28 Nov 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: On my TBR list

Top Ten Tuesday. Love it. Go to The Broke and The Bookish if you haven't been there yet - and even if you have - do check it out again, it is a great blog. This tuesday it is all about our TBRs for the winter months. These are mine:

10) "A Cupboard Full of Coats" by Yvvette Edwards
This one takes place in East London and having just moved here, I absolutely have to read it. Preferably soon.

9) “The Fire Gospel” by Michel Faber
What I really admire about this author is his ability to shift between genres. From historical realism in “The Crimson Petal and The White” to sci-fi nightmare in “Under the Skin”, he manages to impress every time.

8) “From Where I Stand” by Tabitha Suzuma
Since reading “Forbidden” by this author I have been looking so much forward to reading more from her. Very talented YA writer, she does dark YA really well! Can’t wait to read this one.

7) "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" by Jeff Lindsay
My chosen crime fiction book for December. Have heard good things about it - it is different because this one focuses on the serial killer. A serial killer who chases the bad guys and only kills criminal. It sounds really interesting so I can't wait to give it a try.

6) “The Cure” by Rachel Genn
This one I totally picked up because of the title. I love The Cure – and for those of you who are too young to remember, they are a pretty amazing 1980’s punkrock band. The forefathers of emo. The makers of hits such as “Boys Don’t Cry”. Not actually sure if there is any music in this one but I loved the title and liked the sound of the plot (which I can’t remember now…)

5) "What the Nanny Saw" by Fiona Neill
Fiona Neill is one of my favourite comfort-reading-writer. Her books always make me relax and laugh and I think the plot sounds really interesting - it is about a girl who takes up a position as a nanny with a family that suddenly become headline news. Like a modern day governess novel I imagine.

4) "Delirium" by Lauren Oliver
I have heard so much good about this one and I really want to read it. Haven't bought it yet but it won't be long.

3) “Wings of the Dove” by Henry James
This one has been on my shelves forever and I am finally reading it in February for the Venice in February Challenge. Join in here.

2) "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides
This is an author that I really admire. "The Virgin Suicides" is a very special book and I am looking forward to reading his new book "The Marriage Plot".

1) "Northern Lights" by Philip Pullman
This one is a classic - why have I not read it yet? I am not sure but it is on the TBR for this winter and I really look forward to reading it.

24 Nov 2011

Venice in February!

I went to Venice some years ago and it was amazing. I loved it. Amazing city. More beautiful than you can imagine. I would love to go back and that is why I am considering participating in the "Venice in February" reading challenge.
Read all about it here at Dolce Bellezza's blog - thanks to Sam at Tiny Library for inspiring me.

Review: "The Brontës Went to Woolworths"

If you like a bit of whimsy and if you find yourself drawn to Anne Shirley from "Anne of Green Gables" (by L.M. Montgomery) because of her tendency to escape into her own fantasy world, then you will love this book. Being completely honest - which I find to work best for me on this blog - I was drawn to "The Brontës Went to Woolworths" by Rachel Ferguson not because I liked the sound of the plot but because I loved the title. Simple as that. And the title is actually very describing.

Meet the Carnes. A family consisting of three girls and their mother as well as a sour governess and several made up chacters. Living in pre-war London, these women have made good lives for themselves. Deirdre, the main charater, is a journalist with a good head on her and her sister Katrine is an aspiring actress. Both of them are clever girls, well able to to take of themselves and to take on the sour, constantly offended governess who tries to protect little sister Sheil from the rest of the family. Now why is the governess so protective and so worried that Sheil will be damaged by her vivacious older sisters?

The question lies in the irrepressible imaginations of these two girls. Not content with the normal everyday lives of middle class girls, they have dreamt up a world of their own which their mother is quite happy to participate in. In this world, they regularly get visits from Ironface, an old doll of Deirdre who married above her station and is now living a socialite's life in France from which she descends upon them with her la-di-da manners. They are also close friends with Dion Saffyn, a pierrot, whom the close family friend Judge Toddington does not think is good company.

Toddy, as they affectionately call him, is the man of the house. Calling them every evening, bringing them splendid presents and being ever so dear to them. Only they've never met him in real life... And one day reality strikes when Deirdre meets Lady Toddington - or Lady Mildred - as they call her, at a society event and is drawn into a friendship with her.

The clash between the real and the imagined is very relevant today I find. When I was a teenager, it was all Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise (who are now middle-aged, gee I feel old!), today I guess it is Justin Bieber, there isn't a teenage girl who hasn't had a crush on a guy she didn't know, whether celebrity or just a boy on the bus. This book is like 1930's YA. It is a great alternative to unimaginative boy-meets-girl stories and the perfect present for the girl who loved "Anne of Green Gables". This is quality people!!

For the Carne girls, especially Deirdre, Toddy is that secret crush-from-afar, the Justin Bieber. She adores him, and her worry and fear when he suddenly becomes part of real everyday life, I can completely understand. Oh how I felt for her. Sometimes, isn't it better to have a good daydream than a harsh reality? Anyway, I will not say anything more because I don't want to throw spoilers at you but let me just say that Rachel Ferguson turns this story on its head and invites the reader to ponder what is most strange - eccentric girls with their own fantasy worlds or realists who are unable to partake in daydreams?
And where do the Brontës fit in? Well apparently Katrine and Deirdre saw them go into Woolworths to fetch some highly everday-boring items, including a hairnet.

Read it if: You are a daydreamer. If you love Anne of Green Gables. If you too believe that the losers are not the people who allow themselves to let their imaginations soar and dream big and grand but the people who are unable to follow them into the realms of imagine.

17 Nov 2011

Ten things I Love About... "A Provincial Lady Goes Further"

Sometimes it is hard to describe a book or review it because it is really good or really special or really difficult to describe. "The Provincial Lady Goes Further" by E.M. Delafield is one of them. The story of the provincial lady and her friends and family. The flegmatic husband Robert, the wild kids and the independent girlfriend. And of course the oh so French nanny and the stuck-up neighbor - the list goes on and on. It is a really wonderful book but I can't describe it so here are ten reasons why I love it - and they are all quotes!

1) On being a published author at a party: "...Pamela lavishly announces that I am very, very clever and literary - with customary result of sending all the very young gentlemen into the furthermost corner of the room, from whence they occasionally look over their shoulders at me with expression of acute horror."

2) On being a published author when having tea with elderly family members: "Tea and seed-cake appear, we partake, and Aunt Mary hopes that my writing does not interfere with home life and its many duties, and I hope so too..."

3) Having spent much time and effort to go to society event: "...on reaching party and seeing everybody else, at once realise that I am older, less well dressed, and immeasurably plainer than any other woman in the room."

4) About vanity: "Two small artificial curls - Scylla and Charybdis - always worn under bathing-cap..." (who would have thought they had extensions in the 1930's?!)

5) The dry humour of the Provincial Lady: "Lady F. says Shall we have coffee in the drawing-room? - entirely rhetorical question, as decision naturally rests with herself."

6) About having a second home in London, a small but independence-inducing flat: "Return to Doughty Street flat, and experience immense and unreasonable astonishment at finding it almost exactly as I left it..."

7) On clothing crisis (oh how well I know that!): "Question of clothes remains unsolved until eleventh hour, when I decide on black crepe-de-chine and new hat that I think becoming."

8) On the trouble with having staff: "Ethel's afternoon out, and customary fatality of callers ensues, who are shown in by Cook with unsuitable formula: Someone to see you, 'm."

9) On going to meet terribly successful niece of girlfriend: "Have a strong impulse to turn straight round and go home again, sooner than confront so much efficiency, but non-stop train renders this course impractical."

10) On introducing traditional husband Robert to rather ...untraditional... friend Pamela: "Pamela opens her eyes very widely and says she has hear so very much about him - (who from? Not me) - and they shake hands. Can see from Robert's expression exactly what he thinks of Pamela's finger-nails..."

If you like a little bit of 1930's glamour and lots of dry humour and witty remarks, please do not miss out on the Provinsial Lady. She really is an acquaintance worth making!

14 Nov 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that are Gathering Dust on My Shelves

Have you been to visit The Broke And The Bookish yet? Otherwise, you absolutely must. It is a great book! They do this great little meme on Tuesday called Top Ten Tuesday which is absolutely amazing. This week the topic is books that are gathering dust on my shelves... books that I bought because I really wanted to read them, yet somehow never got around to read. I am ashamed to admit that this is topic hits quite close to home for me...

10) "The Sixth Wife" by Suzannah Dunn
A book about the sixth wife of Henry VIII, the one who survived him. I read a biography which described the lives of all of Henry VIII's six wives and I got very curious about his last wife, who outlived him. Still haven't gotten round to reading it though...

9) "Fortune's Daughters" by Elizabeth Kehoe
A biography of three very special sisters, three American heiresses who traveled to Europe to marry impoverished aristocrats.

8) "The Dice Man" by Luke Rhineheart
Apparently a classic and my boyfriend really enjoyed it so now I need to give it a chance because I think I will like it again.

7) "The Outcast" by Sadie Jones
Have you read this one? I got it for a really cheap price but still haven't read it...

6) "The Night Watch" by Sarah Waters
I love "Fingersmith" by Sarah Water so I am sure I will like this one as well. I just need to get it off the shelf...

5) "A Game of Thrones" by George R. R. Martin
This is another book that I have read a few pages of and then forgotten. Why do I do that? It is such a horrible habit! I need to stop it - and I need to read this book that everyone is talking about.

4) "The Black Swan - The Impact of the Highly Improbable" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I've heard a lot of good about this book, it is a non-fiction piece about what happens when something highly improbable but with a huge impact happens. The thing that nobody expects. Just have to get round to it.

3) "1984" by George Orwell
This is actually my boyfriend's book and I have been wanting to read it forever but I am so scared to be disappointed that I shy away... Do you know that feeling?

2) "La Dame aux Camélias" by Alexandre Dumas Fils
One of the books that I really really wanted to get my hands one... Then read a few pages and somehow forgot it again. I liked it though so not sure why?! Will have to return to it soon and read it.

1) "The Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton
A classic! I love the sound of it and it isn't even very long so what is scaring me? I don't know. There is no reason why it keeps gathering dust - so I will have to get around to reading it, sooner rather than later.

13 Nov 2011

Review: "Mercy"

Rarely do I review a book that I didn't enjoy which is mostly because I tend to not finish books that I don't enjoy. Call it lazy, call it silly and ignorant - I can't help it. If I don't enjoy a book, I find it intolerable having to force myself to read it. Not an option. There are exceptions though and this is one of them. "Mercy" by Jussi Adler-Olsen is the first books in a series and I for some unapparent reason started with number four, then number three, then number two and then the first. Strange way of doing it which I don't particularly recommend. Anyway back to topic. I had enjoyed the other three, especially the second one and I thought that I would give this one a go.

The context of the story is one that you have heard many times before... the main character is a policeman who is very very good at his work but who has trouble working with others. His boss is somewhat understanding of this and lets him go and do more or less his own thing on his own. In this case, said policeman, Carl Morck is not entirely on his own, with him he has his cleaner, Assad, who happens to have real talent for policework. Coincidence.
Together these two strange characters get involved with a case of a young, successful, female politician who went missing years ago. And meanwhile the point-of-view shifts from Carl to this young woman, who has been captured and imprisoned in strange room with no windows, no contact to the outside world, while her captors demand that she explain why she did what she did - while she keeps asking why she is there.

So far, so good. This is a pretty run-of-mill crime fiction piece if you ask me. It really didn't impress me. Too predictable and too unimaginative but let me be more specific:

Five things I liked about "Mercy":
1) The dry humour of Carl Morck is pretty great, saves the book actually.
2) The Assad character is quite loveable.
3) The imprisonment part is imaginative and different if really disgusting.
4) Carl Morck's stepson figures a bit in this book and more in the next ones and I have to admit that these descriptions of the sullenness and mood swings of a teenage boy are pretty spot on and funny.
5) ... can't think if one....

Five things I disliked about "Mercy":
1) The title. The original title translates "The Woman in the Cage" which you have to admit is about a 100 times more interesting than "Mercy".
2) The character of the female politician is beyond predictable. She is pretty, she is compassionate, she has nice suitors whom she rejects to dedicate her life to worthier things, she has all the right opinions.... Honestly, it is just too much.
3) The villains are never really explored or explained. In some of Adler-Olsen's later works, he does a much better job of exploring the motives, making it much more interesting to read.
4) The predictability of Carl Morck, the essential renegade policeman. Why are there no crime fiction books about policeman who do things by the book and succeed? It seems like they all have to be rebellious and anti-social, I would like a bit of change please.
5) The political remarks here and there. They are so misplaced and have nothing to do with the story. They end up being really annoying side-remarks that break up the story and promotes the author's political opinions without adding to the story.

So there you go. If you like Scandinavian crime fiction maybe this one is for you. My advice would be to let this one go and head straight for the next book in the series.

8 Nov 2011

Desperately Seeking YA!

I have just published the post below about the books I have bought and I realized that I could really do with some inspiration - especially in the YA department. So please all of you wonderful people out there in blogland, write a comment and recommend a great book that you think I should read :-)

Soon in my mailbox!

It has been a long time since I have bought any books so the other day, I went a little bit crazy and bought quite a few. And now, all I have to do is wait for them to arrive which I must admit is testing my patience. I am currently reading a really really funny non-fiction book about feminism and gender equality (it is so funny that I keep giggling when I am reading it on the way from work!) but I have to say that I long for that special feeling of being absolutely absorbed in a good book.
So hopefully on of these beauties will make me feel exactly that:

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

The London Satyr by Robert Edric

The Cure by Rachel Genn

From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma

However... I want to get a few more. Do you have any suggestions?

5 Nov 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Reading Outside the Comfort Zone

Tuesday = Top Ten. If you don't know what I mean go to The Broke and The Bookish who created this amazing meme. This week's theme is Ten Books That I Read That Were Outside Of My Comfort Zone - doesn't matter if you liked them or not.

10) "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer
Vampires? As if I'd ever read a book about vampires... well, that all changed post-Twilight.

9) "Londonstani" by Gautam Malkani
English is not my first language and slang and ghetto/East End/London speak was way out of my comfort zone when I read this one. It took me a bit to figure out how to read but it was absolutely worth it!

8) The Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo
Crime fiction is not something that I read a lot of. Actually I more or less never read it unless somebody really recommends a specific book. However, I borrowed some of the Harry Hole books on audio to listen to on the way to work and got hooked on anti-here main character, the classic renegade, alcoholic policeman with a talent for hunting serial killers.

7) "Until The Final Hour" by Traudl Junge
Real life stories is not something that I really read a lot. Just don't find it that interesting but this one is different. It is the story of Traul Junge, the young women who was a secretary to Hitler and who was in the bunker with him until the final hour. A little piece of history.

6)"Just a Girl" and "They Sent a Woman" by Lise NoergaardNot sure that ehse have been translated into English but these were the first biographies I read and I must have been 13 or 14 years old. They are amazing, all about being a girl in a time when boys were worth much more and a girl was... well, just a girl.

5)"The Ice House" by Minette WaltersThis was one of the first adult books I read and definitely the first crime fiction. I found it during vacation time when going through my parents shelves, desperate for something to read. The cover was very artsy with lots of bright colours and I was very taken with it.

4) "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood
I thought I didn't like dystopian - actually was quite sure that I hated it - until I read this one. Now one of my fave books ever.

3)"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane AustenThis one figures on almost all my lists! And I do love it so it makes sense... When I read P&P it was the first time I read a real English classic. Totally out of my comfort zone (preferred chick lit) but Colin Firth in a wet shirt had tempted me too much - I had to read it. I am so happy that I did!

2) "Anne of Green Gables" by L. M. Montgomery
When I just starting reading, for years most of what I read was books about horses. There were a few classic contemporarty childrens books as well but mostly I loved the ones with horses. Then the older sister of a friend recommended "Anne of Green Gables" and from then on a whole new world opened to me.

1) "Collected Poems" John Betjeman
I don't actually read a lot of poetry but I go back to the collected poems of John Betjeman again and again and again. Bought the books out of curiosity as it was really cheap and I just fell in love with the words and the style. I even have some of his poems recorded on my ipod. Amazing, amazing artist.

Review: "Forbidden"

The story of how I came to actually read "Forbidden" by Tabitha Suzuma is a bit stumbly. I read a blogger review and bought it immediately, received it in the mail and kind of changed my mind... then left it on shelf for a few weeks, decided to give it a try, read two pages and gave up. Then desperately needed something to read before an afternoon nap last weekend (I know, I'm in my mid-20s but had worked out and been for a long walk so needed sleep) and decided to give it a second chance. And then something happened because I never got that nap. Never went to the shops to buy food, neglected to cook a nice dinner for my boyfriend as I had planned and spent the afternoon and evening reading. The first three hours I didn't even move but then my boyfriend came to say that he would go buy take-away at which point I relocated from bed to sofa. Without letting go of the book for a moment... I read it until I had turned the last page and then I spent days thinking about the characters and story.

Maybe you've heard about the plot already - it has been given some attention in the blogosphere. "Forbidden" is about five siblings who are just children but who have to take on adult responsibilities because their dad has left and their mother is too busy drinking and being with her boyfriend. The two oldest are Lochan and Maya who not only have to go to school but also have to be parents to their siblings, one of whom is only five and one who is a troublesome teenage boy with a rebellious side. Lochan is ambitious and responsible, willing to do anything for his family and a star pupil. He is also shy to a degree where it becomes a disability. Maya does okay in school and she is well-liked and has lots of friends. But she is a 16-year-old girl who lives the life of a 30-year-old mother of three. All the have is each other and one day brother and sister fall in love.
Now you are probably thinking something along the lines of sick, disgusting, creepy, wrong. But actually I didn't think it was - I was far more affected by the neglect of the parents, the pure and utter lack of love and responsibility, than I was about the sister/brother relationship.
By the end of this book I was ready to adopt the lot of them. They were so real to me and I felt so horrible for them, I was so sad when the book was over, I just wanted more. Which is why I am very happy that Tabitha Suzuma has written several other books that I will definitely be reading soon!

3 Nov 2011

Review: "Heart-Shaped Box"

I love real old-fashioned rockn'n'roll and the real rock'n'roll bands where the band members are no longer musicians but icons. The main character of Joe Hill's "Heart-Shaped Box" is one of those icons.
Judas Coyne (not the name he grew up with but the name he chose when he decided to dedicate his life to rock'n'roll) is an American hard rock icon who is now no longer a young, energetic biting-heads-of-bats type singer but a man in his 50's who is a little tired. He lives a rather quiet life on his farm with a personal assistant to take care of all of the practical stuff and a 26-year-old, gorgeous girlfriend to take care of his ego. His only real love is for his dogs - the personal assistant he regards as a strange necessity and the girlfriends are named for the states they are from, not who they are. In lieu of a real hobby and as part of his image, Jude collects odd things. Things that other people would regard with fear or suspicion or disgust. So when somebody is auctioning off an old suit and a ghost. Curious but disbelieving Jude buys it and then it goes horribly wrong. Because the suit does actually come with a real ghost, a real and very evil-spirited ghost that is out to get Jude, this is a ghost that holds a grudge. It all relates to Jude's ex-girlfriend, the frail and vulnerable Florida and the ghost has been sold to Jude by her older sister.

I would love to write me but I don't want to spoil anything so I will leave the story here and tell you why I really really enjoyed this book. It is a bit of gem really, different from any other book I have read - the only book that it reminds me of is "Horns", also by Joe Hill, but I liked "Heart-Shaped Box" better, mostly because of the characters. The storyline in "Horns" is much more interesting and different and cool but the characters of "Heart-Shaped Box" are outstanding.
I very quickly warmed to Jude, the rock'n'roll antiquity who is still wearing leather trousers even though he would probably prefer slippers. He is so clueless and that makes him likeable and cute actually. He also develops a lot through the book, discovering parts of himself that he seems to have lost while living life in the fast lane. And then there is his girlfriend, Georgia, who is one cool chick. A real tough girl on the outside but with a heart of gold, she takes no b-s from her less than charming boyfriend... Together they make quite a couple as they roadtrip through the south to get rid of a ghost.

You will like "Heart-Shaped Box" if: You enjoyed "Horns" by Joe Hill, if you are intrigued by Ozzy Osbourne and Mick Jagger or if you have ever bought something on Ebay that you didn't really know what was...