The books I read in October 2017

It’s that time of month again where I link up with Jana and Steph to tell you all about what I read in the previous month, in this case October 2017. I completed Erin’s book challenge 7.0 and also read three other books. As in previous months, challenge books are listed first.

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman (592 pages, read for the category “A book with a non-human main character”). I found this book hard to get into at first, and lots of times I actually managed to put it down after finishing a chapter, just like I had promised myself, but by the end I was invested. The storytelling is amazing! I was rooting for Shadow all the way and it was really interesting finding out where he came from along with him. Wednesday was a difficult character to like, but I think maybe that was the point? Honestly, I preferred Neverwhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to give this one less than 5 Goodreads stars. Probably I would give it 5 and a half, but they won’t let me!

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (495 pages, read for the category “A book with a cardinal/compass direction in the title”). Lots of Goodreads reviewers seem to have hated this book. Maybe I’m too easily pleased, but I really enjoyed it. I liked Elphaba and thought it was interesting to read about her childhood and get an explanation for why she was green. It was nice to see her treated as a human being and not just some caricature of evil. I also liked that, in this book at least, she wasn’t really wicked. Towards the end she started to go crazy, but most of the time she was trying to do the right thing, in her own way. It’s not a perfect book and there are things that I would have liked more explanation of, but for the most part I enjoyed reading it and in my world that counts for a lot. 4 stars.

And, with that, I completed the bonus round of Erin’s challenge. Woo!
I probably would never have actually read the Wicked book if it hadn’t been for needing a new previously chosen book for my final category (I changed it from East of Eden because there was just no way I was going to be reading that in the final weeks of the challenge!),  so that was nice. Of all the books I read for the challenge this time, I think my favourite was Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief. And now I’m looking forward to the next challenge… categories to be announced in December. I’m so excited!

Now for the other books I read in October.

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. This book had been sitting on my bookcase for over a year and I have no idea why I hadn’t read it before! I absolutely loved the Snow Spider trilogy by this author when I was a child (I must have read it at least 20 times), which is part of the reason I bought this one, but somehow I never got round to reading it? I finally picked it up when I needed something nice and quick that wouldn’t task my brain too much. And I LOVED it! The one thing that slightly annoyed me is that, despite being the main character, Charlie didn’t seem to do anything much. His name is in the title, yet it seemed like other people were constantly making all the decisions, doing all the dangerous things and generally saving his backside. And two of those people didn’t even have any special powers/gifts! His friends are awesome though, so I can’t really complain too much about them having a large role. I just hope Charlie gets more proactive in book 2! Oh, and lots of the reviews called these books a rip-off of Harry Potter… just because it’s set in England, involves children with special powers and involves a school doesn’t automatically make it a Harry Potter rip-off! The school isn’t even for magic as such – it’s a school for the gifted (musicians, artists, etc.) that also takes people with “magical” gifts. Anyway, I gave it 4 stars.

The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt. I really liked this, probably because the stories reminded me of the type of ghost stories we used to tell each other as children (the babysitter and the heavy-breathing phone calls anyone?). I liked that it’s short stories, but with an overarching storyline tying them all together (basically a boy gets on the wrong train and while he’s waiting for the right one, on a dark, creepy platform, an old man starts telling him scary stories). Most of the stories were the perfect blend of “is this all in the protagonist’s head or could it, just maybe, be real?”, but the final one was a bit weird and silly and, in my opinion, let the whole collection down. This would be a great book for teens who like to creep themselves out… way better than the Point Horror books I adored at that age! 4 stars (without the final story it would have been 5).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is a weird little book. It’s well written and very clever, but I didn’t find it particularly spooky – more confusing. Was any of it really happening or was the narrator just mad? Maybe that was the whole point? Maybe I’m just too stupid to understand? 3 stars.

And those were all the books I finished in October. I then started reading Magician, which has eleventy billion pages (okay, 841). Maybe I’ll finish it it time to include it in my reviews for November… or maybe it will have to appear in the January’s “Show Us Your Books”. We’ll see. I’m enjoying it so far anyway, but I can only read it at bedtime because it’s too big to take on the train!

That’s it from me. Read anything good recently? Check out the link up if you want to fill your to-read list with even more lovely, lovely books.

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Inside the Theme: Woodland Fantasy

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I’m going to do something a bit different today…

A while ago I mentioned that I had signed up for a geeky pen pals site. But the IGGPPC is so much more than just a place to find pen pals. There are forums where you can chat and a blog that discusses the latest happenings in the geeky world (new computer games, books, films, TV shows…). Each month, there is also a different theme including various activities to go along with it, such as a watch-along of a film (everyone watches a film at the same time and tweets about it). There is also a set of questions to go along with the theme. This month, the theme is Woodland Fantasy and I liked the questions so much that I’ve decided to answer them on my blog.

 

  • What is your favourite fantasy story, and what’s so great about it?That’s a difficult one to answer, but I think I’d have to go with Discworld. Pratchett was such an excellent writer. I love his humour, the way he incorporates elements of our world into his Discworld, managing to look at society critically while still being funny. The way he brings his characters to life. His descriptions. Just… everything about the series. Please don’t ask me to pick a specific book though!
  • What was your first experience with fantasy?It depends what you consider fantasy, I suppose. If animals that talk and dress in human clothing are fantasy then it was probably Beatrix Potter’s books. Otherwise it would have been something by Enid Blyton – maybe The Wishing Chair? Or it could have been Disney’s Alice in Wonderland – my favourite film as a child! Then again, there was also Bananaman and Superted. Which came first, books or cartoons? Hmm.
  • Modern technology allows fantasy stories to be told in a variety of different mediums now; do you prefer diving into a good old fashioned book, reading a colorful comic, yelling at your videogames while bathing in the blood of your virtual enemies, or snacking on all the popcorns in front of your TV or at the movies? (Listening to troubadours performing the ballad of Beowulf is also a totally valid choice.)Regular readers probably won’t need to be told this, but for me it’s definitely books! Real ones… no Kindles here, thank you. I do like a good fantasy film occasionally though.
  • Pets are a very popular choice in fantasy. Because pets are awesome. Which magical pet would you most like to adopt? (You can either go with a kind of creature, or a specific pet from a specific story you wouldn’t mind moving in with you – because let’s face it, we all want Toothless as a bestie.)Dragon Eastside GalleryA dragon! Party because of the relationship between the dragons and their riders in the Dragonlance series, and partly because of Toothless. I mean… who doesn’t want a Toothless of their very own? Obviously I’m assuming I would have somewhere to keep said dragon and that it would either be harmless (no fire-breathing!) or very, very tame!
  • Your RPG play style: alignment, faction, race, and class. Do you play tabletop style or in a digital medium?I play a wizard in Warhammer Quest. Never anything else. I’ve also played the original Warhammer (the one with the huge table filled with different armies) where I was dwarves. I prefer Warhammer Quest though. I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons, the original roleplaying game! And neither have I played on of the various computer-based versions (World of Warcraft or whatever).

So there you have it. Feel free to answer the questions yourself if you want – there’s no need to sign up to the website to do so!

Ten fictional characters I would like to meet

Terry Pratchett booksAs a kind of follow up to last week’s list of ten fictional places I wish I could go, I thought it would be fun to also list some of the fictional characters I would love to meet. Notice that I didn’t say top ten! That would be an impossible challenge. Also, this list is in no order other than the order that they came into my head.

  1. Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
    Actually, there are many Discworld characters I would like to meet, but Death is definitely right up at the top! I would like to go to his realm (a place that I sadly didn’t have room for on the other list), pat Binkie then sit down and have a long conversation with Death himself. Hopefully he would also bring Death of Rats with him.
  2. Raistlin and Caramon Majere from the Dragonlance series
    Okay, I’m cheating a little here, but the twins really are two halves of a whole and to understand either of them you would have to meet both. And I still believe deep in my heart that Raistlin was never really evil. He just had to go to the darkside for the sake of balance.
  3. Aslan from the Narnia series
    Well, obviously I would like to meet all the talking animals, but Asland tops the list! I would bury my hands in his fur and give him a massive hug. And maybe I would even be lucky enough to get to ride him.
  4. Lucy from the Narnia series
    Sticking with a theme for the moment, of all the children who featured in the Narnia series, Lucy was always my favourite. Despite being the youngest, she was always brave and she was open-minded from the start (unlike her brothers and sister who didn’t believe her at first!)
  5. Katy from What Katy Did
    I think I would like to meet her before she had her accident and became so sickingly good 😉 But seriously, throughout the entire book (and the two follow ups) she always means well, even before she learns to control her temper. I would like to sit and plan a Christmas celebration with her and help her write poems for all the members of the family.
  6. The BFG from the book of the same name
    He would take me dream catching and we would drink Frobscottle together, then go whizzpopping around. I don’t think I would like to try Snozzcumer though. Bleurgh!
  7. Marina from So Much To Tell You by John Marsden
    I would just want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be okay, except I know she wold hate that, so I would be like Cathy and just be kind to her in subtle ways while trying not to scare her away.
  8. Ellie from the Tomorrow series by John Marsden
    Actually, I want to meet all of ellie’s group of friends, but as the narrator Ellie is the one I feel like I know best. I want to tell her how absolutely amazing she is – and also maybe learn some survival skills from her.
  9. Sherlock Holmes
    I want him to do his deduction thing on me! I wonder what he would come up with? Then, once he had told me everything I never knew about myself, we would settle down and he would tell me about some of his cases that Watson never got round to writing up.
  10. Paddington Bear
    He’s my favourite fictional bear – I love him even more than Winnie the Pooh! We would get up to all sorts of mischief together and I would provide him with all the marmelade sandwiches he wanted.

And, of course, a million and one other characters who I didn’t have room for. I didn’t even manage to include any from films, TV series or or anything! So I feel compelled to give honorary mention shout-outs to Cecil Gershwin Palmer from Welcome to Night Vale (could we maybe transport him here so I don’t end up being killed off along with the interns in Night Vale?) doctors Mark Greene and Abbey Lockheart from E.R. and The Metatron from Dogma.

Which fictional characters would you like to meet? Let me know in the comments, or write your own blog post!

The Various by Steve Augarde

Another book read for the Semi-Charmed Winter Reading Challenge! I read this one for the category “Read the first book in a series that is new to you“, which is worth 15 points. The Various is the first book in the Touchstone Trilogy.

The plot:
This is the story of 12-year-old Midge, who is sent to stay with her eccentric uncle over the summer while her mother tours with her orchestra, and her adventures with “The Various” –  a band of fairies, or little people, or whatever you want to call them. For many years, The Various have lived in the woods bordering on Uncle Brian’s farm, hidden away from human eyes. When the two world’s begin to clash, The Various are threatened with extinction. This is a tale of friendship, loyalty and adventure.

My review:
This was one of those books that made me wish my commute was longer so I could carry on reading. I LOVED it! It has all the ingredients of my favourite childhood books – perfectly ordinary girl stumbles on something extraordinary and has an adventure. Midge (whose real name is Margaret) is a believable character and I liked her a lot. I especially liked that, when she was in danger, she actually thought about the best thing to do (for example, realising that hiding in something would mean being trapped once she was found) instead of panicking and doing the exact opposite of the sensible thing – think horror films where people realise the killer is in the house and run up the stairs rather than out the front door! None of that here. She seems quite mature for her age, but as the only child of a single parent, I thought it made sense for her to have grown up fairly fast. I also liked Midge’s cousins, Katie and George. Katie is a fairly typical 13-year-old girl, more interested in clothes and boys than hanging around with her younger brother and cousin, but she comes good in the end (after stopping to change her clothes on the way, of course!). The language of the Various is quite old-fashioned with some made up words, which makes them difficult to understand at times, but I got used to that over the course of the book and I actually thought that was a nice touch. 5 stars for this one. Now to get hold of the other two books in the series…

The Long, Dark, Tea-time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

This was the second book I read for the Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Reading Challenge and I’m so glad I put it on my list! This book was for the category “Read two books with a different meal in each title”, which means as of right now it doesn’t get me any points because I need to read a second book to get them.

The plot:
It’s kind of difficult to describe this book without spoilers, so instead of writing my own text, here’s the blurb from the back of the book: “When a passenger check-in desk at London’s Heathrow Airport disappears in a ball of orange flame, the explosion is deemed an act of God. But which god, wonders holistic detective Dirk Gently? What god would be hanging around Heathrow trying to catch the 3:37 to Oslo? And what has this to do with Dirk’s latest–and late– client, found only this morning with his head revolving atop the hit record “Hot Potato”? Amid the hostile attentions of a stray eagle and the trauma of a very dirty refrigerator, super-sleuth Dirk Gently will once again solve the mysteries of the universe…

My review:
In case you couldn’t tell from my introductory sentence, I LOVED this book! I’m sure you’ve all heard of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series if nothing else. Well, this book has nothing to do with that series, but it’s just as good. It was written in 1987, but it’s perfectly possible to read it now. The only thing that seems dated (other than the lack of mobile phones) is that it’s impossible to get a pizza delivered. People who are older than me… is that really true? Could you not get pizza deliveries in the UK in 1987? I honestly don’t remember a time when you couldn’t order a pizza and have it brought to your house! But anyway, on with the review… Adams’ writing is as insightful and funny as ever. The main premise of the book seems to be “what happened to the immortal gods (Norse ones in this case) once people decided they didn’t need/believe in them any more?”, and the plot admittedly does get a bit thin at times,  but the writing itself was so good that for the most part I didn’t even notice. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is a sequel to Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but you can just as easily read it as a stand-alone book. I’ve forgotten the majority of the first book and that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this one at all. I’m not being very articulate here, so I will sum by saying if you have any interest at all in Norse gods, Douglas Adams or indeed the fantasy genre you should definitely read this book. 5 stars!

The year I was born…

On the way home today I went to Thalia, a book shop that’s practically opposite where I work. They’re selling some of their books of for 2.95 each (that’s only about 2 English pounds!) so I thought I’d take the opportunity to grab some reading material for the journey to Hamburg tomorrow. Of course, all the cheap books are in German (the English books live downstairs and are not on sale) but I did choose to move to Germany so I really should start reading the occasional book in the native language. As it happens, both of the books I got were tranlated from the English so I shall give you the original titles:
Shooting Butterflies by Marika Cobbold (definitely women’s fiction but probably not quite chick lit) and Bad Prince Charlie by John Moore (fantasy that claims to be perfect for “all Terry Pratchett fans” – the cover even has Pratchett-esque (or rather Josh Kirby-esque) illustrations all over it).

On the way out of the shop I spotted the Pratchett book “Making Money” on the best seller shelves. A little gold sticker caught my eye. On closer inspection it turned out the sticker had the words “25 years of Discworld” on it. “Ooooh” I thought “I didn’t know Discworld was the same age as me!” I suppose it’s probably not really – I bet he started writing it long before 1983. But it was published in the year I was born. Suddenly I feel a lot better about my impending quarter of a century birthday. After all, not everybody can say they were born the same year The Colour of Magic came out…