Monday 30 March 2009

Short Stories Weekends: Pixel Pixies by Charles de Lint

If you're anything like me - fantastic fiction lover (and by fantastic I mean anything to do with supernatural stuff) - but not so much into short stories, do yourself a favour. Grab Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint. It's a collection which I haven't finished yet, but it has already earned my unconditional love.

I'm particularly glad I joined "Short Story Weekends" so I can talk about the latest story I've read, "Pixel Pixies", without having to wait to finish the whole book. Because I think I've just read one of my favourite short stories ever!
It's about Holly, a second-hand bookstore owner, who one day has the misfortune of having to do with pixies. But not ordinary traditional pixies. These kind have taken over the world wide web! It's also about the bookstore's brownie Dick Bobbins, who during the day lives in the basement reading books, and at night comes out to keep the store tidy.
I've already mentioned 3 main reasons why I was so captivated by the story:
1)A second-hand bookstore owner as main character.
2) A second-hand bookstore brownie who realphabetizes books at night.
3) Pixies on the web.
Just this would have been enough for me to get all hyped about it. But it doesn't just do that. It follows up bringing in the game another awesome character, which I won't name because I didn't know who she was and I loved the surprise.
It carries on portraying one of the cutest brownie I've ever read about AND it finishes with a wonderful hopeful exciting ending.

Ok I know it was only a little story, simple and cute. But it seemed perfectly tailored for me! I kept going "ohhh", "ahhhh" "cool" "awww", and so on till the end.

It also rekindled my desire to, one day, open my own bookstore, which I dreamed about of here, not too long ago :)
I might even get my own brownie if I'm lucky :D

Sunday 29 March 2009

Once upon a time challenge III (21st March-20th June)

How can I miss this? "Once upon a time" hosted by Carl celebrates what reading is all about for me. Getting lost in a magic world, being charmed by different cultures' folklores and mythologies, being lulled by well known fairy tales retold with new and exciting twists...
I can't possibly skip this, although I haven't been the fastest reader (or blogger) lately and I'm already committing to more challenges that I can actually finish, but who cares! It's fun to join and to choose all the books that I will (not) read!
As usual these are not lists but just possibilities that could change every minute. I'd like to read at least one book for each category, so it has to be quest number 2 for me.

Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan
In The Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (illustrated edition)

Fairy tales:
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Folkore: Wonder Tales of Ancient Wales

AND for the Short Stories Weekend, I plan to continue reading Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint. I've loved almost all the stories so far, but I've been savouring them at my own pace, to put it nicely. Now I'll try to finish it...
So if I remember I'll post my first review for the Short Stories Weekend!

Link to Once Upon a time III Challenge Review Blog

Saturday 21 March 2009

I got pressies!

Ok, it's not really today's news but I still haven't shared here what I've recently got in my mailbox!:

This from Raych:

  • cool copic multi liner pen, which I've used a lot already. Very stylish.
  • colorful writing paper + envelopes.
  • a Eye Burrito. What's that? Raych's instructions read:

  • - Place Eye Burrito in freeze
    - overwork eyes by reading excellent long novel
    - don sweatpants
    - mix drink
    - placing eye burrito over eyes
    - refresh.

It was a complete surprise cause I forgot I had even won something! So it was really exciting to open it having no clue about what it could be! I still have to try the Eye Burrito, but he's also cute just as it is:) So thank you Raych! You rock.

And this is from Nymeth, to thank me for something I haven't even sent YET!!!!! (*hides in shame*)
  • Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis.
  • Laika by Nick Abadzis (I already know I'm going to cry!)
  • THREE bookmarks handmade by Nymeth! One of which specifically designed for me and my love of starry shaped things! I love the other two as well. The one on the left is very elegant and the one on the right is so cute and green (I love green).
I'm so delighted with this showers of pressies, I feel so pampered :D
Thank you guys so much!

Sunday 15 March 2009

Looking for Alaska - John Green

If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.

What can I say? Bloggers rule. Thank you guys for making me, almost forcing me, to pick this book up and read it. I don't think I would have got around it so soon, if it hadn't been for the gazillions of reviews I've seen around the blogworld raving about it. They all made it sound like it was a book you wouldn't want to miss, like a really special book. And I have to say it definitely was.

It's the story of Miles, aka Pudge, who decides to leave his old school to enroll at Culver Creek boarding school in search of a "Great Perhaps". He's the kind of guy who'd rather stay in and read a book. He has no real friends, nothing to hold him back, so he embarks happily in this new adventure, which he hopes will change his life completely. And it will.

This book made me wish I had attended boarding school. Before, I had a kind of dated idea of what a boarding school is like: a fearsome institution where children were sent to as a punishment. A lonely, sad, harsh place from which you'd want to run away as quickly as possible.
Culver Creek is quite the opposite. It actually sounds like a rather fun place to study and live in. Surrounded by woods, graced by a lake guarded by a psychotic swan, the campus becomes the stage of carefully-planned pranks and secret binge drinking sessions. But more importantly, it becomes a place where its students learn a lot about life, and not just on books.

The crowd Miles starts hanging out with is not your average teenage gang. Chip, aka The Colonel is something close to a genius, who is paying the school fees with his scholarship. Miles himself has a passion for famous people's biographies and last words. Takumi is a rhyme wizard, who nonchalantly mentions Arthur Miller and Emily Dickinson in his rapping.
And Alaska...Alaska is the most peculiar of all. Full of energy, passion, courage, but also angst and deep deep sadness. She's funny and cool, sexy and unpredictable. She is a master of pranks, and a tireless defender of women's dignity. She has a room piled with books she has collected all her life (The Life's Library), which she keeps for when she's old and boring. But it doesn't mean she doesn't read, despite what she says. She loves Auden and Kurt Vonnegut and Jane Eyre, but her favourite obsession is with Marquez's The General in his labyrinth, because she has her own labyrinth to escape from.
Obviously Miles takes less than a second to fall madly in love with her. And of course she is unreachable, very much in love with her boyfriend and very determined to be loyal to him.

Theirs is a story about friendship, first love, bufriedos and videogames. About the pains of desire and the much deeper pains of loss. It's hard to talk about it without giving away an important part of the story, but it's enough to say that everything that's dealt with, it's done with a profound perception of human emotions and reactions.
John Green's writing is so skillful. He manages to express longing, regret, confusion, anger and jealousy with the most accessible and yet touching language.

I could have written down pages and pages to quote from, but after a while I was too deepened into the story and too moved, between laughters and tears, that I didn't stop to note great passages. What I'd like to share, though, are two of my favourite funny quotes which recruited me instantly into the "John-Green-is-awesome" fan club.
Because although I've mentioned that there's sorrow and pain, there's just as much of fun and laughters:

(Right at the beginning, when Miles has just moved in his new room, shared with The Colonel)

Chip did not believe in having a sock drawer or a t-shirt drawer. He believed that all drawers were created equal and filled each with whatever fit.

(Alaska's response to Miles' complains after being woken up at 6.30 am on a Saturday by her playing a particularly loud video game)

"Pudge", she said, faux-condescending, "The sound is an integral part of the artistic experience of this video game. Muting Decapitation would be like reading only every other word of Jane Eyre..."

There's isn't much more I'd like to say about it. Just that the characterisations where brilliant, the pranks hilarious, especially the very last one, the ending beautiful, and that I loved loved loved it.

ps: I wish I could have a bufriedo right now!

other blog reviews:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Eva at
Becky’s Book Reviews
Tiny Little Reading Room
Not Enough Bookshelves
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
Bart's Bookshelf
The Bluestocking Society
Out of the Blue
Em's Bookshelf
Sassymonkey Reads
Books & Other Thoughts
Nothing of Importance
Book Addiction
Care's Online Bookclub
where troubles melt like lemon drops
Stephanie's confessions of a book-a-holic

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Wednesday 4 March 2009

Midweek Morsels - Peas and Chicken Patties

I've skipped the last few Midweek Morsels only because I didn't find the time to post it on the right day. But I really wanted to share this recipe which I CAME UP WITH! It's my own little baby:)
Since I made it with whatever was left over, the quantities are not gonna be extremely accurate. I tried to estimate the right amount I used for every ingredient, but really the recipe is so versatile it will come out delicious in any way you make it.
The main ingredient is peas. The rest can vary. I made them without chicken as well, and they were good too.

So here we go:

300 gr or more of peas (I used frozen)
1 chicken breast
1 egg
2 tbs of sour cream
50 gr or more of cheddar
1 0r 2 carrots
1 garlic glove
extra virgin olive oil

Cook peas in a pan with some oil and the garlic glove halved. Add water if necessary. Cook till tender. Remove garlic.
In a frying pan cook the chicken cut in small pieces in a little oil.
Chop the carrots finely, cut the cheddar in small pieces. Mix the peas, chicken, carrots and cheddar in a big bowl, add sour cream, a couple of handful of breadcrumbs and salt. Process or blend. If you think it's not firm enough add some breadcrumbs till it's the right consistency to form patties. Check salt and add more if necessary and mix a bit more. Shape the mixture in medium size patties with your hands. Then fry them in little oil few minutes per side. Done!
I had them with sour cream and ketchup, but they're delicious on their own as well, or even with a bit of green salad on the side.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Fun Home - Alison Bechdel

I really enjoyed reading this graphic novel memoir. It seems like the only form where I find memoirs entertaining is this. But while I was swept away emotionally by Persepolis, here my appreciation has been more of the intellectual kind.
I can't say how many times I had to write down words I didn't know, to be looked up later, because it would be embarrassing. But it gives you an idea of the richness of the language.

It's a deeply honest, witty and insightful exploration of of the author's complex relationship with her father, of how it shaped her whole being from her early age till her father's sudden death, and how it continues to make her reflect on her personality in relation to his. It's also a very intimate account of her personal sexual awakening, which reaches its peak the moment she realises she is a lesbian. This epiphany is also the trigger to another revelation, which will make her reconsider all her life

I felt like this memoir was a necessity, something it needed to be done, for Alison Bechdel to connect all the dots, to forgive and understand, and to record how her family's life was shaped by a long series of literary allusions, from The Addams Family to The Great Gatsby, from Proust to Joyce.

I can relate on many levels with Bechdel. I too had to grow up with a father whose personality was (and is) bigger than life. He too has molded my early literary loves, and it's him I see in my earliest and most vivid childhood memories, more than anyone else, even more than my mum. He was very controlling and probably depressed too. Although, fortunately, I didn't develop any obsessive-compulsive disorder because of that, as far as I know.
I also related to her freshman year in college, where she was astonished by the need of every English lecturers to find hidden symbols and metaphors in literary works. I laughed my socks off when she mentioned Heart of Darkness's gender interpretation (Congo = vagina, Marlowe's boat= penis), because that was exactly what my first English class in college was about! But I was intrigued by all these new layers of meanings, while Bechdel's reaction was more like "why can't we just read the books?".
As I mentioned, this book is packed with literary references, but what it really made me want to go and read is Homer, both the Iliad and the Odissey. I'm not sure I'm ready for Proust yet and I will probably never be ready for Ulysses.

The art was great. It's detailed, expressive and just perfect to balance the complexity of the text. It has very strong lines which work very well with the gray-green watercolours. As Bechdel said "(this colour) has a bleak, elegiac quality" which suits the tone of the book.

I'd love to re-read it one day, and maybe in Italian to capture all the nuances of the language and of some turn of phrases that I'm sure have eluded me!

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other reviews:
Books for breakfast