Challenges Update: The Final Weeks of Short and Sweet & 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy

Yellow my youthful, yarely Bookbaggers!

Welcome to the really belated 11th (and probably final) update of Short and Sweet and 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy, in which I tell you the outrageous amount of stuff that has happened since my last update just before semester break that I have been itching to tell you!

I am determined to finally fill you in on the challenges, since in essence I have now polished them both off, however, I don’t want to bore my beloved Bookbaggers, old and new (I was flabbergasted that I gained a few new followers while I have been virtually silent, so thanks and welcome to the Bookbagger newbies 🙂 ) so I will keep it as short as my rambling mind and wandering fingers can manage, utilising the Mighty Numbered List and keeping to challenge-based stuff…mostly 😛

Ok, lets kick off the epic, shall we?

Short and Sweet challenge badgeThe MNL (Mighty Numbered List) will be getting a workout with this update, as in the four six weeks since my last update (jeez I had to check to confirm it had been that long!) I have finished all the remaining books in the challenge, a few of the short stories from my zombie anthology, and have tweaked something related to the challenge:

  1. I started Horn by Peter M Ball the weekend after my last update (along with Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins and The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman) and by the time I fell sick on Wednesday I had read the majority of it. Then from Thursday to Sunday I was at home with nothing to do but drink lots of fluids and feel sorry for myself, so I of course read the shit out of everything and by Friday I had already polished off Horn and Deadly Beloved. Horn was another novella centered around cop-turned-murderer-turned-private-dick Miriam Aster, who I was introduced to in Bleed, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much (perhaps because I read Bleed first or perhaps because I had the order backwards, as while they’re not technically a series Horn was published a year or two before) but it was still a fun, exciting read that gave me some more insight into the character and Ball’s version of the Fey. If he writes more in this world following Aster, I will be a happy chicken 🙂 horn
  2. I had also been reading a lot of Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins before catching the bug, as It was a surprisingly witty and interesting pulpy-noir-style mystery with some funny, smart characterisation (especially the star of the show Ms Tree who takes shit from no one, has a fire-arm ready at all times, is unashamed of her sexuality and won’t shy away from confronting colleagues, lovers and crooks alike) and a solid story that kept me guessing. I actually enjoyed it more than many of the crime books I have read previously, including some which were “proper” crime noir published in the 1940’s, so not bad for a book I picked up at Coles for five bucks! I have since passed it on to my friend Scott, who has read the comic book series it’s based on, so I hope he enjoys it as much as I did 🙂 deadly beloved
  3. Since there was only one book left in the challenge – The Illustrated Eric by Terry Pratchett (writer) and Josh Kirby (artist) – I got stuck into that pretty much right away, and I finished it the next weekend. Being a Discworld novel it was of course hilarious, bursting with strange magics and altered laws of nature, but as this was a special illustrated novella it was also quite fast-paced and Josh Kirby’s colourful, mad-cap illustrations spilled from their usual place on the outside covers and popped up throughout the text or in stunning two-page spreads. After the last two Discworld novels (Pyramids and Guards! Guards!) it was nice to catch-up with the bumbling wizard Rincewind and his menacing walking Luggage, which were the stars of several of the earlier books. I also liked that the usual sinister bureaucracy of the wizards was mostly absent in this instalment, replaced by a sinister bureaucratic King of Hell who has forced his underlings to move away from the fire-and-brimstone style of damnation and onto the method of torture by mind-numbing boredom. eric
  4. Since Eric was the only under-200 pages contender left, when I finished Deadly Beloved I was back to picking from one of my original piles (one of two Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read piles as I already had a couple of Borrowed-From-Others and a library book on the go) so I asked my mum to do the honours and she chose Un Lun Dun by China Miéville 😀 I started it early the following week and have been loving it ever since! Unlike Kraken – which is the only Miéville novel I’ve read previously – Un Lun Dun is YA, so not quite as mind-bending, yet it is full to bursting with Miéville’s highly imaginative creations, enhanced by his quirky, detailed illustrations which are scattered through the text. Before I even reached the half-way point I had already pre-emptively put it on my list of Top 10 Books of 2014, so expect more blabbing on about it in the near future!ChinaMieville-UnLunDun
  5. Then when I finished Eric I picked another book from one of the Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile – one with books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, since Un Lun Dun came from the newer acquisitions pile – which was Dead in the Family (Book 10 of the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood/Southern Vampire Mysteries series) by Charlaine Harris! I was pleased about the choice because I read the last book way back in 2012 and even though I have heard from fans that the latter books have lost their glow a little, I enjoyed Book 9 and either way I am determined to finish the series now I’m so close! So far I am about half-way through and I am enjoying it still – they aren’t the highest form of literature, but Charlaine Harris can weave an interesting supernatural tale with plenty of funny bits as well as some mystery, which occasionally is all I want (especially after reading A Clockwork Orange and I Am Legend recently)$2 plus $6.95 p&h!!! Gotta love eBay :)
  6. Finally, since the last update I have read 3 more stories out of the The Living Dead zombie anthology: “In Beauty, Like the Night” by Norman Partridge, which was about a media mogul similar to Hugh Hefner who hides away on his private island when the zombie plague hits, obsessively watching the zombified girls from his calendar shoot which became stranded/infected on the island; “Prairie” by Brian Evenson, which was only 4 pages long but was a really disturbing and unsettling tale of an expedition across the prairie during a zombie infection; and “Everything is Better With Zombies” by Hannah Wolf Bowen, which didn’t feature actual zombies, but was a touching story of friendship between a girl and a boy approaching adolescence and their game of chasing imagined zombies through the local cemetery. I read the last one the weekend before last and then I haven’t dived back into zombies since because I’ve been so caught up with my other reads, but I may read a story or two this weekendA bunch of different zombie stories by different authors? What's not to love?
  7. Lastly, I realised when approaching the end of the challenge that I didn’t have any more books under 200 pages to contribute, but I did have a fair amount of short story collections in various piles, so I’ve decided to make a completely new pile and when I finish The Living Dead I’ll pick a new collection 🙂 This means the Short and Sweet challenge still has some life in it, but it will be more like my Comic Companions challenge of last year, so won’t be updated once a week. Since I don’t want this post to be too epically long and boring I won’t list all the collections in the pile, but will save that for its own post sometime before I finish The Living Dead

Now onto the other challenge which also had major action:

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badgeWhile I was sick and during my holidays I got fully sucked into the end of Brisingr leading to this happy result:

The Sending:

Maruman on the cover of The Sending0 Pages – Finished 😀

Pages remaining: 0

Brisingr:

Brisingr197 Pages
(67 pages one week; the remaining 128 the next)

Pages remaining: 0! 😀

Total:

197 Pages

Pages remaining: 0

I now know why my bro was so insistent I read this book as Paolini’s skill as a writer has improved immensely from the first book – and even from the second – and I found myself hunched in my seat gripping the book, eyes wide, while gasps and yes, even tears burst forth from me inexplicably at various points. I know that if I hadn’t done this challenge I likely would’ve been even slower with this huge fantasy epic (as it was I still had it on the go for over 8 months!) so I am very happy I challenged myself.

I was then finally able to pick a new book from the Borrowed-From-Others pile and I picked one that I borrowed from Sarah a while back and have been wanting to read ever since she told me about it – Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey. I started it around the same time as Un Lun Dun and I have been loving it just as much. In fact it also got pre-emptively added to the Top 10 Books of 2014 list before I was even half-way, so I really have some great books on the go at the moment 😀

BlackFeathers

I think I’ll leave it there Bookbaggers so I can finally post this really belated update! I also read a few comics, but I’ll save that for another post and leave you with a few words.

Like many of you, this week I have been trying to come to terms with the shocking death of Robin Williams. As I’m 27, Robin was a pivotal figure in memorable films from my childhood, such as Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook, Patch Adams, and Aladdin and it has been hard even fathoming that he is no longer in this world. I have tried to stay positive (as I usually try to do in most situations anyway) and think that at least where ever he may be he is no longer suffering and perhaps his death helped others contemplating suicide or suffering silently from depression.

This is not a cheery way to end the long-awaited update, but I couldn’t put something up this week without saying something and sharing with you a video which not only shows Robin’s talent, but pays tribute to him in a positive way:

Robin – we never have had a friend like you before and probably never will again. You will be truly missed by a big percentage of the world, and I hope that you are at peace.

On that note its goodbye for now Bookbaggers – until next time:

genie and carpet

The Micro Reviews From Planet Procrastination: Journey to the Blue(ish) Planet!

Micro-reviews-banner
Following our intrepid heroes’ thorough exploration of Uranus (snicker), the brave adventurers headed to the next stop on their tour of the Solar System – the gloriously blue Neptune. En route (which is French for “on the way” or “during the course of the Journey” and is completely redundant here as the Micro Reviews had never been to Earth’s France, or learned the language), all but one crew member decided to have a siesta (which is Spanish for “a little nap in the afternoon when the day is at its hottest”, which is also completely useless in this context as A. the Micro Reviews knew even less of Earth’s Spain then they did of its nearby neighbor  France; B. In space “afternoon” is not really existent; and C. It was perfectly climate controlled in the spaceship) and by a collective lapse in judgement (which happened fairly regularly) left the most incompetent crew member, Lieutenant Huh, at the helm.

Confident in the knowledge that the ship’s navigation system and auto-pilot had already been configured to their destination (a knowledge that was completely flawed as characteristically none of the crew members had actually gotten around to configuring the systems), Lieutenant Huh decided to take a nap also, Glark dammit! and gently rested his head upon the control panel. By another stroke of bad judgement and planning one of the most sensitive and dangerous controls – which opened up a compact wormhole for quick travel to far-off galaxies – had been placed front and centre on the control panel, with no labeling save a very tatty post-it note (the Micro Reviews had discovered this fascinating technology while undercover in an accounting company on Earth. Besides the post-it they had found no reason to continue their invasion recon as Earth offices were too boring even for them).  The Create Wormhole button (or Cre8 Wrmhol as it said on the post-it) had also been placed in the rather unfortunate area directly under  Lieutenant Huh’s face.

Upon waking from a very restorative nap, Huh found himself gazing at a large and brilliant blue planet, slowing getting larger and bluer as the ship approached it. He was quite pleased with himself. Obviously his nap had been quite productive and they had arrived at Neptune ahead of schedule! He was halfway through giving himself a hearty pat on the back with all six of his arms when he noticed something peculiar about the blue planet that was getting clearer by the second – it looked, well, a tad dead. From what he remembered about Neptune he wasn’t expecting a planet teeming with life – after all it was essentially a huge ball of frozen gases – but he certainly hadn’t expected a barren, decidedly un-frozen and un-gaseous wasteland of blue dirt with rather sinister looking black trees dotted about. He decided he should probably cease his back-patting, wake up his slumbering crew members, and investigate what the Hrak was wrong with Neptune and whether or not it was even Neptune at all…

And now for the reviews:

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Another entertaining and addictive installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I especially enjoyed the “coming out” of the weres and the further development of fae in the series’ plot. The main mystery had a satisfactory amount of twists and red herrings but in the end i was a little let down by the final reveal. Besides this it was an enjoyable and quick read and I haven’t lost interest in the series yet 🙂

Blue by Pat Grant

blue_cover_lg

A beautifully illustrated, quintessentially Australian graphic novel that deals with some of our country’s serious issues of racism and localism. The artwork and story were deceptively simple  (whimsical line/ink drawings in black and white with touches of blue, and hand-drawn lettering, with the accompanying tale of a trio of  teenage surfers skipping school to investigate a dead body near the train tracks) but cut right to the heart of the issues in a very unique way. The graphic novel was paired with a series of short essays by the author on surfing culture, comics and the like.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr Seuss

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories

A quality collection of Dr Seuss stories previously only published in magazines in the ’50s. Some are obviously beginnings of ideas which became classic Dr Seuss books (I’m sure I’ve read a full-length version of Gustav the Goldfish before, and The Strange Shirt Spot definitely inspired The Cat in the Hat Comes Back!) while others are completely new. My favourites were: the headlining The Bippolo Seed; and the hilarious fable, The Rabbit, the Bear and the Zinniga-Zanniga.

Curses and Blessings for All Occasions by Bradley Trevor Greive

curses and blessings

 

A highly giggle-worthy and witty humor/gift book. I like how Bradley Trevor Greive has shifted from the captioned animal photos of his previous books to funny little vintage drawings of animals that have been altered to match the text (in a similar vein as the Married to the Sea online comics which I adore) – it fits the subject matter like a glove. My favorite curses and blessings were: Blessing #3, 5, 13, 15 and 18; and Curse # 6, 7, 13, 21 and 22 😛 Now you have to read it to find out! MWAHAHAHA!

The Templeton Twins: Have An Idea by Ellis Weiner

the templeton twins have an idea

A very clever and amusing children’s adventure story. The narration, character and plot development were reminiscent of Lemony Snicket‘s Series of Unfortunate Events, which I loved so this was an enjoyable read. I especially loved the narrator, especially especially how he (or she?) explained words or concepts and the questions he (I’m almost certain its a he…) asked at the end of each chapter. The illustrations were also lovely, and I like the gray-scale and blue theme. I guessed all the twists before they occurred, but I am about 15 years older than the target audience, and I’m sure 9-13 year old me would’ve been kept guessing and loving every moment of it!

HUZZAH! There ends the first rebooted Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!! What did you guys think? Let me know in the comments, or any other (legal and non-creepy) way you’d prefer to contact me 🙂

Until the continued adventures of the Micro Reviews returns I hope you have fun imagining what befalls them on the mysterious blue planet (here’s a hint: its much less sinister than it seems 😉 ) and as always:

Happy Reading!

Return of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!

I warned you all of their return and as we all know sequels seem to pop up quicker and quicker these days (says grandma Book Polygamist -_-) so make sure you’re sitting comfortably, your popcorn is safely in a hard-to-spill position and your hands are primed to grip the edges of your seat (or the poor soul sitting next to you) as i introduce the second installment in the Micro Review saga:

Return of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!

V for Vendetta By Alan Moore and David Lloyd

A unique and highly original Graphic Novel. Very dark, both in content and art style and also quite mysterious with the story being told purely through dialogue and poetic/cryptic monologues. The futuristic setting was really unsettling and prophetic as it was a highly monitored and controlled society. A classic of the Graphic Novel genre but perhaps not one to start off with.

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb

A cracking little mystery set in Victorian London (one of my favourite settings for a mystery) but with a supernatural twist. Action-packed but also filled with great character interaction and funny dialogue. The first of a series that seems very fun and appealing to children, young adults and adults that want a short entertaining read.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A beautiful little read. Very touching and the content on the Victorian meanings of flowers as well as the examination of the foster child system added depth. A bit sad in parts, and also a tad “chick lit” so might not be appealing to all bibliophiles.

Books of Blood Vol 1-3 By Clive Barker

A collection of three volumes of short stories, with each being twisted and disturbing in its own way thanks to the amazing imaginative horror-filled mind of Clive Barker. As with Coldheart Canyon this  certainly is not for those with a weak constitution, and even if you have a strong mind and stomach I wouldn’t recommend reading too many stories in one sitting, but if you love well-crafted horror that is definitely not predictable and definitely is original then the Books of Blood is an amazing read.

Grave Sight By Charlaine Harris

A fun and interesting mix of paranormal fiction and murder mystery with intriguing main characters in sister and brother team Harper and Tolliver. One for fans of Charlaine Harris or lovers of light, supernaturally-based mysteries.

So there we have it!

As sequels go this could either be a complete flop or a bigger success then its predecessor (or a big success because it was a complete flop),  but rest assured lovers of teeny reviews packaged together under a title straight out of the  Z-grade horror bargain bin at the back of a dodgy video store, the Micro reviews will be back for thier revenge!

The ending of an ending and now Dead again with some Secrets?

I finished the award winning novella, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes a little over a week ago, but really since it was only 150 pages long I finished it over 4-5 sittings and if I wasn’t so busy could easily have devoured it over a lazy afternoon.

Despite its size The Sense of an Ending was quite intricate and thought provoking (as evidenced in recent Notable Quotables) and since I have now dropped down to only 4.5 working hours a week (the ups and downs of being a casual employee :S) I should have ample time to write a appropriately intricate and thought provoking review as well as one for Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins which I finished recently and absolutely adored!

Upon finishing The Sense of an Ending (which happened to be in the middle of the night – luckily on a night when I didn’t have work the next morning) I immediately lay out all the books on my Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile and started my regular (and at the number of books I have amassed, increasingly long) process, which with the sheer number of books now on the pile I had to do almost three times just to get down to one or two books!

Because of this when I did reach the point of having only two contenders I simply decided I would start both Gosh Darnit!

The two books I started are:

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries/TrueBlood etc etc Book 9) by Charlaine Harris

and, Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

I’ve been hanging out to read the next Sookie Stackhouse book for a while and I have had Secrets of Eden on my To-Read pile for years now so i’ll be happy to enjoy them both during my lazy, less-work period 🙂

Fiction and Fairy Tales in the mail and a Raven rises from the Grave.

Yesterday I woke up to a lovely sight – a package of books that mum had brought in out of the heat for me and left on the arm of my chair 🙂

I had almost forgotten that I ordered a couple of books from my book club Doubleday when they were having a sale and I could get an added discount thanks to a code I received in an email (I’m a sucker for a bargain!), so I was quite excited to rip open the cardboard and gaze upon my bounty!

The two books I bought were The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, which was the 2011 Man Booker Prize winner and an absolute steal at $17.95 instead of the usual price of $30; and Fairy Tale Rituals by Kenny Klein, a non-fiction book that delves into the magic and mythology behind popular fairy tales and then details rituals based on the tales that work on different aspects of your life. As I may or may not have mentioned before, religiously I define myself as an Eclectic Pagan and mainly take my beliefs from various mythologies as well as herb/flower/animal/stone etc. based beliefs, and since I love traditional fairy tales I was instantly drawn to this book (plus it was only $11.65!).

Then, later in the day while I was hiding from the heat in front of a fan in my room and reading, I finished Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris  and chose a new book from the Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile which had grown to 19 strong!

This meant a long and involved eeny meeny miny moe session (in which I wrote down the publication details for all the books to make it easier in the future!) and eventually I landed on The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadder, a debut Historical Romance set in Scotland during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. I haven’t read much Historical fiction of late (the last one was Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier and that was one of only a handful last year) and since it is one of my well-loved genres it was nice to delve into the past again, especially as my other reads are on the more fantastical side.

In other news this month is the first time I have posted 10 posts (more now!) in the one month since May! This may be due to the fact that I’m on holidays so I’m reading more, or it could be because of my 2012 National Year of Reading extras, but either way I’m quite pleased that my post numbers have been up when they’ve been lagging a bit over the months.

Stay tuned for the next Top 10 lists (Top 10 “Classics” and Top 10 Classics I Want to Read) at the end of January/beginning of February as well as the final Top 10 theme poll, and hopefully some old reviews so I can get back to regular reviewing 🙂

Happy Reading!

A rest from murder and gore in a City of Bones and a Night Circus?

I realised at the dawn of the new year that a frightening theme had emerged in the books I was reading – they were either about murder or death in some way or were violent horror! O.o

  1. I was still reading The Books of Blood vol 1-3 by Clive Barker which are so twisted, disturbing and disgusting that I can not read more than one in one sitting because I can almost feel them turning my brain into demented jelly;
  2. I also took The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson with me into the new year, which revolves around a series of murders and which has a violent and action-packed second half;
  3. On top of those I started Adultery by Richard B Wright which is about the backlash a married man has to deal with when his mistress is kidnapped and killed on their dirty weekend;
  4. And Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris which is about a young woman named Harper Connolly who can “sense” dead people and so helps the police by finding murder victims.

Cheery stuff huh?

Suffice to say, when I finally finished The Girl Who Played with Fire last night I was hoping for a new book with a slightly lighter subject matter. Luckily there were not too many gory or murder-filled offerings amongst the 16 books on my Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile, and after my usual process (which I had to do twice!) I ended up with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, one of the books I got for my birthday and I’ve been hangin’ out to read 🙂

Love the cover art of this one!

As well as The Night Circus I also chose a book from the pile of books I borrowed off my little bro, since the other day I borrowed the third Monster Blood Tattoo novel and the entire The Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare ,and after a much quicker eeny meeny miny moe (there was only 3 books to choose from) I chose The City of Bones, book 1 of The Mortal Instruments.

Supernatural creatures covered in tattoos - this ones gonna be fun 🙂

Neither of these are murder mystery/thriller/horror books so now at least if the death gets to be too much for me I can hide away in a city full of supernatural creatures or a magical circus 🙂

The 2011 Book Polygamist Awards!

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the 1st Annual Book Polygamist Awards! (insert applause and cheering here)

Every year I look back at the books I have read and assign awards to those that have stood out in some way. Before now that acknowledgement has been for my eyes only in my treasured reading journals so I am happy to make them public for the first time!

The awards will be in two parts: the Annual Awards which are ones that I have given to books every year and will likely continue to do so; and the Special Awards which are awards that I have created especially for this years contenders.

I hope you enjoy 🙂

Annual Awards

Shortest Read:

The Bro Code by Barney Stinson with Matt Kuhn, at around an hour

Honorable Mentions:

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, at 1 day

Eddie Dickens Trilogy (Awful End; Dreadful Acts and Terrible Times) at 2 days for all three.

Longest Read:

Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two: Lamplighter by D M Cornish, at 27 weeks and 3 days! O.o

Honorable Mentions:

Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker, at 25 weeks, 3 days!

The Books of Blood: vol 1-3 by Clive Barker at 30 weeks and counting!!

Most Books Read by a Single Author:

 

4 by Kerry Greenwood (Urn Burial; Heavenly Pleasures; Devil’s Food; Trick or Treat)

Honorable Mentions:

3 by Charlaine Harris (Definitely Dead; All Together Dead; From Dead to Worse)

3 by Philip Ardagh (Awful End; Dreadful Acts;Terrible Times)

Best “New” Author Award:

Every year I make a list of authors I have discovered and who I want to read more of, so this year I thought I’d give an award to the author that I was the most impressed with and have since researched several other books of theirs that I’m interested in as well as a few other authors that get honorable mentions.

William Gay (Twilight)

Honorable Mentions:

Marianne de Pierres (Nylon Angel – Book 1 Parrish Plessis series)

Andrew Nicoll (The Good Mayor)

Kathryn Lasky (Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Capture)

Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)

Catherine Webb (The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle)

Special Awards

The Best End to a Series Award:

Destiny (Trinity trilogy) by Fiona McIntosh

Honorable Mention:

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman

The Best Start to a Series Award:

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle (Horatio Lyle series) by Catherine Webb

Honorable Mention:

The Capture (Guardians of Ga’Hoole series) by Kathryn Lasky

The Longest and Strangest Title Award:

The Travelling Death and Resurrection Show by Ariel Gore

Honorable Mention:

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

The “Graphic Novels are a Legitimate Genre” Award:

This is the first year I have read Graphic Novels and actually treated them like real books (i.e. included them in my book journal; wrote reviews etc.) so I thought the two fabulous Graphic Novels deserve their very own award 🙂

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons AND V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

The Short but Sweet Award:

This year has included a few short-story anthologies, a format I don’t generally read a lot so I have chosen the best short-story collection as well as the best individual stories.

Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead by Various

Best stories: Family Business by Jonathan Maberry; The Zombie Who Fell from the Sky by M. B. Homler; The Storm Door by Tad Williams; Second Wind by Mike Carey; Weaponized by David Wellington.

The BRAAIINNS! Award:

This year stood out as the year I started to love zombie stories! It wasn’t the first time I read anything with zombies (in 2010 I read Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner which is about a zombie detective; the first Anita Blake book by Laurell K Hamilton, Guilty Pleasures, which involves zombie raising, and right before the dawn of 2011 I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan which is set in a zombie-apocalyptic world) but after Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead  I was hooked so the BRAAIINNS Award goes to:

Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead by Various

with an honorable mention to Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carrol and Nickolas Cook 😛

The Revisited Award:

This is a new award I came up with, given to a book I re-read and still loved in 2011:

Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn

The About Time! Award:

This award goes to a book that I had been meaning to read for a long time:

Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

Honorable Mention:

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

The Best Cover Art Award:

The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

Honorable Mentions:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll

The Misleading Cover Award:

Yearn: Tales of Lust and Longing by Tobsha Learner

(to find out why this cover is misleading see my review)

The “They’ve Still Got It!” Award:

This is another new one that I created purely to highlight two of my favourite authors whose newest releases I read this year and loved just as much (if not more) than previous favourites:

Joanne Harris for Blueeyedboy AND Tracy Chevalier for Remarkable Creatures

2011 has been a fabulous year for me, not just for reading but in many aspects of my life, and I hope for even more great reads and wonderful events now that its 2012!

I hope you all also read some novels in 2011 that deserve awards and you have an amazing 2012 🙂

Top 10 Female Characters

1. The Hon. Phryne Fisher

Phryne Fisher Mysteries  by Kerry Greenwood

Phryne Fisher is an unflappable flapper in 1920’s Melbourne. She has a beautiful house with loyal attentive staff and a wardrobe of stunning dresses and pant suits. Oh, and she’s a private detective who drives fast and carries a well-concealed gun. I freakin’ love Phryne Fisher! She is such a witty and clever character and she somehow solves crime while looking fabulous and sleeping with an array of beautiful young men. If I could have the wardrobe of any book character it would be Phryne Fisher’s (with the figure to match :P), but besides that and her gorgeous home, she can keep her life – she encounters murder WAY too often! I have read the first 8 Phryne books and so far Kerry Greenwood has written 18, so I have plenty of Phryne fun ahead of me 😉

Even glamorous while taking tea

2. Corinna Chapman

Corinna Chapman Mysteries  by Kerry Greenwood

As I have said before Corinna Chapman is my kinda woman – a plus-size gal who enjoys a good muffin, G & T’s and cats. She also is a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which gives us something else in common 🙂 I’m on the 3rd book now (Devil’s Food) and once again loving Corinna’s pop culture references and accidental detecting. There’s only 2 more books published 😦 but since Kerry Greenwood is a machine when it comes to churning out series, I’m sure there’ll be more 🙂

Corinna on the cover of the first book: Earthly Delights

3. Flavia de Luce

Flavia de Luce Mysteries by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce is the coolest 11-year-old I have ever read about! She is a budding chemist with a special passion for poisons and she spends most of her time day-dreaming about poisoning her two awful sisters (or performing practical jokes on them involving chemistry). In the first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Flavia develops a new passion – detective work – when she discovers a corpse in the pumpkin patch. By the second book, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, Flavia is quite confident in her detective skills as she rides about town on her trusty bike, Gladys, looking for clues. The novel’s are set in the 1950’s in the English countryside and it is this setting that makes Flavia’s character all the more wickedly funny. She definitely isn’t the typical good little English girl, and that’s why I love her! I look forward to reading the new book, A Red Herring Without Mustard and the upcoming I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.

Flavia on trusty Gladys

4. Sally Lockhart

Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Philip Pullman

Another female detective! Sally Lockhart is another woman who doesn’t fit the mold of her time. Even before her detective work she worked as a Financial Consultant, which is thought to be a job not befitting a Victorian lady, but Sally isn’t an ordinary Victorian lady. She uses her good looks and the fact that she’s an innocent-looking 16-year-old girl to find out things that would be impossible were she a full-grown man, and she does so with her trusty pistol close at hand. I’ve loved Sally’s spunk in the first two books: The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, and I look forward to more adventures in The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess.

Billie Piper as Sally in the tv adaptation

5. Sookie Stackhouse

The Sookie Stackhouse Series/Southern Vampire Mysteries  by Charlaine Harris

Regular readers probably saw this one coming! Sookie is a great character both in the books and in True Blood, but mostly in the books. She is a great mix of sweet Southern belle and kick-ass vampire/were-loving part-faerie telepath. She has a hilarious inner monologue, and while she makes some stupid mistakes, mostly she’s quite smart and strong. If you read my recent post you will know that I’m nearing the end of the Sookie Stackhouse series, but once I’ve finished all the current books I will wait patiently for more 🙂 plus I always have the 3rd season of True Blood and seasons after 😛

Not your average waitress

6. Valkyrie Cain (AKA Stephanie Edgley, Darquesse)

Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy 

Valkyrie Cain is the kick-ass partner of skeleton detective Skulduggery Pleasant. She is an Elemental (which means she can throw fire, control air to lift herself and other neat stuff) and since the 4th book (Dark Days) she is also a Necromancer and stores shadow power in a ring. Her real name is Stephanie Edgley but she had to take another name when working with Skulduggery so that her name wasn’t used to control her, and she chose Valkyrie Cain. Darquesse is her “True Name” and has only been known to her in the last two books. That’s plenty to make her one of my fave female characters, but I also love the back and forth she had with Skulduggery (or any one else that takes her on) and pretty much everything else about her 🙂 Basically, she rocks.

A kick-ass fire-throwin' gal 🙂

7. Mma Precious Ramotswe

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall-Smith

I’ve only read the first book or this series (which has the same title as the series) but even from that (and I have to admit from the wonderful tv adaptation) I have grown fond of Precious Ramotswe. She is bright and vibrant and larger than life, and she always seems to make solving mysteries look like a piece of cake. I also love how she’s so tricksty when it comes to making criminals spill their guts – it makes me laugh every time! There is currently 12 books in the series with a 13th to come, so I’m sure as I go on I’ll love her more and more.

I think the cartoon her is so cute!

8. Anna

Mister God This is Anna  by Fynn

I’ve already gushed enough over this book in a review and my Top 10 books of all time post so I won’t do it again, but I’ll just say that Anna has to be in this top 10 because she’s such a special, memorable character. I recently found out that there are 2 other books in the Anna Biographies when I didn’t even know it was part of a series! So I will be finding Anna’s Book, and Anna and the Black Knight and will most likely fall in love with her even more. I wish I knew an Anna 🙂

So cute!!!

9. Sophie Hatter

Howl’s Castle Series  by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle (as well as the sequels Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways) is a hilariously feisty character that had me laughing out loud many times. I loved the  Hayao Miyazaki animated movie Howl’s Moving Castle but until I saw it in the library I didn’t even know it was based on a book. If you’ve seen the film and thought Sophie was a riot then you must read the book, because she is even funnier on paper and it is such a magical story. She isn’t in Castle in the Air much til the end but every moment that she is, is gold! I haven’t gotten to House of Many Ways yet, but it is in one of my piles so I hope to get to it soon 🙂

Sophie as she looks in the film (before the spell)

10. Luna Lovegood

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling 

Ever since “Loony Lovegood” popped up in the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix I’ve thought she was the bees knees! Luna is just so wonderfully weird and a space cadet (which I identify with) and she has come out with some classic lines. I also like her odd accesories such as the butterbeer cork necklace, dirigible plum (radish) earrings, and the Spectrespecs.

Loony is awesome 🙂

Another Dead and almost gone

The other day I got another nice little package in the mail – the 9th Sookie Stackhouse book by Charlaine Harris, Dead and Gone.

oooo exciting!

I’m pretty excited about reading it since i’ve almost read the whole series (well the whole series so far). After Dead and Gone I only have Dead in the Family (which i just bought off eBay for an outrageously cheap price)

$2 plus $6.95 p&h!!! Gotta love eBay 🙂

and the recently released Dead Reckoning.

Book 11

I’ve got some addictive reading ahead of me these holidays 🙂

Top 10 Authors

Last month I noticed that I had written exactly 10 posts in April and 10 posts in March. which I thought was pretty neat 🙂 and then the other day I noticed that it’s coming up to the end of May and I have only written 7! This can not do! Anyone who knows me knows that I’m just a tad obsessed with order (cue for all my friends to say “just a tad?”) so, to rectify this situation I will be writing a special “Top 10” post each day on the three last days of May. The first post will be my Top 10 Authors.

In no particular order (besides the order in which they came to me :P) here are my Top 10:

1. Craig Silvey

If you read my post from a few days ago you’ll know that Craig Silvey is my favourite author, mainly because his two novels – Rhubarb and Jasper Jones – are two of my fave books. He’s a wonderful local author and I can’t wait til he writes another book :).

Remember this guy? 🙂

2. Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak is the author of another couple of my fave books – The Book Thief and The Messenger – as well as a bunch of YA books (The Underdog; Fighting Ruben Wolfe; Getting the Girl) and an upcoming novel The Bridge of Clay, which I’m really looking forward to :). He’s another wonderful Australian author and I would recommend The Book Thief and The Messenger to anyone who wants to read a very inspirational and insightful book with a clear, simple premise.

Another handsome devil 🙂

3. Joanne Harris

I have read all of Joanne Harris’ books, from the famous Chocolat; it’s sequel, The Lollipop Shoes; and others in the same vein of food and magic (Blackberry Wine; Five Quarters of the Orange) ; to her darker early work (The Evil Seed; Sleep, Pale Sister) ; to her YA fantasy (and first in a series) Runemarks. Her other works are: The Coastliners; Holy Fools; Gentlemen and Players; a collection of short stories called Jigs and Reels; and her newest triumph blueeyedboy. She also has released two cooking books (which I haven’t read) with Fran Warde called The French Kitchen : a Cook Book and The French Market.

A delicious author

4. Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier is another author whose work I devour. There is only one novel I have yet to read, Remarkable Creatures, and that is on my “to read” pile, so hopefully I’ll get to it soon :). Her work is mostly historical fiction and based around a famous artist or art in general. Her most famous work, The Girl with the Pearl Earring is about the Dutch painter Vermeer and his painting of the same name; her first book The Virgin Blue references many paintings of the Virgin Mary; The Lady and the Unicorn is about the creation of medieval tapestries with the same name; and Burning Bright is about a couple of children that befriend their neighbour, writer and poet, William Blake. Tracy Chevalier has also written Falling Angels, a beautiful little book set right afer the death of Queen Victoria. She has also written several non-fiction books: Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers; Contemporary Poets; Contemporary World Writers; Encyclopedia of the Essay and Concise Encyclopedia of the Essay.

Lady Historical of Fiction

5. Terry Pratchett

Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett is a fairly recent favourite author of mine. I loved the Discworld cartoons, Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music when I was a kid, and later on the movie Hogfather, but it was only a couple of years ago that I got around to reading the books, and I have since read the first 6 Discworld novels. He has written far too much to list here, but if you want to know all the titles follow the link (click on Terry Pratchett) and see them all on his Fantasticfiction page. The books are fab – very good for random bouts of giggling on the bus – and If you’re a fan of fantasy, but think sometimes it’s a genre that takes it’s self too seriously, then the Discworld books are for you.

A wizard of humourous fantasy

6. Jeanette Winterson

I’ve had an interesting reader/author relationship with Jeanette Winterson. When I was younger I loved her early works: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit; Sexing the Cherry; and most of all The Passion. I also enjoyed some of her later books, like Lighthousekeeping and her sort-of YA fantasy novel, Tanglewreck. However, I had mixed emotions about her sci-fi love story The Stone Gods , which had great elements but was confusing and not as….engaging as the other books I had read. And Gut Symmetries really wasn’t my cup of tea. Because of this somewhat mixed experience I am nervous about reading the remaining novels: Written on the Body; Art and Lies; The Powerbook; and The Battle of the Sun, but I will carry on because when she writes a good one, it’s amazing.

No ordinary fruit

7. Isobelle Carmody

I have loved Isobelle Carmody’s fantasy books since a friend of the family gave me Scatterlings. I am a fan of the Obernewtyn Cronicles ( Obernewtyn; The Farseekers; Ashling; The Keeping Place; The Stone Key) and have been hanging out for the next book, The Sending to come out. Besides the Obernewtyn series she has written the Ledgendsong Saga, the Gateway Trilogy and The Legend of Little Fur series. She has also written 7 stand-alone novels, a collection of short stories called Green Monkey Dreams, and a few picture books: Wildheart; The Wrong Thing ( or Magic Night), Night School and Journey From the Centre of the Earth. I still have to read the Ledgendsong series, and 3 of her stand-alones: The Landlord, Dreamwalker, and  Firecat’s Dream.

Queen of trilogies (and beyond)

8. Charlaine Harris

My love for Charlaine Harris is a new one, and thanks mainly to a Southern belle with an unique ability: Sookie Stackhouse. Since I saw True Blood early last year I have been reading the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries series and now I’m 8 books in and completly addicted :). Besides the Sookie series, Charlaine Harris has written the Aurora Teagarden mystery series (which has 8 books), the Lily Bard mystery series (which has 5) and the Harper Connelly series (which has 4), as well as two stand-alones, Sweet and Deadly, and A Secret Rage, so she’s quite an ambitious lady. I own the first Harper Connelly: Grave Sight, and a Lily Bard omnibus and they’re on my “to read” pile, so hopefully they’re just as fun as the Sookie books :).

An author with bite

9. Kerry Greenwood

Ahhhh Kerry Greenwood, the author behind two of my favourite female characters from the last two years – the hon. Phryne Fisher, and baker turned detective, Corinna Chapman. Thanks go to my friend Sarah for lending me the first Phryne book (or the first 3) in the form of an omnibus containing: Cocaine Blues (aka Death by Misadventure), Flying Too High, and Murder on a Ballarat Train. Since then I’ve read 5 more Phryne books and the first two Corinna Chapman books: Earthly Delights and Heavenly Pleasures. And, lucky me, I still have 10 Phryne books; 3 Corinna books, plus two other series’: the Delphic Women series and the Stormbringer series to read (plus if I’m really keen she’s written 13 stand-alones!).

A book writing machine

10. Clive Barker

If you’re keeping up-to-date with what I’m currently reading you wouldn’t be surprised that Clive Barker is one of my fave authors – since I’m reading two of his books at the mo’. I’ve loved his work since my friend (Sarah again) lent me a great fantasy epic of his, Abarat which is filled with Clive Barker’s colourful and twisted paintings. She then gave me Sacrament for a christmas present, and I’ve been into his bizarre, often fucked-up style of writing ever since :P. Beside Abarat (and the second Abarat book, Days of Magic, Nights of War) and Sacrament I have read (and own) The Great and Secret Show and Imajica.

Master of Mindfuck

So there you have it, my first top 10 :). We have a good mix of male and female authors, and authors from Australia (Craig Silvey, Markus Zusak, Isobelle Carmody, Kerry Greenwood) the UK (Joanne Harris, Terry Pratchett, Jeanette Winterson, Clive Barker) and the US of A (Tracy Chevalier, Charlaine Harris), plus a mix of genres (Literary, Historical, Fantasy, YA, Mystery, Horror) which gives you all an insight into my reading patterns :).

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next “Top 10” – the Top 10 books from my childhood, and let me know in the comments if you think the “Top 10” should be a regular feature 🙂