Challenge Update: Week 1 of Short and Sweet & 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy + Fangirling at Swancon

Good day my legendary, literary Bookbaggers!

Welcome to the first update of my newest challenges, Short and Sweet and 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy, sprinkled with some boasting from my wonderful Easter break!

I had quite a lot packed in to my week-and-a-day holiday – appointments at the how-many-gadgets-can-I-fit-in-your-mouth-at-once clinic (AKA dentist); the sorry-your-love-affair-with-bread-is-on-hold-for-a-couple-of-weeks office (nutritionist) and the lets-get-you-to-work-out-in-a-room-full-of-old-people-while-we-supervise-so-you-don’t-injure-yourself-again-you-klutz centre (exercise physiologist); plus catch-ups with friends from Sydney and closer to home, and a very fun Sunday at Swancon where I met Isobelle Carmody!!!!

Besides all this activity, I did have some time to myself to read and thus have a healthy first update on my challenges:

Short and Sweet challenge badgeSince I love a good list and this post could become obscenely long without it I’ll summarise my progress over the week with the power of numbers!

  1. I discovered two books on my shelf with less than 200 pages – Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell, which I bought from Kaleido Books last yearweird things customers say in bookshopsand No Nice Girl by Perry Lindsay, which is part of the Harlequin Vintage Collection I bought yonks ago and is one of 2 that I hadn’t read yet – both of which have been added to the pool of Short and Sweet contenders
    no nice girl
  2. I finished High-rise by J G Ballard on the 21st and holy moley it was one heck of a book! For such a thin tome (198 pages) Ballard certainly fits in a lot of creepy stuff and somehow it never feels rushed or lacking details but more like a concentrated story of complete societal breakdown set within a 40 story apartment building. Not for everyone, but this weirdo Book Polygamist loved it and it is the first on my list of top books for 2014 for sure!high-rise
  3. After Finishing High-rise I randomly picked a name from the gift-bag currently holding the bits of paper with Short and Sweet contenders written on and funnily enough I picked No Nice Girl. I’ve read a few chapters so far and it is wickedly funny, so I’m pleased with the choice no nice girl
  4. I also decided to forgo choosing and simply read Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops one afternoon as I had already started reading bits and pieces out to Sarah, my bro and my mum on Good Friday. As can be expected it was a mix of hilarious, baffling, infuriating, stupid and sometimes downright scary quotes that customers have actually said to booksellers and there was many a giggle, shake of the head in disbelief, exclamation of outrage and furrowed brow from this book-lover and my book-loving kin. Worth a look for any bibliophile if only to better understand what our beloved booksellers are faced with day-to-day!weird things customers say in bookshops
  5. I bought (among others) 4 books under 200 pages at Swancon – Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan; Horn by Peter M Ball; Bleed also by Peter M Ball; and Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek (it’s actually two short stories published in one novella with the authors telling two sides of the one story – very cool) – which have also been added to the pool
  6. On the 22nd my rut-breaking challenge seemed to work its magic because I finished the last quarter of Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett while busing too and from appointments, which I have been reading since October last year!guards guards
  7. Once I returned from my journey I chose a book to replace Guards! Guards! from the Short and Sweet bag and in another funny turn of events I picked Cracklescape which had just been added. Cracklescape is not only under 200 pages, but is actually a collection of 4 short stories so it’s doubly good for the challenge. I’ve only read the first story ‘The Duchess Dresser‘ so far but I really enjoyed it – a ghost story that felt very authentic and had a more stifling and claustrophobic feel than straight up thrills and chills.Cracklescape_lg_large
  8. And lastly I read the short story ‘Ghost Dance’ by Sherman Alexie (the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) from The Living Dead zombie anthology on my final day of holidays. It was a wonderfully gruesome tale where the blood of two Native American men thoughtlessly murdered by a racist cop at the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn (commonly referred to as Custer’s Last Stand) awaken the dead soldiers there, who promptly rip the cop and his frightened rookie partner to pieces and then move on killing anyone in their path. the_living_deadSo yeah, lots of activity for the first week of the challenge!

The updated list of Short and Sweet contenders is as follows:

a clockwork orangeA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

i am legendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson

horn Horn by Peter M Ball

BleedBleed by Peter M Ball

AboveBelow-cover1-300x246Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek

Now onto the second challenge I started, which didn’t have an opening week as spectacular, but was still successful:

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badgeAs I had some time to read I also was able to get back into both The Sending by Isobelle Carmody and Brisingr by Christopher Paolini and after the initial “what? who are you again? what’s happening?!” phase I was good and easily achieved my goal:

The Sending:

Maruman on the cover of The Sending29 pages (2 chapters)

Pages remaining: 441

Brisingr:

Brisingr25 Pages (2 chapters)

Pages remaining: 570

Total:

54 Pages

Pages remaining: 1011

Even with all this crazy challenge hullabaloo I also read a fair few comics/graphic novels over my break which I will present to you again in a nifty slide-a-ma-show:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And since I then had only two comics left on the shelf (!!!!!!) I bought a whole new bunch at Comiczone while catching up with my friend and fellow comic-lover (my recent interest pales in comparison to his life-long love of the form), Scott:

Ooooo so shiny and new! *drool*

Ooooo so shiny and new! *drool*

From the top left they are:The Sandman: Overture #2 – Chapter Two by Neil Gaiman (writer), J.H. Williams III (artist), Dave Stewart (colourist), and Todd Klein (letterer);  Hinterkind: The Waking World Volume 1 byIan Edginton (writer), Francesco Trifogli (artist), and Greg Tocchini (cover artist); Rocket Girl #1 – Times Squared by Brandon Montclare (writer) and Amy Reeder (artist); The Unwritten: Leviathan (The Unwritten, Volume # 4) by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist, colourist), Vince Locke, Al Davison (colourists) and Yuko Shimizu (cover artist); Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist);

I wanted to finish the comics I’ve had for a while before I got onto the shiny new ones so after finishing The Dark-Hunters 2 I picked out of the jar and got:

Sandman-Overture-CV1_SOLICIT_sxvqsdoynu_The Sandman: Overture #1 – Chapter One by Neil Gaiman (writer), J.H. Williams III (artist), Dave Stewart (colourist), and Todd Klein (letterer)

Which I have been wanting to read since before it was even published! Since I knew I would zip through it in no time (I was right – I read it in a few minutes the other night and was blown away) I pre-emptively also picked the other one:

FreakAngels Warren Ellis Glénat 04 (5) FreakAngels #2 by Warren Ellis (writer) and Paul Duffield (artist)

Which I haven’t gotten to as yet, but hope to ASAP as the last volume was excellent!

I’m going to round off with a very brief summary of my time at Swancon as this post is growing to gargantuan proportions!

As I said above I bought books of course, mainly from the Twelve Planets Press stall (that’s where all my Short and Sweet ones came from), plus a few pairs of quilled paper earrings 🙂 Here are the books in all their glory:

Swancon books 2014

I left Cracklescape out because It’s in my bag and I forgot to include it….I mean I totally did it on purpose because…reasons

The ones not already mentioned are Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher, who was a guest but not on the Sunday when I went; and Living With The Dead a short story collection by Martin Livings published by Dark Prints Press, which I also got signed 🙂

Besides buying way too many books I also went to some fun and interesting panels (“The History of WA Fandom” which went over the early years of the con and featured a friend of Sarah and her family who was the official Perth Fan Guest; and “It Followed Me Home, Mum, Can I Keep It?: Fantastical Pets” which was great fun and very interacative) but the main reason I chose Sunday out of the whole Easter long weekend that the con was on, is because Isobelle Carmody was there on the Sunday doing her guest of honour speech followed by a signing!

After deliberating for a good while I took along my old battered copy of Scatterlings,which was the first book by Carmody I ever read, gifted to me by family friends for Christmas 1999 (when I was 12, for the record). I listened intently as Isobelle spoke, artfully telling hilarious stories from her childhood, her early experiences of writing and being published and her love of books and libraries, and hoped that she wouldn’t be shocked and appalled by the state of my book (I had discovered the night before when retrieving it from the depths of my bookshelf that it had several pages falling out and I didn’t have the right repair tools at home to fix it O.O).

When she had finished speaking I waited in line with the other die-hard fans and con-goers who had just discovered her books at the stall, clutching my book encased in a plastic bag to prevent lost pages, butterflies growing exponentially in my stomach. Of course when I did get to the front and apologised about the dishevelled book she didn’t mind a jot and happily signed it with a quote and all. She even thanked me (me!) for working in the library industry when Sarah mentioned it!

Scatterlings collageIt was an amazing experience, especially considering my current challenge and I have to say a big thank you to Sarah for agreeing to go on Sunday for me, and her and her mum in general for a fabulous day 🙂

On that note I’ll leave you, beloved Bookbaggers, for now. Stay tuned for an update next week and perhaps other tidbits in the world of the Book Polygamist, but until then here’s another funny/cute gif which is a pretty accurate representation of my face upon meeting Isobelle Carmody:

owl gif

Advertisements

Top 10 Books I’ve Read That No One Seems to Have Heard of

Hiya Bookbaggers and welcome to the second Top 10 theme voted by you!
I agonised over this list because I have read some strange titles in my time, but I wanted to include the ones that people are least likely to have heard of and/or read so that I can offer something new and unusual to my readers out there 🙂

You get a point for each book you’ve heard of (outside of this blog of course!) and two points for every book you’ve read so feel free to share your score in the comments or tell me bout your own bizarre reads that none of your friends have heard of!

1. Dim by Carolin Window

This book was a random find, most likely from an op-shop, book sale or a hand-me-down from my mum who often is involved with clothes swap parties and the like. I received it and read it when I was about 11 or 12 (which in hindsight was way too young an age to read a book that contains very adult themes such as sexual and physical abuse) and since then I have not found a single person who has heard of the book or the author. About 10 years ago Dim disappeared from my possession, possibly when a friend of the family borrowed it for holiday-in-Italy-reading (‘tho she claims she never borrowed it) and so for a while I wondered whether I had just dreamt the whole thing up, especially because It was such a bizarre book. So, understandably this was the first book that sprung to mind when I first thought of this theme. While researching for this post I did find a vague Dim fingerprint on the ‘net, so I knew I had not been a crazy tween (especially because that buzz word did not exist when a was a pre-teen in the late 90’s) who imagined a disturbing book out of thin air, ‘tho it was hard to research when I couldn’t remember the author’s name and I no longer have a copy to consult. Dim‘s entries in GoodReads, LibraryThing and Shelfari are sparse at best, with a maximum of 4 people vouching for its existence BUT! It does exist on Amazon.com and other online bookshops so perhaps I will replace my lost copy, read the craziness again and share with you all 🙂

Fabulous but also possibly the strangest book I've ever read....and I have read some strange ones!

2. April Witch by  Majgull Axelsson

This book certainly isn’t as unknown as Dim (125 members have in on their Shelfari shelves) and I’m sure it is somewhat known in Sweden where the author is from, but it gets a mention in this list because I had never heard or it and when I was reading it and mentioned it to friends or family I received a clear “huh?” expression. I found the book at my local library when I decided to try a new tack of choosing new books – working my way from A to Z picking books that interested me. At AXE this strange little tale of a girl who is imprisoned in her own body but has an amazing intellectual mind and clairvoyant/omniscient abilities, really stood out to me and it was certainly an interesting and unique read.

An interesting blend of psychological thriller, supernatural fiction and family epic

3 The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor

This book was one of my reading highlights of last year and also one of the most distressing and earth-shattering reads of the last few. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale that may or may not actually occur after an apocalypse but certainly highlights some destructive human traits – religious extremism, rebellion against consumerism (as well as the consumerism itself) and an obsession with control – which could theoretically lead to apocalypse. As it was published in 2009 I wasn’t expecting many people to have read it but I was surprised by only 40 Shelfari members having it, and I certainly received some odd and curious looks from fellow students or commuters while I was reading it.

Very creepy but absolutly riviting

4. The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

Regular readers of the blog will know that this is a quite recent read (in fact it was the last review I did as I have been super slack with my reviewing duties) but it was an unusual and fabulous read with a title and subject matter that confused and intrigued many a person. A mere 20 individuals on Shelfari have The Secrets of the Chess Machine which is a shame as it was a riot! I am sometimes blessed to have a judge-a-book-by-its-cover attitude because it was the cover of this little gem that drew me to it in the first place out of the sea of book spines at the library. If you enjoy clockwork machinery, the seedy underbelly of aristocrats and some tasty murder mystery-ness thrown in for spice then track this one down 🙂

Chess and Dandys and Automaton oh my! 🙂

5. The Travelling Death and Resurrection Show by Ariel Gore

This was another fairly recent unique read, but it just missed out on being immortalised on these hallowed (ha!) pages as I finished it just before it was founded. I was drawn to the strangeness of the title (I love long and confusing titles :)) and the book certainly delivered as it was about a travelling Catholic-themed circus whose headliner can do the Stigmata on command. Only 64 members on Shelfari have it, and the author is not on Fantastic Fiction, my usual fountain of book-based knowledge so it certainly qualifies for this list, as just like several of the others it has received its fair share of confuzzled looks.

I'm a sucker for bizarro Catholic hijinks 🙂

6. The Sensualist by Barbara Hodgson

My mum brought this book home from a school fête at my little bro’s primary school that she was volunteering at, but I promptly pilfered it when I flicked through and saw that it was a multi sensory novel filled with old-fashioned anatomy diagrams, some multi-layered and one which included braille. I can barely remember the plot besides that it was a sort of mystery that spanned a couple of european countries, but I do remember that it was a great read and the accompanying elements elevated the story to a new level. Only 73 Shelfari have this book and I am proud to be one of them 🙂

I love a book with hidden surprises in the form of eyeball diagrams 🙂

7. Shadowsbite by Stephen Dedman

I wasn’t completely surprised that when I first went to add this book to my shelf on Shelfari it was absent and since I added it only one person (besides myself) has contributed to its record, as the author is a relatively unknown sci-fi/horror writer from Perth (my hometown and the most isolated capital city in Australia). I was however kind of disappointed as it’s a great Vampire novel that explores the mythology behind vamps better than any I’ve read. I got the book at Swancon, an annual Science Fiction and writers convention held in Perth, and I was lucky enough to hear Stephen Dedman read an excerpt and meet him. The friend that I went with also loved the book as did our other close friend (the third musketeer :D) so they at least have heard of it, as have the other people who attended his reading but in the grand scheme of things it is pretty unknown and hopefully I’ve done my part to rectify that 🙂

In this current time of Twihards an honest, gory, mythologically accurate vamp tale like this is a wonderful antidote!

8.  The Cats by Joan Phipson

To readers that grew up in the 60s or 70s this book or this author may not be that unknown as Joan Phipson wrote a string of novels for kids from 1953-1988 with The Cats being published in 76. However, as a proud 90’s kid I had never heard of it when I picked it up at another school fête and bought it purely because I wanted to know why a book about cats had such a sinister cover! It turns out lovable fluffy kitty cats can be terrifying, especially with the right setting and some suspense, and that if there are Baby Boomers out there who loved this odd thriller in their youth, they certainly aren’t on Shelfari where my shelf is the only one it rests on.

Here sinister kitty!

9.  The Floating Island by Anna Ralph

This novel came into my hand when a family friend (ironically the same one who may or may not have lost Dim) dropped off a stack of proof copy paperbacks to me, her friends book-crazed daughter, that came from a friend of hers in publishing (somewhat naughty I know but I did nothing to encourage her I promise!). The book was a touching tale of a teenage boy’s psychological and physical recovery from a tragic accident that left him seemingly paralysed and killed his younger brother, as well as an interweaving of character relationships. A grand total of 3 people including myself have The Floating Island on their Shelfari shelf – not exactly overwhelming but better than zero 🙂

I love getting free books 🙂

10. Harlequin Vintage Collection

(Kiss Your Elbow by Alan Handley; Virgin with Butterflies by Tom Powers; Pardon My Body by Dale Bogard; You Never Know with Women by James Hadley Chase)

This is cheating a bit, but I couldn’t decide which of these obscure retro paperbacks to choose as collectively not many Shelfari members have them (the most is 26 for You Never Know with Women which I’m guessing is highest because James Hadley Chase is the most well-known author of the four) and they were all wonderfully pulpy and odd. The set also includes No Nice Girl by Perry Lindsay and I’ll Bury my Dead also by James Hadley Chase, but I am yet to read those two.

Gotta love some genuine vintage pulp fiction filled to the brim with dames and guns 🙂

Stay tuned in the near future (hopefully) for the other half of this Top 10 – Top 10 Books I Think Everyone Should Read – and then I will not be posting the new poll as the Top 10s for December will be on my best 2011 reads 🙂 I also hope to get all the lost reviews done before the year’s end – cross your collective fingers for me?

Cheers and Happy Reading!