Sunday, May 31, 2009

I know I said no more challenges, but this one looks really interesting and I don't read too much GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi and transgender) books. Hosted by The Zen Leaf you can sign up here. The aim is simple, read 6 GLBT themed books or by GLBT authors between 1st July and 31st December 2009.

I am going to leave my list quite open, but I recently got some Sarah Waters books which I will read for this challenge hopefully. Other than that I am not yet sure what I will read but sure I can find something. I still need to read some more of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales so maybe that as well.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 257
Series : #3 Bath and Body Mystery
Format : Cozy Mystery Novel
Reason for Reading : Cozy Mystery Challenge, to continue with the series

Persia Vanderbilt has an excellent sense of smell and makes custom blends for the shop she co-owns with her Aunt, Venus Envy. Business is booming and they have expanded their offerings to include hair styling and make up consultations taking on new staff. Lisa is their make up artist who is struggling to make ends meet with her sister after the death of their father and inheriting his large house. Much of their inheritance money seems to have disappeared and Lisa thinks someone stole it.

Lisa is acting strangely and one evening disappears following a lead on the missing money. Local police chief Kyle thinks she has drowned, but both her sister and Persia know there is no chance as she had a terrible phobia of water and could barely walk around a swimming pool. Persia decides to investigate as police funding is low and they were friends, but her ex boyfriend is still in town and getting more desperate. He has nowmanaged to get himself a gun and with enough alcohol in him, who knows what he is capable of...

Sadly I think this is the last in the series with no more planned. India Ink is the pseudonym of Yasmine Galenorn who is now concentrating her writing on urban fantasy rather than murder mysteries. Persia makes a great heronine and this was definitely better than the second book which took far too long to get going. Sexy, cheeky and with lots of great references to things like Nine Inch Nails (one of my favourite bands) etc.

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 280
Format : Fairy Tale/Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge

This is an adult re-telling of Snow White. Set in Montefiore, Bianca de Nevada is 7 at the beginning of the tale living as an only child with her father after her mother died. Keeping her company are a potty mouthed cook Primavera Vecchia and not so holy Priest Far Ludovico. One day a noble couple come to visit, brother and sister Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia. There has been much speculation that Lucrezia had an inapprioriate relationship with their father, the Pope, and she has definitely had/is having one with her brother despite them both being married.

Cesare sends Bianca's father off to retrieve a sacred branch from the original Tree of Knowledge said to have 3 apples still growing upon it. They will make sure Bianca is ok while he is gone. He has no choice but to leave her behind and is followed unbeknownst to him by a dwarf. Lucrezia finds a beautiful mirror that Bianca's father found and uses it to see other people and places. She is upset with Cesar makes a pass at Bianca and feels her looks are fading, so sends Primavera's son out to the woods to kill Bianca and bring back her heart. He lets her go and she wakes up years later in a cave surrounded by dwarves.

This was a great tale. The dwarves were my favourites, they were so inhuman and well described. Definitely not the Disney versions with the more appealing names, these have names like Bitter, Nextday and Heartless. Like I said, it's definitely not intended for children. There was a really interesting section at the very end where Maguire talks about some of the history of the real Cesar and Lucrezia and where he got his ideas from which was fascinatinb. Definitely recommended.

Rating : 4.5/5
Number of Pages : 292
Series : #4 Mercy Thompson Series
Format : Urban Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, to continue with the series

Vampires, werewolves and ghosts oh my! Mercy is back after the events of Iron Kissed and is slowly coming to terms with what happened to her. She is trying to build a relationship with Adam, the local werewolf Alpha whilst still loving her ex who is also a werewolf, Samuel. Complicating matters is the vampire Queen Marsilia who uses Stefan to get her attention. Someone has told her that Mercy killed one of her favourite vampires and Marsilia marks Mercy to all supernaturals as one to destroy.

What happened to her made the newspapers and an old college friend shows up out of the blue asking Mercy to come to her house to get rid of a ghost. She has a son who is being haunted and her husband does not believe either of them. Mercy leaves taking Stefan as a protector to see if she can do anything despite not being able to exorcise it. There is only one vampire where they are headed (the Monster) who allows no others on his territory. Mercy realises she really doesn't want to attract his attention as is he a vampire that scares even other vampires!

Another great addition to the series. This is still my favourite urban fantasy series around at the moment. Mercy is a truely likable character with many human failings despite being a supernatural being herself. I also really like the fey who pop up in this novel again too. I am really looking forward to the enxt installment.

Friday, May 29, 2009

So yesterday I spent around 13 hours driving around Wales seeing a couple of clients. I stopped off in a little village called Hay-On-Way which I hadn't heard of before. It had a sign saying it was book related and it turned out to have 39 book shops as well as a massive literary festival going on with free entry. Talking about it to friends it seems everyone has heard of it but me somehow!

So anyway after my appointment the company let me leave my car in their car park and walk to the festival. Inside I managed to meet Jonathan Stroud (author of the Bartimaeus trilogy). Here he is signing some books and I think the little girl with the pink headband was his daughter.

I bought The Last Siege by him as it is one I hadn't heard of before.

Then I approached his table and got him to sign it. He even drew me a little Bartimaeus, how cool is that!

He was a lovely guy. We chatted for a few minutes and he was such a sweetie. He encouraged me to try writing despite my worry that I would accidentally rip someone elses work off having read so much. There were so many authors giving talks but I had to leave as I had a long drive home. Other authors there included Sarah Waters, Cornelia Funke, Alan Bennett plus people like Jeremy Paxman, and musician KT Tunstall. I will definitely check out the line up next year and think about going properly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Njal's Saga

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 378
Format : History, Mythology
Reason for Reading : Guardian Challenge

Arguably the most famous of the Icelandic sagas, this history tells of Njal, his sons, friends and surrounding people. It is from the 13th centuary and covers many topics including feuds, impotence, marriage, law etc. Two of the main characters are Gunnar and Njal. Njal is a well known wise man who is an expert in the laws who many turn to for advice. Gunnar is his close friend, but unfortunately their wives do not get on. Gunnar's wife begins a blood feud with Njal's wife where they keep killing people to try to get their husbands to fall out. It's a bit eye for an eyeand very petty.

There are villians and heros and eventually both Gunnar and Njal are killed. Gunnar is killed in battle and Njal is burnt to death in his house with his wife. His sons take their revenge and go after the burners and the feuding continues. Parts of it are an excellent view inside Icelandic life at the time mentioning local food etc. It was also interesting to read about the laws at the Althing.

It's not all blood, guts limbs and heads being chopped off. It has a sense of humor and a charm to the story, although it did loose me a little after Njal was killed. I loved reading the tale after not long having visited Iceland, it made me want to go back even more. I hope to read more of the sagas in the future.

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 584
Format : Teenage Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge

Narrated by Death, this is a tale set in Nazi Germany as he collects the souls of the dead. At this time there are more than enough dying to keep Death busy, but still he is drawn to young girl Liesel whose brother dies on a train to a new foster family. Her father has been taken to a concentration camp and her mother will soon follow him leaving Liesel alone. Her foster mother is strict and swears constantly in German which Zusak helpfully translates for us, but Liesel strikes up a fast friendship with her foster father who has a love for playing the accordian.

The story follows Liesel and the other inhabitants of Himmel Street and the consequences of Max coming to live with her as he is Jewish and remains hidden in their cellar. Liesel learns to read and steals a series of books which gives her and the novel their title. It is a tale of friendship, loss, bravery and cruelty.

I know that most people I have spoken to have loved this tale, but it didn't grab me until over half way through. I kept nearly giving up on it, but persevered. I felt like I had read the story before and that the narrative was very repetitive. Zusak kept saying what was going to happen later in the story, but took ages to actually get there and tell it properly which I found most annoying. The thing that saves it is the characters. They were excellent (especially Liesel's foster parents) and saved it from a much lower rating.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 192
Series : #3 Return to Labyrinth
Format : Manga
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, alternative for the Manga Challenge, to continue with the series

We return to the Goblin Kingdom for the third installment following Toby (the baby from the film) who is now a teenager and is to take over ruling as Goblin King. Many secrets are revealed in this installment including the mystery of Moppet who hides her face beneath her Goblin mask. We also learn why Sarah gave up on acting as well as more about the mysterious Mizumi who was promised the throne by Jareth before he disappeared. There is also the Pathfinder who created the Labyrinth and who Toby must find in order to be crowned King.

I don't want to say too much more as it will spoil the story. I loved it though. The artwork was stunning as usual and a lot of the threads of the plot came together in this installment and I am really looking forward to reading the next one which I think is sadly the last in the series. It was a long wait for this to come out and at the back it says the next and final volume will be another wait. I will try my best to be patient, but don't count on it...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hello all, I just wanted to post quickly to say I am back from holiday in Somerset where we had a fantastic time. I have lots of photos but haven't had a chance to upload them from my camera yet. We went to Glastonbury and climbed the Tor (pictured below) as well as visiting some new places like Wookey Hole and the White Horse at Westbury I think it was (will check my camera soon).

I am away in Newcastle this week for work, back Friday evening traffic permitting so I am not around too much. I am away for the next few weeks after that as well to Wales and Scotland. I am very behind on my book reviews. I need to review:

Return to Labyrinth v3 - Jake T Forbes & Chris Lie
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Njal's Saga
Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs

I didn't bring them away with me and I am so tired I need to go home and get my notes together before I can put my thoughts together. I am currently reading Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire which is unsurprisingly a re-telling of Snow White which I am really enjoying. Hopefully I will have it finished by the time I get home.

The question of the moment is whether to go to the MCM Manga Expo in London this weekend. I will be tired and am due to watch Twilight with my friend in the evening, but I have been away and not spent much time with my husband Alex. Decisions decisions...

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Going on holiday this morning to Somerset, near Glastonbury. Back Monday night and I promise to get up to date on my book reviews when I get back.

Have fun, back in a few days!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So I've been pretty busy over the last week going out every night and working hard in the daytime. In the last 7 evenings I have been to 3 gigs.

Firstly Tuesday last week was to see Irish rockers Therapy? They are a band I have loved since their iconic album Troublegun in the 1990s. They have a new album due out soon and played mostly music from it during the gig. It sounded really good and I am looking forward to the release date. They did play some old favourites like Teethgrinder, Potato Junkie, Going Nowhere. Turn etc. The only thing I did notice was that me and my friend were in the minority being two women in a 90% male crowd. Very testosterone filled...!

Gig number 2 was on Thursday last week. I went to see Ginger from the Wildhearts playing his solo music and another band called Laika Dog whose frontman is Tony Wright from the awesome Terrorvision. I hadn't heard any of Ginger's solo music or anything by Laiki Dog but I loved both performances. I got one of Laika Dog's cds which I will put on my iPod soon. It was an awesome night despite going to the gig by myself. I met a host of my favourite band members during the evening and a really fun girl called Lauren and guy called James who I am keeping in touch with.

Below is a rubbish picture of me with Chris McCormack the guitarist from 3 Colours Red.

Check me out with Tony Wright from Terrorvision and Laika Dog, such a sweet and friendly guy and I can't believe he just turned 41!!! I spent some time chatting to his bandmates and got on really well with the keyboard player who was well sound. Must find him on facebook.

And me with Ginger formerly of The Wildheards, a rock'n'roll band from the 1990s (the best decade for music!). He was again lovely and spent ages signing autographs and posing for pictures at the merchandise stall. Must get his solo albums from iTunes or Amazon at some point.

Last nights treat was a special Tori Amos gig. It was a one off in a theatre in London promoting her new album due out soon, Abnormally Attracted to Sin (the night was entitled "Accoustically Attracted to Sin). She had said it would be mostly new stuff with some old, but it turned out to be compeltely the other way around (see set list at the bottom).

Her support act was great too, a guy called Scott Matthews from Wolverhampton I had a nice chat with. A cross between Damien Rice and Martin Grech (go check him out). Both sounded great, Scott alone with 3 different guitars and Tori minus her band, just her and a paino as she was meant to be heard.

My only complaint about Tori was her appearence. She wore a red long dress with black spots and was painfully thin. She pulled the dress up (making it look way better), but we did get quite a lot of crotch shots. Luckily she was wearing thick black leggings/tights but still, a visual I could have lived without. She reminded me of a twin crossed with a ladybird and a gelfling (remember The Dark Crystal?!). Someone feed the lady many cheese burgers, she needs to fatten up a little.!
Set list:
Famous Blue Raincoat (a laughing Len song)
Taxi Ride
Jackie's Strength
Cool on your Island
Silent All These Years
Baron's of Suburbiabr>
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Putting the Damage On

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 266
Format : Fantasy/Fairy Tale Anthology
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge

Six tales from husband and wife team Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson. They are all based on water, it is subtitled "Tales of Elemental Spirits" and each story has a different magical water being. It is a very powerful collection and I found something to enjoy in all six tales.

Mermaid Song - Peter Dickinson

Pitiable lives with her grandparents. Her mother was expelled from the People when she chose to marry outside her clan and died giving birth. Her grandmother Mercy tells her the story of their ancestor Charity Goodrich who met some sea-people as a child who helped save her life. After Mercy's death, her grandfather treats Pitiable like a slave beating her and expecting her to work like a dog. One day her life is changed when she meets a sea-child herself.

The Sea-Kings Song - Robin McKinley

Jenny is hard working and intelligent, but not beautiful and is hidden by her shyness. She becomes betrothed to a beautiful young man who is more interested in her inhertiance than her. He ends up breaking her heart as predicted leading her to take a short cut home over a bridge that has been cursed by the Sea King after he was treated badly by the landfolk. Instead of killing her he lets her go after she speaks so highly of her love for her family. His son is intrigued by the girl who helped his father let go of her rage and strives to meet her.

Sea Serpent - Peter Dickinson

Iril chews the leaf and dreams the wave. He takes ona contract for Mel, a Priest for the Father-God to take stones from Siron a Priestess of the Earth-Mother whose religion is dwindling. Doing so causes Siron to unleash a fearsome sea serpent which tries to stop them taking the stones. Iril and his son Jarro need to work together to defeat it.

Water Horse - Robin McKinley

Tamia lives with her family where she isn't appreciated before leaving to be an apprentice to the Guardian Western Mouth. The Guardians keep the sea from drowning their island and the lands behind. When Western Mouth has a stroke Tamia summons help using the gold stones in the water pool, but accidentally opens the way for a ferocious water horse which is dealing a vast amount of damage to the land. She opened the way and so she must be the one to send it back to the sea. Perhaps her affinity with animals, especially horses will help her.

Kraken - Peter Dickinson

When two lovers dive off a boat being boarded by pirates rather than be captured, mermaid and King's daughter Ailsa and her blue-fin Carn decide to save their bodies. On diving below the limit Ailsa feels the limit, cold and deadly. As she tows the bodies back to her father the limit begins to rise and she senses a dark, other presence following her. A kraken has awoken and is interested in the humans as well as Ailsa and is keeping the couple alive in a suspended animation.

A Pool in the Desert - Robin McKinley

Hetta dreams of the desert and begins to travel there in her dreams. She is saved from a sandstorm by a Watcher named Zasharan. The dreams are so vivid and in her waking life she begins to research the strange land she emerged in that felt so life like. It turns out to be a real place, but she is meeting people from legend rather than real history. She tries to find a way to get there and one day her sister helps her notice an unusual newt in their pond which opens the way.

My favourite was Water Horse, it was a great story filled with magic but of a practical nature and was something a little different. Other favourites were The Sea-King's Son and Sea Serpent. My least favourite was Kraken which started like a rip off of The Little Mermaid which is a story I love. They are supposed to be teaming up to do a series of these anthologies of different elements and Peter's site says he has written some of them. I do hope they complete the series as this was an extrememly enjoyable collection.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

April Summary

Firstly my kitties are back and recovering nicely. The first day they were very groggy from the anaesthetic and Morgaine had a terrible dry cough/burp/wretching which she got over yesterday. They are both taking antibiotics for a couple more days and Merlin has an extra tablet which is fun trying to get him to take it...

So a little late but below is my April summary. I finished the Book Awards II Challenge and have made a good start on the Once Upon a Time III Challenge and have finally read my first book set by Nymeth.

Books Read = 17, Total = 70
Pages Read = 4639, Total = 13,376

Manga Challenge : 2/6 plus 8 alternatives
Scott Westerfeld Mini Challenge : 0/3
Arthurian Challenge II : 0/6 (read 6-8 books)
Book Awards Reading Challenge II : 10/10 COMPLETED
What's in a Name Challenge II : 3/6
Challenge with Nymeth : 1/5
Challenge with Mariel : 0/5
The Dream King Challenge : 1/3
999 Challenge : 41/81
Graphic Novel Challenge II : 0/12
Guardian Challenge : 40/50
Opon upon a Time Challenge : 3/5
Vampire Challenge : 0/2
666 Reading Challenge : 2/36
Cozy Murders Challenge : 1/6

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 279
Format : Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : 999 Challenge, to read more Alice Hoffman

Sisters Gillian and Sally grew up with their Aunts after their parents died in a house fire. There the aunts make a living by doing spells at twilight for the local people (usually woman seeking love). The girls learn about the dangers of love and the mistrust of the townspeople. As they grow older Gillian becomes a beautiful young woman who has many short lived relationships before running away to get married. Sally on the other hand just wants a normal life.

She falls in love, marries and has two children, Antonia and Kylie, but her happiness is short lived when her husband dies. She breaks down before pulling herself together to bring up her daughters alone. She never allows herself to fall in love and doesn't even date. Her normal life is throw out the window when Gillian arrives out of the blue with her current (and abusive) boyfriend Jimmy dead after giving him too much nightshade to make him sleep. They bury him in the back gadren, but he refuses to stay there for long and soon his malicious spirit is causing the family terrible luck. Kylie and Antonia are going through puberty and to make matters worse an investigator comes looking for Jimmy with regard to some of his more recent crimes. The investigator may be just what Sally needs...

I love the film and was really looking forward to reading this despite some mixed reviews online. I really like Alice Hoffman and really loved this novel. It's hard to describe the differences between the book and the film, but the book focuses more on the practical rather than the magic and the movie is the other way around. It's a little like the differences between Chocolat the film and novel. I loved getting to know the Owens family and really related to Kylie the most trying to find her place in the world.

Friday, May 01, 2009

So today I was going to post a review of the wonderful Partical Magic by Alice Hoffman and sum up April, but I'm too sad to do it. Both of my cats are at the vets today having dental operations. Their teeth have rotted despite being only 8 years old and they are having most of them taken out. I know they will be more comfortable, but the house is quiet and rubbish without them. They are house cats and although they do stay with their Granny Mary (my mother-on-law) at Christmas they aren't away from me for too long. As I left them today they cried and so did I. Silly I know as I will get them back later *fingers crossed*

So anyway, I thought I would share some photos of them that I took a couple of days ago when I was working (or trying to) from home.

So yes this is me in my slouching around the house jumper with Morgaine on my lap. What you can't see yet is I was trying to work at the same time. My work phone is on the sofa next to me and on my lap is my work laptop. Morgaine decided that wasn't important and came over and tried to push it off!

This is a photo looking down on her showing the keyboard of my laptop.

And this is me still trying to work so she pulled out all the cute stops by rolling around onto her back and exposing her white tummy for tickling.

As you can see soon after I gave up and gave her my full attention. When she wants something she had better get it! I miss her so much today, she is my little shadow who always sleeps on top of me (yes literally on top of me) and can't let me go to the bathroom in peace.

Just in case my beautiful Merlin was feeling left out I took this picture of him curled up in the bath. I think he likes it as it is a little bit cooler in the warm weather we are having lately. He is normally very hard to photograph as he is so dark he just looks like a black blob with two massive eyes. Here as he is against a light background he shows up really well bless.

Come home soon moggies ^_^