The 2013 Book Polygamist Awards!

Welcome Ladies, Gentlemen and super-intelligent cats who secretly surf the web while their owner is at work, to the 3rd Annual Book Polygamist Awards!

Since 2011 the Awards have been publicly aired on my humble little blog, rather than the bottomless pit of Facebook, or the relative privacy of my book journal, and as long as Book Polygamist sticks around each year I will share my quirky Awards with you, my precious few Bookbaggers 🙂

Like last year and the year before the Awards will be broken up into two categories: the Annual Awards, which are the same each year, and the Special Awards, which change with the calibre of books read and any patterns I notice.

This year, since I read more comics/graphic novels than ever before there will be some Awards specifically for the format i.e. Best Inside Art.

So without further ado I present: The 2013 Book Polygamist Awards!!!

Annual Awards

Shortest Read (Book):

the-amber-amuletThe Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey – approximately 1 hour

Honorable Mentions:

The Tiny Wife by  Andrew Kaufman – approximately 2 hours

Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen – 6 days

Longest Read:

Tales of mystery and imaginationTales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe – 1 year, 1 month and 1 day!!!

Honorable Mentions:

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – 43 weeks, 6 days!!

Kraken by China Miéville – 30 weeks, 3 days!

Most Books/Graphic Novels Read by a Single Author:

Gaiman,_Neil_(2007) Neil Gaiman – 2 books (Anansi Boys and Neverwhere) and 6 Graphic Novels (The Sandman Vol # 1, #2, #3 and # 4; Death: The High Cost of Living; and The Books of Magic)

Honorable Mentions:

Stacia Kane – 5 (Unholy Ghosts; Unholy Magic; City of Ghosts; Sacrificial Magic; Chasing Magic)

Gail Carriger – 5 (Changeless; Blameless; Heartless; Soulless Vol #1; Etiquette and Espionage)

Best “New” Author Award:

Every year I try to discover authors I’ve never read before (in addition to my old favourites and follow-ups to “new” authors from previous years) and then I compile a list of ones I want to read more from, and pick one from the bunch that’s the stand-out. It’s always a tricky process because I find so many great authors that are new to me, but usually I just weigh-up the impact they made on me with the amount of work they have that I can continue on with, plus take into account how new they are to writing, and how unknown they were to me (and sometimes others) before I discovered their work. In the case of the winner for this year I had never heard of them before picking up the first book, and since then their series was one of the highlights of my reading year and has become a bit of an obsession for me and my best friend, Sarah 🙂

stacia kaneStacia Kane (Unholy GhostsUnholy MagicCity of GhostsSacrificial MagicChasing Magic)

Honorable Mentions:

 China Miéville (Kraken)

 Max Brooks (World War Z)

 Jasper Fforde (Shades of Grey)

Special Awards

The Best End to a Series Award:

house of many waysHouse of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Honorable Mention:

chasing magicChasing Magic by Stacia Kane

This is a cheeky honorable mention because it’s not actually the end of the series, but at the time of reading it I did think it was the end, and it was a fucking awesome end! Lucky for me and Sarah the next book is due to be published at some point 😀

The Best Start to a Series Award:

shadesofgreyShades of Grey (Shades of Grey Book 1) by Jasper Fforde

Honorable Mentions:

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen

The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (writer), Sam Kieth (penciler),Malcolm Jones III (inker), Robbie Busch (colourist), Todd Klein (letterer)

 FreakAngels #1 by Warren Ellis (writer) and Paul Duffield (artist)

The Longest and Strangest Title Award:

BookofHumanInsectsThe Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

Honorable Mention:

Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp  (author) and George O’Connor (artist)

The Tick That Off The Bucket List Award:

catch22Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

in 2013 I continued the accidental tradition of reading a book from my Top 10 Classics I Want to Read list – in accidental order and all! – which definitely deserved another award! To continue this tradition I will have to read The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger this year so I better locate it quick smart 😛

The My Brain Hurts But I Love It! Award:

kraken-by-china-mieville-UKKraken by China Miéville

As I said in my Top 10 Books I Read in 2013 list, this book was the literary equivalent of taking a trip and at times the language and sheer craziness of the world hurt my brain, but I loved every second of it! 😛

Honorable Mentions:

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Best Cover Art (Book):

the-tiny-wifeThe Tiny Wife by  Andrew Kaufman

Honorable Mentions:

shadesofgreyShades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Neverwhere (1)Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

kraken-by-china-mieville-UKKraken by China Miéville

the-amber-amuletThe Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey

Best Cover Art (Graphic Novel):

willow wonderlandBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow – Wonderland 
by Jeff ParkerChristos N. Gage (writers) Brian Ching (penciler), Jason Gorder (inker),
Michelle Madsen (colourist), David Mack (cover artist), and Joss Whedon (executive producer)

Honorable Mentions:

persepolis coverPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi

the unwritten vol 1The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity (The Unwritten, Volume # 1) by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry and Jeanne McGee(colourists) and Todd Klein (letterer)

BallPeenHammer_COVER_300rgb(1)Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp  (author) and George O’Connor (artist)

buffy talesBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales by Joss WhedonJane Espenson,  Becky Cloonan (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug PetrieLeinil Francis YuGene Colan and others (artists)

Best Inside Art (Graphic Novel):

buffy talesBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales by Joss WhedonJane Espenson,  Becky Cloonan (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug PetrieLeinil Francis YuGene Colan and others (artists)

This is a bit of a cop-out as this anthology contains a whole bunch of amazing artists making it the easy choice, but with such diverse art from story to story this was a clear winner. Below is an example of some of my favourite art styles for you to ogle 😛

Buffy tales art

Honorable Mentions:

Zombies Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Jim McCann (writers), David Baldeon (penciller), and Jordi Tarragona (inker)

Star Trek TNG: Hive by Brannon Braga (story) and Joe Corroney (art)

Most Fun Challenge:

comiccompanions-badge

While I set myself some great challenges last year, I had to choose Comic Companions as the best as it led me to read so many amazing comics and graphic novels! This year I’m not continuing this challenge but I’ve decided the graphic novels pile is just as important as the others so I’ve been going through the same process in reading them – when I finish one I pick another from the pile (or rather a random green piece of paper from my book-choosing jar so I don’t have to choose which wonderful graphic novel I want to read next – I’m chance’s bitch instead 🙂 )

Best Book Chosen for Old Books October:

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

guards guardsI haven’t actually finished Guards! Guards! since I’ve been pretty slack with reading this year, and I got distracted with other books and comics at the end of last year, so I’ve been reading this very funny Discworld novel for a while, but every time I do read a bit its highly entertaining! Plus the other book I chose for Old Books October is Brisingr by Christopher Paolini which I have been even more slack with, so this was a no-brainer 😛

Best Graphic Novel Chosen for Old Books October:

The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman (writer), Kelley JonesMalcolm Jones IIIMike DringenbergMatt WagnerP. Craig Russell,George PrattDick Giordano (artists), Daniel VozzoSteve Oliff (colourists), and Todd Klein (letterer)

sandman4

Best Book Chosen for New Books November:

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

shadesofgrey

Best Graphic Novel Chosen for New Books November:

 FreakAngels #1 by Warren Ellis (writer) and Paul Duffield (artist)

freak angels vol 1

2013 was a really interesting year for me, both in my reading life and personal/professional life, and I certainly have some good memories from it. I hope all my Bookbaggers also had an excellent year with a bevy of brilliant books (gosh I love alliteration :P) and tons of good memories, and that your 2014 is just as fruitful 🙂

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REVIEW: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I finished this novel nearly a month ago, but have been too busy to give it the full review that it deserves – before now. Before I start it should be known that it took me nearly 4 months to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book of a mere 359 pages, and in fact I have started and finished 5 books in that time. The main reason for this is I didn’t really like The Elegance of the Hedgehog in the beginning and found it a bit grueling to read, especially compared to the others I was reading at the same time. The reason I found it grueling is that it is a very intellectual book with many literary references and words that were unfamiliar to me. Now, if you have been reading my blog for a while, or you know me, you will know that while I do enjoy a great work of literature I also enjoy a variety of more low-brow fiction and so am not as widely read as I would like (I try plus I’m still young! plenty of time yet to get to all those classics!), so at the start of this book I was forever stopping to refer to my trusty dictionary, or google something which left me feeling quite the dunce 😦

I don’t really enjoy feeling stupid while reading (who does?) , so I often found myself putting this one aside for days or weeks on end after one session. This was until I started to take it in my bag to classes and prac, a strategy I use on books I’m avoiding because the time on the bus and train forces me to give them a try. This strategy certainly worked on this little number and I found my feelings toward it quickly changed.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a french book that was originally published in 2006 under the title L’élégance du hérisson then translated into English in 2008. The book revolves around a central location – 7 Rue de Grenelle, a swanky apartment building in Paris – and only a handful of events happen anywhere else. The narrative is told through two main characters and narrators: Madame Renee Michel, the middle-aged concierge; and Paloma Josse, the 12-year-old daughter of one of the wealthy families that resides in the building. Madame Michel is a 54-year-old widow who has worked at 7 Rue de Grenelle for 27 years, and she is a self-confessed autodidact (yes this was one of the words I had to look up :S) in areas of literature (namely Tolstoy), art, music and film. However, she has kept the secret of her cultured self for all these years and played the part of the simple concierge as she fears loosing her job or being condemned by the uppity residents of the building. On the other hand Paloma Josse is disgusted by the bourgeois lifestyle of her family and others in the building and feels there is nothing to look forward to in adulthood. Therefore she has decided to kill herself and set fire to the building on her 13th birthday to avoid the future of the adults around her. However, Paloma is an incredibly intelligent and  logical young lady, so in the time leading up to her suicide she has decided to keep records of things in the world around her that may be worth living for – titled “Journal of the Movement of the World” and “Profound Thoughts” – and it is through these journal entries that her sections are narrated.

The story starts out kind of bleak, with both main characters feeling pretty melancholy about their lives, but everything changes when a distinguished Japanese gentleman moves into the building. It was at this point that my interest accelerated because the plot really started to develop when previously the chapters were mainly character development. The groundwork that Barbery had laid down in the earlier chapters meant that I was emotionally attached to Renee and Paloma by the time their stories and characters grew and I wanted to know more. The addition of the Japanese gentleman – Kakuro Ozu – also lightened the story a fair bit because he is a very kind and deep person that appreciates the same art and culture as Renee. Ultimately this book explores a lot of themes, but mainly it explores the philosophies of life and how people find comfort in the world and people arround them, and that really appealed to me. However, it wasn’t all serious cultural references and philosophy, in fact there was some real laugh out loud moments, especially the times when Renee is having tea with Manuela, a maid who cleans many of the building’s apartments and always brings delicious pastries.

I became so entrenched in the story and characters of The Elegance of the Hedgehog that by the end (when an event happens that I won’t spoil) I was struggling not to burst into tears on the train, and I failed a tad. This is a real gem of french literature and would make a great book club book for a group that isn’t afraid to read something so peppered with references, because it provides a lot of fuel for discussions. Despite the fact that it took me forever to read, I’m glad I persevered with The Elegance of the Hedgehog and it is sure to be on the list of my favourite reads of 2011. I also have borrowed the film that was based on the book – The Hedgehog – and look forward to watching it soon. Who knows, it may even make an appearance in a future Top 10 on book to screen adaptations 😉

I give The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery:

4 ½ / 5 stars

REVIEW: Yearn: Tales of Lust and Longing By Tobsha Learner

Yearn : Tales of Lust and Longing By Tobsha Learner

 I think this book suffered a little because I judged it by its cover and it’s predecessor. It’s hard to tell from the thumbnail, but the cover picture is a gorgeous half-naked woman, covered in tattoos, seemingly flying with an umbrella like a modern-day Marry Poppins. When I saw it in one of my fave bookstores Oxford St Books in Leederville I instantly wanted it – initially because of the cover and then even more because I saw it was another collection of erotic stories by Tobsha Learner, author of The Witch of Cologne (a book that I haven’t read yet, but do own) Soul (which was a very memorable book) and two other collections of erotic stories, Quiver (which I haven’t read yet) and Tremble (which I loved). I didn’t buy it that day at Oxford St Books because I had just been to see Black Swan with my mum and brother and hadn’t a cent to my name, but I later saw it in the list of new books on my book club’s website and promptly ordered it :).

I thought, based on the kind of stories in Tremble (erotica but with a twist of fantasy, horror, or just plain strangeness) and the fanciful cover I was in for a series of odd and interesting erotic stories that would make great blog fodder, but as anyone who has been following my ramblings will see, I haven’t written a word about the stories in Yearn since I reviewed the first story Ink. I thought Ink was a very interesting story (despite being so long) but not many of the others lived up to it. All of them were well-written and interesting in their own way, but most of them were missing that added quirk that made Tremble such a memorable read. To her credit, Tobsha Learner can turn a sexy phrase wonderfully, and I like that all of her stories have real plot and don’t just read like a corny porno, but what I liked about Tremble was that each story was stranger than the next, while a lot of the ones in Yearn were sadly run of the mill. I was also disappointed that there was no story based on the tattooed Marry Poppins on the cover, as I was really looking forward to that one :(.

One thing I did find quite interesting is that all of the stories had some reference to a previous story, Ink being the main reference, so I had a bit of fun waiting for the link to pop up. These are the ones I noticed (although there may be ones I missed):

  1. The second Story, Flight Is about a famous Australia actor, Jerome Thomas, who longs for an erotic encounter with a woman who hasn’t heard of him and his string of Romantic Comedies. On the plane to London he is reading his latest script in which he would play Victorian biographer, D’Arcy Hammer, the same young biographer from Ink.
  2. In the third story, Barrow Boy, Eddy Wedgwood is a wealthy metals trader with working-class English roots that he has to keep hidden from his fiancée’s snobbish parents. At several points during the story it is mentioned that Eddy has an important meeting with a Chinese businesswoman who has just flown in, the same Chinese businesswoman who has a “mile-high club” encounter with Jerome Thomas in Flight.
  3. The fourth story Fur is one that has a couple of references. The story revolves around May, a university student whose boyfriend one day has a supposed mental breakdown, believing that he has been possessed by the spirit of a warlock and is shipped off to his mother’s leaving May with a big black cat called Shadow. May later has strange erotic dreams/experiences with a black man who she is uncertain is real or is a product of her own insanity, and who may or may not be Shadow in human form (besides Ink this was one of my favourites). Firstly May mentions the recent market crash, which occurs at the end of Barrow Boy. She also happens to be studying anthropology, and her thesis is on eighteenth-century tribes of Polynesia, which echoes back to the subject of D’Arcy Hammer’s biography in Ink, which is about the life and travels of explorer Joseph Banks, in particular his time in Polynesia. The explorer is also mentioned in one of her lectures.
  4. The fifth story, called Tigger is about Joanna Wutherer (or Tigger) a lecturer at Sydney University (and the same one who did the lecture on Joseph Banks in Fur) who meets a much younger man at an art opening. The story ends with the man, Seth, talking to May (from Fur) after Joanna’s wake and you find out the whole story has been his recount of how he met his wife.
  5. In Pussy and Mouse, the sixth story, Cassandra Whool is an overweight call-centre worker who lives out erotic power-driven fantasies online on Second Life. In Second Life Cassandra’s character, Tasinis, goes to Tahiti, a fantasy island set in the 1800’s, which is another reference to Ink.
  6. Weather, the seventh story (and another one I enjoyed) is about Phoebe Rosehurst who believes she shares a psychic connection with local weatherman Rupert Thornton after his sensual movements while predicting the weather leads to Phoebe having intense sexual fantasies and prophetic dreams. This story had another reference to Ink – one of the reports Phoebe has to look over at the insurance company she works at details damage done to the resting place of Joseph Banks.
  7. The eighth story is Flower, a story about recent divorcee, Sara La Carin, who wants to buy a collection of art and auction it off for charity. While searching at one gallery she spots Rupert Thornton (the weatherman from Weather) and her and her companion gossip about his failure to predict ‘the big storm of eighty seven’ which happens at the end of Weather.
  8. And finally, the ninth story The Alchemy of Coincidence (which is a good description of the whole book) which is about sculptor Jennifer (who created the sculpture Sara buys in Flower) and her new show which is about whether art can prompt a coincidental meeting. As a subject she chooses a man out of a french Vogue that she could never meet and crafts many copies of several of his body parts (face, ears, nipples, hands, penises, feet) to use in an installation, and starts to acquire an obsessive sexual fascination with him. Besides the character’s work being in Flower, this story has many other references to the other stories – probably the most. Sara’s husband is a film maker and one of his films launched the career of Jerome Thomas from Flight. Also while showing her work to her art dealer in a gallery, Sara looks at a piece of art inspired by the artist’s experience in Second Life, a reference to Pussy and Mouse.

So overall there was a few great stories, as well as some pretty average ones, and I did enjoy Yearn ….but just not as much as I thought I would. I also am still interested in reading all of Tobsha Learner’s work because I think she’s a very talented author.

I give Yearn : Tales of Lust and Longing by Tobsha Learner:

3 / 5 Stars