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{Review} The Second Death – Peter Tremayne

{Review} The Second Death – Peter Tremayne

It may be the 26th novel in the Fidelma series, but Peter Tremayne is not showing any sign of wanting to say farewell to this exciting, intelligent character. And thank goodness for that! Read the rest of this entry »

 

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{Review} The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

{Review} The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

When lifestyle writer, Helen Russell’s husband (known only as Lego Man throughout the book) got headhunted for a job in the High Temple of Lego itself… I mean Lego HQ! After much wheedling on his part, they decided to both decamp to Denmark for a year.

Because you’re never too old for Lego, amiright? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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{Review} A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar – Suzanne Joinson

{Review} A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar – Suzanne Joinson

Review
The story opens just outside Kashgar, (Western China) in 1923. The opening is toe-curlingly painful to read as an eleven year old girl, clearly too young to give birth, dies in labour. Throughout A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, Joinson does not shy away from the gruesome. Everything from abortion in the 1920s’, to Tayeb’s experiences as an illegal immigrant from Yemen, to the (nauseating) extremities that people in cults will go to to obtain ‘enlightenment’ are examined. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in Books

 

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{Review} On Tangled Paths – Theodor Fontane

{Review} On Tangled Paths – Theodor Fontane

Review
First published in 1887, Irrungen, Wirrungen tells the story of two lovers who are doomed to never spend their lives together despite wanting to.

Although the theme was hardly a new one, even to contemporary readers, the way the story unfolds is beautiful-  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2016 in 2016 Reading Challenge

 

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{Review} Reykjavík Nights: Murder in Reykjavík – Arnaldur Indriðason

The week before last we had something of an Indian Summer. As the mercury hit the mid-20s for the 3rd day in a row I picked up this book: the title evoking endless nights and mankind’s darker side. Did it live up to expectations? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in 2016 Reading Challenge

 

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{Review} The Owl Service – Alan Garner

{Review} The Owl Service – Alan Garner

Summary
Owls. That was the pattern formed by the plates hidden upstairs. But these owls vanished when they were copied onto paper. With each owl that fades from the page, another layer of magic is awoken, forming a net that encloses the valley. As the web tightens, will Alison, Roger and Gwyn be able to free themselves, or are they the latest three in the valley’s history to be forced to relive it? Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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Avengers Assemble!

I’ve been staring at the blinking cursor for over ten minutes, trying to think of what to write about.

Ten minutes considering which of the myriad of texts I’ve read since the last time I blogged I should review. I’m stumped. After months of not really writing anything, I think I’ve forgotten how to go about it, but I’d still like to relax by writing about books.

Austin! I’ve lost my mojo!!

To ease myself back into the process, I’m going to take part in the 30 day book blogging challenge hosted by Blogs of a Bookaholic.

However, as you and I know just how difficult it can be to sit down and juggle writing about books with things like life (aka. actually reading books), I’m going to aim for one post every two-three days!

So expect 30 posts over the next 90 days. 😉

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in 2014 Reading Challenges

 

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Inspiring Blog Award


Many thanks to http://help-me-rhonda.com/ for giving me this beautiful award. I know that quite a lot of bloggers aren’t “into” the awards system, but I think that it’s a great way of finding bloggers you may like that would otherwise probably slip under your radar.

I say this because, in addition to always having brilliant posts that make the reader feel involved with their contents, Rhonda is a lady who is all about spreading joy and the community spirit on the blogosphere. 🙂

I am required to tell you seven things about myself, so…

1) I’ve been living on the 5th floor of a building that has no lift for nearly a year… and still get out of breath before I get to my floor.

2) I’ve wanted to play the violin since I was 4. This summer (and nearly 2 decades later) I’m going to start learning it. 🙂

3) The Book Buying Ban has now been going for 4 months and my purse is thanking me for it.

4) France has amazing French food, but they don’t cater to other countries’ cuisines. I would kill for a ‘korma’ that was not made with wasabi sauce.

5) I have a penguin-shaped hot water bottle called James that my best friend gave me for Christmas.

6) I have written a rhyming poem about James’ heroic exploits in the Antarctic (saving his friends from predators) and have started a 2nd poem about his subsequent travels about the Antarctic.

It is gripping stuff, though I say so myself. 😛

7) I re-read North and South at least once a year and maintain that I love it so much because it has a poem by Tennyson in it.

And now… here’s the list of the ten people I pass this award on to:

Words and Peace: A really well-read book blogger who started the I love France meme. I go there every Thursday to get my French culture/ history/ art/ life/ literature fix for the week.

Tavi Meyer: Is the man who introduced me to the concept of photography as a valid form of art. He’s a brilliant photographer and an interesting guy. I’m hoping to do a proper photo shoot with him before I leave Aix. (The fourth photo on the first row is from our first trial shoot).

The Synthesist Chronicles:  Whether she’s discussing academics’ use of social media or gender equality, her posts are snappy and introduce me to a new way of looking at the issues she discusses.  

Rose City Reader: Her methodical approach to creating reading lists and exploring genres is slowly rubbing off on me.

La Plume Noire: A wonderful mixture of prose and more genres of photography than I can count. Simply superb.

50 Year Project: to paraphrase, TBM’s aim in creating this blog was to refocus all the negative energy around into a positive, exciting and inspiring experience.

Lifetime Reading Plan: is an intelligently written blog that is absolute heaven for someone who is interested in a broad spectrum of literature. Every novel mentioned is a classic, even in the ‘books about reading’ section!

Chronicles of Illusions: is a ‘parallel universe’ I enjoy slipping into whenever the real world feels a bit too intense.

http://anarmchairbythesea.blogspot.com/ : was my first introduction to the world of blogging and book blogging. 🙂 She is cool.

Last but not least: L.S. Engler of http://lsengler.com/ :  ‘A writer. Writing. About Writing’. She is brilliant

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Awards

 

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{Review} The Spectacular Group Suicide – Arto Paasilinna

As read for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge

I found this review very difficult to write. Not because the writing was bad or because the plot had more holes than my knitting (I keep dropping stitches).

In fact it was quite the reverse.

From my soapbox: first things first, I don’t find the subject of mental illness funny. After even a short period of depression, it can be almost impossible to just get up and get back on with life. What I do believe is that humour is one of the best methods to break down boundaries and get people talking in earnest about taboo subjects.


Blurb
“Contemplating suicide? Don’t worry, you are not alone!”

Thus begins the attempt of two men, who feel they have nothing to live for, to found a group for other suicidal people so that they don’t have to die alone.

After attracting more members than they had believed possible, the group sits down to discuss how to go about the business of dying. Their suicide attempts become ever more desperate as they travel across Europe, trying to find the perfect place to die. At almost every turn the group is foiled… by itself.

With each attempt, the Spectacular Group Suicide members explore their own and each others’ reasons for wanting to end their lives. For the first time in months (and years, in some cases), they start to talk about what they are going through.

Paasilinna takes on one of the most difficult subjects to come to terms with. Using bleak humour, shocking (but sadly true) statistics and a surprising level of sensitivity, he tackles Finland’s greatest killer.

Review
Feel free to flame me for saying this, but I felt that The Spectacular Group Suicide was a little like some of Chekhov’s work in terms of the plot’s tragicomic element. Within the first few pages, two of the main characters meet because they’re both looking for a quiet place to commit suicide.

The plot picked up momentum which was sustained for the first third of the novel. As the road-trip/ self-discovery elements started to set in, I felt that the novel started to sag a little. The pace picked up again near the end, but didn’t feel as smooth-flowing as it had done at the start.

There are facts and figures that I couldn’t believe, even after I had verified them. The factual elements are a slap in the face and strengthen (what I believe is) the underlying message that this is an issue that should be discussed publicly.

Whilst the main issue is suicide (and its causes), Paasilinna subtly weaves in a couple of other taboo subjects, such as HIV. This was skilfully done as this allows him to create a few more multi-faceted characters (something that can be hard to find in books about social issues *coughDickenscough*) who were as quick to condemn as they were to open their hearts to others like themselves.

Some elements devolved to the farcical, which did detract from the story. So as not to drop massive spoilers, I’m just going to write: fisticuffs with fascists and leave it at that.

The other element that left me somewhat disgruntled was Paasilinna’s portrayal of almost all people who seriously consider suicide as being able to find things worth living for after a few weeks of talking to others about how they feel. Research does indicate that people who can talk about how they feel can stabilise after months of therapy. The thing is that this ‘rule’ does not work in every case. The generalisation made the ending slightly less believable and could lead to misconceptions.


Overall
Whilst it’s easy to find books that deal with death, it’s much harder to find novels that explore suicide and attempted suicide without stigmatizing these people. Paasilinna has a done a wonderful job, taking a taboo subject and some facts and creating a story that gives hope to anyone who wants to start a discussion about this subject.

Whilst I have several disagreements with generalisation and a plot that doesn’t always flow, I truly believe that this book should be read by more adults so as to decrease the taboo nature of this subject.

After all, the main message of The Spectacular Group Suicide is that a little communication and understanding can go a long way in helping the most vulnerable around us.

 
WNI’s verdict: Wavering towards… WIN!

 

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{Review} Clash of Kings – George R. R. Martin

As read for the Once Upon a Time VI Challenge.

Since the 2nd series of the T.V. show started, I’ve been searching for an English-language version of this book. I found a copy a few days ago and have just finished it.

Blurb (from goodreads)
A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who hold sway over an age of enforced peace are dead, victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns.

Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel…and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

Review

I’m not going to lie; sometimes when I read longer novels the characters start to get tangled in my head and I have to jot the main ones down. No such problems with Clash of Kings though. Martin’s given each POV character a slightly different way of thinking and speaking. Although I do think that Bran (who’s 9 years old) sounds a lot more mature than he is. Maybe the maturity comes from having to be the Lord of Winterfell in his brother’s absence..

The character whose ‘voice’ I enjoy most is Tyrion Lannister. Before I began this series, I never noticed the extent to which handicapped people are vilified in literature. (OK, so the Hunchback of Notre Dame is one exception, but I’ve never read the book, so he could be very different from Disney’s Quasimodo). In the first book, Tyrion always has a riposte at the ready and ‘reads’ situations and people with ease. In Clash of Kings, he is on form and his character develops beautifully and realistically.

The story itself is very good, although I did wish that there had been a more definite ‘ending’ feel to it. Game of Thrones ended with hosts massing and kings coming out of the woodwork. [spoiler alert] Clash of Kings ended with Bran and Rickon fleeing Winterfell and heading into the unknown. [/end spoiler alert] Whilst it is an ending, it feels more like an open ending that will overlap with the third book in a ‘middle of the series’ way.

Overall If you’re looking for lush descriptions that don’t take over the page, witty dialogue that’s as much bite as it is banter, intelligent characters and a story that glues the reader to the page, this is the book for you.

WNI’s verdict? WIN!

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in 12 in 12, Books, Once Upon a Time VI

 

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