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!

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Top 10 Reads of 2011!

I have been making a list of my fave books of the year for a while now, but before now they have only been chronicled in my reading journals or on Facebook last year, so its pretty sweet to have it out in the blogosphere for the first time 🙂

1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman 

This was the first book I started in 2011 (on the 1st of January and all!) and was also one of a few books I read around that time that were the final instalments in major trilogies I had been reading for a while (the others are Destiny by Fiona McIntosh which is also in this list, and The Reawakened by Jeri Smith-Ready that I finished on January 1st so it missed out being on this list :P). I read the first two of the His Dark Materials series, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass) and The Subtle Knife in 2009 and late 2010 respectively and each one was more gripping and imaginative as the story went on culminating with The Amber Spyglass which was just amazing. Philip Pullman brought everything to light and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed throughout the series and although many of these conclusions were heart-breaking, the ending felt right. I was left with a sense of awe at Pullman’s abilities and it certainly opened up my year of reading with a bang.

2. Destiny by Fiona McIntosh 

Destiny was another wonderful conclusion to a gripping series, but one that I had been invested in for much longer. As I have said before there was a big gap between starting the Trinity trilogy and finishing it as I read the first book, Betrayal way back in 2008, then the second book, Revenge a couple of months later but was unable to acquire Destiny until early 2011! It was lucky that I re-read the first two books before finding it but even still it was at least a year between the end of Revenge (which was quite a cliffhanger) and the beginning of Destiny so it took me a while to understand what was going on. However once I was caught up this final instalment certainly didn’t disappoint with more twists and turns then  the most intense rollercoaster and countless moments that made me gasp in shock or burst into tears. There were so many satisfying conclusions to conflicts that had carried through the whole trilogy and the final ending was very emotional and riveting, showing Fiona McIntosh’s ability to weave a great ending that doesn’t shy away from harsh realities and fall into the “happily ever after” trap.

3. The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll 

This was a beautiful, quirky, charming little novel which was a surprise highlight of my year. Andrew Nicoll described the fictional Baltic town of Dot as well as all the unique characters inhabiting it with loving detail that made me eager to read for hours on end. The story was quite simple – a forbidden love story between the Mayor of the town and his married assistant – but it was the execution of it that was so addictive to me, the dancing around the two did, never admitting their feelings for each other and by the end I was quite frustrated with them both (which made me want to read even more just to see if they’d ever get their act together!). Even ‘tho it took a really strange turn at its climax this only made me like the book more as it was so unexpected. A great read for someone who loves a good RomCom but one that’s a tad odd 🙂

4. Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one was a big surprise because as I am a huge fan of Joanne Harris and am use to her usual fare of magic, food and small town politics (or other tight-knit communities like a college or nunnery), or as in her earlier works gothic styled historical novels with a touch of mystery and Blueeyedboy certainly doesn’t fit into those categories. Well and truly in the modern age, this novel tells its story exclusively through LiveJournal posts which gave it a creepy atmosphere of confession and mind games. It was a frightening, disturbing and unsettling book where the lines between fiction and reality and between online and offline personas was very blurred and I was constantly changing my mind about who was the “monster” and who was the victim. The twists were often very unexpected and sudden, so I found myself reeling through most of it, but by the end I was left impressed by Joanne Harris’ talent (to create a fantastic psychological thriller so different from her usual style) and even that early on in the year (I read it over a week in February) I knew it would be on this list as I stayed with me long after the last word.

5. Twilight by William Gay

I almost didn’t read this fantastically atmospheric book because of its title, but I am so glad a bunch of glittery vampires didn’t put me off as it was a fantastic, if quite confusing read. This is the first of my Top Reads that I have reviewed on this blog, and that review can be found here. Since I went into why this book was so amazing in that review I won’t go into it much here, but will just say that this book showed some of the finest writing of my readings this year as well as being one of the more creepy and vividly described novels I read in 2011. Not for the faint hearted or easily confused, but for lovers of language and spooky imagery this is a real treat.

6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This is another book I reviewed this year so I won’t go into too much detail, but as soon as I finished it I knew it would be on this list as it certainly made an impact on me. This is one of those novels that grew on me (like my friend Sarah would say, like a fungus :)) and the second half was read in huge devouring sessions as opposed to the snail’s pace of the first half. If any of you decide to give this little french gem a shot I would highly recommend that you watch the movie adaptation afterwards as it cleverly takes the story from page to screen and was a lovely little film in its own right 🙂

7. Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

This one is definitely not for those light of heart (or stomach!) as it is a classic Barker tale filled with gruesome creatures, violent sexuality and lots of gore. I have yet to review it, even ‘tho I reached the end on the 20th of October (naughty naughty!) as it has been hard to find the right words to explain it. It is a blend of absolute horror in the craziest supernatural form that Clive Barker excels at, and a tale of the underbelly of Hollywood from its Golden Age of ageless movie starlets in glorious black and white and blissful silence, to the modern age of plastic idols. Not one I would recommend as an introduction to Clive Barker (it would likely scare many away) but once readers are used to his work (maybe starting with lighter novels like Abarat and then moving on to his crazier stuff like Sacrament?) this is an excellent example of his expansive and very warped imagination. He’s a freak but I love ‘im 🙂

8. The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

This was a more light-hearted read of 2011. Although there was some murder mystery elements and other dark parts It was always easy and fun to read as opposed to some on this list which I dipped into less often. I love a good Historical Saga, especially one that is based on real events rather than just a certain time or place in history, and this little beauty was exactly what I was looking for. More details can be found in my review but be warned, this one may be a bit difficult to find. I was lucky enough to find it at my local library, but since reading and reviewing it a friend and fellow Library student has been trying to find it in bookstores to no avail. My best bet would be an online bookstore such as Book Depository or second-hand and rare book supplier Abe Books.

9. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This book was a fairly recent read (I finished it on the 8th of December) but I knew from a few chapters in that it would be a highlight of 2011. I first heard about it from my mum who saw it reviewed on Australian morning show The Circle and thought I would like it as before my Library studies I was a floral assistant and I have always been intrigued by the Victorian custom of courting lovers communicating through flowers. She then bought it from me as part of my amazingly generous birthday presents and I was lucky enough to choose it out of my To Read pile at the beginning of November. I have yet to review it (I’ll get there I promise!) but it was a beautifully touching story with an interesting and solid background in the meaning of flowers and the effect the foster child/adoption system has on children even into adulthood.

10. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier 

This last book almost didn’t make it on the list as when I started it on the 9th of December, even ‘tho I loved it from the first chapter I didn’t think I would finish it before the start of the new year. But thanks to some marathon reading, mostly due to the fantastic writing skills of Tracy Chevalier and my ardent wish to include it in my Top Reads I finished it the day before New Years Eve 🙂 This was a very interesting and touching novel that amerses you in a historical time and place perfectly. Tracy Chevalier is wonderful at capturing a time and place and inventing believable details surrounding a pivotal artistic (or in this case scientific) movement. I have loved every book she has ever released from the moment I read The Virgin Blue as they were all sound Historical novels with a backbone of facts and a great deal of heart. This one is based on the true story of Mary Anning, a working class girl in 19th century England who discovers the first aquatic dinosaurs and sets the scientific world alight with talk of extinction and the age of the earth, but it is also about the friendship between two women (Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot) who are from a different class and background and two decades apart in age but share a love of fossil hunting. I promise I’ll do a proper review as soon as I get through the 8 that are still backed up 😛

Stay tuned for my other highlights of the year in the form of my 2011 Book Polygamist Awards! which I will post within the next couple of days, and I hope to see all my usual Bookbaggers as well as lots of new faces throughout 2012 🙂

In case you weren’t aware 2012 is The National Year of Reading in Australia, which libraries around the country are getting involved in with special activities and programs as well as extra storytime sessions, displays and the like, so expect some extra little tidbits this year 🙂

One idea I had was to post a small quote from one of the books I’m reading every day as part of Project 365 but what with my last semester of study being this year as well as continuing casual work at libraries, and hopefully some form of social life, I don’t see myself keeping that up for longer than a few weeks, so maybe I’ll make it something more achievable like a quote once a week?

Let me know what you guys think in the comments and as always, HAPPY READING!!!! (in caps for added New Years emphasis :P)

From Flowers to Fossils

Hello my beloved Bookbaggers!

I know I have been MIA lately and I apologise. Since I finished my term/semester/year of studies I expected I would able to relax and do things I enjoy (such as blogging) much more but as soon as I was on holidays I was inundated with calls to work at the City of Joondalup libraries (where I am on the casual pool). I loved getting some more library experience but It meant that I had no time to write the second half of my last Top 10 list or to do any long overdue reviews.

So this is just a little check-in to let you know that I’m still living, breathing and reading and I hope to at least do the other Top 10 and a review or two before the end of 2011, and to fill you in on my recent reading adventures 🙂

I little over a week ago I finished The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Niffenbaugh, which was a beautiful story that will definitely be a late addition to my top reads of the year 🙂

I then was faced with a monumental task: picking a new book from the frighteningly tall pile of books I have bought but have yet to read. The pile has been growing in height for a while because the shelf that usually houses all my book buys is pushed to its limit and of course I still keep purchasing books or receiving them as gifts! So when I laid them out on my bed there was a grand total of 17 books to choose from, way too many for my usual process to work. I still did my eeny meeny miny moe (as I am a freak of habit) but instead of just eliminating a single book at each stage I eliminated two and it worked quite well.

Once I was down to two I couldn’t be bothered trying to invent a new step so I just choose the book which has been on the pile the longest: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. Remarkable Creatures is the only Tracy Chevalier novel that I have not read yet and as soon as I saw she had released a new book I bought it. That was in 2009 so it is about time I finally started it and so far I have loved it just as much as previous Chevalier gems – it even looks like it will be in my top reads of 2011 (if I finish it in time O.o)

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for action before and after Christmas as I have no more work lined up til January.

From Flavia to Flowers

About a month ago I received a distressing email….from the library. It seemed one of the books I was reading, A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (the latest Flavia de Luce mystery) was overdue, but fear not! I said to myself and journeyed to their website to renew the book and continue reading in peace. However, to my horror I was denied my relieving renewal because some other Flavia lover had requested it!

I have conquered you, you wily bastard! 😀

What was I to do? I was already well into the story and who knows whether I could find it at a supplementary library, especially since I had encountered trials with this exact book before. So I did what every sane person would do – I read the shit out of that book so I could return it before getting too many late fees! 😛

Suffice to say, I had a grand ole time in the world of Flavia de Luce for about a week and then returned it for the next person in line to enjoy 🙂 This was around the beginning of November and I had just been gifted a hearty swag of birthday books, so even ‘tho the book I had finished was a library one and I was due to choose my new book from the library pile, I thought the Books-I-Own-But-Haven’t-Read-Yet pile could use some pruning.

It turns out that pruning was an appropriate word, as once I had reached the end of a complicated and exhaustive eeny meeny miney moe (more complicated and exhaustive than usual as there was 13 books on the pile!) I arrived at The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, one of the books my mum gave me 🙂

Very intriguing already

However, since I had neglected my other books while I was engrossed with my Flavia mission, I’ve been doing some catch-up and didn’t actually start The Language of Flowers ’til the other night. Even ‘tho I was tried I still read a few chapters and am drawn in already, so stay tuned for a review fairly soon.

Also I apologize for my lack of reviews lately. I have quite a few waiting to be started (The Eddie Dickens Trilogy; Coldheart Canyon; A Red Herring Without Mustard; Monster Blood Tattoo Book 2: Lamplighter; and Watchmen) but as each one involves some serious brain-work and my brain is busy with whats left of my assessments/homework for the semester, I’ve had none to spare.

I promise (cross my hard-drive, hope to crash) that once the semester ends (or possibly before if I’m clever and get stuff done early) I will write every damn one of them! 🙂

Just in time for Halloween and Birthday Bonanza :)

Things have been pretty exciting in my life since my last post, mainly because my birthday was on Saturday and I’ve pretty much been celebrating and getting spoilt by friends and family for the past week. Since this celebrating and spoilitude involved getting some new books (of course) I thought why not share my goodies with you, my loyal Bookbaggers, as well as update you on my recent reading exploits 🙂

Ok, so firstly, on Thursday the 20th, after going out to a lovely birthday dinner with my family (yes, I did say my birthday was Saturday, but my grandparents have a weird thing about only going out to dinner on Thursdays – don’t ask me!) I FINALLY finished Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker, which I have been reading for a really long time. It was a pretty crazy book (I’ll post a review soonish) so it was a bit strange finally getting to the end of it, especially as It was the only book I had been reading for a few days, but it also meant that I could now pick a new book from the scary towering library book pile next to my bed. Now, I was determined to use my usual process to pick a book instead of just picking one of the newer more exciting ones, but the towering pile of certain death consisted of 11 books, when my eeny meeny miny moe…ing only works for 7, so it took a bit longer and was more complicated. However, eventually I did have a winner – Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood (the 4th Corinna Chapman book).

Happy Halloween!

Now onto the much more exciting topic of my book haul this birthday 😛 I received a total of 6 books for or around my birthday this year, 1 with money my nana gave me (as well as too very pretty bookmarks), 1 from my friend Sarah, 2 from my mum (as well as new sheets, a pillow and some clothes – score!), and 2 which I had ordered from my bookclub but just happened to arrive near my birthday, which was pretty sweet timing.

The brand-spankin’-new books are (in order of when I got them):

  1. The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss
    An awesome collection of “lost” Dr. Seuss stories that were never published when he was alive. One of the bookclub presents to myself 🙂 Arrived Thursday before my bday.
  2. Zombie Felties by Nicola Tedman & Sarah Skeate
    An adorably gruesome craft book that details how to make 16 cute and creepy zombie pals. This was the awesome present from my friend Sarah, which would’ve been awesome on its lonesome, but my best friends also all chipped in and got me a butt load of craft supplies so I can make the little zombies! Naw, you guys 🙂
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
    An intriguing book about a travelling circus, that I bought at one of my fave bookstores – Planet Books – the day after my bday, with nana bday money 🙂
  4. The Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray
    A beautiful little book all about the meanings of flowers from Victorian courtship, to ancient mythology. The second bookclub present-to-me. Arrived yesterday.
  5. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    Another book about flower meanings (surprise, surprise) but fiction instead of non-fiction. My mum has wanted to buy it for me for a few weeks now, so she got it today as part of my continuing bday present 🙂 awesome.
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    I have wanted to read this classic for such a long time, and when I saw it today at Big W for just 13 bucks, my mum immediately added it to my bday basket of goodies 🙂 Yay!

So, pretty spoilt this year huh? And this is only the book-based prezzies! I also got new bedding/pillow and clothes (which I already mentioned); a gorgeous owl statuette (I collect owls :)); an owl Skelanimal; a Sanity gift-card which I used to get the third season of True Blood and the first season of How I Met Your Mother; the new Gotye album and other awesome bits and pieces.

Now that my birthday week seems to be meandering to an end, expect reviews for the Eddie Dickens Trilogy and Coldheart Canyon as well as the next Top 10 (on the theme of book to screen adaptations) at the end of the month.

Happy reading!