Welcome to Serendipity Reviews !

The original UK book blog that brings you all the latest book news straight from the publishers, along with book reviews and author interviews. We read and review all genres, although we love paranormal, fantasy and contemporary books.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sunday Salon - Monthly Roundup


I cannot believe another month has passed us by so quickly. March is hiding in the wings of the night waiting to emerge as a social Spring butterfly. Ah, well we can only hope Spring springs forward and drives away the torrential rain and skies of grey; my thermals are worn and tired and want to be put to sleep until Autumn! Every day this week, I have stepped outside and got drenched within minutes. I am so glad it was rain rather than snow as I am certain we would have been snowed in completely by now. My garden is looking very sorry for itself at the moment, months of neglect are now taking their toil. There are no delicate signs of my daffodils yet, but I do have some well watered weeds that are growing nicely.
I thought today would be a good day to wrap up my reading in February and put it to bed.
I have read thirteen books this month, which is not as good as last month, but is actually more than three books a week, so I have no room to complain.
Here is my list.
8) The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
9) Maximum Ride ( Manga Version) by James Patterson and Narae Lee
10) An Angel Called My Name by Teresa Cheung
11) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
12) The Little House on The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
13) The Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton
Looking back at such a varied reading month, I would have to say that The Unfinished Angel was my best book of the month, followed closely by Pride and Prejudice.
Last week I finally finished reading Pride and Prejudice for the read a long. I am not sure if I like reading a book in parts; I think next time I might read it all in one go.
I spent most of the week reading The Death of a Valentine, which is my first Hamish Macbeth mystery. I am now in the middle of The Girl With Glass Feet which is just as wonderful as I thought it would be. I hope to finish it today, as well as The Brontes Go To Woolworths.
This week I hope to start my American Journey, though not sure which book I will read. I also hope to start Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day as it keeps jumping off the shelf at me, insisting that I read it.
Have a fabulous reading week.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Two Mini Reviews - Angel Style

I started to panic when I realised I had a pile of books waiting to be reviewed which I wanted to get out of the way before the end of the month. So I thought as all of the books have an angel theme to them, I might as well review them quickly all in one post.

The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech - Pages 164

Published in 2009 by Harper Collins.

Challenges - Support Your Local Libray Challenge.

I loved this book completely. The book tells the story of angel who just hasn't quite got the hang of what he is supposed to do. He has so many questions about being an angel, but the only other angels he has met, have been far too busy helping people pass over to Heaven. Angel keeps going about his business, watching the world go by, until Zola steps in his world. Zola is a head strong child, who can see Angel. Zola sets about turning Angel into a proper angel and between them they both help the little town, come back to life.

The book is written in the voice of the angel and it is quite charming as Angel struggles with long and complicated words and often gets in a muddle. Angel is always worrying about what he is doing and gets fed up with Zola constantly bossing him around.

A beautiful children's book that will delight adults and children alike.


 

An Angel Called My Name by Theresa Cheung.

Pages - 263

Published in 2008 by Harper Collins.

I am determined to read more non fiction this year and this wonderful uplifting book fitted the bill beautifully.

Within the book, there are many stories of real life angel encounters. The stories range from miraculous messages, celestial visits to dramatic rescues. I have no idea if any of them are true, but I finished the book feeling warm and cozy. My soul really felt uplifted and I felt even more convinced that we have angels looking out for us.

If you are feeling down and it seems like all your problems are weighing heavily on your shoulders, then I would definitely suggest you read this book. You will come away thinking someone out there actually cares and your problems will definitely feel lighter.

And finish. Three reviews all wrapped up in one post. Bring it on March!

Favourite book out of the three would definitely be The Unfinished Angel; a lovely read that won't take you long to finish.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Jackdaw Summer by David Almond





Pages 219


Published by Hodder Children's Books in 2008


Challenges - Awesome Author Challenge, Support Your Library Challenge and Young Adult Challenge


We can't turn away. We can't run. We pick our way over the rubble and sheep droppings towards the sound of crying. And there it is, on a pile of broken stones. It's a baby, wrapped in a brown blanket, in a basket. There's a scribbled note pinned to the blanket. PLEASE LOOK AFTER HER RITE, THIS IS A CHILDE OF GOD. And there's a jam jar filled with notes and coins at her side.


The summer has just begun and the weather is warm. Liam and Max are distracted by the noisy jackdaw who seems to want them to follow it. This one journey, following the jackdaw, changes Liam's life forever and he has to grow up very quickly. New friendships are formed and old friendships are tested to the limit. Liam is slowly crossing a line between good and bad and will he stop before he goes to far.


Almond has done it again. What a brilliant book.


I loved the storyline and the ending was totally unexpected. Almond's characters are well written and you cannot help but love Liam. The story is very thought provoking and explores the world of a child on the verge of adult hood. You watch Liam come to terms with the change in his relationships with his friends.


This book shows our an innocent situation can get out of hand and end up going to far. Children are put in adult situations and it is frightening how they deal with them. You come away from the book with questions relating to the way you see life. There is a realism to the words he writes, nothing comes sugar coated within his words.


I would highly suggest that this book be offered to pre teens and teenagers, as it deals with bullying and peer pressure. It also looks at conflict amongst children and then mirrors it with the conflict occurring in the world, by mentioning Iraq and World War 3.


For some reason, this book has a different title in America. Over there is it known as 'Raven Summer.'


A thoroughly good read. If you haven't read any David Almond, then I highly suggest you do.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Monday Mailbox - Some Valentine's treats.

As I mentioned on Saturday, hubby was kind enough to give me some book vouchers on Valentines Day. They were burning a hole in my pocket for just over 24 hours before I knew I had to spend them. So after taking the girls to the dentist on Monday, I told them not to moan as I wanted to browse the book store for fifteen minutes. We were the only people in Waterstones and it was bliss just to wander around choosing books.

I bought the following four books with my vouchers.

1) The Girl With The Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. I have been after this one for ages and knew I had to get it after reading Peter's review. I know Peter, didn't really enjoy it, but I think it is more my cup of tea.

2) Flyaway by Lucy Christopher - I couldn't resist this one, as the description sounded really good. This is her second book, the first one she wrote was called Stolen and was quite popular last year. In this book, Lucy Christopher explores the remarkable bond between a young girl, a boy and a damaged wild bird - a relationship that will touch everyone who reads it. While visiting her father in hospital, thirteen-year-old Isla meets Harry, the first boy to understand her and her love of the outdoors. But Harry is ill, and as his health fails, Isla is determined to help him in the only way she knows how. Together they watch a lone swan struggling to fly on the lake outside Harry's window.

3)The Sweetness At The Bottom of The Pie by Alan Bradley. I wanted this one after so many bloggers recommended it.

4) Drood by Dan Simmons - I know Dan Simmons has recently brought out Black Hills, but over here in England, it is yet to grace our book shelves. However this one caught my attention a while back.

5) A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. I bought this book separately and couldn't resist it at £2. I know a lot of bloggers have been praising Ishiguro lately, so I wanted to give this a try.

6) The two Zan Gah books were recently sent to me for review. They are prehistoric YA novels, so a completely new genre for me.
The books in the picture above were my charity shop finds this week.

1) The American Boy by Andrew Taylor is a historical novel, a murder mystery and a love story set in a school just outside of London in 1819

2) Cherry Ice by Jill Laurimore. Cherry Ice is set in 1964, largely aboard the great Queen Elizabeth during a voyage between Southampton and New York. I have always wanted to go a cruise, so this really appealed to me.

3) Maximum Diner by Christopher Nye is a non fictional book about Christopher Nye's dreams in creating an American diner in Uckfield, East Sussex. The diner is still up and running and I thought it might be fun to read this and then venture over to it for dinner.

4) Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther. I love all these old Virago Modern Classic books. I used to read them a lot when I was younger. I hope to collect quite a few of them.Mrs Miniver is a fictional character created in 1937 for a series of newspaper columns for The Times.

5)The Information Officer by Mark Mills - a romantic thriller set in war torn Malta.


So these are the books that came my way this week. What did you get this week?

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sunday Salon


Firstly be gentle with me this morning, I am nursing a slight hangover after having a night out without the children. My parents had the girls for me and hubby and I went out with our friends for a meal. It was bliss to have a night out without worrying about what the girls were up to.
My reading started off really slowly this week. I finally managed to finish Fallen by Lauren Kate, which took me a while to get into. I also finished Jackdaw Summer by David Almond, which I believe is called Raven Summer in America. It was a fabulous book, but I am beginning to think everything Almond writes is just fabulous.
I also read a graphic version of Maximum Ride by James Patterson. I didn't like it very much, but as the girls saw me reading it,they both wanted to read it too. Both girls absolutely loved it and finished it in a couple of hours, which resulted in them finally picking up one of their own books to read. I was astounded as they have never been able to grasp my love of reading and it was lovely to sit with them whilst we all read.
I am interested to know if anyone has any good recommendations for graphic novels suitable for ten year old girls. They really want to read more of them, however, the ones I have read so far would not be suitable. So if you know any, then please leave a comment with your suggestions.
I am presently reading The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech and I have to say it is a delightful find. I hope to finish it later today. I have also started reading The Little House on the Prairie, another classic from my childhood to go towards the Flashback Challenge.
I have only a few chapters left to read of Pride and Prejudice, which I have loved. I love Mr Darcy and will not hear a bad word said against him. I can't wait to finish this one.
I am still reading The Mists of Avalon, by Maria Zimmer Bradley. I am enjoying taking my time with this book. I love the story and have found it is one that needs to be slowly savoured.
I am not sure what I will read next as I have some lovely new books to drool over. I hope to have a nice quiet day as the girls go back to school tomorrow and I want them to chill out before the early mornings start again.
Have a fabulous Sunday.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Good Stuff!

Time to catch up on my good stuff for the last couple of weeks.

1) My lovely brand new felt brooch made by my friend Anne.
Anne has recently set up an Etsy shop and is selling lots of lovely handmade goodies. Anne is one of the most creative people I know and I so pleased that she has finally taken the plunge to open her own Etsy store. If you click on Etsy Store it will take you right to her little shop.
2) Valentine's Day. We had a nice relaxing day at home, as I cannot stand how restaurants become like cattle markets on speical occassion days, by rushing you in and out. So hubby decided to make dinner for the girls and me. We had a lovely roast, followed by cheesecake. It was delicious. Hubby also gave me a couple of presents for Valentines Day. He gave me some book vouchers which I have already spent;I will show you what I bought on Monday. He also surprised me with tickets to see the Most Haunted team at our local theatre. He knows how much I love the show and I had mentioned to him the possibility of us going, and he went and bought tickets. I can't wait.
3) Half term. The girls have been off school all week and we really have had a go slow week, which has been lovely. The girls are getting to that age, where they would rather have friends around than go out places, which is fine by me. They had their first sleepover this week and no one got to sleep before 2am! I made them let me read all the next day, to compensate for running around after them the night before. Luckily, they were really tired all day any way.
4) Warmer weather. I can feel it getting warmer outside and this has been the first week I have gone out without my gloves and scarf. The evenings are getting lighter too, which is always a plus.
5) Spending time with my baby cousin. Suzanne came to visit my family today and I always refer to her as my baby cousin, even though she is in her late twenties now. I spent a lot of time with her when she was little and I suppose a name just sticks. I hope to see a lot more of her soon.
So there are my good things this week. How about you? What made you smile this week?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at You Should Be Reading and you can find it here. MizB does a fantastic job with this meme every week, so do pop over and pay her a visit.

1) The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson

I found this one over at Ladybug's site Escape in a Book

Here is the blurb from Amazon.

America is on the brink of war with England, and Fin Button is about to come undone. She’s had it with the dull life of the orphanage, and she’s ready to marry Peter and get away from rules, chores, and a life looked after by the ever-watchful Sister Hilde. But an unexpected friendship forms between Fin and the fiddle-playing cook, Bartimaeus, which sets her on a course for revolution.With Bart’s beloved fiddle and haunting blunderbuss as her only possessions, Fin discovers her first taste of freedom as a sailor aboard the Rattlesnake. She’s hiding some dark secrets, but there are bigger problems for the crew—they are on the run from the Royal Navy, and whispers of mutiny are turning the captain into a tyrant.When Fin finally returns home, will she find Peter still waiting, or will she find that she’s lost everything she once held dear?

2) Wintercraft by Jenna Burtenshaw.

I found this one over at Ladybug's site too. She is finding some fantastic books lately.

Here is the blurb from Amazon.

Ten years ago Kate Winters’ parents were taken by the High Council’s wardens to help with the country’s war effort. Now the wardens are back...and prisoners, including Kate's uncle Artemis, are taken south on the terrifying Night Train. Kate and her friend Edgar are hunted by a far more dangerous enemy. Silas Dane – the High Council’s most feared man – recognises Kate as one of the Skilled; a rare group of people able to see through the veil between the living and the dead. His spirit was damaged by the High Council’s experiments into the veil, and he’s convinced that Kate can undo the damage and allow him to find peace.The knowledge Kate needs lies within Wintercraft – a book thought to be hidden deep beneath the graveyard city of Fume. But the Night of Souls, when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, is just days away and the High Council have their own sinister plans for Kate and Wintercraft.

3) Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann

I found this one at Book Chick City and fell in love with the US cover of this steam punk novel.

Here is the blurb from Fantastic Fiction.

1926. New York. The Roaring Twenties. Jazz. Flappers. Prohibition. Coal-powered cars. A cold war with a British Empire that still covers half of the globe. Yet things have developed differently to established history. America is in the midst of a cold war with a British Empire that has only just buried Queen Victoria, her life artificially preserved to the age of 107. Coal-powered cars roar along roads thick with pedestrians, biplanes take off from standing with primitive rocket boosters and monsters lurk behind closed doors and around every corner. This is a time in need of heroes. It is a time for The Ghost. A series of targeted murders are occurring all over the city, the victims found with ancient Roman coins placed on their eyelids after death. The trail appears to lead to a group of Italian-American gangsters and their boss, who the mobsters have dubbed 'The Roman'. However, as The Ghost soon discovers, there is more to The Roman than at first appears, and more bizarre happenings that he soon links to the man, including moss-golems posing as mobsters and a plot to bring an ancient pagan god into the physical world in a cavern beneath the city. As The Ghost draws nearer to The Roman and the center of his dangerous web, he must battle with foes both physical and supernatural and call on help from the most unexpected of quarters if he is to stop The Roman and halt the imminent destruction of the city.


4) Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu

I found this one over at Nymeth's blog Things Mean ALot.

Here is the blurb from Amazon.

In Uncle Silas, Sheridan Le Fanu's most celebrated novel, Maud Ruthyn, the young, naive heroine, is plagued by Madame de la Rougierre from the moment the enigmatic older woman is hired as her governess. A liar, bully, and spy, when Madame leaves the house, she takes her dark secret with her. Later in the book,once again, she encounters Madame, whose sinister role in Maud's destiny becomes all too clear.With its subversion of reality and illusion, and its exploration of fear through the use of mystery and the supernatural, Uncle Silas shuns the conventions of traditional horror and delivers a chilling psychological thriller.

They are my finds this week. What did you find?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

White is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Pages - 245

Published by Picador in 2009

Challenges - Support Your Local Library Challenge, Typically British Challenge and GLBT challenge.

Miranda Silver is in Dover, in the ground beneath her mother's house.

Her throat is blocked with a slice of apple ( to stop her speaking words that may betray her) her ears are filled with earth ( to keep her from hearing sounds that will confuse her) her eyes are closed, but her heart thrums hard like hummingbird wings.

Miranda and Eliot are twins, living in a house with a will of its own. Along with their father, they are coming to terms with the recent death of their mother. The house appears to be grieving too as well as playing tricks on the guests who stay there and the permanent inhabitants. Miranda is struggling to deal with her illness; she suffers with pica, which means she eats items that are non nutritive such as chalk and plastic. Slowly the house is taking her away from her family, just like it did with the previous women within the family going back four generations.

Hmm, I am at a loss as to what to say about this book. I don't think I really enjoyed it. I loved Oyeyemi's 'The Icarus Girl', but I found this one to be rather confusing. I felt that nothing was clear cut within the story, their was a lot of subtlety which left me at a loss as to what was happening. I actually felt that I really didn't have a clue as to what was going on for the majority of the book. I don't think it helped that I kept getting distracted whilst reading it and I think this is a book that requires your full attention at all times in order to understand what is going on. .

The book is extremely creepy and and there is a Gothic aroma to it. I wasn't always sure if events were actually happening or whether Miranda was imagining things. The house appears to be more than haunted in it, I would actually say it was possessed.

It was interesting to learn about the medical condition pica. I had heard of people eating strange things but never knew what the condition was called. It is quite a dangerous illness, as the people suffering with it could rupture the linings of their stomachs. It appears to be quite common in children, as well as pregnant women. Luckily for me, my only unusual eating habit during pregnancy, was sucking limes.

All the characters appeared to have an element of psychosis within their personalities. The relationship between Ore and Miranda is quite beautiful, but also a very dependent one. Miranda was slowly dying and held onto Ore in order to keep her alive. Ore suffered within this relationship. Miranda's relationship with Eliot, her twin, went along the psychologically connected route, often considered a possibility with twins. Personally my two have never shown any signs, but wouldn't it be fabulous if they did.

I think this is a book that really needs to be read slowly and one I may need to read again, in order to truly understand what actually occurred. All I am really aware of is that the guest house is not one I would wish to stay in, in the foreseeable future.

Other reviews of this book.

A Striped Armchair

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Look what I have!

Sometimes I forget what wonderful friends I have. I haven't a clue how to make one of these, but Christina from Reading Thru The Night suggested I have one for my personal American Journey challenge and look, now I have one.

My lovely friend Alison made it especially for me to use when I write my posts for my American travels. I shall also put it in my sidebar, so you can click on my progress as I travel around.

I am so excited by this challenge and can't wait to start in the beginning of March. I just need to order my books for my first stop Alabama.

If anyone wishes to join me on any leg of my American tour, then by all means let me know.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge


Pages - 238
First published in 1946
Challenges - Flashback Challenge
The carriage gave another lurch, and Maria Merryweather, Miss Heliotrope, and Wiggins once more fell into each other's arms, sighed, gasped, righted themselves, and fixed their attention upon those objects which were for each of them at this trying moment the source of courage and strength.
This is a book from my childhood which I have always adored and over the years I have returned to it many times. It is one of those books where I can distinctly remember my first read of it, during secondary school. I remember writing a book report about it and desperately having to reread it.
Many of you may not recognise it's original title, but may have read it or seen the movie version, which goes under either the title of 'Moonacre' or 'The Adventures in Moonacre'. I can see no reason for the name change as I have always preferred to refer to it as 'The Little White Horse'.
After the death of her absent father, Maria Merryweather and her governess are sent to live with her uncle Sir Benjamin at Moonacre Manor. Maria is frightened of her new destiny before arrival, but soon settles into her new home that has a magical air to it. She quickly falls in love with her uncle and his unusual dog, Wolf, who resembles a lion rather than a dog. The more Maria discovers about her new home and surroundings, the more she becomes embroiled in the story of the disappearance of the first Moon Princess. There has been anger and fighting within the valley for years and Maria set out to restore peace and harmony to the whole of the Moonacre valley.
It had been a few years since I last read this book and I did read it with a heightened critical eye. I found the reason I love this book so much, is because of the rich descriptions provided by the author. I could feel myself stepping into the grounds of Moonacre and feeling the crisp wet grass beneath my feet. Everything is described with such detail, leaving all your senses on full alert.
The characters within the book are unusual and very lovable. Marmaduke Scarlet, the dwarf like cook responsible for cooking such wonderful meals in abundance without breaking out in a sweat. Minette Loveday, who lays out Maria's clothes whilst she sleeps, yet no one knows she exists. They are all so wonderfully written and easy to visualise. There is much conflict between many of characters, which Maria calms with her unflappable attitude and need for peace. Maria is a strong character and she stands up to the bad people with an abundance of bravery.
My only complaint about this book, that perhaps had not been so evident to me before, was the way some of the conflicting relationships were dealt with so quickly at the end. What relationship which has led from anger to hatred, resulting in dismissing the other one's existence, could possibly be resolved in a matter of a paragraph. That did irk me a little as I was expecting a few fireworks before the resolution and I had forgotten things had been dealt with so quickly.
However, that is a minor point and I don't want it to spoil my love of such a beautiful and magical book. If you have not read it, then I would highly recommend it, allowing yourself to delicately step into the magical world of Moonacre. I love this book, despite it's flaw and I will continue to love it all my life.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Monday Mailbox

I have been really good at not buying books recently, I think. Well, no actually, I haven't been good have I, as I have been sneaking my purchases in quietly into my Sunday Salon posts, so you wouldn't really notice them.

Well I went mad this week due to feeling rather down as I have felt a bit poorly. I always seem to buy books when I feel poorly. In my defense as always, these books were all from charity shops and a couple were even given to me, so they weren't expensive (just in case, hubby is reading this!)

So here are my purchases, which required two photos instead of one, as there were so many.

1) Tourist by Matt Thorne - This was the author's first novel at the tender age of 22 and is actually signed in the front by him. It is set in an English seaside resort, where the main character wants to convert an abandoned pier into a futuristic nightclub.

2) I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - I picked this one up for my American Literary challenge. I know she is from Missouri and it will be ages before I get to the M's, but I thought it might be good to start searching out books I might need. This book is one of her autobiographies and focuses on the first seventeen years of her life and brought her international recognition.

3) The Visible World by Mark Slouka - this is the story of a son who makes a journey to his parent's homeland in Prague, to try and piece together his parent's past.

4) Surfacing by Margaret Atwood - a young woman returns to northern Quebec to the remote island of her childhood, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father.

5) A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin - enter a London where magic exists.

6) Voyageurs by Margaret Elphinstone - set in the early 1800's, a young Quaker goes missing in the Canadian wilderness. Unable to accept her disappearance, her brother leaves England determined to find her.

7) City of Dark Hearts by James Conan - In 1893, a young New Yorker goes missing in America's most dangerous city: Chicago. Home to the World Fair, Chicago is a city of glitz and razzmatazz; a lethal place for the weak and vulnerable and the young woman is not the first to go missing.


8) The Glass House by Jeanette Walls - a memoir of a young girl's family unusual family.

9) Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day by Winifred Watson. Another Persephone find! I love the person who lives in my town, who keeps buying the Persephone books and then giving them to the charity shops, I could kiss her feet. I have the film on Sky+ waiting to be watched, but I hope to read this first.

10)The Street Philosopher by Matthew Plampin - another thriller set in 1800's.


The next two books were kindly given to me by my scrapping pal Jo.

11) Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor - when Lydia Langstone flees her abusive husband, a member of the British Union of Fascist, she seeks refuge in the gloomy lodging house of her elderly father. But No 7 Bleeding Heart Square is the home to a dark mystery.

12) Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. Now I wouldn't normally be interested in Sophie Kinsella, but this one has a paranormal storyline, which is always of interest to me.

What a fabulous haul this week, quite a few Victorian Gothic style novels and a few with settings in America and a couple with disappearing people. What did you get this week.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sunday Salon - A Literary Journey

Good morning everyone,
I wonder if any of you can help me today.
I have made a big decision about where part of my reading journey needs to go. For many years, my husband and I have shared a very special dream. Since we were first married, we have always wanted to travel across America, visiting each of the states. Now I am not going to declare that I know how many states there are in America, because every time I look it up the number seems to be different. I am presuming 50 states, but I have read somewhere that some are no longer states and then there is also the federal district to be considered, so now I am completely confused.
Anyway, as I was saying, we have always dreamed of hiring a Winnebago and travelling through each state. Now the only time, I can see that happening is either when we win the national lottery, or when we retire, so I am looking at a fair few years yet. Unfortunately, I have itchy feet now and wish to start my journey early, the only way I know how.
So I have decided to go on a literary journey, travelling through America, stopping in each state to read all about it, find out its history and culture, read about the people who live there and read some fiction set there too. I won't be starting this journey until March, when I hope to have my selection of books ready.
I am starting alphabetically, which is something I know I wouldn't do on my real travels, but for reading purposes this makes it easier. I haven't given myself a time limit on this journey, so it could take me a couple of months to visit each state. I will still be reading other books with these one added in here and there. Once I have finished with a state I will do a wrap up post and then ask for help with the next state.
My first port of call with be Alabama. I have managed to find a few books that I know my library has on the state that I intend to read, which I will post below. What I would like to know from you guys, is, if there are any absolutely fantastic books either set in or about Alabama that I must read. Even an element of Alabama's history that is a must, to be read.
Here is my tentative list.
Fiction
1) Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistlestop Café by Fannie Flagg
2) The Gods in Alabama by Jocelyn Jackson
3) A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote
4) To Kill a Mockingbird (Paperback)Harper Lee
5)Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress
Non Fiction
1) Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks
2) Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald by F.Scott Fitzgerald , Zelda Fitzgerald
3) Helen Keller ~ Margaret Davidson
Unfortunately my library does not stock any books based on the state of Alabama, but if anyone can recommend any I will search them out via Bookmooch or Amazon.
Thank you all in advance, if you can help me.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Saturday Scrapping - Final Pages of Journal Your Christmas.

I know we are now heading into the middle of February, but it has taken me until now to finish my Christmas journal. So here it is, the last few pages and the album.

As you can see from the picture above, the album is jam packed with pages. It is really a lovely feeling when you actually finish an album. My only problem now is that I have to go back and finish 2008 album. Aargghh!
Day 29 - Hubby's sister and her partner came to visit us for the day. It was fabulous. We had a lot of fun and Mick,(bless him) is game for anything and let the girls paint his nails red and do his hair. I have photographic evidence for future blackmail possibilities.

Day 30 - On this day, the lovely family we met on holiday came to visit us. They have two girls of similar age to our two, so they all got on like a house on fire. They have booked to go back to to the same hotel as us, at the same time this year, so it will be nice to see them all again.

Unfortunately I can't show New Year's Eve and New Years Day. Not because the pictures were so bad, after so much alcohol consumption, but because I know my lovely close friends don't want to be internet famous, so I have omitted the pictures, as it was too difficult to cover names and pictures. We had a fabulous night with them at our house on New Years Eve, followed by New Years Day lunch at their house.
I have also managed to do a double layout this week of the girls using the pictures taken when we went to the Build a Bear Workshop. I tried to use the colours incorporated within the pictures.
I wanted to give the impression of stitching, so I put little lines all the way around the edge. I also used about a ton of buttons around the pictures too. I thought if I use up as many as I could, I would have a good excuse to buy more at Ally Pally in April.

I put sparkles all over my bears, but unfortunately the photo doesn't really show them properly. You will have to take my word for it.
It feels good to be back scrapping again and I hope to have a couple of layouts to show you next week too.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel



Pages - 232

Published in 2006 by Jonathan Cape.

Challenges - Graphic Book Challenge, GBLT challenge, Library Challenge and Bibliophillic Challenge.

I am always amazed and find it to be rather serendipitous when you start reading a book for one challenge and then realise it ticks the boxes for absolutely loads of challenges. Fun Home is definitely one of those books. I picked it up purely for the Graphic Novel challenge, as I was struggling to find books to fill this genre. I had a vague awareness of the story, so I knew it might fill the GBLT challenge, but I had no idea that it would be full to the brim of references of different books read by the author and her father, so it ticked the Bibliophillic box too.

Fun Home is an unusual and extremely interesting memoir of Alison's life, growing up in an old Gothic mansion and helping out with the family business, the funeral parlour, or as they lovingly referred to it as the 'Fun Home'. The book looks very closely at Bechdel's relationship with her father, as she grew up. They were never really close and he seemed to view his family as free manual labour. There was always something, not quite right about her father, yet it wasn't until Bechdel informed her parents that she was a lesbian, that she found out the truth about the father she really didn't know.

Her father had secretly enjoyed relationships with men, all his life, yet he was never able to declare his homosexuality. Bechdel discovered her father had often stepped over the line between teacher and student to embark on affairs with the young lads he was teaching and came very close to losing his job over it. He also had an affair with their babysitter and took his children on holiday with him, without their awareness of the situation. Half way through the book, her father is killed in an accident, but Bechdel becomes convinced that he committed suicide, because he could no longer live the lie over his sexuality.

The book is littered with references to classic authors and Bechdel attempts to make parallels between the books of such authors as James Joyce and Colette and her own life, as well as her fathers. I found myself writing a little list of classic books that perhaps I now need to read. Bechdel's own realisation that she was a lesbian came about through the books that she read. She picked up one book on lesbianism followed by another and was soon trawling the libraries for all the books she could find to help her understand how she felt.

This book was a really interesting read and one I really enjoyed. I must just warn anyone who has children at home and who is planning to read this, I wouldn't leave it lying around as some of the pictures are quite graphic and may lead to lots of embarrassing questions! I found myself blushing profusely at some of the pictures. This book looks very closely at people's sexuality and coming to terms with their own identity and would be an ideal read for teenagers and adults alike who are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality.

Other reviews of this book

Booklust

Book, Line and Sinker

Paperback Reader


Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

Pages 312



First published in 1922


Challenges - Awesome Author Challenge, Take Another Chance Challenge and Library Challenge


It was 2p.m. on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. The Lusitania had been struck by two torpedoes in succession and was sinking rapidly, while the boats were being launched with all possible speed. The women and children were being lined up awaiting their turn. Some still clung desperately to husbands and fathers; others clutched their children closely to their breasts. One girl stood alone, slightly apart from the rest. She was quite young, not more than eighteen. She did not seem afraid, and her grave, steadfast eyes looked straight ahead.

Hurrah I have finally read my first Agatha Christie book and by Jove it was jolly good.


The Secret Adversary was Agatha Christie's second work of fiction. Her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was written as a result of a bet. At this point, she had previously never written. She took up a bet that she could compose a detective novel in which the reader would not be able to identify the murderer, though having access to the same clues as the detective. How amazing to think that Agatha Christies prolific writing career started out as a bet.


This book follows the adventures of Tommy and Tuppence, who after setting up the Young Adventurers Ltd, try to discover what happened to the young Jane Finn, who never stepped off the Lusitania. She was believed to be in possession of some very influential papers that could compromise the future of the English government. With the help of Mr Carter, a member of the British Intelligence, Julius Hersheimmer, Jane Finn's American cousin who is searching for her and Sir James Peel Edgerton, a Q.C. they set off to find out what happened.


They all go on a desperate search to find Jane Finn and the rather delicate papers before they end up in the hands of Mr Brown, the elusive leader of the Bolshevists,who will publicly reveal the papers.

This was a rather enjoyable book to read and I loved the thrill of the chase as they try to get to Jane and the papers before Mr Brown. Unfortunately for me, I guessed who Mr Brown was quite early on in the book, which spoilt it just a little, as I was hoping to be completely wrong and utterly surprised when the real Mr Brown stepped forward.

Tuppence, was a bit of a go getting girl, who didn't let anyone stand in her way. She would so easily fit in to today's modern society, however I think back than her unfeminine ways may have caused a storm. The only character I didn't really like was the American, Julius Hersheimmer. I think Christie gave him what I would consider a typical American personality as seen through the eyes of the English upper crust during that era. He is loud, brash, in your face, hot headed and thinks nothing of believing a girl will marry him after just meeting him. Personally, I have never met an American like this and all the ones I know are just lovely, but this style of character seems to crop up far too often in English literature during the early 1900's.

I have been informed that Agatha Christie's early books are not her best, but I thought it would be nice to start from the beginning and enjoy reading her work as it improves.

It is an original cozy mystery and definitely worth a read. It is very English in it's ways, and the language in reminds me of the original 'St Trinians' films which were in black and white. Everything is 'jolly hockey sticks' and everyone is called ' old bean'.

This is a delightful book that gives in an insight into England during the twenties. If you like cozy mysteries and the typical English novel, then this one is for you.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Earth Hums In B Flat by Mari Strachan



Pages 327

Published in 2009 by Canongate

Challenge - What's In a Name challenge and Young Adult Challenge.

I fly in my sleep every night. When I was little I could fly without being asleep; now I can't, even though I practise and practise. And after what I saw last night I want more than ever to fly wide- awake. Mam always says: I want never gets. Is that true?

This is the story of young Gwenni Morgan who believes she has the gift of flight. The book looks at the world from her perspective throughout. She is very intelligent, but most people thinks she little odd. She loves detective stories and is always curious as the world around her. When a neighbour disappears, Gwenni takes on the role of detective in order to help solve his disappearance. As she pursues the truth, upsetting people with her questions, she brings to light a lot of dark family truths that perhaps should have stayed buried.

This is a delightful story showing the world through a child's eyes on the brink of coming of age. Gwenni is a lovely character who has to cope with a mother who is on the verge on a nervous breakdown. She has to learn a lot of home truths fast which really change the world she lives in.

The book is set in the 1950's in a little Welsh town on the brink of change. The families still cook on fire rather than a normal oven, no central heating or indoor bathrooms have reached the town yet. There is a reluctant air within the town to move into the modern age. The community they live in, is very close knit and everyone knows everyone else's business. All except Gwenni and her sister, who have to face a lot of hidden truths as the book progresses.

Secret by secret they all crawl out of the woodwork, sending Gwenni's mother completely over the top. She is a woman, who has always tried to keep a lid on her secrets, but her pot has just boiled over.

I did enjoy this book and it reminded me a little of my childhood; not the setting, as I can assure I wasn't around in the 50's, but instead the way family secrets come out by accident and you end up finding out things you are really not supposed to know. Every family has it's own dirty laundry that somehow gets exposed at times.

For a debut novel, I thought it was very well written, I fell in love with Gwenni right from the start and I wanted to cocoon her from her mother's wrath. She is full of spirit and insight into the world around you. She won't take no for an answer and pursues the truth, without fear.

The only part I didn't quite get, was the business of Gwenni flying. I never really understood whether or not she could actually fly, or was it all in her day dreaming. I never really saw the purpose of it either, within the book. I wonder if it was just added to give Gwenni' a bit of quirkiness.

This is definitely a charming book about coming of age and family life and definitely worth a read. There is definitely a little magic hidden within the pages of the book that needs to be let out to sparkle in it's own right.


Monday, 8 February 2010

A couple of days off.

Hi everyone,

Just to let you know I am having a couple of days off blogging. I feel a bit snowed under at the moment and want to take a couple of days away from the P.C. so that I can play catch up with my life. I hope to be back on Wednesday.

Have a great couple of days and I will see you then.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sunday Salon - Are you serious about series?

I have been taking a long look at all the books I read last year and realised I have a problem. I am a serial starter. I seemed to have read so many books that are the first in a series, purchased the rest of the series and then left them all sitting on my shelves, gathering dust. I realise that I am not serious about these series and really need to rectify it.

I wondered if I never finished the series because I don't like to rush the excitement. If I have loved the first book,then I like to have the rest of the series to look forward to. Ok, this is not a bad thing, but there are so many series outstanding that need to be read and most of them have new books coming out this year. I will aim to read the remaining books that I have of different series. Are you like me, do you start a series and then leave it to gather dust? Or do you devour the whole series in one month?

I bought two books this week from the charity shop and was quite pleased with my finds.

1) Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant. This was on my Friday Finds the other week and was one of the books chosen for the TV Book Club, so I was gobsmacked to find it so soon after being released with this new cover.

2) Incendiary by Chris Cleave - I read a fantastic review of this book over at Peter's blog and knew I had to have it. It is an epistolary novel where the female character writes letters to Osama Bin Laden. It is based around the events of 9/11 which I know is a difficult subject to read about, but one that should not be forgotten.

As to my reading this week I managed to finish the two books I was reading last week.

1) The Little Stranger by Sarah Water - a huge book at 5oo+ pages but an absolute thriller

2) The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie - a book where I realised who the baddie was very early on. Also my first Agatha Christie book.

I also managed to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which is a graphical memoir.

I am nearly a quarter of a way through The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley which I am reading a chapter a day from. I really am enjoying it and hope that once I get past the half way stage I may be able to whip through it.

I have read 17 chapters of Pride and Prejudice for the read a long, so I am up to date with this. So far, I have found it to be a very amusing book, yet I keep wondering how these characters would cope in today's society.

I am half way through The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge and I have just started White is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi.

In my non fiction reading, I finished reading How to Hear Your Angels by Doreen Virtue, which I won't be reviewing, because I just can't physically review everything. I have to say I did enjoy it. It was interesting to read about all the different angels and the different ways in which they apparently could be contacted.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

New York Challenge

Being totally in love with all things New York, I couldn't resist this challenge. This is organised by Jill over at Fizzythoughts.

Here are the rules.
1. The challenge runs from February 1st through May 15th, 2010.

2. Between now and May 15th, read 1 (one) book set in New York City and post your review. You can certainly read more, if you’re the overachieving type, but I’m trying to get maximum participation. The book can be non-fiction or fiction, poetry or prose, graphic novel or audio book…whatever floats your boat. It can even be a guidebook. It just has to have New York City as its primary setting. And no fair using a book you’ve already read.

3. A separate post will be created with a Mr Linky for everyone to post their reviews.
4. Each month there will also ba a post with a sort of mini-challenge asking people to write a post about New York. You do not have to participate in any of these. Each mini-challenge will have a New York themed prize for one of the participants.
The mini challenge for this month is already up, so I thought I would add it into this post.
For the month of February, your task (should you choose to accept it) is to compile a list of ten things about New York. These can be anything.
My list will be ten different books that I would like to read about New York.
1) My First New York : Early Adventures in the Big City (As Remembered by Actors, Artists, Athletes, Chefs, Comedians, Filmmakers, Mayors, Models, Moguls, Porn Stars, Rockers, Writers, and Others) by various contributors.
2) New York by Edward Rutherfurd.
3)The Subway Chronicles:Scenes from Life in New York by Jacquelin Cango.
4)Manhattan, When I was Young by Mary Cantwell
5)Old New York by Edith Wharton
6)The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
7) The House the Rockerfellas Built:A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in Twentieth-Century America by Robert Dazell
8) The Last Mrs Astor: A New York Story by Frances Kiernan
9) The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury
10) Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 by Wayne Barratt
So there are the ten books I would be interested in reading about New York. All of them can be found on Amazon, if anyone is interested.
Anyone wishing to join in with challenge, please click here.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at You Should Be Reading and you can find it here. MizB does a fantastic job with this meme every week, so do pop over and pay her a visit.


There have been so many good books in the last couple of weeks it has been really hard to narrow them down to just four, but finally I managed it.


1) The Book Of Fires by Jane Borodale.

I found this book over at Beth Fish Reads blog. I like the fact that the story is set in Sussex where I live and the

connection with fireworks and gun powder.

Here is the blurb from Amazon.

A stunning historical novel, 'The Book of Fires' is the unforgettable story of Agnes Trussel -- and love, fireworks and redemption. Brought up in rural Sussex, seventeen-year-old Agnes Trussel is carrying an unwanted child. Taking advantage of the death of her elderly neighbour, Agnes steals her savings and runs away to London. On her way she encounters the intriguing Lettice Talbot who promises that she will help Agnes upon their arrival. But Agnes soon becomes lost in the dark, labyrinthine city. She ends up at the household of John Blacklock, laconic firework-maker, becoming his first female assistant. The months pass and it becomes increasingly difficult for Agnes to conceal her secret. Soon she meets Cornelius Soul, seller of gunpowder, and hatches a plan which could save her from ruin. Yet why does John Blacklock so vehemently disapprove of Mr Soul? And what exactly is he keeping from her? Could the housekeeper, Mrs Blight, with her thirst for accounts of hangings, suspect her crime or condition?

2) Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I found this one over at Mee's blog Bookie Mee. It sounds like a really weepy one but also very good. I can't believe I have never heard of it.

This was originally written as a novella in 1959 and then extended into a novel in 1966. It was made into a film called 'Charly' in 1968 and won an Oscar.

Here is the blurb from Amazon.

Following his doctor's instructions, engaging simpleton Charlie Gordon tells his own story in a semi-literate "progris riports". He dimly wants to better himself but with an IQ of 68 can't even beat the laboratory mouse Algernon at maze-solving.Algernon is extra-clever thanks to an experimental brain operation so far tried only on animals. Charlie eagerly volunteers as the first human subject. After frustrating delays and agonies of concentration, the effects begin to show and the reports steadily improve: "Punctuation, is fun!" But getting smarter brings cruel shocks, as Charlie realises that his merry "friends" at the bakery where he sweeps the floor have all along been laughing at him, never with him. The IQ rise continues, taking him steadily past the human average to genius level and beyond, until he's as intellectually alone as the old, foolish Charlie ever was--and now painfully aware of it. Then, ominously, the smart mouse Algernon begins to deteriorate ...

3) Charles Darwin's On The Origin of Species : A Graphic Adaption by Michael Keller.
This book has had a lot of airplay over the last few weeks and everyone seems to be reading it. Ana and Chris highly recommended it and now I can't wait to get my hands on it.
I don't think I would ever have bothered to read the original, but because this is in graphical format, it makes it more accessible.
Here is the blurb from Amazon.

A stunning graphic adaptation of one of the most famous, contested, and important books of all time.
Few books have been as controversial or as historically significant as Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Since the moment it was released on November 24, 1859, Darwin’s masterwork has been heralded for changing the course of science and condemned for its implied challenges to religion.
In Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, author Michael Keller and illustrator Nicolle Rager Fuller introduce a new generation of readers to the original text. Including sections about his pioneering research, the book’s initial public reception, his correspondence with other leading scientists, as well as the most recent breakthroughs in evolutionary theory, this riveting, beautifully rendered adaptation breathes new life into Darwin’s seminal and still polarizing work.


4) Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
I found this one over at Dar's blog, Peeking Between The Pages. If you are quick and live in America or Canada, you can enter Dar's competition to win this book which closes on Sunday.
Here is the blurb from Amazon.
Benjamin draws on one of the most enduring relationships in children's literature in her excellent debut, spinning out the heartbreaking story of Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Her research into the lives of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and the family of Alice Liddell is apparent as she takes circumstances shrouded in mystery and colors in the spaces to reveal a vibrant and passionate Alice. Born into a Victorian family of privilege, free-spirited Alice catches the attention of family friend Dodgson and serves as the muse for both his photography and writing. Their bond, however, is misunderstood by Alice's family, and though she is forced to sever their friendship, she is forever haunted by their connection as her life becomes something of a chain of heartbreaks. As an adult, Alice tries to escape her past, but it is only when she finally embraces it that she truly finds the happiness that eluded her. Focusing on three eras in Alice's life, Benjamin offers a finely wrought portrait of Alice that seamlessly blends fact with fiction.

So there are my finds this week. What did you find?

 
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