Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 484
Format : Literary Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : Guardian 100 Greatest Books Challenge

Mrs Morel marries her husband Walter only to find out that he has been less than truthful about the money he has and the property he owns. She consigns herself to a life of poverty with a miner for a husband who also has a drinking problem. As the marriage disintegrates she draws much comfort from their children and Paul in particular (their second son) takes it upon himself to make sure she has everything he needs.

He is the classic second son who can never live up to his eldest brother. Everything he does has been done before and he is a sensitive type who enjoys painting. He puts his mother first in all things which causes his relationships to suffer. He won't marry either of the two women he loves. They are quite different ,one being more practical and dull the other modern and risky. He is very clear he does not want to suffer the same fate as his parents have done and become trapped. He is fickle and can't make up his mind from one moment to the next.

Ultimately he becomes dissatisfied and begins to destroy himself at the end of the novel. This is a look at class struggle told from the perspective of a working class family who try to better themselves yet still look down on those percieved to be of higher status than them. Paul also struggles with his sexuality and finding himself and his purpose. Quite a bleak book in many ways, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 208
Series : #4 Death Note
Format : Manga
Reason for Reading : Manga Challenge, to continue with the series

L is still trying to figure out the identity of killer Kira when what looks to be a second fake Kira shows up. They also have a death note and a Shinigami and are causing havoc as they have taken the deal of using the Shinigami eyes to see people's names. Light (the real Kira) is also looking for the fake Kira and is trying to find them before L before they manage to reveal too much and let people know about the death notes and Shinigami.

The second Kira is Misa Amano who loves Kira for bringing justice to her parents murderer. When she was younger both of her parents were killed in front of her and the case kep getting delayed. The murderer was one of the criminals Kira brought "justice" to and he has become her hero and knight in shining armour. She was also saved by a Shinigami who had fallen in love with her from his world and by prolonging her life he fortit his own.

She uses her eyes to figure out Kira's real identity and demands Light become her boyfriend. He is not too pleased at this as he is dating a string of girls, but relents to use her eyes to find out L's real name. Can they kill L or is he still somehow another step ahead of them both. It's quite a complicated installment but still very gripping. I was a little annoyed by Misa. I felt sorry for her, but she was still quite annoying and clingy. I loved that L now sees Light as his friend, it makes the tension between them even greater. I can't wait to read the next volume...!

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 264
Series : #2 Daughters of the Moon
Format : Teenage fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, to continue with the series

The Daughters of the Moon are back for the second book in the series and this time we follow Serena whose gift is to read minds. She is having strange experiences with dream-like qualities where she sees a girl walk into a fire. When she tries to help her Serena finds the fire is cold and she has interupted a ritual of evil Atrox followers (their nemisis).

Jimena has a premonition that Serena will betray the other Daughters to the Atrox and so far they have not been able to stop one of her seeings from coming true. To complicate matters further Serena has boys on the brain. There is a new guy at school called Zahi who she loves spending time with, but the girls start to wonder if he is all he seems as Serena starts to loose chunks of her memory. She is acting strange and unlike herself causing the others to be worried about her.

This was another fun and easy read developing the main story nicely. Morgan manages to get in the mix again and looks like she will remain an issue for the girls in future installments. I look forward to reading what the girls get up to next.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 341
Format : Teenage Fiction
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, to read some more stories by my favourite authors

This collection consists of four short stories "of dark passion and secrets".

Alpha and Omega - Patricia Briggs
Anna is an abused, submissive werewolf until she meets the Marrok's son Charles who shows up to investigate the goings on of her pack. He tells her she is an Omega who helps other werewolves around her be peaceful and contol their wolf. It becomes a race to save Anna from her pack and understand exactly what is going on and why they are behaving the way they are.

Inhuman - Eileen Wilks
Kai has a gift. She is a kind of telepath who sees the thoughts and moods of others as colours and is able to change their will. Her best friend is Nathan who is not human, but she is not sure exactly what he is yet. Bodies of the gifted start appearing with all of their blood drained and it is up to Nathan to find the killer and stop them. The only problem is the killer is now after Kai as well.

Buying Trouble - Karen Chance
Claire is a projective null on the run from her family who tried to sell her to the Light Fey. At work in an auction house for rare magical items one of the Fey plus her cousin turn up and it turns out she is one of the items up for sale. She ends up in Fairie and as her feelings spiral out of control she discovers a whole other side to herself.

Mona Lisa Betwining - Sunny
Mona Lisa is a monere Queen of mixed blood being part human. She begins the story as Amber's lover basking in the moonlight. She is summoned to a council of the Queen's to account for the death of Mona Louisa (another Queen) at her hands. There she meets demon dead Lucinda and also a secret inside herself that is totally unexpected.

I loved all of these tales and it's so hard to pick a favourite. Eileen Wilks was the only new author to me and I will definitely be reading more in her Lupi series. I can't wait to read Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs and get properly stuck in to Sunny's Monere series this year.

Rating : 2.0/5
Number of Pages : 304
Format : Literary Fiction, Play
Reason for Reading : Guardian 100 Greatest Books Challenge

The continuing story of Faust who has made a deal with Mephistopeles (the devil). Together they confuse an Emperor and Faust begins his persuit of Helen of Troy. Mephistopheles takes on different forms to get his way and manipulate those around him, including Faust. There is a change in focus to the Greek myths with a variety of characters like the Sirens, Chiron, Furies, Shinxes, Helen of Troy etc becomming involved.

Faust is an old man by the end of the play and his life eventually runs out. Things are not so easy for Mephistopeles who has put much time and effort into capturing and ensnaring Faust's soul. Heavenly angels appear at the very end and battle Mephistopeles for the soul for which only one side can be triumphant.

It is barely connected to part one and I didn't enjoy this section nearly as much sadly. I missed Faust and Mephistopeles whoa re not in the story very much as Goethe became more concerned with the Greek myths. I love my Greek mythology, but I was more interested in what exploits the two main characters were up to and I feel I missed out here. It seemed much more disjointed and I didn't enjoy the ending.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 144
Series : #3 Gloom Cookie
Format : Graphic Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge

More from the Gloom Cookie cast as Lex and Damion try to break Isabella's curse before something bad happens to Lex again in this lifetime. It turns out that to break the curse it is simple, Isabella must just stop loving Damion. It's easier said than done as how do you switch off your emotions and just stop yourself from being in love. Things are made a little easier for Isabella when her olf flame and werewolf Artemus turns up back at the Carnival Macabre. The problem is that can she reverse her feelings in time to save Lex.

Meanwhile Sebastian is discovering more about his powers. The problem is that his influence on other realities seems to be causing issues as beings have moved over to his current reality and are affecting the lives of the people there and not in a good way. Chrys is there as ever to help him and more of her backstory is revealed.

Artist Breehn Burns takes over for this volume and I really like his style. There is also some fun guest artwork at the end of the collection as well as part of Serena's script for one of the comics. It leaves lots of unanswered questions at the end and I am looking forward to reading the next gloomie installment an seeing what happens next.

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 211
Format : Teenage Fiction
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge

Melinda Sordino is starting high school as Outcast. During the summer she went to a high school party with her best friend Rachel and something happened which caused her to call the cops. This broke the party up and some of the kids attending were arrested making the whole school hate her before she even started. Her first day of school has Rachel mouthing to her that she hates her and from there things get even worse.

The affects of the party have had a deep impact on Melinda. She feels she can't speak out about what happened and can hardly bring herself to speak to anyone at all. She finds places to hide around the school to avoid dealing with people (including an old janitors closet). She cuts classes and her grades really start to suffer getting her in trouble with the teachers, principle and her parents who have no idea what is really going on.

Her only release is art. There is a new teacher Mr Freeman who encourages them all to get more in touch with their emotions and seems to have a special understanding of Mel. He tries to get her to put down how she is feeling into her art and express her rage, sadness etc in a healthy way so she can begin to deal with them. This centres around her trying to draw a tree for her project. Ultimately though the only way to deal with what has happened to her is to speak up and tell the truth and whole story to people.

Very well written and full of dry humour. I loved Mel as a character and it was great to see an author able to write about high school without it being patronising or idealised. This book definitely makes an impression on the reader and the story stays with you long after you have put the book down. I hope it will encourage others to speak out about and it is ultimately a book of hope, strength and ultimately triumph.

Other Reviews: Becky's Book Review (where I first heard of this book)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 192
Series : Princess Ai
Format : Manga
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, alternative for Manga Challenge

Princess Ai is a Tokyopop manga mini series created by Courtney Love and DJ Milky. She lands on earth from another world with a heart-shaped box falling in love with human musician Kent. After becomming a world famous singer and musician she disappears back to her home world.

She leaves behind many people whose lives she has touched in different ways, come for better and some for worse. This is a collection of 12 stories by different writers and artists about these people. Many of them are outright lives, but some are based on truth. They range from her turning into a bird of paradise, having a secret love child which is an egg, being a bitch etc. Others feature characters like Mika (a stripper from Club Cupid), Takeshi her agent, Yoshi her assistant, Hikari who also loves Kent and more.

This was a great way to showcase some of Tokyopops other writers and artists. It was an interesting range of styles with Western and Japanese (some stories read left to right and then you get to a point where you are told to flip to the back and read the right to left stories). My favourites were Hans Steinbach and Misaho Kujiradou. Definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the others in the series and like manga.

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 455
Series : #3 Camelot
Format : Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : Arthurian Challenge, to continue with the series

Lynet of Cambryn aided Sir Tristan and Queen Iseul'ts affair cuckolding King Mark at Tintagel. She was sent back to her family in disgrace with her honour tarnished as many believed she was also giving the Knight favours. Her father holds the Castle at Cambryn for Queen Guinevere and Lynet was sent on pennance to walk to a sacred well which ruined her feet. Her brother Colan kills their father in cold blood as he does not trust Arthur and Guinevere while King Mark is going mad and he flees his sisters to Morgaine the Sleepless. Eldest sister Laurel stays behind when Lynet goes forth to Camelot to get help from the Queen.

Before leaving Laurel gives Lynet a magic silver mirror that was their mothers. She was a daughter of the sea (one of the morverch) who fell in love with a mortal man and her children have certain abilities. As always there is a price to pay for using such a gift which lets Lynet see beyond the shadows.

Whilst in Camelot Lynet meets Squire Gareth who is a ladies man and rake in service to Sir Lancelot. Something in her attracts his attention in a way different to other women. She is able to give him asecond chance to redeem herself after he is humiliated in front of the whole court for his actions with the ladies. They must move quickly though as Morgaine has many schemes in motion to bring down her hated brother Arthur and his Queen Guinevere who is from the same land as her.

A great mixture of myth, fantasy and romance. This is so far my favourite of the series. I loved Lynet, Laurel and Gareth. I am really interested to see how things work out in the final novel. Of course I know how the story ends for the King and Queen, but not as much has been told of the four brothers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 348
Format : Literary Fiction
Reason for Reading : Guardian 100 Greatest Books Challenge, What's in a Name II Challenge

The story of love between Florentino Ariza (male) and Fermina Daza (female). He falls in love with her as a young man and courts her with letters and violin serenades. Shortly before they are due to marry, she changes her mind and rejects him. He never recovers whereas she goes on to marry Dr Urbino Juvenal and it is not until fifty-one years, nine months and four days later that Florentino Ariza gets a second chance at love.

The story continues as they follow their seperate lives throughout adulthood. Fermina Daza has children and has to deal with problems within her marriage. Florentino Ariza has a string of secret affairs (mostly with widows) and is subject to gossip as being homosexual for never having married. Both do cross paths as they continue to live in the same city and both are successful. Fermina Daza realises she never loved Florentino Ariza as a teenager and only in later life is she also given a second chance at happiness.

Beautifully written, I was dubious if I would enjoy it after not liking One Hundred Years of Solitude by the same author. I have completely changed my opinion and an highly recommend this novel and understand why it has become a classic. I really enjoyed getting to know the main characters and the people in their lives and the ending nearly made me weep.

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 40
Format : Children's Fiction
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge

Farmer Peter has always wanted to live in a castle doing fine deeds that will win him the love of a beautiful princess. One day a fair lady appears to him in a dream telling him to go to the Kings castle and solve the riddle of the princesses. Off he sets and becomes a gardener as he believes he is too lowly to try for a higher station.

Th King has twelve daughters and every night he locks them in their room to sleep. Each morning their dancing shoes are worn through and they are pale and tired. Many princes have tried to solve the riddle of what is going on but have all disappeared. Doing the gardening Peter finds a rare flower growing among the weeds that causes him to be invisible when he wears it in his buttonhole. Wearing it he is able to follow the princesses and discover their secret and hat the fate of the princes has been. Along the way he falls in love with the youngest princess, Elise, and together they break the spell.

Based on the Brothers Grimm tale, I bought it mostly for the sumptous illustrations by KY Craft. It is beautifully retold and recommended to all lovers of fairy tale. A lovely edition to read alongside young children who can gaze forever at the stunning artwork that goes alongside the tale.

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 297
Series : #1 Histories of Middle Earth
Format : Mixture of Fantasy and Non-Fiction
Reason for Reading : My love of all things Middle Earth

The first in the Histories of Middle Earth series by JRR Tolkien edited by his son Christopher Tokien. This is a collection of Tolkien's early drafts of stories that make up The Silmarillion. It follows Eriol (a wandering mariner) as he is told stories of the Valar, Valinor and the coming of the Eldar (Elves) and Man. The tales cover the very early mythology behind Middle Earth with extra information not in The Silmarillion to expand on the knowledge found there.

Each tale contains notes and a commentary by Christopher as well as notes as to the notebook it was found in, how it was written and extra parts added or subtracted. It also contains exra poems by JRR Tolkien connected to the main tale, lore and alternative drafts for the readers consideration and explains the finer points and how it all links together. It is also interesting to see how the names develop and change throughout the drafts as well as some of Tolkien's languages.

This was a great start to the series and part two promises to have more interesting stories. I loved reading more about the gold and silver Trees in Valinor as well as the Silmarils and it was an excellent glimpse into Tolkien's writing style and thought processes. It's fantastic to see how Middle Earth began and I am very much looking forward to reading more in the series.

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 197
Format : Literary Fiction, Play
Reason for Reading : Guardian 100 Greatest Books Challenge

The well-known story of Faust who meets and makes a deal with Mephistopheles (the devil) after he is sent down to tempt him. Faust is taken on a journey first to a pub where Mephistopheles makes different kinds of wine from the table for the drinkers before getting in a fight. From there they go to see a witch who gives Faust a potion. It is supposed to give him longer life, but in reality makes all women appear as beautiful as Helen of Troy.

Faust meets Margareta who is a poor young girl living with her mother who mistreats her. He falls in love with her after the effects of the potion and courts her. Nothing quite goes to plan and she ends up murdering her mother and the child they have together. As the story closes she is in jail awaiting the gallows and refuses to be saved by Faust and his fiendish friend.

Although it is written as a play, it reads very much more like poetry. I am really looking forward to reading part two and seeing how it all turns out for Faust. As part of the deal he agreed to help Mephistopheles after he is dead and I will be interested to see if Goethe says what that will be doing. It was much darker than I expected with the Margareta storyline and I await the next twists and turns.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 151
Format : Teenage Fiction
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, have been interested in reading it for some time

Callie is a "guest" at Sick Minds (real name Sea Pines, but the girls note there are no pines and the sea is no where near). She cuts herself and was sent there in the hopes that she would stop and confront her problems. Firstly though she will need to start talking again at all if she is to start to figure out the root of her problems.

Callie is part of a group of girls at the institute. They are split into "food issue" girls, "substance abuse issue" girls and Callie is labelled as a "behavioural issues" girl until they figure out what to do with her. Through Callie we get to know the other girls Sydney, Tiffany, Tara, Debbie and Becca and see how they are dealing with (or not in some cases) their issues. Callie is so focused on the little details during her time not talking. She takes to counting the stripes on the wallpaper in her therapists office, counting the cars outside and memorising their colours etc. Unless she can open up though, things are not going to improve for her.

Life at Sick Minds changes for Callie when new girl Amanda joins. She also cuts herself but is very different to Callie. At the same time Callie hears from her mother and the news upsets her. In dealing with things she harms herself again and has a bit of a wake up call. She is finally in a place where she is able to very slowly come to terms with her feelings.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. Very true to life. I liked that the ending was positive and gave you the feeling Callie would be ok, but that it did nothave some kind of magic quick fix all better now attitude. The other girls in the group were fun (Sydney especially) and I enjoyed getting to know them all. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Personal Update

I don't usually put up personal posts, but things have been so rubbish lately I feel a need to share my troubles and hopefully it will take a load off and help me de-stress. I did post about getting a great new job that started in June and since I started life has been very busy and hectic. This started as a good thing despite completely ruining any routines I had including going to the gym, reading everyones blogs and even updating my own blog. I am still so very very behind on reading your blogs and I apologise I haven't forgotten you honestly!

In November, things at work took a downward turn. I work in scientific sales and as such am home based. I was asked to travel into the office more which is fine. It is a 3 hour trip each way so 6 hours of travel in a day or a few nights away from home if I am organised and book all my office work together. I was told though that although my expenses had been paid for my travel to the office, immediately that would cease. The travel is £32 each time I travel to the office and of course there may be overnight costs incurred as well so I will be out of pocket a vast amount each month. I was also told that my probation period will be extended. This was not an issue with my performance and I have not failed at anything, but they have not provided me with enough training. The third thing I was told (all in the same day) was that someone internally had complained about my appearence. I am all for constructive criticism, but this email was untrue, exaggerated and frankly offensive.

Things progressed and in December I was then called back into the office for an urgent, immediate meeting. I figured I was getting sacked but sadly no. Instead I have to now be based in the office every day (effective 2nd January) and relocate near by. I called for legal advice at this point and was told to change my contract (including stopping my expenses), they legally need to give me my notice period (for me one month) to take effect. After a lot of arguing I can now claim my December travel expenses as well as putting off the relocation until January 18th. Obviously I immediately started job hunting.

In December just before the meeting about relocating I started having panic attacks for the first time. The first one was while I was at a play in London and I had to be taken to hospital in the end as it wouldn't stop after an hour and a half. Since then I have had a series and the doctor has put me on beta blockers to help control the anxiety.

I went into the office for my 6 month review yesterday. It was a mockery. I ended up having to run out half way through to have a panic attack in the toilets. They said a lot of things that were unfair and contradicted themselves constantly. I am filing a grievance for bullying, harrassment and discrimination, but obviosuly things are very difficult. I am at home today and back in the office again for more fun and games tomorrow. At this point it's a case of when not if I give my notice in. Relocating is not an option for me and I am so stressed at the moment crying a lot and generally feeling rubbish.

I have a series of interviews lined up and I know I shouldn't quit until I have another job to go to, but I will not work in the office and I just can't work for a company I despise so much. I may make the decision that my health comes first and just say a big up yours.

So yes that's my work situation at the moment. Not fun. I will do my best to get on top of blog related activities asap, but please continue to bear with me for a little bit longer.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rating : 4.0/5
Developer : Intelligent Systems
Genre: Tactical Role Playing
Console : Nintendo DS

This is the first in the Fire Emblem series, but is the fifth release outside of Japan being a remake of Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryƫ to Hikari no Ken from the Famicon. Players of Super Smath Bros may recognise main character Marth. The story is simple and like most other Fire Emblem games. Marth's father (the King of Altea) has gone away to battle and is reported dead. He had on him legendary sword Falchion which has been taken by the evil Medeus, the Shadow Dragon. Marth sets forth on a quest throughout the land to find and destroy Medeus once and for all reclaiming his sword and birthrite along the way.

He has a set of companions including Shiida (Princess of Talys), Ogma (a mercenary proteting Shiida), Nabarl (a swordsman hired as a bodyguard by bandits) and Merric (a childhood friend of Marth's who wields magic). As the story progresses different people join your team and in some situations you need to have the right character speak to one of the enemy to recruit them. Unlike many other series, once your character dies in battle you cannot ressurect them and they are gone from the game for good.

Marth and Shiida are below against the world map.

The game play works really well. On the bottom DS screen are the characters and you can move them into battle, perform healing or cast magic. The top screen has more detailed information including the number of turns you have had, characters statistics and maps. A battle screen shot is shown below of Marth (in blue) versus a pegasus rider Gra. Each weapon has different abilities and levels and different types of class are susceptible to different weapons eg peagsus riders are especially weak against arrows. Each weapon can also be used a certain number of times before it breaks, but you can buy more along the way and forge your own.

Like all other Fire Embem games, the gameplay is quite linear in that you have no control over which battle you fight next. You can tell this is the first in the series as it misses some of the classic elements of the later games such as there are no bards/dancers enabling you to have an extra turn, there are extra save points in each battle ground, you can switch classes at will although you still need a Master Seal to move up to the higher class etc. Overall though I loved this game and highly recommend it to anyone who loves RPGs like Final Fantasy and Zelda.

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 172
Series : #6 Worst Witch
Format : Children's Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, to continue with the series

Mildred Hubble has a great feeling about the new term at Miss Cackle's Academy. She has a great holiday project where she has written a spall allowing animals to speak for 14 days (after which time they can never speak again). Ethel Hallows (her nemesis) is actually being nice to her and her first class of the term is pottery with the new teacher Miss Mould. Mildred has an aptitude for creative arts and she can already picture the merits she will be awarded and the approval she will gain from Miss Hardbroom.

Of course things so not run smoothly for the notorius worst witch. Ethel has her own devious reasons for being nice to Mildred, culminating in her hiding Mildred's extra forbidden pet in a tall tree outside the school grounds in a storm. It becomes a race against time for Mildred to prove her innocence and gain the trust and honour of Miss Hardbroom and the rest of the school.

A fun new installment to this classic series, I hope there are more to come. I love Jill Murphy's illustrations and this short novel was no exception.

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 192
Series : #5 Bizenghast
Format : Manga
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, alternative for Manga Challenge, to continue with the series

The fifth installment of the beautifully drawn Bizenghast series. Dinah has lost Vincent (at the end of volume four) who was her best friend. Now she must try to learn to cope without him and continue with her life. It is easier said than done as she plunges into despression and loneliness that only Dinah can get herself out of.

With the helo of Edaniel and Edrear she goes back to her job of freeing and breaking the will of ghosts in the mausoleum. The more difficult ghsts though sense her weakness and are keen to exploit it. She can't seem to stop thinking about Vincent which the ghosts sense and Edaniel and Edrear can't help as they have no soul and Dinah is quick to point out they have not experienced this type of loss before. In one tomb she seems Vincent alive again and in another she is told of a way to communicate with him via Godmother Death. Both are ghostly tricks and Dinah must come to terms with the fact that Vincent is gone forever and nothing can bring him back.

Beautifully drawn as always, I really like Dinah's new hair cut. It's a shame though that this book was mostly filler to volume 6 in the series (due out in August 2009). I look forward to seeing what is in store for Dinah an her companions in the future.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Blame Nymeth for this one. Like her I was all maxed out on challenges this year, but then I saw this one. I read quite a lot of Gaiman all things considered last year and was planning on reading some more in 2009 anyway. It is hosted by Jessi here and there is a challenge blog here.

Of the options I will go for Acolyte: Read three works (from three different categories) and watch one movie. I am not going to pick my actual choices yet, but here are some of my options.

Graphic Novel (probably something Sandman related)
Short Story Collection (Fragile Things)
Young Adult (I have M is for Magic, Odd and the Frost Giants and The Wolves in the Walls at home already that I haven't yet read)
Novels (Good Omens would be my choice here as I have already read his others)
Movies (I have Neverwhere to watch at home)

Should be fun!

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 272
Format : Novel
Reason for Reading : Book Awards Reading Challenge II

This charming tale is split into four distinct parts. The first tells Despereaux's perspective from his birth as the only surviving little mate of his mouse parents. He is born with over large ears, a tiny body and very unusually his eyes open. He isn't like the other mice. He isn't interested in crumbs or eating books, more in reading them and listening to music. He breaks many mouse taboos and the final straw is when he is seen at the feet of the human King and his daughter Princess Pea. He is exiled to the dungeon to be eaten by the evil rats, but things are not so simple.

The second book introduces the rat Chiaroscuro (Roscuro to his friends) who lives in the castle dungeon. Like the other rats he has never seen light and world above, but unlike the others he becomes mesmerised by it and is so enchanted by the light that he explores the upper world. He hangs from a chandelier and watches the Princess Pea in her twinkling clothes and crown below, when suddenly he falls into the Queen's soup with terrible consequences. The King outlaws both rats and soup in the aftermath and Roscuro returns to the dungeon plotting revenge on the Princess Pea.

Enter the final main character, Miggery (Mig) Sow. The poor girl was sold by her father after her mother died aged 6 for a red tablecloth, a hen and a packet of cigarettes. Her new owner "Uncle" regularly beats her around the ears causing her to become partially deaf. On her seventh birthday she sees Princess Pea and her family riding and dreams of one day becoming a Princess herself. When she later moves to the castler, Roscuro is keen to manipulate her dreams to exact his revenge. Can Despereaux the tiny mouse resuce the Princess and save the day?

I loved this children's book. Dark and bitter sweet in places, the ending was just right without being too over the top. The illustrations were beautiful and I loved the way the whole book was presented with torn page edges. Despereaux is a great character enchanted with fairy tales and this blends in elements of many in it's telling. Definitely one I will read again and if we get around to having our own chidlren it will be high on my list of books to read to them.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Mariel from Where Troubls Melt Like Lemon Drops came over last night to celebrate New Year's Eve (she is my best friend). We stayed in and chatted about books and notebooks which was a lovely way to spend our evening. We always have so many recommendations for each other that we decided to mimic my challenge with Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot and pick 5 books for each other to read in 2009.

The list for me to read is:

1. The Gift - Alison Croggon
2. Lamb - Christopher Moore
3. The Hours - Michael Cunningham
4. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
5. Cry of the Icemark - Stuart Hill

I am looking forward to all of them and The Secret History is one I don't have and don't really know much about. If I don't have a copy by September I am sure she will buy it for me for my birthday. We always get each other books for Christmas and if this challenge goes well we can buy each other the books we don't have from our lists next year if that makes sense. I am sure she will post her list of choices soon (which may overlap a little with what I picked for Nymeth this year and last year, but hey they are books I love).

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 176
Series : #1 Hatter M Series
Format : Graphic Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, I loved the first two books in the series

This is a collection of four comics to make up this graphic novel which follows Hatter Madigan (renamed by Lewis Carroll as the Mad Hatter) in his search on earth for Princess Alyss. It covers Hatter Madigan searching through different times on earth and different countries after he became seperated from Alyss in the Pool of Tears. He begins his journey in Paris, France 1859 where he follows the glow of imagination to also track down his hat.

When the roads in Paris lead to dead ends and he is being hunted by the law, he uses a pool of water found in a place no water should be to travel to Budapest 1859. Here he finds a young girl with a bright glow of imagination shining from her. She is kidnapped by the evil Baroness Dvonna who wants to take her to her orphanage and drain away her imagination. With the help of reporter Magda Pushikin he sets out to rescue the girl he thinks is Alyss.

It took a little to get into the story as it is mostly Hatter using his fearsome blades to despatch his enemies and would be pursuers. The final chapter, Rage Against The Machine, was by far my favourite. Very dark indeed with fantastic graphics, I couldn't put it down until I completed it. There are some great references to authors and artists and there is an excellent bonus section at the back with sample characters drawings, answers to questions about topics such as Hatter's Hat and how the two authors came together to write the series. Highly recomended to fans of the novels and a great introduction for those who have not yet read them.