Thursday, 20 December 2012

I love post

Lack of updates due to Christmas shenanigans and being away for the best part of a week.  Got back yesterday and found that this had arrived the day after I left!  It was part of a potluck draw read and review scheme for Waterstones and I'm really happy with what I've been sent.  Now I just need to find the time to read and review it!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmassy Things

These caught my eye a few weeks ago while I was supposed to be gift shopping...which always ends up with spotting things that I'd like rather than finding presents for other people!  I don't know anyone who would enjoy them (apart from myself and a friend who probably already has them!) but thought I'd share my beautifully designed finds.

The description from Amazon:
Hans Christian Andersen's tragic tale of naive greed and dissatisfaction is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in rich forest green, with gold foil embellishments, The Fir Tree is a unique work of art.

Sanna Annukka is familiar to many from her collaborations with Marimekko and her artwork for Keane's album, Under the Iron Sea. For her first book project, she illustrates Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, The Fir Tree.

Blurb from Vintage:
A selection of the best of Dickens' Christmas stories and writings, in one beautiful hardback edition
It is said that Charles Dickens invented Christmas, and within these pages you'll certainly find all the elements of a quintessential traditional Christmas brought to vivid life: snowy rooftops, gleaming shop windows, steaming bowls of punch, plum puddings like speckled cannon balls, sage and onion stuffing, miracles, magic, charity and goodwill.

This beautifully produced Vintage Classics edition gathers together not only Dickens' Christmas Books ('A Christmas Carol', 'The Chimes', 'The Battle of Life','The Cricket on the Hearth' and 'The Haunted Man') but also stories that Dickens wrote for the special seasonal editions of his periodicals All the Year Round and Household Words, and a festive tale from The Pickwick Papers.

A must-have for Christmas, this edition should be as necessary to your festivities as holly, mistletoe and silver bells.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012

Top Tuesday is upon us again, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, this time focusing my ten favourite authors, and their books, that I discovered this past year. 

1. Gail Carriger
I can't believe that this time last year I was unaware of the awesomeness that is Gail Carriger and The Parasol Protectorate.  The covers never grabbed my attention, so I never read the blurbs.  I don't know what changed my mind, but boy am I glad I finally realised that these books are all about vampires, werewolves and outrageous hats.  Splendidly written, I am excited for her future projects now that Alexia's time as lead narrator is at an end (another star for Carriger for not dragging a series out unnecessarily).  Gail Carriger's website is located here
2.  Chuck Wendig
 Deranged, witty, filthy, violent.  The list goes on and on as to why I love Chuck Wendig and his Miriam Black trilogy.  Find out more at terrible minds
3.  Adam Christopher
Adam Christopher impressed me with Seven Wonders, keeping a perfect balance of nostalgia and newness to his superhero tale.  Find out more here
4.  Emylia Hall

I signed up for the realreaders scheme early on in the year and wasn't excepting to receive anything when two weeks later a wonderful debut book was sent to me.  I'm not normally a chick-lit person, but Emylia Hall's debut novel was astounding.  I'm really looking forward to reading more of her books in the future.  Find out more here
5.  Madeline Ashby

Madeline Ashby is a genius.  There, I said it.  I thought much of vN would go over my head, and yet I wanted to devour every word at a breakneck pace.  Fantastic and intelligent story telling.
Find out more here
6.  Tom Pollock
I found Tom Pollock's The City's Son imaginative and a sublime example of YA fiction.  Is it time for The Glass Republic yet?
Find out more here
7.  Gillian Flynn
I had another author in this spot but I changed my mind at the last minute because I am still in awe of how good Gone Girl was.  I've already put two of Flynn's previous books on my reserve list for the new year, and am hoping that they are equally as dark and twisty.
Find out more here
8.  Michael Logan

Taking all the cliches of zombie fiction and presenting them in a comically fresh way, Michael Logan deserved the first Terry Pratchett Prize.  Find out more here
9.  Robert Jackson Bennet
I found Robert Jackson Bennett's The Troupe rather refreshing.  I was expecting something like The Night Circus and ended up finding something better.  Find out more here
10.  Nick Harkaway
There's only one word to describe Angelmaker and the mind of Nick Harkaway: Barmy.  Find out more here
So that's my list, what's on yours?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Gone Girl

Just how well can you ever know the person you love?  This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears.  The police immediately suspect Nick.  Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him.  He swears it isn't true.  A police examination of his computer shows strange searches.  He says they aren't his.  And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.  So what really did happen to Nick's beautiful wife?

Gillian Flynn has one dark mind as Gone Girl is a boat load of crazy.  The narration is split into two, alternating between Nick's thoughts while searching for his wife and Amy's diary entries that reveal more about their marriage than Nick will share.  Right from the start each section of prose has this jittery quality which promptly informed me that this was not going to be a bog standard thriller.  Sure enough, the further I followed Flynn down the rabbit hole that is Amy Dunne's disappearance, the more intense my feelings for the book became.
  I don't want to go into any detail so as to spoil Gone Girl, but it has so many twists, some obvious, some not, and by the end it is hard to know who to empathise with.  A great well paced story, that has some truly horrific moments, I was up until 2 am two nights in a row reading this noir-esque thriller desperate to know what happened next. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Sweet Tooth

Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services.  The year is 1972.  Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terroism and faces its fifth state of emergency.  The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially the cultural sphere.
Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a 'secret mission' which brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer.  First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man.  Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life?  And who is inventing whom?  To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage - trust no one.

  While Sweet Tooth is not my favourite Ian McEwan novel - Atonement holds that title - I still enjoyed reading about Serena Frome and her time at the CIA in the 1970's.  So far, all of the characters that I have encountered in McEwan's books have interesting jobs but are messes as human beings, making them hard to emphasise with, but McEwan has a brilliant way of manipulating the story that you want to follow these selfish and sometimes despicable people further into their story.  Although I found the narration a little 'off', I enjoyed reading about Serena whose faults include, but are not limited to, being too proud and self involved.  She is a product of her time and upbringing, stumbling through, and is always identified through what men think of her.  When reading, I had this feeling that if the book was told from another character's perspective it would be something completely different because of Serena's selfish nature, only seeing what she wants to. 

  As with a story about spies there is a lot of duplicity. Serena's job at MI5 is just a mask for her love of literature, as the M15 elements of the book are are mask for the meta musings on literature.  I especially found the ending fascinating, and really clever, as it gave me a new perspective on the novel as a whole.

Cool Covers Of The Future

First spotted at this website via Angry Robot.  Love the covers for Chris F. Holm's The Collector series in that they look like old classics covers you find in second hand bookshops.  I bought the first book, Dead Harvest, because of the striking cover and also have a copy of  the second book, The Wrong Goodbye, on my tablet but have yet to read either as my library addiction has been hard to give up.  The Big Reap isn't out until August 2013 (birthday present for moi?), so I've got plenty of time to get reading, and hopefully what is inside it equally as marvellous as the cover. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Enduring Love

One windy spring day in the Chilterns, Jose Rose's calm, organised life is shattered by a ballooning accident.  The afternoon, Rose reflects, could have ended in mere tragedy but for his brief meeting with Jed Parry.  Unknown to Rose, something passes between them - something that gives birth in Parry to an obsession so powerful that it will test to the limits Rose's beloved scientific rationalism, threaten the love of his wife Clarissa and drive him to the brink of murder and madness.

Enduring Love didn't capture my attention, much to my dismay.   I have loved reading every other Ian McEwan book that I could get my mitts on (Attonement, Saturday, Amsterdam, Sweet Tooth, Solar) but I couldn't continue reading this tale of obsession for any prolonged amounts of time.

  Maybe I have been in an odd mood for the past week, or maybe I found the
prose alienating. Rose rattles on like an elitist madman about his scientific
beliefs for much of the book. I know this was supposed to add to the confusion
and cement Rose as a character but I was only interested in finding out who was
the madman - Rose or Parry? - and couldn't really engage with Joe and his
plight. This is odd, as normally McEwan can make the most detestable characters
readable and interesting. I'm not denying that Enduring Love is a good read, it just wasn't a good read for me.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

So it's Top Ten Tuesday time, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week is all about the books I wouldn't mind Santa bringing  me in time for Christmas.  Again, this was really hard to narrow the list down to ten.  I've tried to include a mix of fiction, non-fiction, read and to be read and hope I've not missed anything out!

1.  Blackbirds - Chuck Wendig

I got this from the library not expecting much and ended up falling in love with Chuck Wendig's bizarre tale of Miriam Black.  I bought the sequel, Mockingbird, as an early Christmas present for myself so I need Blackbirds to complete my set.  Plus I would love to display those amazing Joey Hi-Fi covers somehow!
For more info, click here.

2.  Cold Days - Jim Butcher

If you read my twitter feed then you may have noticed that Santa may have already given me a sneak peak of this must have for any fan of the Dresden Files series.
For more on The Dresden Files and Jim Butcher, click here.

3.  Bossypants - Tina Fey

I read Bossypants over a year ago and at the time was very tempted to steal it from the library.  I was good and returned it, but would love my own copy either in paper back or as an audio book as I've heard Fey reading it is hilarious!  For more info, click here.

4.  Grimm Tales For Young and Old - Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman and Grimm fairy tales?  I'm already intrigued but then there's that cover and it was love at first sight.  For more info, click here.

5.  Hell Train - Christopher Fowler

Another one I got out of the library and enjoyed so much I would read it again and again.  Click here for more info.

6.  The Parasol Protectorate - Gail Carriger

Technically cheating here as The Parasol Protectorate is comprised of five books (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless) yet it is one of the most consistently well written and exciting series that I have ever read and I really want to own them so I can relive my adventures with Alexia and Co. all over again.  For more info, click here.

7.   The Gathering - Kelley Armstrong

I'm a big fan of Kelley Armstrong but have been putting of reading her latest YA series until all three books are out as I like to read them in one go.  The Rising, which is the last book in the trilogy as far as I'm aware, is out in 2013 so it's finally time to go back to an off-shoot of the Otherworld. For more info click here.

8.  Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote

I love all the covers for the Penguin Essentials collection and would happily buy them all!  However, if I had to pick just one, it would have to be Breakfast at Tiffany's.  To have a look at the rest of the gorgeous collection, click here.

9.  The Diviners - Libba Bray

Again!  I had a library copy, really enjoyed reading and would love to give it to my friends to see what they think!  For more info, click here.

10.  Imagination Illustrated:  The Jim Henson Journals - Karen Falk

Imagination Illustrated is my most wanted Christmas gift this year.  I would be very happy if it was the only thing I had wrapped under the tree this year.  It came out on my birthday but I was unaware of its existence until this week!  I'm a huge Muppet fan (a lot of my Christmas traditions involve The Muppets) and I would be really thankful if I received this for Christmas.  For the brilliant blog that inspired the book, click here.


So that's my list, what's on yours?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Unbearable Lightness: A story of loss and gain

I first heard about this book on Oprah, where Portia De Rossi was promoting it's upcoming release.  It details her constant struggles with her weight and sexuality throughout her life; especially through her Ally McBeal days where the cast were notorious for their extemely thin bodies.
Before reading, I had seen complaints on review sites about how the book could have been more polished.  Thing is, I liked the open brutalness of Unbearable Lightness.  For me this bio read like it had been written by Portia De Rossi instead of a ghost writter.  She doesn't hold back, even including some pictures of herself whilst at her thinnest, detailing all the health problems she had accumulated from her restricted diet and excessive ammounts of exercise. 
What scared me most when reading was the thought, 'This is the way that my mind works'.  The part that resonated the most was about her thighs being too fat and no matter how emaciated she got, whenever she looked down, to her, her thighs were always too big.  That's the voice inside my head.   A couple of years ago I had lost some weight, at the time I didn't notice and still felt that I needed to drop half a stone so that my thighs would finally be skinny.  Now looking back on photo's I see that my thighs were considerably skinnier than they are today, and I realise that maybe I'll never be happy with my body. 
What I've learnt from reading Unbearable Lightness is that I'm lucky that I'm lazy.  I could never commit to that harsh regieme of depriving mysef of food as I love it too much.  Yet this is a reality for so many girls who push their bodies to the limits thinking that if they're thin then all their problems would dissapear; or that they are finally in control.  This was an eye-opening read and I'm glad that DeRossi goes into detail about her recovery, highlighting that there is no quick-fix for this disease, and shows that only you can save yourself.

Lost in a Good Book

Thursday Next is back.  This Time, it's personal.
For Thursday Next, literary detective without equal, life should be good.  Riding high on a wave of celebrity following the safe return of kidnapped Jane Eyre, Thursday ties the knot with the man she loves.
  But marital bliss isn't quite as it should be.  It turns out her husband of one month actually drowned thirty-eight years ago, and no one but Thursday has any memory of him at all.
  Someone, somewhere is responsible.
  Having barely caught her breath after The Eyre Affair, Thursday heads back into fiction in search of the truth, discovering that paper politicians, lost Shakespearean manuscripts, a flurry of near-fatal coincidences and impending Armageddon are all part of a greater plan.
  But whose?  And why?

Lost in A Good Book is the second instalment of the Thursday Next series written by Jasper Fforde.  Lets get all the gushy stuff out of the way first.  I love the alternative Britain that Fforde has created. I love all the wacky literature references and the silly character names.  I love how Fforde plays around with the form of the text (conversations happening in the footnotes!), but most of all, I love Thursday.  Landen has disappeared but does she sit around and mope like any other heroine would?  No, she investigates!  Is this all Thursday gets up to in Lost in a Good Book?  No!  There's neanderthals, the Chesire Cat and even Miss Havisham.  Plus if you need a supernatural hit, like in the Eyre Affair, there is what I like to call the intermission moment where the main plot is put aside and Thursday goes off on an amusing adventure with SO-17 officer Spike Stoker. 
  Lost in A Good Book isn't always a barrel of laughs and the quieter thoughtful moments come from scenes with Thursday's parents and the Landen who now only exists in her memories, all adding a more detailed history for Thursday and the Next family.
  Sometimes I do get a bit lost with all the goings on in Thursday's world, and not all chapters captivated my imagination or even my attention.  However, there is still plenty to enjoy when reading Lost in a Good Book.  Although I'm not rushing to order the third book in the series, if The Well of Lost Plots happens to be in the library, I will be revisiting Thursday and Pickwick the dodo sometime next year.