Thursday, 26 February 2009

Death : The high cost of living - Neil Gaiman, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham and Dave McKean

I haven't read Sandman properly, and I'm looking forward to the day I will. But this comic was a great prelude. It's dedicated to Death, a character that has always fascinated me, although I had ever only seen pictures of her. The top hat, the black hair, the little kohl spiral below her eye. It's as if I had always known her but never met her.

In this story I find out that she is just as wonderful as I imagined. Smiley, friendly, quirky and a bit naive. She is immortal, but every 100 years she has to live the life of a human , to experience what the lives she takes away feel like. Instead of as a curse, she takes it as a chance to savour every little bit of her 24-hour life: breathing, chewing an apple, meeting people and even saving them.
One of these people is Sexton Furnival, a bored and disillusioned teenager, who doesn't think life is worth living and hence decides it's time to kill himself. The same day his mother decides to have a spring cleaning, in July, and kicks her son out of the house for the whole day. He ends up strolling in a rubbish dump, where he falls from a rubbish mount and gets stuck beneath a fridge. Thanks to his luck, Death is there to help him get out, and then invites him to her house to clean up.
It's the start of a long day for both of them.

Reading Death felt like reading a Charles De Lint's short story, for some reason. Just this is enough to qualify as a great read. The fact that it was in graphic novel form gave it an extra appeal.
Just look at this page:

Beside Death, or Didi as she's called here, I loved the character of Hettie, who's this loony 250-year-old witch who says things like "You knock on that door or the sun will be shining on places inside you that the sun doesn't usually shine", and who's looking for her lost heart. She has hidden it somewhere to escape Death, but now she needs her to find it again!
Actually this story is filled with great characters who could have their own story. For example I'd love to read more about Foxglove, the singer/writer and her girlfriend, who is expecting her first child. They are a lesbian couple, and Hazel, the expecting one, is wearing a badge saying "I chose to have a baby but I'm happy I had a choice". It's these little things that made me fall in love with this story. These, and a simple but profound message: to appreciate life at its fullest, and live every moment of it. Because Death can wait.

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Sunday, 22 February 2009

One More Challenge and other stuff

In the last few days I have noticed just how much I'm unread in terms of Classics (mostly British, American and French and the odd Russian), so I told myself: this is ridiculous. You can't be a booklover and a bookworm, not to mention a bookseller if you haven't read THE CLASSICS!
It's not that I'm completely unaware of what those books are, I have studied them at school, read the excerpts required in class, wrote essays about them...but never actually read the whole thing!
You can observe what asserted above on this meme I've done on Facebook.

I've marked with a cross those that I've read:

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte X
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Running Total: 6

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
Running total: 7

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House- Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Running total: 9

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (reading it now!)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
Running total: still 11

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez X
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery X
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood X
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
Running total: 15

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon X
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Running total: 16

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road- Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Running total: 16

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath X
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
Running total: 17

81 A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton X (Only the Faraway Tree,I'm too old for those now!)
Running total: 20

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad X
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factor
94 Watership Down- Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers- Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

TOTAL: 22/100

Ok, other than The Bible and Ulysses, which classic should I run and read right now?

I was thinking:
Pride and Prejudice
Great Expectations
The Grapes of Wrath
Of Mice and Men
Cather in the Rye
Wind in the willows
The secret Garden
Watership down
Little Women
Animal Farm
Madam Bovary
Crime and Punishment
Cath 22

I'm not going to make a proper list cause we all know it's gonna put me off it, no matter how changeable it would be. But I hope to read at least 4 for the challenge from April to November (1st April-31st October).

I should also suggest a classic for beginners. If you haven't read it, totally Jane Eyre.
Ditto for To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies.

For the new classics....can I say The Book Thief again?
On a complete different note, I just wanted to say I really enjoyed the Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer Event in chapters last tuesday!
Nymeth sent me this picture where you can actually see me standing and looking really bored (or asleep), but I wasn't! I really liked it!

I'm wearing the green "Reading is crazy" t-shirt. More pics here.
Also the event has been reviewed comprehensively here so I'm not going to repeat what has been said already. Just that it was awesome. I love listening to Neil Gaiman reading and even though I didn't know who Amanda Palmer was, I thought she was great. Best song on the ukulele was about her best friend, the house, being on sale now. Sad and funny at the same time.
I'd love to get their new book, but I doubt I can afford to buy it, which leads me to the final thing I wanted to mention: my being broke and my enrollment into the affiliates!!!
Yes, I sold my soul...but for a good cause, or two
1) my financial state, which is crying at the moment.
2) And the independent bookstores (only in the US though, but better than nothing).
From now on I will link to their websites, so if you're interested in the books I've reviewed, you can get them pronto from an indie local bookstore, and hopefully it'll help me as well raising some funds! yay!

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Friday, 20 February 2009


I can't believe I saw Neil Gaiman in person twice this week! I almost feel like we're best buddies now :D
I went to see the premiere of Coraline at the James International Film Festival (although it won't be out here till MAY!) and it was a-w-e-s-o-m-e. I loved it loved it loved it! Although my favourite quote in the book,

"If you stay here you can have whatever you want."
Coraline sighed "You don't understand, do you?" she said. "I don't want whatever I want! Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn't mean anything. What then?"

has been cut. In the film Coraline only says "You don't get it, do you?" leaving it a bit vague.
But other than! I can't wait to see it again. There were major changes, the biggest of all the addition of a boy who helps her considerably and gives Coraline a doll who looks exactly like her. There isn't a doll in the book, right? Then some of the scenes at the end were very different. But I loved that Neil Gaiman, at the Q&A after the film, revealed that Henry Selick's originally sent him a script that was too similar to the book, so Neil Gaiman told him he should try and make it more his, make some changes so that it would be an original and enjoyable movie by Henry Selick, and not just a book put into motion. There! Finally someone who doesn't think that the quality of a movie derived from a book is to be judged by whether it follows the book line by line or not! A movie is a movie and it should follow certain cinematographic rules, it must work visually. It's artistically impossible, I think, to produce a movie that recreates the book exactly without making any kind of change. It would be boring, and not just for those who have read the book. I never liked the Harry Potter movies for this very reason.
In the case of Coraline, I thought it was a wonderful piece of entertainment. I didn't think it was as scary as the press is depicting it, although I'm sure Neil Gaiman wouldn't be happy to hear it:P I just think there are a lot of scarier movies out there for kids, Spiderwick Chronicles for one. Or the aforementioned Harry Potter.
What came across strongly was the amount of love and care that the creators put into it. As Gaiman said in his introduction, everything that's in the film has been made by hand. And it still exists. The clothes were knitted by an amazing micro-knitter woman, Athea Crome. The music composed by Bruno Colais was mesmerising, so much that I'm seriously thinking I should get the soundtrack. For now, I'll just play the website's music over and over. And the animation was unbelievable! I know it's supposed to scare you away from buttons forever, but it made me want to sew my own Coraline doll with button eyes straight away, instead! Nobody can make me be scared of buttons, I love them too much. Now I only need to learn how to sew!

One of the best thing about the film was the colours. Pastel shades of purple, turquoise and green, with some very vivid reds and blues, that I find irresistible. Coraline's parents are gardening writers, and in the other world they have this magnificent garden filled with cherry blossoms, and magic flowers. That garden alone is something to see.
Then there's Coraline's clothes...aww I wished I had a blue star jumper too...

Oh wait, I can make it!(click on the drawer on the left to download the pattern). Seriously, I didn't know about this till I typed in "Coraline star jumper" in google few minutes ago and I found this!

I could go on and on about Coraline.I haven't even mentioned the acrobatic mice and their choreographies, or the 3D effects....
So, I'll leave you with my two pictures of buttoned eyes. I can't decide with one is creepier. The one where I smile and you can see the creepy teeth, or the serious one. I look like a ghost in both, anyway.

Have you buttoned your eyes yet?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The Anatomy of Wings - Karen Foxlee

This is the story of Elizabeth Day. I have pieced it together with my own two hands. I have made it from things I saw and things I did not see but later knew. It is made from the tatters of terrible things and the remnants of wonderful things. I have sewn it together before it fades.

I've picked this up because the back of my ARC has a quote from Mark Zusak that read: "Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you've finished, just to stay near it. The Anatomy of Wings is one of those books."
Convincing, isn't it?

It sure wasn't the cover that attracted me, because this is the actual one that I have:

The story is told by Jennifer Day's. A ten-year-old living in a small town in Queenland (Australia), who's trying to come to terms with her teenage sister's death.
It's her voice that speaks, but as she explains in the quote, a lot of what she tells couldn't have being witnessed by her. This allows the author to being close to Jennifer's world and, at the same time, to follow Beth, her sister, when Jennifer couldn't.
She starts recounting the funeral, and then she goes back to Beth's last months, from the day they went to the lake and Beth fainted, till the day of her death.
But this is not just about Beth. It's also the story of Jenny and her best friend Angela, who are trying to find out why Jenny lost her singing voice, all of a sudden. And it's mainly a story about a family. I wouldn't call it a dysfunctional family at first, but they have their problems. The mother doesn't know how to cope with her teenager growing too fast. The father seems to be the understanding one, but he doesn't do anything to help. Beth is a beautiful, glowing girl who tries to save insects and later her boyfriend. But then becomes growingly distant from everything, as if nothing really mattered, making impossible for her family to understand her. The way her mother reacts to her behaviour reminds me of The Virgin Suicides: repressive and apprehensive. It was painful to read.
Then there's Jenny who collects facts and loves birds more than anything else. Danielle who has to wear braces for the back and is saving money to get a perm. And Nanna, who is overly religious, collects saints figurines, and think that Beth spoke to an angel once.

The best thing about this book is the writing. It was lyrical and delicate. I loved lines like this one:

That winter the nothingness of still days slipped into her, drop by drop.
It kind of reminded me of another book called The Year the Gypsies Came by Linzie Glass, which was also about a family struck by a sudden tragedy, also told by the younger sister, and also beautifully written.
I also enjoyed the melancholic short stories about the neighbourhood, which were included in an apparently random way, but which had a subtle connection to the main story, paralleling in a way what was happening to the main characters.

This said, I must admit I didn't feel the same as Zusak at the end. It was sort of anti-climatic for me. There was no big secret to discover, no mystery that was overlooked, no real explanation except the mere recounts of the facts. Young troubled, dissatisfied teen dies. End of story.
I enjoyed the characterisations, the "mood" of the story, some very vivid descriptions of moments or feelings. But I was a bit disappointed at the end. I probably expected something more and it made me rethink about the whole book. It shouldn't have been presented as a story about a girl looking for answers about her sister's death. It simply is a story about a family who falls apart for many reasons, and the equally sad stories of unfulfilled dreams, traumas and losses of their neighbours.
Even though I didn't end up loving this book as much as I hoped, I'd give this author another try. Her writing was definitely worthy.

also reviewed at:
Books by their cover
Please let me know if you know of more.

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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Paradise Kiss vol. 1 by Ai Yazawa

I've discovered Ai Yazawa's work through Nana. I picked it up when I saw the first volume in a shop and nobody knew anything about it yet, and quickly became my favourite new manga. Nana has been adapted into an anime series and into a film which was very popular in Japan.
So it was only natural that I would seek out Yazawa's earlier works. Paradise Kiss seems to be the most accessible (meaning that Gokinjo Monogatari, the manga which takes place before Paradise Kiss, is hard to get here).

So what is this story about? The main character is Yukari, a senior student who doesn't know what to do with her life yet. One day, walking in the streets, she's stopped by Arashi, a wild looking guy, with a taste for piercings, spiky hairs and torn clothes. Yukari is so scared by Arashi's appearances that she immediately thinks he wants to rape her or rob her or kill her, or possibly all of the above. But Arashi only wants to offer her a job in the atelier he works in. The atelier is the "Paradise Kiss", an ex bar, hidden away from the main streets, transformed into a studio by a group of fashion students. Initially Yukari feels insulted by them, and turns down their offer. She's too shocked by their alternative and queer looks, but she gradually changes her mind, when she realises how hard these young people work to make their dream come true.
A key-role for this change of attitude is George, a fascinating, charismatic figure who is the real talent of the group.
The rest of the team are Miwako - Arashi's girlfriend - and Isabella - a crossdresser who's a sort of motherly figure for the group.
Needless to say, Yukari will accept the offer, and will fall head over heels for George (although she tries to deny it for the whole book). I mean, how could she not?

(Click to see what I mean)

(oh and did I mention that he has blue eyes and blue hair?)


I was happy to see that a lot of the things that drew me into Nana are also found in Paradise Kiss. The style first of all. Yazawa must be one of the best character drawer ever. Her faces are simply beautiful, with smooth and clear lines.
Her attention to details and to fashion is astounding. This is even more prominent here, being a story which revolves around the fashion world. In this first volume Yukari doesn't wear much other than her school uniform, but the rest of the characters have already shown an incredible variety. Miwako has a different hair-style in every chapter, and even her everyday clothes are fabulous. George's flamboyant elegance is magnetic. And Isabella, she's just so sweet...she should totally have more space.

But this manga is not just about style. The story seems to be equally engaging, with the beginning of a passionate romance, the introduction of some elements of conflicts between three minor characters, that will be interesting to see developing, and of course the new adventure that our heroine Yukari has decided to embrace.
I really can't wait to read the next!

other reviews:
Read about comics

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Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Dust of 100 Dogs - A.S. King

Do you know when you read a book and then you can't wait to review it? This is one of those books!
I was hooked since page one and remained hooked the whole way through. And obviously I loved it!

It's about Ireland and Barbados, pirates and dogs, treasures and battles, embroidering and jewels and especially about love - love 'till the end of the world.
So the story goes that once upon a time, in a beautiful Irish valley in 1600s lived Emer Morrisey, a bright and lively kid, and her peaceful family. Then Oliver Cromwell came and changed everything. Emer's parents are killed fighting and Emer is packed off to live with her cousins and violent uncle. There, in Connacht, she also meets Seanie O'Carroll, her one and only love, but her uncle has other plans and packs her off again to Paris to be married to some fat man.
I don't want to say too much about what happens because half of the fun is to follow Emer through her picaresque travels and wonder what will happen next to her.
The other half is about Saffron Adams, Emer's reincarnation. Yes, because Emer, on her last seconds of her life, is cursed to live a 100 lives as a dog and then to reincarnate in a human again, with her memories intact. So now Saffron is a child prodigy, knowing too much about history and too little about how to be a proper teenager. The one thing she knows is where her treasure is, and she's determined to go and dig it out, as soon as she turns 18.
Even though Emer's story is more exciting and I longed to follow her ever since she appears on the page, I didn't think Saffron's was in the way. It was fun to see how a 300 year-old soul would deal with a teenage body and duties. And I was dying to see what was gonna happen once she arrived in Jamaica.
There's a third layer to the story, and it's about an obnoxious fellow who is violent toward everything around him, including a dog (argh! poor dog). At first you might wander what such a guy is doing in the story, but it all comes together, at the end. Actually I urge you now NOT to read the interview at the end (like I did) before reading the story. There's a BIG spoiler, I would have rather not know...So you're warned.

I found this story completely fascinating. Lots of battles, adventures, escaping, big villains and lots of swearing.
I loved how the "dog facts" where placed carefully in the middle of the story, telling bits of Emer's lives as a dog and at the same time connecting to what is happening in the stories.
And I loved that Saffron isn't exactly Emer, but her own person who makes different decisions, based on what she has learned in her previous lives.
If you like strong women characters, pirates and great storytelling, you have to read this book.
For all the others, read it anyway. I think this is going to be the must-read book of the year :)

One last warning: It was rather graphic when it comes to violence scenes, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone under 15 years-old.

For a chance to win a copy visit A.S. King's blog regularly. She has many creative giveaways almost every day! There's one now which ends February 8th.

Finally, the book trailer. This is what made me want to read this in the first place. Thanks to Renay!

other blog reviews:
Carrie's YA Bookshelf
Presenting Lenore + interview
Liv's Book Reviews: Dust of 100 Dogs...Get Excited
The Magic of Ink
Becky's book reviews
Reviewer x
Jen Robinson
Bookshelves of doom

have I missed yours?

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Friday, 6 February 2009

The Thirteen Treasures - Michelle Harrison + Q & A with the author!

I really hope our buyer will keep sending us books like this for feedback!
It was the perfect read to curl up on the couch with, when it's dark and cold outside. At least, that's how I enjoyed it.

It tells the story of Tanya, a girl with the ability (or the curse, if she was to say it) to see fairies. This is a constant cause for troubles, so much that one day her mother loses her patience, after a disaster that she (and the fairies) have caused, and decides to send her away to her grandmother. Tanya hates being with her grandmother in her old manor in the country, and it seems that her grandmother feels the same way about her being there. But there's no discussing it. She will have to spend two weeks with the grumpy old woman, the even grumpier groundskeeper Warwick, and his nerdy, awkward son Fabian.

But she doesn't have time to get bored. As soon as she arrives strange things start to happen.
The big house, and the woods nearby have secrets. About a girl who went missing fifty years before, about secret passages never discovered, about Tanya's grandmother's past...
Who is the girl that Tanya and Fabian meet in the woods? And why is she identical to the photo of the missing girl? What are the strange howling sounds that come from the walls? And why the fairies don't want her to go into the woods?
So many questions for a mystery that has a delicious Gothic feel, entangled beautifully with fairy folklore.
It's true, there's is a lot going on. I haven't even mentioned Mad Morag, the "crazy" woman who lives in a caravan in the woods. Or Red, the mysterious girl who Tanya finds in the tunnels of the house. Or the tricks that the fairy keep playing on Tanya.
There isn't a dull moment in this story. There's always something that makes you turn the page quickly, to find out what's happening. At the end everything comes together in a surprising, completely satisfying revelation.

This is a great debut for Michelle Harrison. A very enjoyable and entertaining story for anyone who loves fairy lore, Gothic novels and a bit of mystery.
The only thing I'd like to point out is about the title. It's not related to what the story is about, except marginally. I kept waiting for the thirteen treasures to have a key role in the game, but they don't. Unless they will in the sequel, which I will definitely read!

other reviews:
My favourite Books
Mr Rypleys enchanted books

do you know about other reviews? Let me know!

Q & A with Michelle Harrison

And now, Michelle Harrison has kindly accepted to answer some questions about her and her first book. For an introduction to Michelle and The Thirteen Treasures you can visit her website. The design is very pretty:)

Q: First of all, can you explain why "Thirteen treasures"? As far as I could tell, the bracelet wasn't the main part of the story, although it was symbolic of fairy lore. Is it going to be more important in the sequel?

A: Yes, the bracelet will feature more prominently in the sequel. There were a number of titles I discussed with my agent before we submitted to publishers, and The Thirteen Treasures was the one that appealed most. Although it's not the main part of the story, an important theme of the book is consequence, and how past actions and events affect the present and other people. As the Thirteen Treasures relates to an old legend that links with how Tanya has her ability of second sight, this seemed an apt title.

Q: I've read that you've done your own illustrations at the beginning of every chapter. They are lovely. Have you ever thought of doing a picture book? or maybe to do full page illustrations for your next books?

A: Thank you. I'd really like to do some picture books at some point, and have a couple of ideas that I may take forward. My next book will also contain chapter head illustrations like those in The Thirteen Treasures, but full page illustrations will hopefully be a possibility for future books.

Q: On your website you say that if the book was ever made into a movie,you'd like Warwick to be played by Dougray Scott and Florence by Vanessa Redgrave. Do you have anyone in mind for Tanya and Fabian?

A: Strange as it might sound, no! But there are a couple of reasons why: Tanya's character is based on my niece, so it's hard for me to visualise anyone other than her. And also because there are few young actors around that aren't already famous for a certain role, such as the Harry Potter cast. If it was ever made into a film it would be good to get some new talent in for the younger roles.

Q: Without revealing anything about the plot and the solution to the mystery, can you tell us how you came up with the idea and whether it was formed since the beginning? Everything is laid little by little as if carefully planned and then all the strings come together at the end. Was is hard to keep all these story-lines together?

A: I was inspired to write about fairies after being introduced to fairy artists such as Alan Lee, Brian Froud and Arthur Rackham during my Illustration degree. Their artwork is brilliant, and completely different to the perception of fairies that most people have. Some things in the story have come from real places and experiences, but the story is really a mixture of things I find fascinating and mysterious - and scary. I find the idea of missing people, and the 'not knowing' very frightening. Many of the ideas came as I was writing, but when I began it I had the clear premise of a girl tormented by fairies, and a strong idea of the ending. The middle part was far less structured, and changed considerably from the first draft to the finished version, so I did have to think a lot about weaving everything together.

Q: Is the sequel going to follow Tanya back at home or will it still be set in Elvesden? How is it going?

The sequel takes place partly at Elvesden Manor, and partially in the fairy realm. It largely follows Red, although most of the characters from book one are part of the story. It's due to be handed over quite soon now, but it's going well and I'm excited about it.

Yay! I'm really happy to hear this, I really liked Red as a character.

Q: How do you find the time to write? Are you still working full time now in publishing?

A: I am still working full time, so my writing is done in the evenings and at weekends. Lately I've been scribbling away in the library at lunch times, too. It can be a juggling act, particularly at the moment as I've been having to take time off work to promote the book. But I'm not in a position to be able to write full-time just now, so basically I just have to make the time.

Q: I've seen your recommendations for picture books on your site and we do have similar tastes. I love Emily Gravett's work, Ayao Imai's the 108th sheep, and Antonia Barber's The Mousehole Cat, which I reviewed here. Do you have any recommendations for people who read your book and liked it?
I've only recently discovered Eva Ibbotson, who is a brilliant author of stories that are full of adventure, magic and mystery. For fans of fairy fiction I'd recommend The Various by Steve Augarde, and Knife by R. J. Anderson which I'm reading at the moment and enjoying. For older fairy fans, Heretic by Sarah Singleton and Poison by Chris Wooding are both great reads. I'm also told that I'd love Cold Tom by Sally Prue, which is on my 'to read' pile.

I haven't heard of Heretic or Poison, have to go and check them out! I heard Knife is really good too, and The Various always attracted me, but I never got around it.
Thank you so much for this interview, Michelle. I wish you all the best with your next book.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

My New Graphic Novels Frenzy...

...has led me to:

- buy The Books of Magic - Reckonings by John Ney Rieber for only 4 euro at Oxfam!

Ok, I didn't realise it wasn't Neil Gaiman till I came home, and that it was actually volume 3, but I'm still happy I got it. Now I only need vol.1 and 2. :P

- borrow Palestine and Safe Area Goražde by Joe Sacco

- request an interloan for Absolute Sandman by Neil Gaiman AND Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Apparently my first try from home didn't work so had to do it from the library, and I forgot I also wanted to get Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot. Next time.

All this just today!
I wish I could just read and read and read...I think tonight I will start with
Death: the high cost of Living by Neil Gaiman and When the wind blows by Raymond Briggs and then start with the rest of the loot :D

And on a completely unrelated note, I just wanted to share the fact that this Sunday the 15th (I got a bit too impatient there...) I'm going to see the premiere of Coraline - the movie!!! And Neil Gaiman will be there for a Q & A!
Then, two days later I will go to another signing with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.
Me very excited by all this.
You're allowed to be jealous :D

Graphic Novel Challenge 2009

It's snowing so hard today! It's so beautiful to sit beside the window and see the snow falling! It's all so white!!!
Anyway, I'm here to talk about Graphic Novels. In the past few days it's all I want to read. I'm still reading books and enjoying it, but I suddenly feel the urge to read everything that's been published in a graphic form. It's quick (so no guilty feelings) and usually visually stunning. I was a devourer of comics when I was younger, so it's no surprise that I should love graphic novels now!
I've applied for this challenge, then, just to give me an excuse, so I figure I'll post a little post about it. I shouldn't even start looking at all those reviews on the blog though, because look at the list I already pinned down (from reading the Rough Guide to Graphic Novels, blogging, browing shops, etc..)

Alice in Sunderland (interloan requested- my first, hope it works!)
American Splendor
American born chinese
Black Hole
Bone out from Boneville
The Borden Tragedy
Boulevard of broken dreams
Box Office Poison
Brooklyn Dreams
Castle Waiting
Chicken with plums (Library)
Epileptic (Borrowed!)
Ethel and Ernest (Library)
Exit Wounds
Death: the high cost of living (will read soon, already borrowed from library)
From Hell (Library)
Fun Home (interloan requested)
Ghost World
Maus (library)
Mother Squirrel Stories
La Perdida
Palestine (Library)
Safe Area Gorazde (Library)
Same difference and other stories
Absolute Sandman (interloan requested from Cork. Yay! I'm so happy, can't wait till it arrives!)
Shortcomings (Dewey's reading challenge)
Watchmen (shop)
We are on our own (Dewey's reading challenge)
When the wind blows (will read soon, borrowed from library)
Yossel, April 19, 1943

Now the main problem is MONEY. I'm broke at the moment, so all I can do is hope the library have them, or hope I can mooch them. Otherwise bribe our buyer to order more graphic novels for our pathetic section in the shop. So I can't say I will read all these, it's just a wishlist really, I'll take what I can get!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Midweek Morsels: My favourite butternut squash soup

Kristina has come up with a wonderful idea. To post a recipe a week and then share it with other people on her blog every Wednesday! I love cooking so much that for a while I toyed with the idea of opening a new blog of recipes. But this is easier and much less time-consuming :P

So, since Kristina has posted a soup's recipe, I thought I'd share one of my favourite soup recipe that I came up with. It's really easy. It's probably more suitable for autumn but I can still find butternut squashes in the shops so you might too.

Super Yummy Butternut Squash Soup:

half butternut squash (or a whole one if it's small) peeled and cut in big chunks
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 or 2 celery stalks, washed and cut in big pieces
2 or 3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 organic chicken stock cube
sour cream or yogurt
What to do:
Put all the ingredients, except the optional ones, in a big pan and cover them with boiling water and simmer till the carrots are soft (maybe 15-20 mins or so). Then blend everything. Pour in some sour cream or yogurt to give it a bit of a sharp taste and sprinkle on some parsley (although I always forget about that one).
It's very yummy!

ps: the picture is not mine! I stole it from here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Honey and Clover vol. 1 - Chica Umino

Reading this has made me realise how much I missed reading manga. From now on I won't make the same mistake and will stop snubbing English-translated manga. I've been missing the same selection we get in Italy of old and new manga, but I can see now that the choice here is not so bad after all :P
Honey and Clover is something I've discovered on the net. I've read many positive reviews and decided to buy from Book Depository despite knowing very little about it.
Three words: it was hilarious!

It's about a group of art students who live in the same building and dream all day of eating meat, because they can't afford to buy it.
There's Morita, who seems to be a girls magnet, although (or because) he's shabby and doesn't care what other people think.
Then there's thoughtful, sensitive and shy Takemoto, who seems to be the main character, although I would be tempted to say that there isn't really one. The story seems to focus slightly more on him, but only slightly.
The third guy is Mayama. He's a senior and seems to be the most serious of the three, but he's hiding a crush on an older woman (as far as I could tell).
The first day of school they meet Hagu, a tiny shy 18-year-old girl, who looks and act a lot younger, but is an extremely talented and well-regarded artist.
Immediately Morita and Takemoto fall in love with her, both in very different ways.

There's so much I liked about this first volume. The humour is exactly the kind that cracks me up. The funny faces, the exaggerations, the taking fun of itself. When Morita compares Hagu to a koropokkur I was in bits (although I had no idea what the hell a koropokkur was and had to look it up, not knowing that there's a very handy glossary at the end of the volume!). While Hagu's facial expressions are constantly priceless.
The style is kind of messy and the lines are not as polished like in other manga I'm used to (see Ai Yazawa's Nana and Paradise Kiss), but it didn't bother me at all. The story was just too funny.
My favourite characters for now are Morita and Hagu, but I'm looking forward to reading more and seeing how the rest of the characters develop.

And now click here to have a look at the scans of Honey and Clover I found! You can get an idea of what I'm talking about:)

I couldn't find any blog reviews, but maybe I'm just tired. Please let me know if you any!

Shop Indie Bookstores


And now I'd like to talk a little about two awesome website called One manga and AnimeA
They have tons of scans of manga it's almost scary. I don't like reading on the computer, but this is great for having a peek at a manga, maybe reading few pages, and decide if you like it or not.
So, seeing as I mentioned a few manga in one of my previous posts, I'll give you the links to some of them, so you can have a look:)

Click to read the first pages of each manga (all these PG 15+ I'd say)
Oh and they are all read from right to left.
Video Girl Ai
Ghost in the shell
RG Veda

Not rated:
Nausicaa of the valley of the wind Yay!!! read it! it's my favourite movie (and manga) by Hayao Miyazaki.
Maison Ikkoku

And many more. If I can think of more to recommend I'll post them in my next manga review:)