Friday 30 March 2012

A Great and Terrible Beauty

I am home sick, I have been for two days now.  Bad cold!  Yesterday I was so sick I couldn't read.  However, on Monday, when I stayed home (I've been sick for over a week with this virus), I was able to read still.  I picked up my first book for Carl's Once Upon a Time challenge, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, and I am happy to report that I read it in one big gulp.  I couldn't put it down, and since the  kids were at school, I was able to read uninterrupted.  (It was the last day I was able to read, since then I've been getting worse.  Yesterday was movie day, since I couldn't read.  Not sure about today yet).
I really enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty.  It is a delightful coming-of-age YA set in Victorian India and England, England mostly.  Gemma is 16,and lives in India.  Her mother dies and Gemma witnesses the death through a strange occurrence where she is able to 'see' the death, and what mystery shape that follows her mother...... More of these strange 'seeings' come to her when she arrives in England, and finally goes to the boarding school she is being sent to for 'finishing', as was the norm among upper society families in Victorian England. At the Spence Academy, she discovers that boarding school is not the delight she thought it would be - girls have airs, wealth and family position are prominent in the social structure of the school, and Gemma is picked on by the elite of the school.  This all sounds dire and - yes, it would be boring if it were in the hands of a less-gifted writer.  All this is background to what is the main part of the story:  Gemma's discovery that she has a magical ability that lets her move between worlds.  And the bigger discovery that the accident that befell Spence Academy  20 years ago, involving the deaths of two of the girls there plus a teacher, are linked to her magical powers. 

This is handled in such a fun way, with Gemma taking a stand and discovering what she values in herself and in others, and with the  magic she discovers taking her to a world where she has to feel her way to what is real.  There are 3 other girls in her group, Pippa, Ann, Felicity.  They all want different things, and what the magical world does to each is fun to watch.  If you were 16, would you have been any different from these girls?  I know I wouldn't have been. There is a lovely mix of school and after-hours activity, with learning to hold her own and desperately wishing she could save her father, that makes Gemma Doyle an appealing heroine, and her adventures with going to the other universes - she is the one a Secret Order have been waiting for, to try to balance all the worlds again - is well done and believable.  The friendships and girlishness and betrayals and changing loyalties among the girls is well-written and utterly believable. It made me glad I wasn't at the boarding school (having gone through high school hell already once, I never want to experience it again), even while I wished I could be part of the circle!  The best part is, this is the first part of series, and I'm really curious how it continues.  I quite like Gemma Doyle, she is an interesting heroine.  It's a well-written fantasy story, highly recommended. 4.7/5

 And on a personal issue with blogger today:
 Dear Blogger

Please explain why my blog is with you, and yet I cannot leave comments on other blogposts. This is very frustrating, since there are some wonderful posts out there - Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies has a wonderful one on how reading novels has brought her to poetry; Debi at Still With Nothing Of Importance needs lots of hugs right now as she makes the final transition to her new home.  But you will let me comment on Nymeth's 5 year post,  and Cath at Read-Warbler's fabulous post about her recent trip to Wales, and her first review for Once Upon a Time Challenge (Katherine Langrish's West of the Moon.) Please fix this.

your affection loyal blogger

Sunday 25 March 2012

Once Upon a Time 6 - Fantasy books galore

It's here!  It's here!  All year long I wait for this challenge.  Carl's Once Upon a Time has been an annual challenge for 5 years now.  This is the 6th year and I have been storing up books for it all year.  It begins on the spring solstice, which means I am a few days late for signing up.  I have been sick all weekend, and have gotten myself to the computer to sign up, before I go away again.

This is how Carl describes his challenge this year:. "This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through Tuesday, June 19th and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.
Come away, and I’ll tell you more…"

“I felt a curious thrill, as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien, on reading the Cynewulf lines about the star Earendel
Now, for the particulars:
The Once Upon a Time VI Challenge has a few rules:
Rule #1: Have fun.
Rule #2: HAVE FUN.
Rule #3: Don’t keep the fun to yourself, share it with us, please!
Rule #4: Do not be put off by the word “challenge”.
While this event retains the word “challenge” from its earliest days, the entire goal is to read good books, watch good television shows and movies, and most importantly, visit old friends and make new ones.

 I had to include the Tolkien quote. I love it, and it is the exact reason why I read fantasy.  It was tolkien that I first felt this thrill with also.  And even though it will open much too late to include for this challenge, I am eagerly awaiting the opening of The Hobbit next Christmas.  Who knows?  we could go see the movie in the theatres next year for this challenge!  Now that would be something to experience!

I am going to partake of Quest the Third:
 Fulfill the requirements for The Journey or Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream OR a viewing of one of the many theatrical versions of the play. Love the story, love the films, love the idea of that magical night of the year and so this is my chance to promote the enjoyment of this farcical love story.

You can sign up any time, and here is the link. 

My books for Carl's Once Upon a Time 6 Challenge (click on the photo to enlarge)


 And I know you are going to laugh, but I have already added five other books from my shelves that I had wanted to read also:*

Green Angel - Alice Hoffman
The Uncertain Places - Lisa Goldstein
First Rider's Call - Kristen Britain
Faerie Tale - Raymond Feist
Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey

This is such a a wonderful challenge, and it is lovely to have two months of fantasy to look forward to reading.

Isn't this little fox also lovely?

*edited to add:  this brings this year's total to 29.  No wait, I forgot to add Snow White, Rose Red, the short story fairy anthology by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow.  30 books?!  half the fun is choosing them , my Gentle Readers, and if I read half of them, that will be a successful two months of fantasy reading. I want to read them all, of course.....

Thursday 22 March 2012

How I discovered that I wanted to read Moby Dick

 Me and the whale.  That's how it feels.  I took the kids to our Canadian Museum of Nature last Friday, on our last day of Spring break vacation.  The museum has just opened a special exhibit about whales, highlighting the Maori culture and history with whales, as well as some history of whaling, and the threats that face the whales today.  My kids thoroughly enjoyed it. There are interactive games for them - the youngest enjoyed playing the one where the dolphin has to swim through the water and try to survive many dangers, from nets, to plastic bags, to sharks and killer whales. It took him many tries to succeed, though he enjoyed the red screen of death too.  He also liked watching other kids play, though he complained if they took too long at the computer.  He spent his time lurking there, waiting for a gap so he could try again. My daughter was thrilled with the sonar game, where you can turn the dial and hear different whale noises, and compare them to human noises.  We got to hear the blue whale, which has a very slow and deep voice, and the humpback whale, one of my favourite whales, with their haunting songs.  There were skeletons of various whales, and little movies exploring different aspects of whale history.  My daughter though was traumatized to learn that killer whales hunt everything in the oceans.  She hadn't realized that they ate everything, until we looked at  one skeleton of a sperm whale and read that when it washed ashore, the scientists discovered it had teeth marks all over it's body, including the dorsal and side fins and tail,from killer whales. It had gotten stranded on shore trying to escape them.   That left such a memory with her that tonight she said she'd had a bad dream about killer whales last night.

I think now that seeing that whale skeleton, the one of the sperm whale, started something for me.  I have always loved whales and dolphins.   I've seen them in the wild, and at sea worlds, and at one point I wanted to be a marine biologist so I could study them.   I can't do math so my dream didn't live for very long, though my love for whales has.  At the museum on Friday, I watched a video - very short, three minutes long - of a sperm whale hunting a giant squid.  I came out of the video and suddenly, I thought, how could Ahab have hunted a sperm whale around the world?  They dive so deep; how did he know where to go to find Moby Dick?  And it suddenly was time to read this great classic.  I'm pretty sure we had to read it in high school  and I'm pretty sure I skipped most of it.  I did not want to read it then, it was a book about hunting a whale!  and I was all about animal rights ( I still am). Now, I'm curious about  Ahab and Moby and this incredible voyage to hunt him down.  I'm not going to enjoy the hunting scenes and I'm already steeling myself for them.  I couldn't even look at the nets at the museum and read about all the deaths every year because of them, it makes me so mad that we won't find another way for the fisherman to fish, and dolphins and turtles and other sea life to live, all at the same time.  But I have to read Moby Dick now.  It's pretty amazing when a science exhibit leads to literature, isn't it?  Exciting, too.  There is something about watching the sperm whale dive so far down that it's all dark around him, and he echo-locates the squid through his sound waves, and they fight it out way deep down there in the dark of the ocean.  The giant squid and the sperm whale are the only natural predators for each other, too.
 Books I'm reading now
I have two projects on the go - reading The Morville Hours with Cath at Read-Warbler, and reading Bernie McGill short stories (they are online, Mel has the link) and her novel  The Butterfly Cabinet with Mel at The Reading LifeThe Morville Hours is  a wonderful book on so many things to do with building a garden and thinking about everyone that went before on that land: history, gardening, the shape of the land, weather, it's beautiful and restful to read.  The Butterfly Cabinet looks really good, with secrets and death and love all wrapped up in memories.
 I couldn't wait to finish either of those projects first though!  I went out and bought a copy of Moby Dick on Monday.  Ifeel a little like Ahab himself, caught up in passion and excitement.  I'm excited to be reading this, at long last! I love the edition of the book I bought.  The pages have a thick texture and the ends are uncut, and I love the cover. It's so fabulous - dramatic, with the whale leaping up, huge, and the boat and the little dinghy with the crew chasing.... I'm going to start the book tonight, and read each book on the go as I want to dip into them.  Since other than The Butterfly Cabinet  - which isn't here yet, I'm waiting for my copy to come in to the library - I am reading a bit slowly to savour each book, I can take my time with Moby Dick and the great adventure, remembering what it's like to live on the ocean and the feel of the waves under the boat, the sound of the water splashing against the hull, the feel of the open water and the sky.  And I'm going to cheer for the whale.

Sunday 18 March 2012

TSS - Mystery madness book reviews and Irish short story week continued...

It's been a long while since I posted for The Sunday Salon.   It is one of those gloriously bright and sunny Sundays that makes all the concerns disappear.  Today is a day for pleasure.  So, in this spirit, I wanted to review some books I've read lately, and another short story for Mel's Irish Short Story week challenge.

The first two are for March Mystery Madness, hosted by Christina at  Reading Thru the Night.  They also qualify for Wendy's Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012

 at Musings of a Literary Feline, to which I am finally adding some books to.

Collusion - Stuart Neville.  The sequel to The Ghosts of Belfast, this continues the story of Gerry Fagan, the ex-soldier who was haunted by the 12 people he killed in his former life working for the IRA. (See my previous post this week for the link to my review of The Ghosts of Belfast). He is a killer, but it turns out he has a conscience. He also falls in love with Marie McKenna, and makes a connection with her little girl Ellen.  To save them from the wrath of the survivors of the bloodbath that ends The Ghosts of Belfast, Marie and Ellen flee to England, and he flees to the US, where Collusion picks up.  Unfortunately for him, he left alive Bull O'Kane, the mobster from The Ghosts of Belfast.  Bull is now afraid of Gerry, and hires another hit man named the Traveller to kill Gerry.  The action starts almost from the very beginning, and we get the point of view of Gerry as he is threatened in New York, and then The Traveller as he starts to pick off the remnants of the survivors of the bloodbath, because O'Kane is cleaning up anyone who could possibly know the truth of why a politician was killed by Fagan.  The third point of view is Detective John Lennon, father of Ellen, who has never been permitted to know his daughter.  In Ireland, to join the police when you are Catholic, is to risk censure, and then he falls in love with a Protestant - Marie - and loses her.  Collusion is about him coming to terms with his own past, and realizing that since Marie has disappeared with Ellen, and people who were connected to the original killings are now dying, that Marie is at risk now. He is no saint, though he is a good detective, and he finally comes to understand himself enough to know that he needs to help save Marie and Ellen.  This is a fabulous mystery novel, one that is difficult to put down, and even though the characters are conflicted, they are real and this makes this a gripping read.  Will Marie and Ellen survive, once O'Kane uses them as bait to lure Gerry back to Ireland? Will anyone survive?  Is anyone who they appear to be?  Not in this book, not in this world.  It comes from having such a deadly conflict that asked people to betray their family, to hate a neighbor because of their faith, or background. This is the new Ireland, still coming to terms with the fallout of the past 100 years.  It's dark and violent, very noir and despite all that, love softens the edges, makes this the best kind of noir mystery, make this one of the best mystery series to come out of Ireland.    5/5
Hard-boiled Noir mystery for Merely Mystery Reading Challenge, and March Mystery Madness.

Ashes to Dust - Yrsa Sigurdardottir
This is the third in the Thora Gudmunsdottir mystery series set in Iceland.  I have enjoyed this series very much so far. The last book, My Soul To Take, I reviewed here. One and a half years ago!  I can't believe it's been that long since I read this series. Thora Gudmunsdottir is a lawyer who can't seem to help ending up investigating unsolved crimes and mysteries.  These are often through clients calling up her small law firm, and for her, one thing leads to another. Thora is a mother, and now a grandmother, and it's good to see that she has to juggle raising her children with her work, as well as being a divorced parent. In Ashes to Dust, Thora is hired by Markus Magnusson when he tries to block archaeologists from going into the basement of his childhood home.  It was buried under volcanic ash in an eruption in 1973, and most of that area was still uninhabitable. So Thora is there when 4 bodies, one of them headless, and a head in a box, are discovered in the cellar. How did Markus know something was there?  He claims he was getting the box for a friend, Alda, a neighbor of his before the eruption. Before Alda can confirm his whereabouts on the night of the explosion, and if she knew the contents of the box, she dies and shortly after her death it is discovered through the autopsy report that she was murdered. So now Thora has to go back to the other neighbors who were there at the time, and evacuated with Markus, to confirm if they saw him or not.  She also has to clear her client of suspicion of murder of the three men in the basement, because he knew something was down there. so she digs into Alda's life as well, to see if there is a missing link. She also has to find out who the men were, because for all this time,no one has reported four missing Icelandic men.  At the time of the explosion, Iceland was at war with England, which I did not know - I had forgotten about. When it turns out the men are English, they have to discover who killed them, to avoid any political pressure.  Mostly this is in the background of the mystery - the centerpiece is the volcanic eruption, and what it was like to live through, as Thora asks the villagers who knew the family and were part of the rescue mission, what happened that night in 1973. It's a very good mystery, with a shocking twist at the end that I didn't see coming.  4.7/5
Read for  The Professional category of Wendy's Merely Mystery Challenge , and March Mystery Madness.

The Atrocity Files - Charles Stross
This was my introduction to Charles Stross, who I had never heard of until Bride of the Book God reviewed one of his books a few years ago.  I finally picked up The Atrocity Files, and I have to say, it is good. It is a blend of science fiction and Lovecraft monsters, set in a bureaucracy and office setting that had me in stitches.  Bob Howard is the main character, a guy who has an on/off girlfriend, found himself working for The Laundry, a hidden spy office that deals with the supernatural monsters from other realms.  He accidentally brought himself to their attention when he solved a physics equation on the computer. This is the first novel in the series, and it is very enjoyable. It has monsters, a damsel in distress, soldiers, cool spy stuff, alternate portals to scary worlds, and an office boss from hell - really, Bridget and Harriet are evil paper pushers with forms in triplicate for everything, especially expenses. I enjoyed this, but compared to Moving Mars, it didn't have the emotional resonance that I wanted.  Then again, it is a satire, so probably should be read when I am feeling sarcastic!  It really is fun, and I will be continuing with this series.  I really like how Stross blends real-life history with how the Laundry came to be in the shadows.  Oh, and Hitler plays part, too, in the evil faced in The Atrocity Files. So it is a clever science fiction Lovecraft novel.  4.5/5

Mel's Irish Short Story Week - now continued until March 31/12
"The Sisters" - James Joyce
So, when Mel announced that he was continuing his Irish short story challenge until the end of March to give readers time to read some more, I was delighted.  In my last post I read an Irish ghost story which was very good and moving.  It is still resonating in my mind several days later. So I took the opportunity last night to pick up some James Joyce and try a short story from Dubliners.  It must be me. I read "The Sisters", and when it finished, I kept looking to see if the story continued on.  Not because it was good, but because I was confused - that was the story?  What was the story?  Even now, I'm hard pressed to say what exactly the story was. And yet I know I've enjoyed other things by Joyce.  So I'm thinking it was the story. I'll try a few more, and see. For now, The Sisters is a short story about a reverend who has died, and the reactions of  the main character and the reverend's sisters to the passing. The main character is a young man who studied informally under Reverend James Flynn, and has not been ordained yet.  He has a mix of hope and bewilderment that Flynn is dead, though it is difficult to say why exactly, which even he doesn't understand, except that he feels freedom at Flynn's death.  My interpretation is that the young man doesn't want to go into the priesthood, but doesn't know himself enough to know that yet.  It's a story that I like despite not being clear about it, except that the ending is bothersome.  It's like a moment in time, the full import which means rereading it (and I just did before writing this to be sure of how I think about it!) to try and get a feeling for what happened.  It's like having an entry into a family conversation where you are the stranger - that's what this short story feels like.  What I like best are the conversations, it feels like we are there in the room with the sisters, with the uncle, with all the different conversations that make up this story - it feels like we are in their sitting rooms, in Dublin, at the turn of the century.  I will be reading more of these stories for the rest of Mel's challenge.

Happy Sunday reading, everyone!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Irish ghost short story for Irish Week

So, as I mentioned in my last post, Mel over at The Reading Life is hosting Irish Short Story challenge for Irish week, which is this week.  Luckily for me, I am starting my mini-vacation today for our Spring break for the kids from school, so I found myself with some time to read this morning.  Even luckier for me, Mel posted about a ghost short story he'd just read, "No Angel" by Bernie McGill, for his challenge.  I loved his review so much, so I went and found the story online, here.

"No Angel" by Bernie McGill is set in Belfast and the outlying countryside. It is a ghost story, about a woman being haunted by her recently deceased father.  The reason he is haunting her is the best of all reasons: he wants to protect her, still. And, he's lonely.  I won't say what happens in this story, because it's lovely and melancholic, in the best way ghost stories can be.  How can a ghost story be anything but, when the background - the reason for the ghost - is death?  One death makes a ghost. 

Mel did ask, do you believe in ghosts?  And do you have a favourite Irish ghost story?  Please let him know if you do, and do.  For me, yes, I believe in ghosts.  I've had some experiences that can only be described as being brushed by the other world.  Since I believe that our souls continue after death - we came from something, and are going back to something after - it makes perfect logical sense to me, as much as it can when dealing with something nebulous like ghosts.  I don't have a favourite Irish ghost story at this time.  I am just starting to explore Irish fiction, partly because now I know we are Irish , as well as from all the countries that make up the British Isles, I want to discover my literary heritage.

So what makes this story Irish? Is there an Irish style of writing, or seeing the world?  Definitely in seeing the world, there is.  All the events of the 20th century are making their way through the soul of Ireland, through the fiction and poetry.  How could something that has divided the island in half, and one sector of the population from the other, not shape their world view, and not impact on every idea and word shaped?  When for decades, everyone was suspect, everyone was watched, and who to trust changed daily?  Whatever our views on the Troubles in Ireland, English vs Irish, Catholic vs Protestant, Loyalists vs Republicans, all this conflict touched every corner of Ireland.  Fiction and poetry is one way to work out what it means, and what it meant.  History is still evolving in Ireland - and remnants in all of our consciousnesses, who have been alive since before 1980.  When the bombings made news over here, the terrible cost of lives, throughout the 80's and into the 90's.  Something as simple as there being no litterbins in London today  is a reminder of how much the violence was real, and not so long ago.

All this is to say, that both this short story and the mystery I am currently reading, have echoes, the past very much something to do with the present.  And that is what a ghost is too, isn't it? 

I am so happy Mel posted about this short story.  I am now going to get The Butterfly Cabinet, Bernie McGill's first novel, just published last summer. I think it is going to have a similar tone of melancholy and memory, it looks very interesting - the memoirs of a woman who was  a nursery maid when a young girl dies, and the secret she keeps all her life.

So that is my Irish short story for Mel's challenge, although I want to see if I can find some more ghost stories for this challenge.

Irish mystery reading:
The mystery I am reading is Stuart Neville's Collusion.  This is the second book, a sequel to The Ghosts of Belfast (published as The Twelve in Europe), which I read last year.  My review is hereCollusion picks up where The Ghosts of Belfast finished,  several months later.  Gerry Fagan, who was haunted in The Ghosts of Belfast by the ghosts of the men he killed, is back, as is Detective John Lennon, father of Marie McKenna's daughter Ellen, and Bull O'Kane, whom Gerry left alive at the end of The Ghosts of Belfast.  I am halfway through now, and loving it.  I see there is a third book out now, Stolen Souls, featuring John Lennon, so I am thrilled that I don't have to wait long to continue this series.  It is gripping, it is dark and violent and is right in the middle of the current modern Ireland, with politics mixed with the military and the police. It's also about love and how it makes people do interesting things.  I quite like Lennon (and yes the name does come up in the book and reference to the Beatles!)  even if he is not quite on the up-and-up, possibly.   This is a dark Ireland, still bloody, and gripped by the remnants of the war just finished. Here is a link to the author's site, which lists his three books.

Are you reading anything to celebrate St Patrick's Day?  Do you have a favourite Irish author, or book?

Books I'm looking forward to reading this year:
One last thing:  In the review from last year that I linked to in the paragraph above, was also a review of The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I read then and loved.  I have just received my current issue of EW, which has a short preview of the book, a glimpse of Chapter 2 from the new sequel, The Twelve, coming out on October 16.  You can't read it online, it's only in this week's issue. I've linked you to the post and the new cover reveal. Another book to look forward to!  I really liked how Justin portrayed the vampires as a result of viral testing gone wrong, and how 'wrong' the vampires feel, the darkness around them.  The Passage was a dark book, scary in places, and very good at depicting how society would - could survive if this happened.  Very dystopian.  Yes, Oct 16 and The Twelve is on my calendar now. 

Monday 5 March 2012

Random notes on a Monday

I should be reviewing any of the books I've read this year so far and loved, or writing pithy comments about writing, or about my new sidebar for chocolate quotes.  I'm in a blue funk today, so here are some fun and random things from the internet that I found. 

Via The New Yorker, here is a link to some fabulous minimalist fairy tale covers.

Again via The New Yorker, here is a link to the collection of letters between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, online.  A word of warning, these are the scanned copies of the actual letters they wrote, and Robert's handwriting is not easy to read (though some might say his easier than mine to read!)

The Hobbit! news:  Here is a link to a post about The Hobbit film currently in production, with links to Peter Jackson's Facebook production blog.  I'm sure I'm the last person on the planet to know about this, but just in case I'm not, I've linked you to both.  I'll be following the production page!  I am just about to start crossing off the days until The Hobbit is released.  I do believe that I will be going on the opening day (because I can't wait any longer!) and will be bringing my daughter with me.  It's a bit more kid friendly than the long Lord of the Rings, which she has seen most of through the past few years.

Karen Davis at Moonlight and Hares has some wonderful new art up on her blog.  Sometimes there are no words, only images will do, and her art is whimsical and magical. I love all the hares she draws, too. I really like these pendants, above, from her blog. Her etsy shop is filled with wonderful artwork. Just looking at it makes me feel better.  And that is the wonder and power of art, isn't it?

I am bit late on linking this, but over at Katharine Langrish's blog Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, she had a recent post on Briar Rose, which is one of my favourite fairy tales.  Some of the different illustrations are beautiful. 

And in case you haven't seen this wonderful link yet, here, via Sam at The Book Chase, is his post on Saturday which has the marvellous, magical, beautiful recent Academy Award winning short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore on it.  See if you don't have tears in your eyes at the end.  It's a perfect film to show what we see when we see books.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Sunday musings

I have come across two challenges today, that are mini-challenges specifically for March:

March Mystery Madness, hosted by Christina at  Reading Thru the Night, is about reading mysteries and posting a link to her blog.  That's all.  I neglected my mystery reading badly in February and have a huge pile to get to.  I like the idea of March Mystery Madness, too!  I'm mad for mysteries.....

The other challenge is for next week: The Irish Short Story Week Year Two, and is for the one week:  Mel at The Reading Life is hosting this one. It is on from March 12-22.  I can read a short story or three!  I mean, ghost stories from Sheridan LeFanu count, as well as convincing myself I can read Ulysses by reading one of James Joyce's short stories, counts. As I am part Irish, we always celebrate St Patrick's Day in my house, so this fits right in with the Irish Stew and the cabbage and the tea we have :-)  plus the wearing of the green.  You only have to read one story for the week, though Mel has drawn up a list of reading he wants to do every day.  Anyone in the mood for some Oscar Wilde?  Anne Enright? I wish poetry counted too - I will read some Yeats anyway, just because he is Irish, and in general to celebrate Irishness next week. Maybe I can find a short mystery story by an Irish writer and do both challenges at once!

Currently reading

I am currently reading Fables: Witches, and loving it.  I think it might be the darkness - I mean, they box up Death in the beginning, and he reminds me of the creepy Gentlemen from the Buffy episode I watched a few months ago (season 4). The nightmare creatures were captured, but there was an unbinding spell performed (in the book before, I believe, since Witches is dealing with the aftereffects) and now all the nightmares are released again - due to Death, of course.

 Baba Yaga is in the section I am reading now, and she has horrible spiders around her, as well as her chicken legs house.....I love this series.  Fairy tales twisted.  I know I should wait for Once Upon a Time in a few weeks, but I have these out from the library (I have Rose Red out also), and I don't know if I can renew them (since they are so wildly popular), so I'm reading them while I have them.  I think I might break down and by this one, it's so good.  I'll review more when I finish it.  ***It turns out I never reviewed Hush, as it was at the time that my husband and I were separating.  I did watch "Hush", and it is still as terrifying as ever.  The whole episode is magical and frightening.  Losing your voice, everyone losing their voices, and those gentlemen moving soundlessly, floating just above the ground. 

I've also begun the short stories of Connie Willis, in The Winds of Marble Arch.  I read the titular story last night. It almost made me cry at the ending. It's the story of a married couple who return to England for a visit, and of how the main character experiences a cold wind that smells of death, while in the London Underground.  He spends the next few days exploring where he feels them (even as they are awful and hair-raising, he wants to know more), and in the end, it becomes a musing on the arch we all go through.  It ends unexpectedly beautifully, and that's what made me want to cry.  I find this often in Willis's short stories, that what the story is about ends up - even if it's science fiction based - to do with emotions, and being a person.  Subterranean Press insists they put out a trade softcover version, though if they did they sold out so quickly that I never saw it.  This book is now on my most-wanted list.

So what are you reading on this Sunday in early March?  Do you have any plans for this month?  And yes, I've noticed none of these are mysteries!

Thursday 1 March 2012

Carl's Sci fi experience and February books

Carl's Sci Fi Experience is over.  It was quite an experience for me this year.  As you know, I have reacquainted myself with my long lost nerdy love, and he has swooped in and taken over a corner of my reading life.  It will never be quite the same again!

For the challenge experience, I read a total of 8 books in total, one short story, and watched Fringe, Babylon 5, and X-Files for tv shows. I've been watching X-Files Season 1 as I ride my exercise bike in the mornings. I am almost done the first season.  I am surprised by how much I remember in the episodes, and how very good they still are, too.  Classic sci-fi creepy horror stuff, and most wonderful way to start the day!  I am getting Season 2 of Babylon 5 shortly, and have Firefly, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as Chuck and Fringe, to take me through into the spring.

I read 5 books only in February, which is very low for me. I think the virus we all had affected me more than I realized. I slept alot for one week, and am still going to bed early.  I am disappointed however, I usually try to read 8, and am aiming  for 10 books per month this year, to try to reach my 100 books goal.  Right, so I am going to have to read, read, read, in March!

February Book totals
1. Dragonsinger - Anne McCaffrey
2. Dragondrums - ''          ''
3. Moving Mars - Greg Bear
4. The Harper's Quine - Pat McIntosh
5. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm

I enjoyed them all very much, though I think Moving Mars will be my favourite of the month.  The Harper Hall Trilogy are really close behind, though.

That said, I am finding I am longing for some Jane Austen and other classics, to read The Morville Hours, to read my library books - especially Connie Willis.  Then yesterday I went to Chapters and discovered they have a buy 3, get one free deal going on all their books.  So, naturally, I found some!

Books bought  last night:
Directive 51 - John Barnes
The Man on the Balcony - Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo (#3 in the series)
Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo (Amish murder mystery, looks fascinating)
Raising Stony Mayhall - Daryl Gregory (zombies!!!  looks very good)

This looks like my reading history for the last year, with mystery, science fiction, and horror making the major total of what I read. I really want to read Raising Stony Mayhall, it sounds so interesting too. For someone who has nightmares about zombies, I seem to be reading my fair share of their fiction recently (and really enjoying it. They still give me the creeps, absolutely, though).

Things I'm thinking of doing:
 This is a book blog, and yet I have been failing spectacularly at reviewing the books I'm reading. This is never because I don't like the books, it's because I just don't get around to reviewing them.  I've decided that I am going to start a random post called Books I Should Have Reviewed.  This will give me the freedom to look at the books that I've read recently and not reviewed, as well as go through my blog history and pick books from previous years that I haven't reviewed yet.  I also hope it will get me posting more regularly again.

So how was your February reading?  Are you pleased with it, or did life sneak in, as it often does?