Thursday, 11 August 2011

How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran

I've followed Caitlin Moran on twitter for a while. I didn't really know who she was, or what she did, but people often retweeted her and I found her amusing, so thought I'd follow as well. I've never read her column (we don't buy papers) and didn't know anything about her early career what with me being a foreigner and all. A lot of people were saying a lot of good things about How to be a Woman, and extracts I'd read had me nodding sagely, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I read one review which rather disparagingly said the book should be called "How to be Caitlin Moran". While I don't agree with the sentiment behind it, the reviewer was primarily right. This is a memoir first and foremost, but it also takes a modern look at feminist issues and makes the point that they are not just female issues, but human issues.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Tawny Man Trilogy - Robin Hobb

If you've read other posts on my blog you'll already know that I discovered Robin Hobb only recently but I've become a big fan.

I loved the Farseer Trilogy and The Liveship Traders Trilogy and was looking forward to the Fool and Fitz together again.

The following contains lots of spoilers, so proceed with caution!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Passion by Lauren Kate

Passion is the third book in the Fallen Angels series by Lauren Kate. This post contains spoilers for all three books.

The series tells the story of Daniel and Lucinda, star crossed lovers, eternally cursed, destined to find and lose each other through the millennia.

The first book deals with Luce's realisation that she is different, and her finding and falling in love with Daniel Grigori. The second book covers the battle between the forces of Heaven and Hell who both want Daniel to chose their side. At the end of the book, Luce steps into an Announcer (a shadowy gateway to a former life) and disappears. Nephilim Miles and Shelby find an announcer and follow her, as does Daniel.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Liveship Traders Trilogy - Robin Hobb

So over the last few weeks I was mostly reading exam papers. It's my second year marking and I swore after last year I wouldn't do it again, but when the contract arrived in January the money was very tempting and so I decided to do it. I have now sworn I won't do it again next year, it's a horrible task and I don't get to see my family for three weeks (let alone do anything else), but we'll see how handy the money seems in January when the next contract arrives :)

I've also been reading information about colycystectomy (I think I've spelt that right!) as I had my gall bladder out on Tuesday. I'm a bit sore and tender but generally recovering well. I'm looking forward to not having random attacks of biliary colic at all hours of the day and night.

So, other than all that I have of course been reading. I've read The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb.

I had high expectations, I really enjoyed the Farseer Trilogy and I'd been told by a few people that this was even better. Read on after the jump to see what I thought.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Days 24 to 30

Day 24: Book that contains your favourite scene

I don't tend to remember individual scenes from books, so this is another difficult one, but a book that really stood out recently was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. There is a seen quite near the beginning of the book where the Reaping is taking place. This is where the young people are gathered to find out which two of them will be sent to the Capital for the Hunger Games - a battle to the death to remind the Districts of the power of the Capital and a punishment for the last rebellion. I won't spoil the scene, you should read the book or at least watch the film when it's out next year. However, I will say that it's incredibly powerful and had me in tears. If you haven't read the book go get it, right now.

Day 25: Favourite book you read in school

This has to be To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read in year 10, but I already used this for Day 1 so the second favourite book I read in school is The Great Gatsby. WWI vet Nick Carraway moves to New York and meets the enigmatic Jay Gatsby who happens to be in love with Nick's cousin Daisy. Daisy is married to millionaire Tom Buchanan. The shining world Nick finds himself in soon reveals cracks, eventually ending in Gatsby's sad demise. It's one of those rare books that studying enhances rather than diminishes (see The Old Man and the Sea).

Day 26: Favourite non-fiction book

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. Mitch Albom is an American sports reporter and Morrie Schwartz was one of his College professors. When Mitch finds out that Morrie is dying he goes to visit him. His visits turn into a weekly ritual. As Morrie shares his wisdom with Mitch, we see his inevitable decline and eventual death. This is an incredibly moving story. I have long been in favour of euthanasia, but Morrie's story shows that there can be incredible dignity in the most horrible of deaths.

Day 27: Favourite Fiction Book

See Day 1!

Day 28: Last Book You Read

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. I've only recently discovered Robin Hobb but I'm a complete convert. Ship of Magic is the first in the Liveship Traders Trilogy which tells the story of the Bingtown Traders and their strange sentient ships. When I'm finished with exam marking I'll write a proper review of it.

Day 29: Book you're currently reading

Mad Ship by Robin Hobb. Book two of the Liveship Traders. I'm really enjoying it.

Day 30: Favourite coffee table book

Does anyone really have coffee table books nowadays? This book doesn't sit on my coffee table, but it is in the library of the local art gallery and I do enjoy looking at it. Portfolios by Ansel Adams. It's slightly depressing though, as I will never, ever be a fraction of the photographer that he was.

So that's it, the 30 days done. Some strange categories, I'd have changed some of them, but it's been a really interesting exercise. I hope if you've been reading you've found my choices interesting.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Jenny Lopez Has a Bad Week - Lindsey Kelk

This short story was free on Amazon, so I thought I'd download it and give it a go.

Jenny has moved back to New York after living and working as a stylist in LA. She seems a rather vacuous character, obsessed with labels and shoes and her lack of a boyfriend. She manages to badger one friend into giving her a job and the other into setting her up on what proves to be a disastrous date. The job involves getting a temperamental supermodel to a gig on time. Unfortunately when Jenny gets to the hotel room to pick her up, the model has trashed the room and is heartbroken and refusing to go to the job. Jenny manages to talk her round, gets her to the job and it's all a success. She also manages to find a gorgeous Swedish male model who wants to go out with her, although there's some confusion as she thinks he wants to be her room mate. In the end the friend makes the job permanent, the male model looks like becoming her boyfriend and the supermodel wants to move into her spare room.

I've never read anything by Lindsey Kelk so didn't go into this with any particular expectations. It took me quite a while to get into (considering it's a short story). I don't relate to talk of shoes and designers so I found it really hard to connect with the characters. It wasn't until the supermodel came into it that I managed to find any interest at all. It's now £1.99 on Amazon and unless you're a fan, I wouldn't bother. It is quite a short story and there are plenty of decent full length books for around the same price.

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 23

Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

I don't think I've ever claimed to have read a book I haven't read, but I guess as an RE teacher there's probably an assumption that I've read the Bible. I have read some of it, but nowhere near all of it.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 22

Day 22: Book you plan to read next

Funny order to do this one before the last or current book, but the next book I plan to read is Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb. I've really been enjoying her books, there's a review of the Farseer Trilogy elsewhere. This is the third book of the second trilogy.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 21

Day 21 - Your favourite picture book from childhood

My favourite picture books were the original Mr Men books. I borrowed all the ones my school library had.

There are some fabulous picture books around now, I really enjoy reading them to my daughter. I'm not a great fan of the new Mr Men/Little Miss books though.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Days 19 and 20

Day 19: Book that turned you on

Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris. Gotta love Amnesia Eric :)

Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times

I was never one for re-reading books, that's quite a recent phenomenon for me, so it would probably be one of the books I've studied or taught. The most likely candidate is The Giver, by Lois Lowry that I taught to year 8s. In a dystopian future society, a young boy is allocated his future job and finds out that he will be the Receiver. He will become responsible for all the memories of his seemingly perfect society. As he is taught about the past, he finds out that the present is not as perfect as it seems. It has quite a few similarities with Matched, by Allie Condie which I've reviewed elsewhere on here, but doesn't have the romance element.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Days 12 - 18

It's been a while! We went to Wales for a holiday last week and then Blogger wouldn't let me in, so I've got some catching up to do. At some point I'll have to write about the couple of books I've read, but I'm exam marking so I'll have to work around that as well. That does mean there won't be much reading going on over the next few weeks, other than exam scripts and markschemes, that is.

I have some catching up to do in the 30 day challenge, so here are days 12 - 18:

Day 12: Book that is most like your life

10 years ago it'd be something like Bridget Jones' Diary, but now it's more like the Attachment Parenting Book by William and Martha Sears. My life is currently all about slinging, co-sleeping and breastfeeding. Or at least that's what it feels like at the moment.

Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you

This may be the hardest of all, I have no idea. I don't often reads books that I strongly relate to. I think I'll have to come back to this one.

Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry

Anne of Green Gables again for this one. I want to marry Gilbert Blythe. I couldn't understand why Anne didn't succumb to his charms earlier. Or maybe Aragorn.

Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

I'm not quite sure what a chapter book is, is it a book with chapters? If so, the first I remember is The Secret of the Mansion, which was the first Trixie Belden book. I loved these books and freely plagiarised them in my creative writing at primary school. Between 1982 and 1986 I read most of these. I'm not sure whether I read them all, but I'm sure I read at least the first 30. There are synopses for all the books here. I was really shocked to learn that the first book was published in 1948. I had no idea at all that the books weren't modern when I read them. I wish I still had my originals, don't know what happened to them.

Day 16: Longest book you’ve read

I'm not exactly sure, but The Shadow Rising, from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, has over 1000 pages, so that has to be a contender. The series as a whole certainly is the longest I've read!

Unless The Lord of the Rings counts as one book.

Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read

Again, I can't be certain, but The Pearl, by John Steinbeck only has 90 pages, so it's one of the shortest.

Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

Twilight. I know it's badly written and essentially about a 100+ year old stalking a teenage girl, but I don't care, I love it.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 11

Day 11 - A book from your favourite author.

Finally, an easy one! My favourite author is Sara Douglass. I first came across Sara's books in the library at the school where I taught. The Axis Trilogy was my first taste of her work and I was hooked. She mostly writes historical fantasy, although some of her books (primarily the Axis Trilogy/Wayfarer Redemption) involve some sci-fi elements. Sara was a history lecturer and actually lectured one of my friends when he was at university. She's a keen gardener and blogs about her garden when she is able. She's very interactive with her fans and posts frequently (when she's well enough) on her facebook page. She answers questions and asks questions as well, getting people to suggest names or comment on ideas.

Unfortunately, Sara is very ill. She has been living with cancer for some time now and it has returned quite aggressively. It makes me very sad that she is too ill to write or tend her garden.

Choosing one of her books is difficult, as I love so many of them. I'm not going to go with Battleaxe, the first of the Axis trilogy, even though I love it. Instead I'm going to choose The Nameless Day which is the first book in The Crucible Trilogy. It gets mixed reviews on Amazon, but I really enjoyed the series and it's among my favourite of Sara's works. The book is set in Europe in the Middle Ages, however it's not quite the Middle Ages as we know them. As Sara herself says, "I take historical fact ... and then warp it to my own pleasure. ;)" So we have the Black Prince fighting Joan of Arc. The story involves Heaven and Hell and the eternal fight between them.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

30 day book challenge Day 10: A book that changed your life

I've been staring at a blank screen on and off for 3 hours trying to think of a book that would fit the bill, and I really can't. I can't think of any book that has actually changed the course of my life. So I'm going to go for one that I think has had a reasonably large impact on my life. It was quite possibly an influencing factor in me becoming a teacher, although not a conscious one. That is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I loved Anne and wanted to be her, although I was probably more like Diana, though.

Honourable mention goes to The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Lovely book which may have encouraged me to travel to England.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Day 9: A book that makes you sick

Not so much a book as an entire genre, my choice for today are all those tragic survivor biographies - my mummy/daddy/uncle/etc. abused me and my life was horrible but I survived and here's a book about it. They always have black and white covers and titles like "Tell no one" and "Mummy, don't!"

I accept that this may be controversial, and it's not that I don't feel for the pain and suffering such people have gone through, I absolutely do, I just don't want to read about it. It makes me sick that there are publishers growing rich on the back of these tragedies, feeding into the voyeuristic tendencies of the general public.

I do know people who really enjoy reading these books and I just don't understand it. If you're one of them, please leave a comment and let me know why :)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 8

Day 8 - A book that scares you

Candlenight by Phil Rickman. I've read almost all of his books and really enjoy them (even more so now that I've visited some of the locations mentioned). Candlenight was the first of his books that I read, and it and the novels that followed utterly terrified me. Supernatural horror.

Special mentions also go to The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and The Haunting by Margaret Mahy, which scared the crap out of me as an 11 year old.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite

Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite

"Silly old fox, doesn't he know? There's no such thing as a gruffalo."

"The magic hat, the magic hat, it goes like this, it goes like that..."

As the owner of a soon to be 4 year old (on Saturday, how did that happen?) I read a lot of picture books.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer is one I can recite. We have a lot of Julia Donaldson books and the simple rhymes make them easy to remember.

We also have a lot of Mem Fox books which also have lovely, catchy rhymes. We like The Magic Hat, Shoes from Grandpa ans Where is the Green sheep. I can't read Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge often because it makes me cry.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 6

Day 6 - Favourite Young Adult book

I read a lot of YA stuff. I read a lot of it as a child/teen, although it wasn't called YA then. I've read a lot since then as well. I got a real taste for it when I was teaching English and had to teach YA novels. Authors I loved include Cynthia Voigt (Come a Stranger, Tell Me if the Lovers are Losers), Margaret Mahy (The Haunting, Catalogue of the Universe) and of course L.M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott. There are a lot of newer YA books I love as well, but I choosing one of the older ones.

A special honourable mention has to go to Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden. Ellie and her friends decide to go camping in the bush for a weekend before they go back to school at the end of the summer. When they return home they discover their town has been invaded by an unnamed enemy and they seem to be the only line of resistance. The book, and indeed the others in the series, draws you in and keeps up the tension throughout. Can they survive? Can they rescue their families? Can they defeat the enemy? And if so, what will it cost them? Brilliantly written.

So the winner: my favourite YA book is Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody. Obernewtyn is set in a post-apocalyptic world. If released today, it would probably be described as a dystopia. The ruling council have declared that all those showing signs of being different are labelled Misfits and destroyed. For humans, this means ritual burning. Elspeth Gordie is sent to work on a farm after being orphaned. There she is selected by Madam Vega to travel to the mysterious Obernewtyn. There she discovers that there are others with similar Talents to hers and they fight to restore the rightful master of Obernewtyn and set up a haven for other Misfits.

I was around 12 the first time I read this book and loved it instantly. I haven't read the whole series, there was a 10 year break between two of the books, but I've loved the books I've read.

Monday, 16 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge Day 5 - A book you'd like to live in

Day 5 - A book you'd like to live in.

Another hard one. I read a lot of fantasy and enjoy immersing myself in those worlds, so it's tempting to pick one of them. I also thought about going back to some of the classics I loved as a child, particularly Enid Blyton's books. I have stuck with a childhood classic. I would like to live in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. To be able to duck into the back of a closet and discover Narnia, with its mythical creatures and of course the wonderful Aslan. I read and loved the books as a child, and then read them again when I was at university* and was able to appreciate them in a completely different way.

*my university had a library where studying was banned, it was purely for leisure purposes - how cool is that?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 4

Day 4 - A book that makes you cry

I am such a sap, I cry at everything. That makes this quite a difficult one (who am I kidding, they're all difficult - I'm not good with choice).

So I'm going with The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I found it sad, uplifting, moving and harrowing and I cried. A lot.

The book is set in Afghanistan and starts prior to the Soviet invasion. Amir is a wealthy Pashtun boy and Hassan, a Hazara, is the son of his father's servant. The boys have grown up together and are very close, until an incident where Hassan is cruelly assaulted and Amir does nothing to stop it. In his guilt, Amir tries to have Hassan sent away, and eventually succeeds. A few years later the Soviets invade and Amir and his father escape to Pakistan, and eventually to America. Many years later, Amir hears from a friend of his father who asks him to come to Pakistan. He discovers that Hassan, now dead, has a son who needs Amir's help. Amir must enter Taliban controlled Afghanistan in order to save the boy and atone for failing his father.

I don't know if I've sold it at all well, but this is an incredible story. I confess to being completely ignorant of Afghanistan and its history. My knowledge is limited to what is shown on the news, so I enjoyed learning more about the country. It's a story about love, loyalty, loss, war, repentance and forgiveness.

Have you read it? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought. Or, tell me what book makes you cry, I'd love to know.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Days 1 to 3

Blogger has been down for a couple of days, so I couldn't start this when I wanted to, so I'm going to do the first 3 days all together.

If you want to do your own list, there's a facebook page with the rules, or you could check out #30daybookchallenge on twitter.

Day 1 - Your favourite book.

This is really hard as I love so many books, but there's one that always comes to mind when I'm asked that question and that's To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

I'd have thought everyone has read this book but my husband hasn't, so there must be others out there who haven't either.

I won't do a summary because I've been watching Eurovision and am a bit tipsy, and you can find one on Wikipedia if you don't know the story.

What I love about this book is how although we're seeing through the innocent eyes of Scout, we are able to see the true nature of the situations in the book. The scene outside the jail when Atticus is facing down the lynch mob is full of menace, but Scout is unaware of this and shames the men into leaving.

The whole thing is beautifully written and there are some really moving scenes. Jem having to sit with the neighbour who is weaning herself of morphine is one example.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
- Atticus Finch

The book is full of amazing quotes. If you haven't read it, please do.

Day 2 - Least favourite book

This one isn't as hard. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Bloody awful book. So depressing. An old man goes fishing and then dies. I spent 12 weeks of my life studying that book, I'll never get them back.

Day 3 - Book that makes you laugh out loud

This one is really hard, I can't think of many books that have me laughing out loud, certainly not novels. There are a lot that raise a smile, and maybe a titter, but actual laughing, not so much. So, I'm going for The Complete Monty Python: All The Words. I've always liked Monty Python, and this has the scripts for sketches like Blackmail, which still makes me howl with laughter.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

To Touch The Stars - Jessica Ruston

Having been part of the same online community as Jessica Ruston for a number of years, I was really excited to read her first novel, Luxury, and I wasn't disappointed. So I was doubly looking forward to To Touch The Stars. It was released in hardcover late last year and came out in paperback and Kindle in February.

This romantic drama tells the life story of Violet Cavelley, matriarch of the Cavelley family and founder of a fashion empire. As Violet prepares to celebrate her 60th birthday her friends and family gather, but someone is watching as the guests arrive. We meet the family first - eldest son Flip, responsible workaholic who expects to take over when his mother retires, and his fiancée Tillie; younger son Blue, sensitive, damaged and brilliant and his partner Adam, who keeps him centred; Fran, the youngest, scarred and trying to avoid notice. On the surface, it appears that this family have it all, the villa in Capri, a successful business and money to burn, but what they have in abundance is secrets.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe update!

So I said in my review that I'd been inspired to go and make some cupcakes. The big one (almost 4 year old girl) and I made them together. We decided on strawberry cakes with vanilla buttercream icing. We had a lot of fun making and decorating them and the result is below. I've since bought a piping bag so that we can do a bit more precision decorating. They were absolutely delicious. We used a standard cupcake recipe and added natural strawberry flavouring. I was a bit worried when I saw (after they'd gone into the oven) that the flavouring wasn't bake stable, but they turned out very well and the icing was delicious. I normally dislike buttercream so that was quite an achievement :)

The Farseer Trilogy - Robin Hobb

Another recently discovered fantasy series that I missed on first release, the Farseer Trilogy was published in the mid-90s. This is epic fantasy, with kings and queens, magic and intrigue. The series follows the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, illegitimate son of the King-in-Waiting of the Six-Duchies. He is dumped at the castle by his maternal grandfather and is given into the care of his father's servant, Burrich. In the first book of the trilogy, we see Fitz grow from a small boy to a trained killer in service of his king and grandfather. Not all are happy to have Fitz at court, and his life is a dangerous one. In addition to this the land is under attack from raiders across the sea. The raiders take people as well as food and wealth. The fight against the raiders is a major part of the story and they are a formidable enemy. We're kept in suspense as to what they do to their prisoners right to the end of the final book and the reveal is worth the wait.

The three books are:
Assassin's Apprentice
King's Assassin
Assassin's Quest

As well as Fitz's personal story, there's the story of the Six-Duchies itself. The books are told in the first person and at the beginning of each chapter there's a small section that Fitz is writing on the history of the land and people. This serves as a clever exposition tool, introducing places, people and mythology without bogging down the story.

I really enjoyed these books although I did start reading the third before the second, which caused quite a bit of confusion. Towards the end I just couldn't put it down and had to find out what happened. I must say, the ending did manage to take me somewhat by surprise.

My favourite character by far was the Fool. I loved him, particularly in the later books. I shared his frustration with Fitz when he didn't understand what he was being told and didn't make the links that I had already made. A really well written character.

I did find the timeline difficult to follow. I had no idea how old Fitz was in the second and third books. He is described as being a young man in an old man's body, but I got very little sense of how much time was passing.

There are similarities to other epic fantasy series' but the books don't come across as derivative at all.

Hobb has written other books set in the same world and with the same characters and I look forward to finding out what happened to Fitz once the Red Ship Wars ended. Unfortunately, that will have to wait as the new Sookie Stackhouse book is out this week!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe - Jenny Colgan

I haven't had much of a chance to read over the last week. My sister and niece were visiting from Australia and so we were out and about quite a bit. I did manage to order Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe for my Kindle, however, and it had arrived when I turned my Kindle on to check on Thursday morning and I finished reading Sunday night.

I first discovered Jenny Colgan almost 10 years ago when I picked up Looking for Andrew McCarthy in a little book store in Melbourne. A quick look at the reviews on Amazon tells me it's a bit of a Marmite book, with polarised reviews, but I obviously enjoyed it because every time I went into a book store I had a look to see if she had any other books out. Over the years I've read and enjoyed all of them (some more than others, but all are worth a read). I was delighted to find her on twitter and discover that she is as funny as her books. She replies to tweets as well. Well worth a follow if you like her books.

So, onto this one. Issy was raised by her Grampa Joe. Joe ran a string of bakeries and Issy grew up amid the flour and icing. Joe had her baking from an early age and Issy has continued into her adult life, experimenting with different flavours and trying them out on her friends and colleagues. When she finds herself suddenly jobless, Issy turns her hobby into a career. Will her relationship with boss Greame survive? Or will banking advisor Austin steal her heart?

This is a lovely read. The supporting characters are well rounded and have interesting side stories of their own. I especially liked single mum Pearl and I fell in love with Austin in the Head Teacher's office. A couple of scenes with Grampa Joe had me in tears. The outcome might be what you'd expect, but there are a couple of surprises for the supporting characters and Issy's is an enjoyable journey, no matter the destination.

Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe definitely takes advantage of the current fashion for cupcakes. Each chapter opens with a recipe, reflecting the events of that chapter. I think the Getting What You Want lemon cake is my favourite and I'll definitely be trying a few of them. There's also a nice little surprise at the end for those planning a Royal Wedding afternoon tea.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my daughter and I are going to make some cupcakes. Vanilla with strawberry buttercream, I think.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare

***Contains some spoilers***

I was most excited on Thursday to turn on my Kindle and find that City of Fallen Angels had been delivered. I had pre-ordered it earlier in the week. When Cassandra Clare's previous book, Clockwork Angel, was released I trolled book stores looking for it. WH Smith hadn't heard of it and Waterstones didn't have any in stock and I had to wait a week to get it from Amazon. This is why I love my Kindle (but I've already posted about that...).

For those not familiar with The Mortal Instruments, it's an urban fantasy series, largely set in New York City, about demon slayers known as Shadowhunters. 16 year old Clary discovers that there's more to the City than meets the eye. She discovers a world of demons, vampires, warlocks and werewolves. When her mother disappears and her long, lost father turns up with evil plans, Clary must work with the Shadowhunters to find the Mortal Instruments and her mother. Along the way she falls in love with Jace, the most talented of the Shadowhunters.

Cassandra Clare is an avid tweeter (@cassieclare) and for the past few months has been sharing teasers conducting character Q&As with fans. This had created a real sense of anticipation and I was not exempt from that.

So, I started reading on Thursday afternoon, read all of Friday evening, staying up far too late, and finished it early this morning while squished between the baby and the pre-schooler. First impression - wow! Second impression - wow! I really enjoyed immersing myself in this world again.

The book starts six weeks after the events of City of Glass. Clary and Jace are together and Clary has started Shadowhunter training. Simon is dating both Maia and Isabelle and hasn't quite figured out how to tell his mother he's a vampire. Alec and Magnus are doing the Grand Tour and Luke and Jocelyn are planning their wedding.

From there, as you would expect in a Cassandra Clare novel, things don't go smoothly. Jace is pulling away from Clary, Camille turns up to cause trouble and Simon finds himself homeless. Cassandra has come up with a bigger and nastier villain than Valentine in Lilith, but I won't say any more about her lest I spoil too much.

The book kept me absorbed throughout. The final battle in particular prevented me from going to bed - I just had to find out what happened.

I wasn't sure where she could go after Lilith, but the door has been left open for an excellent villain in City of Lost Souls and Jace and Clary still have a way to go before they get their much hoped for HEA. It's going to be a long wait until next January.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

How cool is the Kindle?

I love books. Real books, the paper kind that have a smell and a feel and a personality. I didn't want a Kindle. But then something happened. Friends started talking about their Kindles and how great they were. I started thinking maybe a Kindle wouldn't be a bad thing. After all, we're trying to de-clutter and I already had enough books to start a small library. Within a week I'd gone from not wanting a Kindle to needing one desperately. I then had a little shopping accident where one slipped into my basket and two weeks later my shiny new toy arrived.

What a revelation! It was fabulous having dozens of books at my fingertips and I excitedly set about downloading free books. I also spent a small fortune buying books. I think I spent around £50 in the first few weeks. 1-click buying is far too tempting.

So I've had the Kindle a while now and things have settled down and I don't get quite as excited about it. That changed this week, though. I pre-ordered a Kindle book for the first time. I ordered it on Monday and today it magically appeared! On release day! No waiting for crappy delivery companies to bring it at their leisure (and lie about delivering it on Friday when it doesn't materialise until Monday - yes, DHL at home I'm talking about you), or trolling book shops trying to find one that's heard of the book and has it in stock.

The book I was so excited about? City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare. It's the fourth book in The Mortal Instruments Series and has been much anticipated. I'm four chapters in at the moment and really enjoying it. I will of course write about it when I'm done.

I still love real books, but I've bought over 20 Kindle books and only a handful of paper books in the last 6 months. I'm definitely a convert.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Lover Unleashed - J.R. Ward

Be warned, this may be slightly spoilery.

Lover Unleashed is the latest instalment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. For those who are yet to meet the Brothers, they are a band of vampire warriors who fight to protect the civilian vampire population from The Lessening Society (soulless, former humans recruited by The Omega to kill all vampires).

These vampires are not humans who were bitten and they definitely don't sparkle (not that we don't love the Cullens). In this world, vampires are a separate species to humans. They look similar but are slightly anatomically different. Humans and vampires can interbreed and produce offspring, an important point in several of the books.

My husband refers to this as my "vampire porn" and to be fair, that's not far from the mark. This is no Twilight; the Brothers are definitely for adults only. Each book focuses on a different Brother while fitting into the ongoing storyline of the war between the Brothers and the Lessers.

If you're into vampire fiction and you like your smut to come with a decent storyline, then I highly recommend you give the Black Dagger Brotherhood a go. Dark Lover is the first in the series and it really is best to read them in order.

So, onto this book. At the close of the previous instalment, Wrath came back from the other side with an injured Payne. This book focuses on the struggle to restore feeling and movement to the now paralysed Payne. Who could possibly save her other than Doc Jane's former friend and colleague, Manny Manelo? The only trouble is, Manny thinks Jane is dead and is somewhat confused when she turns up looking for him at her own graveside.

Rather predictably, Manny and Payne fall for each other and what do you know? Manny has some vampire blood in his family tree. The surprise is that the book doesn't really centre around the two of them as much as you'd expect. This is as much V and Jane's story as Payne and Manny's. The other Brothers and their shellans are hardly present at all. Also missing are the Lessers. There are battles of course, and hints that something big is coming, but there are no Lesser POVs in the book at all. It is actually nice to get a break from the Lessening Society politics, which I thought was becoming a little tiresome, particularly after the Lash storyline of previous books.

Lover Unleashed introduces a new enemy - Xcor and his band of bastards. Xcor has a warrior sized grudge against Payne and designs on Wrath's throne. Xcor and Throe are an interesting addition and I'm sure we'll see more of them in the next book.

The occasional chapters featuring Quinn point to the possibility that the next book will centre around the Quinn/Blay/Saxton/Layla love quadrangle and it looks like there will be some interesting developments in that storyline.

I enjoyed it, but not as much as some of the previous books. Everyone has their favourite Brother and given how little many of them appear in the book (some no more than extras in one scene) you may be disappointed if V isn't yours.

If you've read it, leave a comment and let me know what you thought and who your favourite Brother is.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Matched - Allie Condie

Matched is Allie Condie's début novel. It's the first instalment of a dystopian trilogy aimed at young adults. As such, it's going to draw obvious comparisons with The Hunger Games. There are similarities, but there are also marked differences. I actually found the book more reminiscent of The Giver by Lois Lowry (worth looking up if you like dystopian fiction).

I'm finding it really difficult to write about this book without giving too much away. I'll start by saying I loved it. It was recommended to me by Stupidgirl who knew I'd loved The Hunger Games and thought this was even better. It certainly is a great read. Matched grabbed me from the first scene. I read it in two days and felt bereft when I reached the end. The cover, however is pretty awful - don't let it put you off!

The central character is 17 year old Cassia. As the book opens she's heading to her Matching ceremony where she'll learn who she'll marry. In this society, all your decisions are made for you - what you wear, where you live, what your job will be, what and how much you eat and who you will marry. Cassia soon discovers that the Officials are capable of making mistakes, this leads her to question what other mistakes may have been made and whether her society is as perfect as it seems. The story develops as a pretty classic love triangle, but it's different enough to hold your interest throughout. There are some really moving scenes - I was in tears for parts of this book (although that could have been the new baby hormones).

The second book in the trilogy, Crossed, is due out in November. I can't wait :)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

My 'to read' list

Although I've already read well over a dozen books this year, I still have quite a few to read, either in my physical 'to read' pile or sitting and waiting on my Kindle.

The Infinity Gate - Sara Douglass
The Fry Chronicles - Stephen Fry
My Booky Wook 2 - Russell Brand
Good at Games - Jill Mansell
To Touch The Stars - Jessica Ruston
Hide in Plain Sight - Marta Perry
Song of Ice and Fire series - George R.R. Martin
The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
From Those Wonderful Folks That Gave You Pearl Harbour
Lover Unleashed - J.R. Ward

A bit of a mixed bag. I'm looking forward to working through them.

The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper

I may be the last person in the world to read this series. I had never heard of it until recently when another blogger listed her top 10 children's books.

Just in case I'm not the last, the series comprises five books:
Over Sea, Under Stone
The Dark is Rising
The Grey King
Silver On The Tree

The first and third books follow the Drew family and their adventures with their "Uncle" Merry. Merry is a rather mysterious figure who appears and disappears at odd times and seems to have been around forever. Their holiday in Cornwall leads to danger and intrigue, and they discover that "Gummery" is more than they imagined he could be.

The second book is confusing at first, as the Drews don't appear at all. Rather we have Will Stanton, who on his 11th birthday discovers that not only is he involved in the eternal struggle between good and evil, but that he plays a pivotal role.

Will joins the Drews in Cornwall in the third book, where they again must battle the Dark for one of the objects necessary to win the final battle.

In The Grey King, Will travels to Cornwall to recover from a serious illness. There he meets Bran, my favourite character of the series.

In Silver on the Tree the Drews meet up with Will and Bran in Wales and we discover whether the Light can triumph over the Dark.

Although written for children (and over 30 years ago), the books do not hold back on suspense and the peril facing the children is real. I felt a need to carry on reading to discover what happened next. I read all five books in a matter of days (night feeds are good for something!) and couldn't wait to discover what happened. I really enjoyed the references to British history as well as Celtic mythology and the Arthurian legends.

I would recommend the series to anyone who hasn't read it!

Another book blog?

I know, there are thousands of book blogs and review sites and the last thing the world needs is another one. That's why this blog isn't for the world, it's for me. Of course, if people read it, that's great. If they enjoy it, that's even better. My main purpose, however, is to keep track of what I'm reading.

I read a lot.

That may be an understatement. As a child, if I didn't have a book to read I'd start on the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I never quite went as far as the phone book, though.

The problem is that now that I am closer to 40 than 30 and baby-brain has taken its toll, I'm struggling to remember what I've read and what I've yet to read. Hence this blog. It's mostly for me to record what I've read and maybe share my thoughts about some of those books.

One final note: I'm not a reviewer, I'm a reader.

So, if you've stumbled upon this blog and fancy spending a few minutes perusing, I hope you enjoy it.