Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Tale of One Bad Rat - Bryan Talbot

I picked this up at the library, after reading Nymeth's and Deweys' review, and I have to say it was a great choice.
I liked the art, the storyline apparently simple but carrying more than one meaning, the connections with the author Beatrix Potter (creator of Peter Rabbit), and the choice of talking about sexual abuse with frankness.
It's the story of Helen, a teenager who has run away from home after being abused by her father for years. She starts begging in the streets and tubes of London. Then meets a group of squatters and joins them, but leaves them soon after for the country, following Beatrix Potter's trail, her inspirer and model.
There's many things that make this story of survival a special one. I love, first of all, the parallel between Helen and Beatrix Potter's lives. They both had to leave home to free themselves from an oppressive family. And both have visions, which identifies them as true artists. This connection is wonderfully transformed into a Potter-ish tale at the end, called The Tale of One Bad Rat, who stood up against the big evil cat, and made a name for herself.
Eventually Helen stands up against her monster, showing that is possible to confront your worst fears, by just saying things out loud.
Rats have an important symbolic meaning. As Helen puts it, they are scavengers, thus survivors, just like her. Her little pet rat represents the way she feels about herself, disgusting and dirty, but also capable of escaping, surviving, and finding out that she is not the dirty one, after all.
The drawings are very powerful throughout the whole book, but they become even more significant, to me, at the end, when Helen is in the countryside. I believe it was nature that gave her strength, that had a revealing power for her. I could feel it in every frame. Because even if I didn't go through what Helen goes through, I always feel regenerated and energized when I'm surrounded by beautiful natural landcapes: a wood, a river, the top of a hill. It's electrifying. I think this was a big part of Helen's healing process.
So, yes, there's more than one layer to appreciate, and that what intrigued me the most.
I also liked that the art style was not just beautiful, but also very accessible. It could appeal and be understood by anybody, even those unaccustomed to the grammar of graphic novels.
And this is important for a story that could help change people's lives.

also reviewed at:

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Friday, 30 January 2009


Today something small and wonderful happened. I arrived in work in the bookshop, and I found out I wasn't supposed to be in. But instead of going back home, I managed to get tomorrow off instead (as I thought I had). Anyway, the assistant manager gave me the lovely job of dusting the whole shop (!) , "since you're not supposed to be in". I tried to protest, adding to my cause that dust makes my nose itchy for the whole day, but to no avail. So I set off unhappily to dust every shelf, even the top ones. But what do I see while dusting one of those top shelves? A note in a book! An envelope to be precise. I was in the gardening section and the book was The bedside Book of the Garden. For a moment I thought that someone forgot their book there with a note inside. But then I opened it and the enveloped said "For you", with a little rainbow drawing at the bottom of it. Well then, it's for me! I opened it and look what I found inside.
This was the front on the folded letter:
And this was the message inside:

A message saying simply "Your potential is infinite".
Included in the envelope there were also some mysterious seeds.
Obviously I checked that email address and it led me to this blog about a week of events around this art project called Change Dublin, going on now.
But I didn't find any mention of letters being left around the city. So maybe it was actually a lost envelope? Or just a way of publicising the event? I don't know.
To me, though, it felt like a message I need to believe in.
Tomorrow I'll buy a pot and plant the seeds, I can wait to see what they are.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Sometimes, when I read dystopian fiction I try to distance myself from it, thinking it's only fiction, that it might happen, but Thank God it hasn't. In the case of this book, truth is, it has. Maybe not in my country, or in yours, but somewhere in the world, in the past ,or even now, those things have happened or are happening. This is what makes it not just scary or disturbing, but profoundly sad.
Everything that the regime does in The Handmaid's Tale has being done before, and if this doesn't give you the shivers, I don't know what can.

The Handmaid is a woman who's telling the tale, but she never says her real name. She's only known through the patronymic Offred (of Fred), referring to the Commander who she belongs to. She's living in a future America, called Gilead, where a religious fundamentalist organization has taken power, and has stripped women of their freedom, so painfully earned in centuries of struggles.
Now fertile women who have been living a non orthodox life (in non married relationships, or divorced for example) have a "choice" to either become Handmaids or to go to the colonies and be condemned to a slow death through toxic exposures to radioactive waste.
Every handmaid has to wear a long concealing red habit and a white headgear similar to this (sorry, didn't find a better picture).This doesn't allow for much conversation. In fact is specifically designed to discourage conversations and to deprive women of a free view of the surrounding world, as well as to keep their faces hidden.
The Wives have a little more freedom, but they too are required to wear a blue habit, and to accept the presence of handmaids in the house.
In this future, fertility is The Problem. Pollution and nuclear radioactivity have crippled the humans' ability to procreate, so now women are regarded as an instrument, a container, whose only purpose is to bear children.

There is so much to be outraged about this regime, I don't even know where to begin. The saddest thing, though, is that something the Aunts (women who train and control the handmaids) said in the book reminded me of what I have read about women living in fundamentalist Islamic societies. In an interview, a woman claimed to be happy to wear the hijab, because it gave her freedom. It allowed her not to be looked at, not to be showcased, not to be whistled at in the streets, to be regarded for her personality and not for her beauty.
This mentality is exactly what the Aunts meant when they were saying that women now had another kind of freedom. Instead of being free TO, they were free FROM.
It also shows that for women brought up within this mentality, their condition will become normal, even liberating. They won't miss what they never had.
I'm not aware of the women's liberation movement in theocratic societies (not to self: research!), but I can draw a parallel with what Marjane Satrapi says in Persepolis. Women hated the hijab at first and would take it off as soon as they could.
I've only talked about Islamic fundamentalism because that's the only direct contemporary example that I can think of. But it must be said that Atwood was thinking more about the early Puritans who came to America, and in fairness the existence of such people is equally scary. But I don't want to dip too much into that or I'll start shaking with rage.
Let me talk more about the book instead. Far from being an essay on women's condition in totalitarian regimes, this is firstly the story of a woman, which I found totally compelling. It was the kind of book that I couldn't stop reading. At bus stops, on bus, walking to work. Everywhere. I found the writing absolutely beautiful, and thought-provoking. I especially appreciated the way the narrator expressed the sense of emptiness that her new life gave her now. I've always thought that if I ever had to go to prison, as long as I could have books and that I could write, it shouldn't be too bad. But Offred is not allowed to read, nor write. Worse than prison, this is Hell!
Her days are made of empty hours waiting for the little events of the day: lunch, shopping, dinner. And the Ceremony once a month. The reproductive activity with the Commander and her wife, which is hard to call sex.
Mostly, her days are spent waiting, thinking about little things like the ray of light that comes through the window, the possible meanings of the word "chair", the geography of an eggshell.
If reading is forbidden, then a single sentence in Latin, engraved in the cupboard, by the previous handmaid, becomes en enormous transgression. A mantra to hang on to.
But probably the fact that she has been torn away from her life, her husband, her baby daughter, is what alienates her the most. Her body doesn't belong to her anymore. She's not entitled to feel pleasure, to be held just for the sake of it.

Can I be blamed for wanting a real body, to put my arms around? Without it, I too am disembodied. I can listen to my own heartbeat against the bedsprings, I can stroke myself, under the dry white sheets, in the dark, but I too am dry and white, hard, granular; it's like running my hand over a plateful of dry rice; it's like snow. There's something dead about it, something deserted. I am like a room where things once happened and now nothing does, except the pollen of the weeds that grow up outside the window blowing in as dust across the floor.

There'd be so much more to say about it, but I've blabbed long enough.
The very last thing, only, is about the ending. I was like "WHAT?". Open ending, no conclusion. I still loved it, but I wouldn't have minded to know what happens to her.

There was an interview to the author at the end. When asked if this is science fiction, she firmly denies it:
Science fiction is filled with martians and space travel to other planets and things like that...The Handmaid's tale is speculative fiction in the genre of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-four.

But I choose to regard speculative fiction as a branch of science fiction, so it still counts for my Sci-Fi Experience!

other blog reviews:
Life and Times of a New New Yorker
In Spring it is the Dawn
Reading Reflections
Under the Dresser
Care's Online Bookclub
Just What You Want
Things mean a lot
Melody's reading corner
Rebecca Reads
The Bluestocking Society
A guy's moleskine notebook

Did I miss yours?

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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

How I live Now - Meg Rosoff

It would much easier to tell this story if it were all about a chaste and perfect love between Two Children Against the World at an Extreme Time in History but let's face it that would be a load of crap.

The real truth is that the war didn't have much to do with it except that it provided a perfect limbo in which two people who were too young and too related could start kissing without anything or anyone making us stop.

I knew Meg Rosoff from Just in Case. I didn't like the book itself, but I fell in love with the writing. How I live Now is less sophisticated in the language, but definitely a much more engaging story.
It's about 15-year-old Daisy, a Newyorker who is sent to England to spend the summer with her cousins in the country. It seems the beginning of a perfect summer. Daisy finds a welcoming and caring family, an idyllic landscape, and love. But World War III has other plans for them, and it won't be long till it catches up with Daisy's perfect life.
Although I was completely enthralled by the story, I was even more enamoured with the style. Rosoff created a language for Daisy that was overflowing. It ran fast and effortlessly and enthralled me completely. The use of indirect speech and capitalized letters was funny and pertinent, while the wording of sardonic phrases such as my unpleasantly populated subconscious made me giggle with delight.
Beside the style, the characters are the kind that you're going to miss at the end, and wish you had met. Especially sweet, serious, little Piper, with her dog Jet, and Isaac, who understands animals more than people, and Edmond, who can read people minds.
Daisy is a great character too and I loved the way she grows up through the course of the summer. She tells the story in first person, but at first you can tell she's not completely honest, especially about her anorexia. As if she was trying to underestimate her problem, even to herself. But as things unravel and war gets in the middle between her and her newfound love, Daisy will have to deal with the immediacy of reality and somehow overcome her personal problems in order to take care of others.

In the midst of all the drama, though, there is space for glimpses of humour, thanks to Daisy's ironic view of the world. One of my favourite scenes is when, to help Jet who is great at guiding the cows to pasture but can't do everything, they find a silly Border Collie named Ben:
Piper tried to train some sense into dim Ben, practising over and over again until he was just this side of useless. He still ran away bleating if any of the cows took it into their heads to look at him sideways, but most of the time they couldn't be bothered and he managed to muddle through. Sometimes I caught Jet giving him a look that was totally unimpressed and I could almost see Jet thinking Excuse me, who invited this blockhead to the party? And sometimes I wondered if he might be thinking the same thing about me.

It didn't end the way the way I wanted, but it didn't have to. I guess there couldn't have been a different ending, but in my heart I always imagine a bit more, a little bit far ahead in the future, and I see it shining bright. What can I say, I'm a hopeless romantic.

other blog reviews:
Things mean a lot
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
The Written World
Leafing Through Life
Out of the Blue
Bending Bookshelves
A Striped Armchair
Bold Blue Adventure
In Spring it is the Dawn
Some Reads
The Written Word
Presenting Lenore
The Compulsive Reader
Adventures in Multiplicity
Miss Print
“Fiddle-de-dee’s not English”

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Monday, 26 January 2009

Mailbox Monday

To be honest, from the list I'm going to show you, only one came literally in the mailbox. And because I bought it. The rest is just plain old weakness. One was a "present", though:P
So there we go:

The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee. This will be published in March and I'm reading it now. I noticed it plainly because Mark Zusak, author of The Book Thief strongly recommends it and because it says it will appeal to those who liked How I live now by Meg Rosoff, The lovely bones by Alice Sebold (haven't read it but I will), and The Virgins Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (haven't read it but I liked the film).
It's about ten-year-old Jennifer, who is growing up in the Australian Outback,while trying to come to terms to her thirteen-year-old sister's death.
I'm enjoying it, but I will talk more about it when I'm finished. I'm glad 'cause it suits the 2009 Pub challenge :D

The House at the Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
. I haven't read any Pooh's books yet! And I know this is not the first, but it was on sale, for something like 2 euro, and I couldn't resist. Should I read the first book first?

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
. From the back: Sixteen-year-old Nick knows that demons are real. Magicians call up demons in exchange for their power. The demons can appear in any shape, show you marvels, promise you anything - until you invite them in and receive their demon mark of death...
Demons, magicians and a sexual allure.
Perfect for Twilight fans (I'm not).
Deals with siblings relationships.
I don't know about this. It sounds a lot like The Amulet of Samarkand, but I hope it won't be, because I still have to read that one and I don't want to spoil it. Also not a Twilight fan.
But I will read it because our buyer needs feedbacks. It's published in June.
The fact that she is a fellow blogger is a point in her favour though

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. After reading so many good reviews I decided to take it home. After all it's a proof copy, hence free:) I'm expecting to like it a lot, so I don't want to be disappointed!

Freedom next time by John Pilger.
Anytime I go near the Current Affair section I think I want to read this book, so I've bought it, finally. It deals with stolen rights in Afghanistan, India, Palestine, South Africa and also Britain and United States and about the courageous people who are battling to free themselves. I'm really looking forward to this, even though it won't be an easy read.

Honey and Clover by Chica Umino.
My first manga of the year. I didn't realise how much I missed reading manga (mangas) till I read this. I loved it and will review it soon. This is the only book that actually came in my mailbox.

The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot.

I went to the library to look for manga and instead I saw this. I had read Nymeth's review earlier this year so I was really curious about it. I wasn't disappointed, this was brilliant stuff and will be reviewed soon too!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Another List, a.k.a. EW’s New Classics Books Perpetual Challenge

Another list! I've been meaning to post this for ages, but I didn't find the chance. Now here's my chance: a challenge about it, hosted at The Review from Here.
Oh how I love these lists, even if they're incomplete, even if they make me feel like I wasted my time and never read the books that count, even if I will never complete them.
Anyway, this challenge is a perpetual one. Just cross the books off as you read them. I know I'm really bad with these perpetual thingies. Just look at my Booker Project...Basically I just read whatever, and if it happens to suit the project, fine. Otherwise, I won't make any more efforts towards it. I expect to do the same with this.
(In Italics those on the tbr shelf).

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (199 8)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (198 8)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (198 8)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (199 8)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (198 8)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Green (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1998)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (199 8)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (199 8)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (198 8)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

[In red the books I've read after joining the EW challenge]

CBC’s 2009 Teen Choice Book Award

I got an e-mail asking me to mention this on my blog and I do it with pleasure! is collaborating with the Children's Book Council offering teens an opportunity to share their five favorite books of 2008. The five titles that receive the most “votes” will serve as the finalists for the CBC’s 2009 Teen Choice Book Award.
A list of nominees can be found at, where readers also may find information on how to nominate other titles published in 2008. The deadline for nominating books is January 31, 2009.

My List:
The Graveyard Book- Neil Gaiman
Nation - Terry Pratchett
The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Mary E. Pearson
The Tygrine Cat - Inbali Iserles
Me, the Missing and the dead - Jenny Valentine

Must Read Sci Fi and Fantasy Novels - the "Guardian" list

I've seen this at Carl's and thought I'd give it a try. The complete list is on The Guardian's website.
In bold are those I have read and in italics those that I own waiting to be read.
Many of these I wouldn't have classified as fantasy or sci-fi. (Beloved?)
Also where's Ursula Le Guin? Or Tolkien? Or Pullman? Or Charles de Lint? Or Michael Ende?
But of course is one of those lists, take it or leave it. And since I love lists, I had to post it.

1. Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

2. Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958)

3. Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)

4. Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)

5. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)

6. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)

7. Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987)

8. Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)

9. Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)

10. Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)

11. Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)

12. Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)

13. Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992)

14. Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)

15. Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966) (Kind of. Never got to finish it ,but it was great and one day I will re-read it and finish it!)

16. Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)

17. Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)

18. Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)

19. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)

20. William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)

21. Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979)

22. Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)

23. Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)

24. Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988)

25. Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

26. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

27. Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)

28. Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)

29. Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)

30. GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

31. Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)

32. Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)

33. Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998)

34. Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000)

35. Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)

36. Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)

37. Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

38. Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)

39. Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)

40. Michel Faber: Under the Skin (2000)

41. John Fowles: The Magus (1966)

42. Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)

43. Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)

44. William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)

45. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)

46. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)

47. Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)

48. M John Harrison: Light (2002)

49. Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

50. Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)

51. Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943)

52. Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)

53. James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824)

54. Michel Houellebecq: Atomised (1998)

55. Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)

56. Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)

57. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

58. Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898)

59. PD James: The Children of Men (1992)

60. Richard Jefferies: After London; Or, Wild England (1885)

61. Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)

62. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)

63. Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)

64. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)

65. Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)

66. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)

67. Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)

68. Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)

69. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)

70. Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008)

71. Hilary Mantel: Beyond Black (2005)

72. Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)

73. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)

74. Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)

75. Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)

76. Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)

77. Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)

78. China Miéville: The Scar (2002)

79. Andrew Miller: Ingenious Pain (1997)

80. Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)

81. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)

82. Michael Moorcock: Mother London (1988)

83. William Morris: News From Nowhere (1890)

84. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)

85. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)

86. Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)

87. Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)

88. Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)

89. Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)

90. Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)

91. Ben Okri: The Famished Road (1991)

92. Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)

93. Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818)

94. Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)

95. John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)

96. Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)

97. François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)

98. Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)

99. Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)

100. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)

101. JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)

102. Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988)

103. Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry: The Little Prince (1943)

104. José Saramago: Blindness (1995)

105. Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)

106. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818)

107. Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)

108. Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)

109. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)

110. Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)

111. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)

112. Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)

113. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889)

114. Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)

115. Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)

116. Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)

117. Sarah Waters: Affinity (1999)

118. HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)

119. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898)

120. TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938)

121. Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)

122. John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)

123. John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)

124. Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)

Hmm not so well! Maybe on the list are on my wishlist, some are on the tbr pile, and some are those books that you know you're meant to read them but never did (see Dracula or Frankestein, or Through the looking glass. And I'm not sure I feel like reading them.

What about you?

Other participants:

1. John DeNardo
2. Ian Sales
3. Puss Reboots
4. Debi
5. Stormfilled
6. Phil
7. Moo
8. Quixotic
9. Carl

ETA: The Updated List!

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Non-Stop by Brian W Aldiss
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
Crash by JG Ballard
Millennium People by JG Ballard
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Darkmans by Nicola Barker
The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter
Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear
Vathek by William Beckford
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite
Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown
Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (but must re-read to get to the end...)
The Coming Race by EGEL Bulwer-Lytton
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The End of the World News by Anthony Burgess
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Erewhon by Samuel Butler
The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
The Influence by Ramsey Campbell
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (should re-read)
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton
Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Hello Summer, Goodbye by Michael G Coney
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Pig Tales by Marie Darrieussecq
The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R Delaney
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
Camp Concentration by Thomas M Disch
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
The Magus by John Fowles
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Red Shift by Alan Garner
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Light by M John Harrison
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein
Dune by Frank L Herbert
The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Children of Men by PD James
After London; or, Wild England by Richard Jefferies
Bold as Love by Gwyneth Jones
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Shining by Stephen King
The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski
Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The Earthsea Series by Ursula Le Guin (NOW WE'RE TALKING!)
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis (Only read Lion, The witch and the wardrobe)
The Monk by Matthew Lewis
A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
The Night Sessions by Ken Macleod
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Ascent by Jed Mercurio
The Scar by China Mieville
Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Mother London by Michael Moorcock
News from Nowhere by William Morris
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Ada or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Vurt by Jeff Noon
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien
The Famished Road by Ben Okri
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth
A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys
The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett (I WILL!)
The Prestige by Christopher Priest
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (YEAH!)
Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (Should be the whole series)
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
Air by Geoff Ryman
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Blindness by Jose Saramago
How the Dead Live by Will Self
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
Institute Benjamenta by Robert Walser
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Affinity by Sarah Waters
The Time Machine by HG Wells
The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
The Sword in the Stone by TH White
The Old Men at the Zoo by Angus Wilson
The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Beloved - Toni Morrison

I can't even begin to describe the beauty of this book. It's simply among the best written novels I've ever read.
It's also a strange book, and I can't say I completely understood it. I just enjoyed it immensely even if its subject was tough and the story a very sad one, made of denied rights, cruelties, nightmares and unspeakable deaths.
It's set in the late 1800s, in America. Slavery is ending, but at 124, Bluestone Road, Cincinnati, its inhabitants are plagued by a different kind of slavery. The angst of the ghost of a baby who died violently. Sethe, the mother of the dead baby and of Denver, knows it and accepts it as a part of her punishment. She earned her freedom from slavery, but she's condemned to suffer even through her free life. This is her story. But it's also about many other people: Paul D, a man who was a slave in the same house as Sethe, and who returns to her after years of his escape, and tries to establish a new life for himself.
Denver, Sethe's youngest daughter, who was born on a boat, and never met her father.
Baby Suggs' who preached ex-slaves to recognize the beauty in themselves and decided to die after her people betrayed her.
All these people escaped slavery, but their nightmares, their past, find a way of catching up with them, one way of another.
And of course, this is the story of Beloved, who is the incarnation of Sethe's dead baby, but is also "something more". Maybe the collective spirit of every slave, brought from Africa, who died and were forgotten.

This was painful, like every story of slavery. But also so beautiful. And moving, deep, sensual, mysterious, dramatic, passionate. It's one of those books that are hard to talk about, but that resonate deeply inside.
It was a journey into the highest level of writing, and into the deepest of emotions.
I can see myself reading everything by Toni Morrison in the future.

other reviews:
1 more chapter
Matching Curtains
Jackie (Pulitzer Project)

Sunday, 18 January 2009

21st Bookworms Carnival (GLBTQ Literature) is out + I got an award!

This month is hosted by Renay. Go check it out!

From the books featured in the carnival I'm interested in:
Relief by L.E. Butler reviewed at Curl up with a good book, because it's set in Venice, in the 1910's and it's about painters and ballerinas.
Then of course I want to read Affinity by Sarah Waters reviewed by Alessandra. It's the only book by this author that I haven't read, since I had heard it wasn't her best. But Alessandra made me change my mind.
And Hero reviewed by Nymeth.
Then I'll stop here cause otherwise I'll just replicate the carnival on my blog and that would be stealing:P
Renay also included some links to gay teen literature which made me add more than one book to my wish list. It's just that they sound all so good!
I've added:
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
and Skim by Mariko Tamaki.

I think it's enough...

And now for the award! Emerald fire, Ms Ulat Buku and Shooting Stars Mag awarded me with the buttefly award. Thank you all so much!!! *sending virtual hugs*

the rules are:

1. Post the logo on your blog

2. Add link to the person who awarded it to you

3. Award up to 10 blogs

4. Add links to those blogs in your award post

5. Leave a message for awardee on their blog

This time I'd like to award some illustrator blogs that I visit regularly and which I think are awesome:
Lisa Evans
Irisz Agocs
Jackie Morris
P.J. Lynch
Niamh Sharkey
I love lots of other illustrators but they don't have blogs, or I don't know if they have one. I'll have to keep looking...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams

I enjoyed this even more than the first in the series The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Probably because I had read it right after I watched the movie, which I enjoyed immensely, and ended up comparing the two all the time, and finally I spoiled the whole reading experience. Just like it happened for Bridge to Terabithia.
With Restaurant at the end...nothing of the sort happened. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I will try not too put too much time in between reading the next so that I will still feel close to the story and its characters. Sometimes I have troubles warming up to sequels that I left unread for too long.
But I better say something about this one first! It starts with the Vogons about to destroy the Heart of Gold and all its passengers (Zaphod, Ford, Arthur, Trillian and the most adorable paranoid android, Marvin). The Vogons' purpose is made even easier by the fact that Arthur has inadvertently caused the whole ship computer system to freeze when he asked the Nutri-Matic to produce a proper cup of tea. The Nutri-Matic had asked Computer for advise and the whole ship had become unusable.
But I won't go further into the plot, because:
1) if you haven't read these books you need to start from the first.
2) the plot is not the main reason why you should read these books.
3) it doesn't make much sense, anyway.

It's enough to say that they're a work of comic genius. They follow a perfectly absurd logic and they're completely unpredictable, but they are also seriously funny and seriously smart.
They're not so much about a story as about ideas. That's why it's very hard to explain what actually happens!It's a series of crazy events with incredibly funny situations and some pretty mad ideas, like existentialist lifts, a restaurant that shows the end of the universe as a special feature show, the Total Perspective Vortex and much much more!

My only complaint is that Trillian as a character doesn't have much space. She only has few lines and doesn't seem to be much use to the story. Perhaps she will become more important later on. I hope so.
The ending left me also wondering about poor Marvin, my absolutely favourite character. What happened to him? Will he be alright? I need to read the rest of the series!!

other blog reviews:
Once upon a bookshelf
The wasteland
I can't stop reading

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Q & A with Inbali Iserles

I'm very excited to present you with my first interview ever. Inbali Iserles, the award winning author or The Tygrine Cat and The Bloodstone Bird, was so kind to agree to answer a few questions about her books. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.
To read why I like her books and why you should read them, go here and here.
While if you want to know more about her, visit her website: The bio article is worth a reading, as well as the Q&A...oh by the way, I love Marmite too!

Q: Hello, Inbali! Can you tell us something about your second book? Was it hard to come up with an idea after your first book? Did you feel the pressure of expectations or was it easier because you're now a published author?

A: In my second book, The Bloodstone Bird, a quest for an enchanted bird takes school boy Sash and his classmate Verity to a dangerous parallel world. The adventure starts behind a lonely taxidermy shop in an unassuming city street where Sash’s father practises his trade. Life for Sash seems bleak: his schoolmates torment him, sensing an outsider, and his father is too busy to notice – lost in his mysterious research. Everything changes when Sash finds a riddle in his father’s study, revealing a quest for a magical bird. Fame awaits its captor, and Sash decides to track it down. Verity insists on helping, whether Sash likes it or not – perhaps she has reasons of her own for wanting the bird. But beneath the suns of a dazzling new world, dangerous forces are also stalking the bird. Who will stake the most to catch the greatest prize of all?

The idea for the story was in my head for years but writing it was challenging. Expectations and deadlines certainly cranked up the pressure. On the flip side, I now had a wonderful editor to keep me on track!

Q: I know you had the inspiration for The Bloodstone Bird after hearing about the Fleet, the subterranean river flowing beneath London. But what about the bird from the title? How did that come to your mind?

A: I have always found birds intriguing. As a child I would sit for hours in the Cambridge University Zoology Museum sketching the birds of paradise. These sad but exquisite creatures were stuffed and long dead – preserved forever through taxidermy.

The birds in the story represent a great deal to different people: wealth, fame, danger, power and harmony, depending on the perspective of each of the characters. From eagles of power to doves of peace, birds seem curiously suited to mythologizing and symbolism. They soar overhead, seemingly free – and yet their natures remain remote. I was fascinated by the dissonance between a creature – the symbolic bird – and human expectations: the hopes and fears that are manifested in a human perception of something wild.

Q: About The Tygrine is the sequel going? Do you have a deadline?

A: I am in the thick of the sequel to The Tygrine Cat and the deadline is looming. At this stage of a book, the world of the story begins to take over my conscious mind – I’ve even started to see whiskery faces at the borders of my dreams.

Q: And now some more general questions: how did you decide to write for children? Was it a conscious choice?
A: It really wasn’t conscious at all. I had filed away dreams about being a writer in a dusty compartment of my brain marked “Impossible” and was training to be a lawyer in London. The idea of a rivalry between ancient feline tribes came to me by chance as I flicked through a book on cat breads, and I brooded on it for weeks before the story took shape in my mind. I wrote it for young people because I imagined that fewer adults would be interested in feline fantasy – although the four-pawed fraternity may disagree!

Q: Usually, how much do you write every day? Night or day? (I prefer to have the whole day. Write a bit, then break, then a little bit more writing, then break again, and so on. I know, it's a lot of procrastination, but it works for me!).

A: I would love to say that I wake up at 7am, have a brisk run and write between 9am and 5pm. I try to be disciplined, but my writing patterns remain frenetic. I agree with you though – it’s better to have the whole day. In reality, I probably only “write” two or three hours a day, if I’m lucky! Research, notes, planning and editing seem to occupy most of my time, together with book-related events – that and nipping out for coffee, getting my shoes re-heeled, de-frosting my freezer… I’m open to more inventive procrastination suggestions.

Q: Who are your favourite authors?

This changes by the week. Of recent reads, I love Neil Gaiman’s balance of mystery, wit and the bizarre; the exquisite detail of Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori; the depth and tenderness of Toni Morrison; the warmth of Alexander McCall-Smith.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for our readers?

A: For young readers or those who are young at heart: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book; Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations; Linda Newberry’s Catcall.

For adults: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient; Sarah Water’s The Night Watch; A.B. Yehoshua’s A Late Divorce; Caryl Phillips's Crossing the River.

Q: Anything else you'd like to say?

For anyone who would like to write, I really recommend going for it. Write whenever you can and try not to worry too much about how it sounds – you can go back and edit later. Don’t let a crafty nuance waylay you. Think about what inspires you: what makes you laugh, or cry; what makes your heart start thumping, or your blood run cold. Start there – the rest will follow.

Thank you very much for your time, Inbali. I will keep in mind your recommendations and precious advices.

As for The Tygrine Cat's sequel, it's still too early to announce a possible date of release. Any updates will be published on Inbali's website.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Nation - Terry Pratchett

"To summarize Nation is quite impossible" says Terry Pratchett, and I couldn't agree more. There's so much to say about it. It starts with an island in a pacific-like ocean being hit by a huge wave that wipes out its entire population, except for one, Mau. At the same time, the wave brings the Sweet Judy to the island, carrying a high-class Victorian girl, Daphne, and a swearing parrot.
The book really takes off for me when the two of them starts to know each other. There's the language barrier to overcome and the cultural differences which cause some pretty funny misunderstandings. But they are both ready to learn from each other because it's all they have left. That, and an incredible sense of duty that, as Pratchett points out, brings them together to save the Nation, but will also, ultimately, force them apart.
Mau is a wonderful protagonist, and also a great leader for the new community that starts gathering on the island. He feels like a crab without a shell, without a soul, because his manhood initiation never took place. He's tormented by questions that are hard to answer. What is the meaning of everything? Are gods watching us? And if so, why didn't they do anything to save us, or to warn us? The birds knew about the wave and flew. Why weren't human provided with the same warning system?
In a way, this is a book about the nature of questions and the importance of answers:

So that's what the god are! An answer that will do! Because there's food to be caught and babies to be born and life to be lived and so there is no time for big, complicated and worrying answers! Please, give us a simple answer, so that we don't have to think, because if we think we might find answers that don't fit the way we want the world to be.

But then other kind of questions start to come. What if the wave never happened? The ghost girl, Daphne, would have never arrived. He probably wouldn't have grown so wise and brave. He became a leader because they needed him to be. And he probably would have never questioned the gods and find an answer in the cave of the grandfathers!

Although this book was more serious and complex than I expected, being Terry Pratchett's , it was full of truly hilarious moments. My favourite is the chapter called "A star is born", where Daphne has to help a baby to be born and the men must wait outside and try to guess what is happening inside the hut. The men waiting are so funny and tender and the whole scene made me laugh out loud!
Then there's the whole perception of the "trousermen" who are afraid of legs! So true.
I also loved the parrot, who could scare away the grandfather birds, and I loved the grandfather birds, with their grumpy and disapproving expressions, and of course I loved the grandfathers voices, even though I thought the grandmothers were much wiser than them :P

I'm not sure I'm satisfied with the ending. I wasn't when I finished it, because I like romances to be rewarded at the end, because it's fiction, and because I want so! But, alas, Terry Pratchett is right when he says that the ending is not happy, it's not sad, just appropriate.
I'd like to re-read it one day to fully appreciate the different layers on which the story is based, and to be again with some wonderful characters like Daphne, Mau, Mrs Gurgle, Milo and all the rest.

I just want to say one last thing that bugged me when I read this book. I'm familiar with the notion of parallel universes and always thought it made sense. But if it's true that there's no such thing as "does not happen" but only "happens somewhere else", well, then there should be an infinite amount of universes. If one single event can split into two possibilities and thus two universes, there would be a mind-boggling number of universes being created every minute!
I don't know if I can believe that, though it's fascinating and a great subject for novels.

I leave you with the Pratchett's interview that I quoted from, done for Amazon. I really liked listening to it!:

other reviews:
Guys Lit Wire
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Adventures in Reading


please let me know if I missed yours.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Eva's Bookshelf Meme

Mariel tagged me for this meme. I loved it, although it took me a while to write it. Hope you enjoy reading it:)

The Rules
1. Tag 3-5 people, so the fun keeps going!
2. Leave a comment at the original post at A Striped Armchair, so that Eva can collect everyone’s answers.
3. If you leave a comment and link back to Eva as the meme’s creator, she will enter you in a book giveaway contest! She has a whole shelf devoted to giveaway books that you’ll be able to choose from, or a bookmooch point if you prefer.
4. Remember that this is all about enjoying books as physical objects, so feel free to describe the exact book you’re talking about, down to that warping from being dropped in the bath water…

the book that’s been on your shelves the longest:
In my house in Italy I still keep most of my childhood books in my room. They remind me of the first time I discovered the wonders of stories. First read to me so many times I'm sure my parents were nauseated by them, and then read by me even more times. I will never know which was was the first but I'm choosing the oldest and maybe the favourite, La Bambina dai Capelli d'Argento (the silver-haired child) by Modì. It's an old copy, probably impossible to find now, battered and falling apart, that belonged to my father when he was a child. Recently I've noticed, surprised, how I seem to love dramatic stories. But I shouldn't be surprised, because I've always been! This is a tear-jerker, melodramatic story of a child who is vexed by her evil step-mother and
one day runs away with another guy who's in the circus. They travel with the circus happily till something happens (maybe the step-mother looks for her and they have to leave the caravans) and the two of them are forced to hide in a hollow tree in the midst of a snow torment. They end up dying there, and haunting the place. Jesus! Very pathetic. But I absolutely adored it and asked my parents to read it over and over and over and OVER again. I wished I could find a picture of the cover, but there's no trace of it on the web. One day maybe I'll scan it, when I'm back home.

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time, etc.):
There's so many! Every book reminds me of a place, or maybe a person, or a time. How can I choose just one?
Ok, since I have to, I just thought about Isabel Allende and The House of the Spirits. This book reminds me of a whole phase of my life (at 15-16years-old) when, after I read it, I started reading Allende's books one after the other. I read Eva Luna first, but The House of the Spirits made me fall in love head over heels for Allende's writing. I remember lying on my bed during a cold winter in Sicily and be completely immersed in the book. I passed it on to my father (or did he read it first?I'm not sure anymore) and we both raved about it. It was cool because I felt I shared something with him that was special, that was only between me and him. Unfortunately, since this meme is also about the physicality of the book, I must say I don't own the original copy anymore, because it was somehow...destroyed, by our fiercest dog. She loved chewing on stuff (mostly hands of unknown visitors, ehmm ehmm) and when the book was left outside once, she literally shredded it to pieces. I was secretly devastated, but I was bought a new copy soon. I wished I could show you a picture of the destroyed book which was carefully put back together. This is the cover anyway:

I love Feltrinelli editions. This is their paperbacks series, and they will always be among my favourite books. I love the smell, the paper, the texture of the covers. They also publish nice trade paperbacks, that are more expensive, but I don't like them. They don't feel the same. Probably because the economic editions are forever linked, for me, to Allende and the spell that she put on me with her words.

a book you acquired in some interesting way (gift, serendipity in a used bookstore, prize, etc.):
The Bloodstone Bird by Inbali Iserles.

It was sent to me by the author herself, signed and everything! I was delighted. She had told me she wanted to send it to me, but it was still a surprise when I received it. This is one the best thing that has happened to me since I started blogging. Getting to know the author of a book I loved and then keeping in touch and even meet for a long and dense chat about a lot of stuff bookish and non bookish. So yes, receiving this book was very special. She also sent me the US version of The Tygrine Cat, when it came out. It's a lovely hardback and I plan to re-read it just to make this edition more mine:)

the most recent addition to your shelves:
The very last is a book in Italian that hasn't been translated called Tana per la bambina con i capelli a ombrellone by Monica Viola. It's actually a very interesting book not only because it's an interesting read, but also because it was published originally on the web, through an Italian publishing project that gathers a group of editors who choose books to edit and then publish them for free on their website, Vibrisselibri. I knew about Tana because a friend of mine did the editing for it. I downloaded it but never brought myself to read it. I should have printed it but I was lazy. Then it was picked up by one of the major publishing houses in Italy and given a different cover and an existence on paper.

I don't know which one I like more. The first, on the left, has more sense, it tells more about the book. The second, on the right, is very attractive and I would have probably bought it in a bookshop if I didn't know about it previously. It's eye-catching. What do you think? Anyway, the most interesting thing about it, is that is published with a "copyleft" philosophy. Instead of stating that it's forbidden to reproduce it, it says that anyone can reproduce parts of it, or the whole book, and anyone can publish it on the web, provided it's not for commercial purposes. It also states that the author doesn't claim royalties for libraries loans. I didn't know authors could claim royalties for that.

a book that’s been with you to the most places:
I don't have a book in particular. I don't bring books with me unless I'm reading them or I'm going to read them. After that they belong to the bookshelf. So all the books on my tbr pile at the moment here have travelled with me in all my house-movings in the last couple of years! Still too many to mention:P

a bonus book that you want to talk about but doesn’t fit into the other questions:
again there's so many more special book to talk about. But I'llkeep it to just one. It's the first book I got signed. By my (then) favourite author, Dacia Maraini.
I was so excited my heart was pounding. She was sitting down, surrounded by eager fans, and she looked up at me and smiled the sweetest smile, and her eyes twinkled and I wanted to faint. I didn't even think I could have told her something. I just got the book signed and retreated. I was 17, maybe. The book was La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa translated into The Silent Duchess and it still is one of my most treasured books. This is was Amazon says about her and the book:

Dacia Maraini is something of a national treasure in Italy. The author of more than 50 books, a director of stage and screen, and an outspoken feminist, Maraini has never been afraid of controversy. The Silent Duchess won prestigious awards in Italy upon its publication there in 1990, and has since been translated into 14 languages. It tells the story of Marianna Ucria, an 18th-century noblewoman who is both deaf and mute following a mysterious childhood trauma. Though outwardly Marianna's life follows the same trajectory as most women's of her class and time--an arranged marriage and endless childbearing--her inner life is quite unique. Within the silent world she occupies, Marianna pursues a vigorous life of the mind; in fact, silence becomes a weapon she wields to defend her deepest, truest self against society's suppression of women's creativity and will. From the first, horrifying images of a child's hanging, through Marianna's forced marriage to her elderly uncle, and finally to her recollection of the trauma that scarred her, The Silent Duchess takes the reader on a remarkable journey through the mores and manners of 18th-century Sicily and into the mind of its enigmatic, courageous heroine.

There! This was long! Now I should tag 3-5 people. Please forgive me if you've been tagged already. If you were, I suggest you pass the tag on to different people, so that my tag doesn't get lost:)

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Some thoughts on 2008

As I'm sitting here thinking about the year that has just passed I'm realising how quickly it went by. If I think about February, the month I moved into my lovely bedsit and started living on my own (no sharing) for the first time, it seems like just a month ago. At first I thought I might feel lonely, but in fact I've totally enjoyed my life without worries of unwashed dishes (mine), unwanted noises in the morning or at night (theirs), or just plain crazy flatmates.
The only thing I wasn't enjoying was my job in the new bookshop, which I endured till september when I moved back to my original shop. That time coincided with my starting the training to teach Italian. I need to acquire the practice experience to get the qualification and I've been going to Italian classes once a week since then, listening to an experienced teacher, who let me do something with the class at the end of the lessons. I found out I really enjoy doing this, so I'm thinking of starting to teach my own pupils, maybe at home, to get more experience and to earn some money too.
When I was working in the other bookshop I had to travel 1 hour and a half every day to get there, between bus and train. People thought that was my main problem, but actually the travelling was sometimes the best part of the day, because I could read loads! I trained myself to read on the bus without feeling sick, and it worked. I read much more than last year, thanks to all the travelling.
Looking back to my resolutions for this year, I can be quite proud of myself. For the most part I've enjoyed reading and even though I freaked out a little about the challenges, in truth, I felt quite liberated. I even took some books from the library, happily ignoring my tbr shelves.
I didn't write reviews right after finishing books, but I took notes sometimes and it helped. Also I tried to write a review for every book that I read, which I didn't last year. I think that's a great improvement. I want to try again this year to see if I can actually read a book and write a review straight away, or shortly after.
I've also almost finished the story I've been writing for ages, and that's mostly thanks to NaNoWriMo. As a resolution for 2009, I want to 1) finish the story 2) take part in NaNoWriMo for real.
Reading resolutions:
- try to read from the tbr pile as much as possible. There's plenty of wonderful books to discover there!
- don't fall behing with reviews
- read more

Other memorable things that happened in my blogging year:
-I started reviewing picture books and I've loved it. I'm looking forward to discover more gems this year.
- I've done the Read-a-thon. I really hope someone can carry on Dewey's legacy and organise it again this year. If I can, I'd like to help.

As for the books, I don't know if I can pick a list of favourites. But I'll mention a few titles that really stood out, and will probably make my all-time list of favourites.
-The Book Thief by Mark Zusak
I've read it early in the year but it's still up there, my absolute favourite. I've bought it for all my family and friends and I talk about it with customers all the time!
- The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
Close runner up. It made me want to read everything that Charles de Lint wrote.
And then in no particual order:
- War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- Tales of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
- High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- Nation by Terry Pratchett
- The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Hellfire by Mia Gallagher

Reading recap:

Total books read: 69
Fiction: 61
Non-fiction: 8
YA and Kid's: 41 + lots of picture books...
Written by Men: 30
Written by Women: 33
Written by Men and Women together: 6
New Authors: 40
Re-Reads: 2
New Favourite Authors Discovered: Charles De Lint, Toni Morrison, Shannon Hale, Jenny Valentine, Mary E. Pearson, Emma Bull, Marjane Satrapi, Mia Gallagher, Nick Hornby, Dan Rhodes, Diana Wynne Jones, Louis Sachar.