valentino. It is set out in a slighlty different format to the first two. This collection follows one storyline throughout with doll Annabelle very much in the background (she appears to those who have read the first two and recognise her). Rebecca and her aging aunt Victoria move into a house reputed to be hauntet in New Orleans.

Former owner Delphine Lalaurie was found to have killed her slaves in the house after torturing them and suffering them. One woman was chained to the stove and at least two men were operated on alive and well in horrendous ways. In the house Rebecca is beset by the spirits of the dead who are able to possess her in order to get their revenge. The story also links back to one from the first collection about a group of nuns in New Orleans who sacrifice Dominique's illegitimate son to amonster locked away in the attic.

A terrifying and gothic tale that Valentino begins saying "there is a truth embedded within the layers of fiction that fill this volume" and it is "inspired by historical events". How people can treat each other like this is disgraceful. However, it is beautifully drawn and a gripping tale that really leaves an impression on the reader. This is a great series and highly recommended.

Monday, September 01, 2008

August Summary

My reading has increased again this month along with the number of pages I read. I thiank I am on top of my challenges (except I really need to start the Classics Challenge).

Number of Books Read August : 14, Total 124
Number of Pages Read : 4693, Total 39,083
Young Adult Challenge : 10/12
Challenge with Nymeth : 3/5
What's in a Name Challenge : 4/6
Graphic Novel Challenge : 8/10 plus 4 extras
TBR Challenge 2008 : 4/12 and 9/12 alternatives
First in a Series Challenge : 9/12
Man Booker Prize Challenge : 6/8
Short Story Reading Challenge : 8/10
Chunkster Challenge : 3/4
Mythopoeic Challenge : 6/7
Inklings Challenge : 3/4
A~Z Challenge : Titles = 24/26, Authors = 21/26
Guardian 100 Greatest Books of All Time : 29/100 (aiming for 50)
Arthurian Reading Challenge : 2/12
tl;dr Challenge : 1/3
Series Challenge II : 4/8
Non-Fiction Five Challenge : 3/5 plus 0/1 alternatives
End of the World Challenge : 2/3 plus 0/1 alternatives
Classics Challenge 08 : 0/5
Irresitible Review Challenge : 8/8 COMPLETED

101 Things to do in 1001 Days : 36/101

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 160
Number in Series : #1
Reason for Reading : Graphic Novel Challenge

A series of three comics about Emily the Strange and her many black cats. It is filled with lots of short tales filled with her usual attitude centering around being lost, in the dark and bored essentially! There are "interviews" with The Damned, Elvira Mistress of the Dark and Marilyn Manson. There are some fun fake advert pages too. Silly fun if you are in need of cheering up, or should that be glooming down.

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 245
Number in Series : #1 Time Quintet Series
Reason for Reading : Young Adult Challenge, Book Awards II Challenge

This Newberry Medal award winning chidren's tale follows Meg (short for Margaret) Murray and her brother Charles Wallace on their adventures. Both are outcasts being though dumb and backwards by other children and adults, when in reality they are merely misunderstood. They team up with Calvin O'Keefe to battle the supreme evil, IT, who is also misunderstood and neglected in his extremely large family.

It all starts when Meg wants to go looking for her father. He disappeared some years ago amid speculation that he ran off with another woman which his family knows is a lie. He was secretly working on a government project and wrote often until the letters suddenly stop worrying his wife and children. Charles befriends the strange Mrs Whatsit and her friends Mrs Who and Mrs Which to track him down and defeat the evil that wants everyone to be the same. To save their father, and the universe, they must travel by tesser, a unique form of travel in the fifth dimension using a tesseract previously thought impossible.

A thoroughly enjoyable start to the series. The characters were well rounded and I liked that Meg was told to reply on her faults (impatience and stubborness for te most part!). There were some great ideas the author proposed and developed and I can picture many a children's author taking ideas from this novel. I loved her descriptions of people and places from outside our world out in space. Just enough detail to make it seem real without being too science fiction orientated. There was an interview with Madeleine at the eback along with her award acceptance speech which made for good additional reading.

Other reviews: