26 May 2016

AWARDS AND TAGS, MAKING A COME BACK?

A while since I've participated in Tag, I'd like to thank Tasha of Through Tasha's Camera along with the several FaceBook friends for including me in this 
....


To answer Tasha's well thought out questions ....

  • My favourite gemstone? I suppose I'd have to go with my birthstone which is an amethyst. Not just because it is my birthstone, I love the different hues of this purple stone. And then of course, a meditative and calming stone which works in the emotional, spiritual, and physical planes, it is said to promote calm, balance, and peace.
  • Ooh! A hard one, if I had to spend the day as any historical figure, who would it be and why? I've only spent two days pondering on this - Adolf Hitler? Florence Nightingale? Mary Shelley? I eventually decided on suffragette Emily Davison who died four days after an event that occurred at the 1913 Epsom Derby. With opinion divided as to whether or not she was promoting the cause of the suffragette movement by disrupting the race or it was merely an accident that she fell in front of the King's horse, I'd really like to spend a day, though not necessarily that day, as her.
  • Do I have a favourite genre of film, and if so, why? Hmm, do you know its almost easier to pick a genre that I won't watch. Looking through our DVD collection, animated films and comedies seem to feature quite prominently so I'm going with animated films and comedies.
  • What a great question. I don't have to think twice about this one. Snowball was my favourite toy as a child. Snowy white (hence the inventive name) and incredibly soft, I loved this little rabbit with all my heart and soul. Sadly though the years were not kind to Snowball and no longer white or soft AND missing an eye to say nothing of his tail Mr T, believing him flea ridden, insisted it was either him or my childhood companion.
The last book I read that I'd recommend to everyone? As you may remember reading here, I'm not in the habit of recommending books (preferring to merely chronicle my thoughts on them) BUT for those looking for a read about relationships and the human condition I'd not hesitate in suggesting The A To Z Of Normal by Helen Barbour. 
  • Ah! The best piece of advice I've ever been given? Whilst no one particular piece of advice comes to mind it was doubtlessly given to me my nana. Then again, it could well have been Mr T advising me that my starting a blog would be good for me.
  • Who would be my dream dinner guests and why? Without a doubt .... Bram Stoker as I'd love to know his thoughts on 'modern' vampires who go all glittery in the dark etc. Then there would be Elvis Presley in the hope that he'd belt out a tune or two. Oh and John Barrowman especially if he came dressed as Captain Jack.
  • Day or night? Its a standard joke in our house that, neither a night owl (though I'm increasingly finding myself so) nor a lark, there is only mid-day when I'm particularly human so can I answer mid-day?
  • If space travel became a possibility overnight, where would I go? Do you know I really don't know. I don't like the heat so probably not Venus (I am right in thinking this is the hottest planet, aren't I?). I tend to feel my various aches and pains more in the cold so definitely not Neptune. I know how about the fictional planet in the Star Wars films which saw that bar scene?
  • Now this one I can answer. If time travel were real, I'd go to ancient Egypt as which mad cat woman could possibly resist resist a society which worshipped cats? And besides which I'd love to know just how extensive their medical knowledge actually was.
And so onto the difficult part, my questions which, because not only are they good blogger buddies but I know they've played along in these tags before, go to ...

Kelly of Kelly's Thoughts & Ramblings
Barbara @ March House Of Time Books
Literary Feline @ Musings Of A Bookish Kitty
Sherry of Mama Diaries
Anyone else should they wish to play along

  1. Given that they say your old mobile/cell phone could make you serious money, which old object(s) do you have stashed away in a draw collecting dust?
  2. 'Mork and Mindy', 'Fantasy Island', just two of the tv prorgammes from my childhood that I'd love to see repeated. Which of your childhood programmes would you love to see again?
  3. If I were to say 'iconic film' to you which scene/saying from what film would first come to mind?
  4. 'Aunty Taitty', 'Mrs T'. Apart from your given name, which other name(s) are you/have you been known by?
  5. I'm taking you for a meal, as well as a main course do you opt for a starter OR a pudding? (I'm too mean to pay for both) And what would it be?
  6. You may not like them (I know I don't) BUT if you had to go to a fancy dress party what would be your costume of choice and why?
  7. Superstitious? Care to share any of your superstitions with us?
  8. Which person (or animal for that matter) would you most like to be able to impersonate? 
  9. Presuming you didn't have an imaginary friend as a child which book character would you have liked as an imaginary friend?
  10. As you have worked so hard, a quick fire round. Tea or coffee? Sweet or savoury? Clean shaven or with a beard?
Anything else?

Ah yes, the 'rules' ...
  1. Thank the blogger for the award given
  2. Answer the ten questions given to you
  3. Nominate a further 10 bloggers for this award
  4. Write another 10 questions for those bloggers to answer
  5. Display the award on your blog or in a post.

24 May 2016

THE STORY OF THE SEAGULL AND THE CAT WHO TAUGHT HER TO FLY.


THE STORY OF THE SEAGULL AND THE CAT WHO TAUGHT HER TO FLY by LUIS SEPULVEDA (Translated by MARGARET SAYERS PEDEN, with illustrations by SATOSHI KITAMURA).

ALMA BOOKS BLURB: Caught up in an oil spill, a dying seagull scrambles ashore to lay her final egg and lands on a balcony, where she meets Zorba, a big black cat from the port of Hamburg. The cat promises the seagull to look after the egg, not to eat the chick once it’s hatched and – most difficult of all – to teach the baby gull to fly. Will Zorba and his feline friends honour the promise and give Lucky, the adopted little seagull, the strength to discover her true nature? 


FIRST SENTENCE {One: The North Sea}: "School of herring port side!" the lookout gull announced, and the flock from the Red Sand Lighthouse received the news with shrieks of relief.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 34}: Einstein lived in a place rather difficult to describe, because at first view you might think it was a cluttered shop of curious odds and ends, a museum of exotic whatchamacallits, a storeroom of mechanical thingumajigs, the most chaotic library in the world, or the laboratory of some brainy inventor of screwball contraptions.

SOURCE: Read and reviewed on behalf of Alma Books.

MY THOUGHTS: A fairly small book that has a big heart. There are so many wonderful messages conveyed, not least of which is the environmental one, within this relatively short novel of 120 pages.

I loved the highly principled not to mentioned self-controlled Zorba - after all its not every cat who would agree not to eat a newly hatched chick. And as for his motley crew, wonderful. 

Translated from the Spanish and primarily marketed at those aged nine to eleven. As with many of the other little gems published by Alma Books this is one of those books suitable for both children and adults wishing to escape into the magical realm that is children's books. The only slight niggle I have is that the afore mentioned environmental theme is perhaps not as subtle as I might have expected and verged on being repetitive. Much more endearing to me was the message relating to families with a 'difference'.


20 May 2016

THE BEAR'S FAMOUS INVASION OF SICILY.


BACK COVER BLURB: Starving after a harsh winter, the bears descend from the mountains in search of food and invade the valley below, where they face fierce opposition from the army of the Grand Duke of Sicily. After many battles, scrapes and dangers, the bears reign is established over the land, but their victory comes at a price.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}: Sit still as mice on this occasion
And listen to the Bears' Invasion
Of Sicily, a long, long while
Ago when beasts were good, men vile.


MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 80}: At the review, the cub Tony, still a little weak, was present, seated on an easy chair and wrapped in soft coverlets: he was able to take part in the ball, however, and, holding his father's hand, opened the grand cotillion to the strains of a polka. This was possible, as during the day he had built up his strength with puddings and beefsteaks.

SOURCE: Received for review from Alma Books.


MY THOUGHTS: Another great edition to the Children's and Young Adults' Collection from Alma Books, this one marketed at those aged nine to eleven. Not that as an older reader you should let this put you off as no matter nine (I'd advise caution in younger, perhaps more sensitive readers as whilst not outrageously so there is some peril, some of which could be considered violent, albeit it no worse than that in many fables/folk tales) or ninety years young this is a delightfully quirky read.

One of those books that can be read on more than one level. One on the one hand a simple enough story of what happens when hungry bears come down from the mountains in search of food. On the other, a fable of what happens when hungry bears come down from the mountains in search of food AND find ... 

Well, so as not to give too much away, let's just say there is a price to be paid and worryingly the bears find some of their behaviour more human-like than they might have hoped for.

Written in the nineteen forties but only recently translated into English. Everything about The Bear's Famous Invasion Of Sicily from the wonderfully witty introduction to the characters - including 'The Werewolf' who (and I quote) 'A third monster. It is possible that he may not appear in our story. In fact, as far as we know he has never appeared anywhere, but one never knows. He might suddenly appear from one moment to the next, and then how foolish we should look for not having mentioned him.' -  to the artwork (by the author himself no less) to the story itself (some of which is written in verse) had me enchanted from beginning to end.


18 May 2016

THE 'KITTY NORVILLE' SERIES: BOOKS 6 - 8.

Not just one review, not just two reviews, today I'm reviewing three books in the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn, the first two of which were presents from Mr T, the third (on my TBR pile for quite a while) ex-library stock. For the synopsis of each book (be warned some of these may contain spoilers) and other details please click on the book title.


#6: KITTY RAISES HELL.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}: I had to admit, this was pretty cool.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 208}: Grimacing now, with some kind of pent-up anger or righteousness of its own, it kept talking at me in its own clipped, musical language. It sounded superior, mocking. It had to know we couldn't understand it, right? 


#7: KITTY'S HOUSE OF HORRORS.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}: I knew if I stayed in this business long enough, I'd get an offer like this sooner or later.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 166}: "Oh come on," I said. "We're all smart people here - we can handle this, right? It's not like we're stuck in a horror movie or something." Except we were. 


#8: KITTY GOES TO WAR.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}: I sat at my desk, my monitor and microphone in front of me, maps and notebook paper spread over the whole surface.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 282}: First though, I flipped open the phone so I could look at the picture. I'd never taken an art class in my life. I hoped the thunder gods were forgiving of my lack of talent.

MY THOUGHTS: A series best read from the beginning and in order as whilst each book features a stand-alone event some of the stories (as in the case of books 5 and 6) do follow on closely from the previous book. And besides which its good to follow Kitty's story from her being recently bitten to life as a fully fledged werewolf.

Set a matter of weeks after the last instalment (Dead Man's Hand) which saw Kitty and Ben in Vegas, this instalment sees a seemingly invisible, fire raising something or other essentially (what I won't say) stalking the whole of Kitty's pack. 

In my opinion missing much of the humour that I love (and that which sets the books apart from others of a similar genre). By no means the strongest book in the series, whilst Kitty Raises Hell was an enjoyable enough read I don't think it a particularly good reflection on the series as a whole.

Much more to my liking and largely back on form as a work of pure escapism ... with the addition of suspense and plenty of action ... was Kitty's House Of Horrors.  

A novel which sees Kitty, radio host come reality tv star, in a remote location along with, amongst other 'super naturals', a .... wait for it .... were-seal. 

Not an easy 'were character' to pull off but, neither a series that takes itself too seriously nor one that makes light of its characters to the point were you can't believe in them, Vaughn does so with aplomb in an episode that right up until the final chapters will have you wondering just who will escape with their lives in what I thought of as a take on Agatha Christie's 'And Then There Were None'.  

With two strands to the story - one involving lycanthropic soldiers (cue an interesting reflection on mental illness), the other, the owner of Speedy Mart convenience stores accused of what is no less than 'weather terrorism' - it took for the two to combine before I was fully won over by Kitty Goes To War but, combined with the return of a favourite character of mine, won over I eventually was.

A great edition to the series which sees Kitty go from strength to strength. Alas, whilst good to have him back, it remains to be seen if the newly reformed/possessed? ****** (the afore mentioned favourite character of mine who I won't name here) will remain a favourite or if his story line will prove to be too absurd.

Awaiting books 6 & 7 before I read book 8 which has been on my TBR pile for a long while. Kitty Goes To War was read for the 2016 Reading Challenge: 'A Book You've Been Meaning to Read' category.


 

16 May 2016

FROM THE BORED TO THE NUDE.

A while since I've posted a Monday Media post. As always, the articles featured here may contain links to articles with a more adult theme. TT



With talks on East German pedestrian crossing signals, paper bags, lamp posts, toilet roll quality control codes and bricks, the Boring Conference sells out in London.


Hmm, perhaps not a conference for this French worker who sued his ex-employer for £280,000 because his job was too boring

Oh well, I suppose it give him AND ...

The Cornish man who became the shortest serving major in history after a council blunder saw him step down after just 47 minutes in office 

AND ... 

The postman who, presumably wanting to be helpful and save its recipient a trip to the sorting office, folded a collectable vinyl record in half in order to fit it through the letterbox ...

more time (should they want it) to consider gardening in the nude as horticulturalists let it all hang out on Naked Gardening Day




13 May 2016

THE CONJURERS.

Quite a benchmark, today's book is the 800th book I've reviewed on Pen and Paper since I began blogging in April 2009.

THE CONJURER'S by DAVID WAID.

BACK COVER BLURB: A war of shadows spills into the night.

The magical knowledge that returned with crusaders from the Holy Land has spread in secret among the learned few. The world stands poised on a knife's edge between two futures - science or sorcery - and a cabal of ruthless wizards pursue two young people who can tip the balance forever.

When brigands savagely attack an Irish village, Eamon, a peasant's son, flees with his family. The night of trauma and terror that follows triggers a magical ability he doesn't understand and can't control. Four hundred league's south, Teresa, the fiercely determined daughter of a Genovese nobleman, uncovers her brothers murder and witnesses her father's wrongful imprisonment. Soon, she too begins to manifest magical powers.

The architect of their misfortune is Maestro Lodovicetti, chief of a secret order that knows the truth behind their burgeoning gifts. Lodovicetti will do anything in order to steal this magic and use it to shatter the restraints on sorcery. Separated by a continent and the circumstance of their births, Eamon and Teresa must come together and master legendary magic or be sacrificed as the Age of Kings comes to an end and a dark tyranny of sorcerers begins.

FIRST SENTENCE{Part One ~ Winter, 1380: 1. The Road To Dublin. Leinster}:

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 242}: A roar of soundless fury engulfed the inn. The walls trembled with it, the door rattling in its frame. Even through the wooden portal, the hatred of it beat on Eamon in waves. Its rage blotted all fear, all thought.

SOURCE: A paper copy received for review from the author. Yet to be published, The Conjurers will be available on Kindle as from the 1st of June.

MY THOUGHTS: I'm confused. Very confused as to just what age range The Conjurers is intended.

A cover totally at odds with the books contents. Despite the sub-title of 'A Gritty Fantasy of Witches and Wizards' I really hadn't expected such an incredibly dark tale with quite as much graphic violence including (albeit fairly brief and thankfully not too graphic) child cruelty and animal dissection.

A book that isn't without potential. Just when I thought I'd come across everything as far as magical characters goes, it was refreshing to come across something that bit different - 'Heket', 'Geistmage', Maleficarum', anyone?

The first in a series. It stands to reason that the foundation for future books is being laid and yet for me personally there were too many threads left wide open (including the establishing of just exactly what these characters are and how they became what they are).

Set in the 14th century. The story is told via main protagonists, Eamon and Teresa, the drama unfolding between Ireland and Genoa as the characters converge. The problem here (for me at least) being there wasn't any real sense of time nor place.

Still, intrigued by this, a series I feel could go places. I'm just that tad bit disappointed that it didn't have a stronger start.