Tag Archives: books


Wow, so, hey! What a turn up for the books (pun always intended). Let’s catch you up:

I still haven’t finished Rivka’s Christmas present and her birthday is right around the corner as well. Oops! She’s super into scarves and headwrapping at the moment though so I imagine a couple of lovely layering linens will go down a treat. Or maybe that’s to throw her off the scent and I’m going to buy her books. Or make her something… Hmmm… I guess in a month we’ll find out.

I am still reading. Always reading. Not doing very well with Book Bingo. A lot of the books I have don’t fit into those categories… but I’m working on it. There’s no time limit, right? Right?

I have, however, read an amazing debut novel from Paul M M Cooper. River of Ink is a sumptuous narrative set in Sri Lanka in the thirteenth century. Cooper himself hesitates to call it ‘historical fiction’ (as you can hear for yourselves in the Papertrail podcast interview he did). I can see why: it’s very much a character piece so really the history side of it is just the window dressing. But it’s an extremely beautiful window. The story is told by Asanka the court poet. He is translating an epic saga poem for his new master. The world of Sri Lanka is exquisitely constructed – Cooper has clearly done a lot of research and I think spent time over there getting to know his locations firsthand – and the language is poetic, as you would expect, but not laboured.


Asanka is narrating the tale to his lover, who appears in the tale as well, and his relationship with her also tells us a lot about his character. Asanka is quite set in his ways but if he considers something worthwhile he will stubbornly and doggedly pursue it. He excuses his transgressions on occasion, while being critical of others, but the strength he doesn’t know he has slowly comes to the surface. He is a reluctant hero, and he fights his war with words. Be in no doubt: it is a story of conflict and violence and death, but Cooper weaves those harsh moments deftly through the real point of the story. He clearly very much loves words and language and poetry. Hang on, do I mean Asanka or Cooper? Both. Oh, very both.

I had the joy or reading part of this book in a beautifully painted roulotte caravan and being surrounded by peacock motifs, turquoise, purples and greens while reading on a chaise longue was almost like heaven. I mean, I don’t think I can attribute that to Cooper, but hey why not.

Other than listening to some audiobook Neverwhere (narrated by Neil Gaiman himself who as you know is not always my favourite person but at least he gets to make the characters sound the way he intended them to and he doesn’t do a bad job) I have almost from nowhere discovered podcasts. I know. I’ve always been behind the curve. My friend Jim told me I should listen to Hello, From the Magic Tavern and since I always listen to Jim I did so. Fifty episodes in, I’m now trying to eke them out as I don’t want to catch up so quickly and run out of them! Waiting for a new episode every week is for losers #Netflixgeneration


If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a comedy podcast hosted by Arnie Niekamp from Chicago. He fell through a dimensional portal in a Burger King drive-thru and landed in a magical land called Foon. He hosts the podcast (so lucky that he had the equipment with him in his car!) from a tavern called the Vermillion Minotaur and usually he co-hosts with a wizard called Usidore and a shapeshifter called Chunt. They have local guests and tell stories and Arnie is trying to get his head around life in Foon. It’s mostly improvised and they do try to trip each other up a little, but the continuity is great and they’ve really built a bizarre and wonderful world. My personal favourite episodes usually involve Mittens (the national sport of Foon) and its weird rules, Glenn Miller & Spants the travelling bards, or more recently the episode called Offices & Bosses, which is about a roleplaying game that is popular in Foon. You may not need me to tell you the premise of that. Also any time a wizard introduces themselves they do so with their full name including all nicknames and regional variations. The first time I heard Spintax the Green’s full name I could not stop laughing for a literal five minutes.

It’s rude, it’s bold and it’s hilarious. You currently have 62 episodes to get through. What are you waiting for?

Next projects… well… I’m sewing a manticore onto a cushion cover. As one does. Also trying to be more accountable to my creativeness. I was thinking about this the other day – I will always have projects on the go of one sort or another. I will write, I will stitch, I will take the vacuum apart and put it back together again (guess what I did yesterday?) or occasionally I may even draw. I need those things. But not in the same way I used to. As a teen, I wrote a lot (A LOT) of awkward angsty poetry. I wrote fanfiction. I wrote angry cathartic stories. I did some other things, too, like friendship bracelets and weird sketches and things. All that, I feel, was partly due to my latent personality being desperate for recognition.

Since hitting my twenties, and since finding decent friends and a fulfilling lifestyle, that focus has shifted. I don’t have to pretend to be “normal” whatever that means. No more Suzy-Highschool. So that drive to pour my real self into stories or fabric or drawing (and the odd cringeworthy song) has become less necessary. I am who I am on the outside now. Luckily. I may have a few grey hairs but I’m also independent, employed, in a great relationship… despite being a massive nerd and weirdo. So hoorah for that! Now I get to do the projects I want to do. Make things that are pretty or that I know others will like as gifts. I get to do for fun what I used to do for sanity.

Screw the normals! Well, actually, don’t screw them, because in my experience they’re not very good at it. To mix in another metaphor: I’m not hungry for it any more. My soul isn’t starving. I can nibble, and I want a snack, but I don’t need a big banquet of brain release. I’m happier. So that’s a good thing. Less productive maybe, but I’m productive in other ways. Emotional bridges, a little bit of mindfulness, taking care of my body, just actually chilling out… all the things I couldn’t really do when I was younger. I may be growing as a person. Horrifying.

And now for bacon. And listening to podcasts.


Filed under Books, My ramblings

A Stitch in Time

This week, I have mostly been… well, I’m not really sure. I’ve not been doing much reading, I’ve done no writing, so I must have been working on Rivka’s Christmas surprise! And I have. I’m writing an update post for that soon, scheduled for after Christmas Day.

VERY EXCITING THOUGH: Katie Cross has sent me a copy of The High Priest’s Daughter and I am clearing the decks for that one. I will be tucked up early tonight so I can dive back into Antebellum and the crisis in the Central Network. I hope there are more dragons.

VERY EXCITING THING THE SECOND: A very clever chap I know has been giving me sneaky previews of his new book. E O Higgins is powering up his steam-word-processing-engine and bringing us a sequel to Conversations with Spirits (eventually).

Slow progress with all other book type things. Though I did catch a bit of Roald Dahl day last weekend. His books – particularly Matilda (guess why) and The Witches – were some of the most-read on my shelves. And as I got older, I graduated to the short story collections for more grown up readers. The macabre and twisted worlds he created, with their often grotesque inhabitants… well, there was no one like him. The Hitchhiker, Man from the South, Royal Jelly to name a few, freaked me out but kept me hooked to the very last sentence.

Rivka taught me dragonscale smocking the other week. It was a crazy Saturday smocking party in the Highlands! I think technically it’s a type of American smocking, but we know it mainly from the costume lady on Game of Thrones because she used it to make the textured scale effect on Daenerys’s blue dresses. But it looks really cool. It’s puffy, but you can iron it flat. Rivka has done more of it than me, but I might find a use for it…

So baaaasically I’ve been crafting and working. And not getting enough sleep. But I’m working on it. I have some holiday coming up in a few weeks that is going to be hectic (understatement) but productive. And then NaNoWriMo. Holy swearwords!

And now, back up to the attic…


Filed under Books, Crafting, My ramblings

Jogging my memory

Currently reading: C C Humphreys, Vlad

Hey you guys! I must be back at work full time because my online presence is virtually nil! The last few weeks I have mostly been planning and prepping for winter projects. And working. And, as a shock to me let alone anyone else, doing more exercise. All I need to do now is add blogging to the routine.

I’m still working through my TBR pile, and matching it to Book Bingo. So far I have crossed off two from the bingo board:

Author from another culture: Isabel Allende, Daughter of Fortune

Been on the to-read pile for more than 2 years: Stephen Hunt, Secrets of the Fire Sea

book bingo

Slowly getting through Vlad. It’s hard to place for me because the late fifteenth century in the Ottoman Empire region is not something I know much about. So I have no idea how well-researched it is. But it’s a very butch read at the moment. Teen bravado and mysticism and a bit of brooding.

Coming up next will be a project post for a little bag I made for my friend’s daughter for her gym kit. Hopefully I will explain it alright and the pictures will make sense!

I’m very aware that November is looming its ugly, cold, drizzly head. And with that comes NaNoWriMo. The annual scramble to remember our logins begins soon. Last year we came back to the news that our amazing ML had passed away, and it was a sad time to be a writer in Scotland Elsewhere region. But we pulled together a great little group for write-ins in Inverness and did her proud! Rivka and I met at a write-in, and kept in touch leading to us moving in together. Last year we met, amongst others, two lovely guys that we have also kept in touch with and now count as good friends.


Writing, though it can be a very individual pursuit, is what has brought me into contact with so many lovely and talented people. Handily, we converse through words on the Internet a lot of the time, but our little local group also has dinners and coffee and games nights. Last time we met up, we played Exploding Kittens and Articulate and laughed until we hurt. So I hope we have a similar experience this year and find another couple of weirdos to add to our wordy family. Regardless of how many words we write (though I’m sure Rivka will zoom past 50k as she always does) we still win.

So that’s what I’m up to. Preparing to clear the decks for Katie Cross again – her next book, The High Priest’s Daughter, comes out in TEN FREAKIN’ DAYS on 15th September and she has once again kindly allowed me to have an ARC. I’m excited but with it being really tense now… ooooh. What next? How will it end?


An end of trilogy coming up soon – Rivka has just about finished Coven so the end of the Last Ancient series is approaching… I think at the end of the month? Then she has A Kiss from the Grave on the cards for a spooky Hallowe’en release. It’s a horror story with possession and demons and apparently you won’t sleep with the lights off for a while. In case you missed it, here’s the book trailer. 100% real, no CGI effects!

Now onto the next job: putting the kettle on! Stay hip and happening, you crazy cats.

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Currently reading: Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor

I’ve been reorganising the site a little. And a new tab up there at the top is a list of all the books I own that I’ve not yet read. I’m trying to get through some backlog before buying more. Ha. I already have my beady eyes on a few little things… So far, though, I have resisted. But my birthday is coming up… hint… hint? I’ll be crossing books off as I read them, and if I post reviews I’ll link them there. I won’t review all of them, but no doubt there will be some I can’t help blabbering about. I’ll try to do a ‘currently reading’ at the top of blog posts if I remember.

My current read will be getting a review. No question. I stared at the shelves when I got home from work last night and didn’t really feel like reading anything (gasp!) so it was sort of grudgingly that I picked up DOGAM. Don’t get me wrong, I was aching to read it, and it is surpassing my wildest dreams so far, but I just didn’t feel up to engaging with any text yesterday. I was two hundred pages in before I realised it had happened. So now I’m back at work and itching to get home because I want so much to do all the reading. All together now… #What a difference a day makes… Twenty-four little hours….

Otherwise, I’ve given myself a new deadline. Scary. I’m going on holiday with some girls from uni at the end of July, and I’m going to try to get the Once Bitten draft done, and a little tidied before I go. So they can read it. I’m not talking super-edited. But readable. They were there when it was begun. They’re in it (currently, but likely to face the chop as there’s too much beginning to the story) and they have been waiting six years to see how it ends. *shrug* So that’s a thing. Then I can get back to the slightly more grown-up projects. Like the steampunk vampire murder… um… or the sci-fi interdimensional bubbles thing… um… oh crap and the fey folk thing… *sigh* Get in line, already!

Finally, Katie Cross has been in touch that the ARCs for Mildred’s Resistance are starting to come through, so I’ll be hopping up and down by the letterbox in a couple of weeks waiting for that. And then the full third book The High Priest’s Daughter to follow in the autumn!! I am one lucky lady. If you don’t know why that’s exciting, take a look at Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and you’ll see what I mean.

And just to get you grooving, a bit of Wednesday on a Wednesday.

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Review – Eden Daire 1+2

The Garden of Good and Eden – Paulette Oakes

Getting Eden – Paulette Oakes

I read both available Eden Daire books one after the other, having found them through a random RT and thought the premise was interesting. I have to mention that there were a few typos in the books, though my review is on the content. There were only a few – maybe five or six over the two books – but I can’t not mention it, if I’m on the side of “as professional as you can get” for publishing.

Here’s the blurb for The Garden of Good and Eden:

Eden Daire has known her whole life that she was different than everyone else. Not just because she was adopted into a large Catholic family in rural Kentucky, but because she could do things that no one else could do. Things like make plants grow at will, communicate with animals, and even heal them when they were sick. No one seems to have any answers: not her family members, her mysterious best friend Amara, or even the hundreds of books she devours looking for clues. All that changes on the eve of her 25th birthday when her whole world comes crashing down around her to reveal secrets and creatures she had never known existed. And they all seem to think that she is the key to an ancient prophecy that will topple kingdoms. On top of all that, a different type of threat is looming over her beloved family and she’s the only one that can stop it in its tracks. How will she balance the love and commitment she feels to her adopted family and the new power and responsibility that comes with finally getting the answers to her past? Her world will never be the same again…

Right, then. On the whole I enjoyed these books, taken as they are. I didn’t really have to stretch my brain, but they were fun and the story was engaging. The pace was good and the over-arching story has so much potential that the two sub-stories that make up these books are given proper treatment and come to satisfactory conclusions. I wasn’t sure if these are YA or not, I don’t think so, and there is some (non-gratuitous) swearing.

The main premise is that there are three warring factions: Earth, Sky and Sea. Eden, the protagonist, is at the centre of this conflict. She lives in Kentucky, with a huge extended family (more on that later) and has always been different. She just didn’t know exactly how different until her 25th birthday. The author uses the Greek pantheon in the main part, with the addition of vampires (more on that later) fey/fairies and were-cougars. As the story progresses, the tension between the human world and the supernatural world builds nicely and Eden gets some good meaty decisions to make about her destiny.

There are some great characters in store if you pick up these books – Demetrius the satyr is cheesy and fun, but the joke of his stereotypical randiness doesn’t get old, and there’s some juicy backstory there that begs to be explored in future books. The brownies, Brother and Sister, also manage to avoid Jar Jar Binks territory and stay on the cute side of “creature sidekick”. Terra, Eden’s mother, comes across as a little cold, but it’s understandable given the situation she is in, and it’s good that Oakes doesn’t make her the traditional “Earth Mother”, soppy, tearful kind of woman.

The powers that Terra and Eden share are clearly defined and demonstrated, and are finite. This is a good decision on the part of the author, as too many of these sorts of books have a DESTINED ONE who is too ridiculously powerful. This also gives Eden’s powers room to grow as she matures and learns to control them. The relationship Eden has with Sheba, her dog, is very well done – part Lyra/Pan, part Dr Doolittle, and the traffic isn’t all one way; Sheba is pretty smart!

A lot of the style of these books reminds me of the Southern Vampire books by Charlaine Harris. Eden is very forthright, and doesn’t spend a lot of time agonising over how other people might react to what she says or does. She is a strong young woman, and acts decisively. She is one of the younger members of her sprawling family, and that’s where I struggled to keep up a little. Eden has so many relatives I just had to let it wash over me. The family is well-established with nicknames and all their spouses and children and businesses, but really apart from Aaron, Sue and Josey in the first book, and then Mac and Cheese and Pharaoh in the second, you don’t really need to be able to tell the others apart. By dint of being juuuust outside The South, the Daires avoid total hillbilly, huge redneck family status, but only just. Maybe that’s my cultural bias, as a Brit.

The main issue I had with her family is that they’re all just too easily accepting. Not even one cousin has a problem (and there are many cousins) with Eden’s powers and the danger they’re all put into because of it. I know they all grew up with her, and it’s all about acceptance, but really? There is some family conflict in Getting Eden with Starla and Pharaoh, which makes up for this a little. The other thing is that despite being twenty-four years old, successful or not, too many of the older family defer to her. Yes, she has magical greenfingers, but the Daire family have their own skills and ventures and intelligence. That Eden just assumes responsibility for sorting out the Tuckers and the protesting – and calling lawyers on the family’s behalf! – was a bit of a stretch, that again not even one older uncle or aunt had an issue with this girl wading in and saying she’s got it all under control.

The other big gripe I have with this series is the inclusion of vampires. There was already so much stuff to play with: all kinds of nymphs and dryads, satyrs, maenads, sirens, witches and the godheads themselves. I don’t think it needed vampires as well. Or fey and brownies either, if I’m being strict about it. Or dwarves and gnomes. But the vampires… I felt like the grandson in the Princess Bride, being tricked into reading a kissing book. Granted, the main vampire character, Patrick, is not a constant presence and the rest of the story chugs along nicely, but why not a dryad or a minotaur? Or an Amazon, since the author is happy to include homosexual relationships with side characters (hoorah for normalising non-hetero couples!). As Demetrius himself asks, in The Garden of Good and Eden, “always with the vampires! What is the big obsession with vampires and werewolves? Is it the fangs? The mystery and romanticism of the night?”

This comes up when Eden is learning about who and what she is, with Terra and Demetrius telling her that myths are partly true. So she’s sitting with a satyr and mother Earth, and she doesn’t ask about anything else from the Greek mythology, despite having that used as an example. By the satyr. Eden has read Greek myths. But she doesn’t ask about Hercules, or Mount Olympus, or the Percy Jackson books; she goes straight to vampires. It sort of jarred with the rest of the story. Like Oakes sort of wanted to write a vampire romance but tucked it away inside an already strong premise. As I said, though, Patrick is not around all the time and hopefully in the next book the vampires will be out of the picture.

I am interested to see where the story goes, and will be keeping an eye out for the next one. I want to see Amara develop, and more of the Storm Riders, and Boone getting more badass. There is such a lot to tease out with this world, and I think it will only go from strength to strength. The fight scenes are snappy, the main characters are established and the conflict is engaging and not too soapy.

You can follow Paulette Oakes on Twitter here.

The Garden of Good and Eden (Eden Daire 1) is available from Amazon UK here. For 99p! Worth a punt 🙂

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Book A Day Challenge Week 4

The final week. Only two months late. Fail. But still, now I can go back to normal blog posts that will hopefully happen a bit more frequently. I heard there was a second one running through July. Haha. Jog on, son.

Day 22 – Out of print

The Log of the Ark – Kenneth Walker (illus. G Boumphrey)

log of the ark

This is a lovely children’s book from 1923, though I first read it when I was already an adult. It is a different take on the story of Noah’s Ark, featuring talking animals and a few now sadly extinct species such as Luminous Puffins and Wumpety-Dumps. It is funny and heart-breaking and beautifully explains why some animals hunt others. All the animals start off as friends, but by the end of the journey (through the slimy, nefarious deeds of the Scub) tensions are mounting… If you ever find a copy; grab it. The one on our shelf is falling apart from numerous re-reads.


Day 23 – Made to read at school

Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy


Writing essays about books often ruins them forever, but I still think fondly about Far From the Madding Crowd. I’m not desperate to read it again, mind, but when you wade through the bucolic idyll there’s some weighty issues in there. Illegitimacy, women’s lib, sex and death and obsession… it’s all there. Like the Archers before the Archers.


Day 24 – Hooked me into reading

Redwall – Brian Jacques


For all I stole my sister’s books, or got in fights with her, she sometimes read to me when I was little. I have no idea why this occasionally happened. I asked her one day what she was reading, and it was Redwall and she started to read it to me. Wow, what a story! I must have been seven or eight? I could of course read for myself by then, but the Redwall series isn’t exactly light on word-count. By the time I was in secondary, I was pinching the series from her, but it was that first telling of Redwall that lit the fire of storytelling in my brain. Thank you, sister!


Day 25 – Never finished it

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell  – Susanna Clarke


This would seem right up my alley, wouldn’t it? But… meh… I just couldn’t get to grips with it. It’s still on my shelf, and I keep promising to re-visit it one day. It’s survived various house moves without getting given away. This winter’s project, perhaps?


Day 26 – Should have sold more copies


I have no idea. I don’t really know if the books I buy are bestsellers or not. All of the books on this list over the whole month I would implore people to buy, or borrow from somewhere. How would I even find out if they sold well? I mean, I can give you some recommendations… Twelve by Jasper Kent is for horror and history fans, Masquerade by Rivka Spicer is for dark romance and urban fans – no fifty shades stuff though – and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is for sci-fi, modern exoticism fans.


Day 27 – Want to be one of the characters

Harry Potter and the… – J K Rowling


I mean, come on, I pretty much AM Hermione Granger.


Day 28 – Bought at my favourite independent bookshop

Every cross stitch pattern book a person could possibly want. *pleased sigh* The below is only a selection.



Day 29 – The one I have re-read most often


I have a cadre of favourites that I cycle between. Ready, Player One, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Pride and Prejudice, Chocolat and Feet of Clay. Bitch got range, y’all. Above all of those though, I think I’ve probably read The Girl Guide Handbook more than anything else in my life, ever.


Day 30 – The book I’d save if my house were burning down

Conversations with Spirits – E O Higgins


Like trying to decide which child to save… this was super tough. But given the rainbow-vomit review I did of this book, I had to pick it. If nothing else, he signed the darn thing, so in 100 years when my grandchildren are talking to the android of Fiona Bruce on Antiques Roadshow, hopefully it’ll help them retire to Mars. Plus it is an amazing marble statue of a book.


Well, that’s it, folks! Please look back over all thirty days’ worth, or trawl through the #bookadayuk hashtag on Twitter to find some great reads. My TBR pile grows larger every day…

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Book A Day Challenge Week 2

Time for the #bookadayuk week two collection!

Out of all the things that are my favourite things, books are definitely and forever top of the list. Sorry, potential future husband! I am both envious of and have sympathy for the poor people in the @boroughpress offices who are retweeting, favouriting and commenting way outside of office hours. Are you abusing some poor intern, Borough Press??? Good.


Day 8 – More than one copy

JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

They put a spell on me

They put a spell on me

I own this book in three languages: English, French and Spanish. I will one day own the whole series in all three. I’m currently at Eng 7, Fr 3 and Esp 1. I am a first-gen Potter fan. I was turning eleven when book one came out and I spent all summer waiting for my letter. PS is the only book in the series (in English) that I have in paperback. I couldn’t wait for the paperback for the rest. I think waiting for the next Potter book was my introduction to the frustration of reading ongoing series.


Day 9 – Film or TV tie-in


I read them first! Before they were pictures!

I read them first! Before they were pictures!

I tend to avoid buying books that have the film-related cover. I don’t think I have any of those! I have a fair few books that have since been made into films or TV shows, though!


Day 10 – Reminds me of someone I love

David Gemmell, Echoes of the Great Song

Not the original one I borrowed (which was beautiful) but the awful CGI reprint.

Not the original one I borrowed (which was beautiful) but the awful CGI reprint.

One of the first Gemmell books I read was a creased, well-thumbed paperback of Echoes that I was lent by my best friend. Whenever I read it, I think of him, and the journey we have taken together so far. Can’t wait to see where we go next.


Day 11 – Secondhand bookshop gem

Gaelic Self-taught

Ciamar a tha thu?

Ciamar a tha thu?

Language and learning languages is a big part of my life and now I live in the Highlands, it seems more important to tackle Gaelic (pronounced ‘gallic’ in Scotland) and this very dry, old-school, much re-printed little book will at some point be my guide. When I’m not busy doing everything else.


Day 12 – I pretend to have read it

Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Getting dusty

Getting dusty

I bought it, it sits on my shelf… that’s where it’s been for years. I know exactly what happens in the story, so now I never have to read it. I studied Far From the Madding Crowd at GCSE (pre-Gove) and sort of enjoyed it, so I bought Tess and now it sits there, judging me. Like buying a gym membership and never going.


Day 13 – One that makes me laugh

George Macdonald Fraser, The Pyrates

Always a great read, sa-ha!

Always a great read, sa-ha!

Fraser also wrote the Flashman books, if you’re thinking you know the name. My dad is a big fan and while I never got into Flashman, I did repeatedly steal The Pyrates. It’s anachronistic, farcical in places, and in a way similar in style to the Princess Bride. It takes all the best of pirate stereotypes and puts them in 1950s Technicolour. Think Danny Kaye’s The Court Jester mixed with a pinch of Carry On and The Voyages of Sinbad. It makes me laugh every time.


Day 14 – an old favourite

Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes

Utterly charming

Utterly charming

Another one that I liberated from my sister’s shelf. I have never read any of the other Shoe books, though I often think about it. Ballet Shoes is such a charming book. It tells the story of three adopted sisters who choose a surname for themselves as they don’t belong to anyone else. They grow up in London and end up at a stage school because their guardian can’t afford to send them anywhere else. Pauline, the oldest, is blonde and blue-eyed and becomes a good actress. Posy, the youngest, is the daughter of a ballet dancer and thinks with her feet. And in the middle is Petrova who would rather make meccano models than do embroidery. The sisters grow up fast in a house full of lodgers who are needed to pay the rent. Everything turns out alright in the end of course.


Don’t forget to use the tag #bookadayuk if you’re joining in at home, and keeeeeep reading!

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Book A Day Challenge Week 1

If you follow me on Twitter (and if not, why not?) you’ll have seen that I’ve been taking part in the Book A Day challenge. Every day in June there was a different prompt or category of book to find. I thought I would collate my responses here, so that I could give a bit more of the stories behind each choice, as 140 characters doesn’t give me a lot of room for that.

Day 1 – Childhood favourite

Alan Garner, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

Best 4 shillings I wasn't alive to spend.

Best 4 shillings I wasn’t alive to spend.

I have posted about this book before. The copy I have is the 1963 trade paperback and it cost four shillings, back in the day. I snaffled it from my sister’s bookshelf along with the sequel, The Moon of Gomrath. I think both books were snaffled by my sister from my dad.

Why it’s a favourite: It’s a tale of two children drawn into an epic battle of good versus evil, right on their doorstep. It takes place in the real world (it actually does!) and it seeps into their mundane lives. Anyone could be an evil warlock! The owls in the barn are watchers sent by dwarves! Mineshafts are the entrances to a hidden goblin kingdom! Throughout the tale are elements of Arthurian legend, Welsh mythology and dark magic. It’s a pretty tense tale for a children’s book. It doesn’t talk down to the reader. I still read it now!


Day 2 – Best bargain

Clive Barker, Weaveworld

£3.95 at time of publication

£3.95 at time of publication

Clive Barker in 1988

Clive Barker in 1988


Apart from the picture of Clive Barker, circa 1988, in the back of the book, which was worth the £1 I paid alone, this is a stunner of a book. A whole civilisation woven into a rug to keep it safe? Some of the plot turns take a while to get your head around, and I didn’t immediately warm to Cal, the main character, but it just sucks you in and keeps going! Might have to re-read it… if only there were room on the “to-read” shelf!


Day 3 – A book with a blue cover

Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Can't wait to read it!!

Can’t wait to read it!!

Finally! The end of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy… I’ve not even opened it yet… it’s my latest real-book purchase. It is firmly at the top of the to-read pile. Ah, Karou… I’ve missed you! I need to hurry up and read it, because Rivka has been waiting for it too!

This prompt was based on the bookshop/library trope that people wander in and ask for “that book with the blue cover”, assuming the poor staff will know exactly what they mean.

Bonus: Here’s a round-up of all my blue-covered books! Extra points if you can name all the hidden ones at the back!




Day 4 – Your least favourite book by your favourite author

Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride


This one didn’t steal my heart.

I began my affair with Atwood when I yoinked my sister’s copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, aged 15. She had studied it at A Level and it was covered in her notes and highlighting. Considering the themes of the book, it was a good thing I had those annotations to help me get my teeth into the text in front of me. I’ve since read a handful of her books and though there may be books I’ve re-read more often, and books that are my favourites-of-all, Atwood is my favourite author. I love her style, I love the imagery she creates and I love her complex characters.

The Robber Bride is my least favourite of the books I’ve read. Perhaps in my desperation to read all her back catalogue I was too eager to realise that this book requires some life experience. I just didn’t engage with the characters because at the time I read it, I couldn’t really sympathise with them. My experience of love and betrayal and lies was limited at that point. My life did not revolve around matrimony and suburbia and the middle classes, which of course it totally does now I’m staring down the barrel of my late twenties. I think if I read it again I would connect with it better. I have no doubt I would best identify with Zenia.


Day 5 – The one that isn’t yours

Stephen King, Duma Key



I confess, I have never read a Stephen King book. I have no desire to read the Dark Tower series; I don’t care how much you like them. I live extremely far away from pretty much everyone I am good friends with (before I met the good friends I made since moving) so when anyone from the time B.H. (Before Highlands) visits, it’s a heck of a trip.

Last year, one of those friends – an old uni housemate actually – hired some native guides and trekked all the way up here. She brought a couple of books with her, and she left Duma Key behind when she left. She says it’s good, but it just sits on my shelf in the living room so people think I’ve read it. She doesn’t want it back, either, as she is a bit crap at caring about her possessions. I’ll give it away eventually.


Day 6 – The one you always give as a gift

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

This book contains the best drawing of a sheep ever.

This book contains the best drawing of a sheep ever.

I don’t actually give books as gifts very often. I’m an extremely good gift-giver (right, J?) but on balance I’ve likely received 98% more books than I’ve given. I will give book tokens/vouchers, but people’s reading taste can be a bit too hard to judge if I don’t know them super well.

I have, however, given The Little Prince as a gift. It’s a book I own in three languages – English, French and Spanish – and one I fall in love with every time. Part of that is knowing the story of Exupéry himself, and part of that is the Prince. The story is bittersweet and timeless; a lost child in search of a way home and the adventures he has had along the way. It’s almost an Odyssey or a fairy tale. Even though I know how it ends, I still hope it will turn out differently but alas the type refuses to adjust itself.


Day 7 – Forgot I owned it

Mervyn Peake, The Gormenghast Trilogy

Gormen-ghastly to forget about it.

Gormen-ghastly to forget about it.

I am of course psychically linked to all my books, like a hivemind or a weird hoarder, so I don’t tend to forget I own books. I’m like a walking card catalogue for my precious, precious tomes. Gormenghast has been on my to-read shelf for ages, though, and my eyes tend to skip over it. Not because I don’t want to read it. No, no. I watched the BBC mini-series with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and fell hard. I am itching to read this book. I just want to do it justice. I want to have the time to read a decent chunk of it at once and not random snatches. I have read the first few chapters already. But now it languishes. That’s as close to forgotten as I get.


There’s still time to join in #bookaday or #bookadaychallenge on Twitter. The list of prompts is below. It’s been a great month so far and I’ve made a few literary connections already. It genuinely fills me with hope for the human race that there are other people out there in the world who enjoy language, literature and the amazing infinity of words and knowledge as much as I do (and possibly more). It sounds really twee, or insincere, but I feel like I’m part of the coolest club on Earth. And there’s still three weeks to go!



#bookaday click to enlarge



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Depth of the Ocean

Right. At the moment I am re-reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Mr Neil “Pretention is genuinely my middle name; check my gold filigree birth certificate” Gaiman. Just joking. It’s carved into a narwhal horn.

In all seriousness, I do like a lot of stuff Gaiman writes: Stardust, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys and one of the best New Who episodes, The Doctor’s Wife. No disputing, when he’s on form he’s pretty good. My main issue with him is the massive fuss over American Gods which is overlong and the tangent sections are way more fun than the main story.

Anyway, Ocean. I mentioned on the Fantasy Faction forums that as a “child story for adults”, I prefer the superb The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Mind you, I’ve read that more often. They have some similarities: a young boy obsessed with books, a trickster, a quest to save a family member from doom, and some personal growth along the way.

TBOLT is a little darker, in true fairy tale style. I think it is perhaps a little unfair as Connolly adapts a lot of existing stories (the stories from the books on David’s shelf) and weaves them through the narrative whereas Gaiman’s tale follows the structure but with completely his own characters. Perhaps that familiarity is what I prefer about TBOLT, or perhaps it’s the descent into almost the unheimlich (showing off my university education there, folks) that I like about it. The unheimlich, or uncanny, is something familiar that is twisted into the unfamiliar, or something that should be safe that is dangerous, or something that at a glance looks normal but on closer inspection isn’t. The uncanny is a lot of things: overly realistic dolls, or living dolls (Chucky is a good example); mirror worlds; false eyes that are actually real eyes… things that unsettle without us quite knowing why. When David is on his journey, he meets the real Snow White and her Socialist Comrade dwarves, Red Riding Hood’s wolfman, flowers with the faces of children at their centres, and animal-child hybrid creatures among other things.

Ocean stays in the real world and sticks with more conventional surreality, and magic hidden in our own world. The Hempstock’s farm is the centre, where every meal is the best ever, and chores possibly do themselves. Lettie, Mrs H and Old Mrs H seem perfectly at home with a foot in each camp and their practicality makes a lot of the weird action seem normal. This is good, because to them of course it is normal, but bad because it makes the story a little less fraught and a little more child-safe despite being for adults.

TBOLT is for adults or mature teens. Connolly sinks his teeth into the macabre and doesn’t let go. He is writing for adults and he knows it. There is a seediness and a sleaziness –a roiling underbelly of loathing and peevishness – that I really like. It is unsanitised. David is a child moving through an adult world. The world was created by someone else and he is reacting to it; there are things he doesn’t understand because is not old enough but they are seen and described nonetheless. The narrator of Ocean is in his own world and perhaps it’s the first-person POV but there is an innocence to his description that I just can’t warm to. I suppose that says more about me.

I do like Ocean, and I am re-reading it to see if I missed anything the first time round. I like Ursula Monkton and her development. She is my favourite thing, I think. The Brollachan-style first appearance, the sweet exterior (I can almost smell her makeup), the slyness and the pride… once again proving that Gaiman really can write – if only the whole book was as strong.

Mentioning the Brollachan, Ocean compare quite nicely with Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath where children combat evil magic in our own world. They are children’s books with a simpleness perhaps borne of its time of publishing, but there is a mature feel to Gomrath especially that keeps the interest as an adult reader. Maybe sixties children were just more gung-ho. Gomrath wins on the Wild Hunt alone, to be honest.

I know I will continue to read and re-read Garner’s two Alderley Edge books, but Ocean just doesn’t grab me. I’m really trying to give it a fair go. Perhaps it’s because the protagonist of Ocean is really quite young. He has a babyishness that colours his view of the world a little too much. He’s, what, seven going on eight? David in TBOLT is eleven or twelve (and more on a level with Lettie Hempstock) as are Colin and Susan in Garner’s books. Maybe that’s what I don’t like. He’s not practical enough.

Fairy stories are all about really nasty things happening to children. The relish is in either snotty brats getting a hideous comeuppance, or in the children overcoming the villain by being smarter or more cunning (often having been underestimated by adults). Ocean sort of… aims for that but just falls short. It’s too stark and clean. It’s just not twisted enough.

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She’s So Lucky

Well, it’s Friday again. New blog post day. I’m pleased to announce the preliminary sorting of all my books onto some sort of shelving. I know you were all dying to hear how that panned out. Their positions are not finalised, though I do have a whole two shelves of a “to read” nature which will have to stay as they are or I’ll never find them again.

I was rudely kept awake last night by a man insistent on duct-taping the vent under my window at one in the morning. I had just gone to bed, so I can’t be too huffy about it, but really? One in the morning? It sounded like rats were stripping the internal walls. I was then woken early (I class early as before my alarm on holidays) by my best friend asking if I could possibly pay for a tent today. Not just any tent. A pavilion, no less, in the medieval sense.

I spend my summers knocking around various castles and fields dressed as a twelfth century noble, getting people dressed as twelfth century peasants to carry things for me. It’s a hobby.

I also have to send some money to his fiancée so she can buy me some fabric from Tewkesbury or Kelmarsh (whichever is easier) s I can get on with making my new fancy twelfth century noblewoman’s dress. I’m quite excited about that as it has four gussets and the hugest sleeves I’ve ever attempted. I’m also quite depressed because I’ve got a ton of embroidery (literally a metric ton) to do for it and the wedding is in October. So it’s a good job I’ve got some Euros to change back because that should cover most of the fabric money.

It never rains but it pours, eh? Tomorrow I’m off on holiday to meet the youngest member of our family for the first time and on the way home we’re saying goodbye to one of the oldest, as it’s my grandad’s funeral. Packing dilemmas 101, amirite? I’m flying Easyjet on the way down so I’ve got to get my holiday clothes and now a funeral outfit into one cabin bag. I hope the heatwave continues because thin cottons take up much less space.

This week, then, I’ve been too busy for reading? Oh dear me, no. On Monday I read Going Postal, and Tuesday I read Monstrous Regiment, both by Terry Pratchett. Wednesday I read The Time Traveler’s Wife. It’s not my fault! It was just sitting there on my bed (with the other books waiting to be shelved)! It was looking at me all wanton, and who am I to resist such a face? I swear, you can forget the Milk Tray Man; I’d much prefer someone who mysteriously left books in my room and skied off all dressed in black. It wasn’t the first time I’d read any of those books, but I was surprised how unaffected I was by The Time Traveler’s Wife. The first time I read it I wept like an idiot. This time, maybe because I was prepared for it; nothing. Ah well.

Right then, I’ve got packing to do and then I have to get the train to town to get my business done, son! A morning of vintage Britney Spears videos it is.

Normal service will resume Friday 26th July.

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