May 24th, 2014


Book 106: Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Philip Pullman

Book 106: Grimm Tales for Young and Old.
Author: Philip Pullman, 2012.
Genre: Classic. Fairy Tales.
Other Details: Hardback. 432 pages/Unabridged Audio (10 hrs, 23 mins). Read by Samuel West.

In this beautiful book of classic fairy tales, award-winning author Philip Pullman has chosen his fifty favourite stories from the Brothers Grimm and presents them in a 'clear as water' retelling, in his unique and brilliant voice. From the quests and romance of classics such as 'Rapunzel', 'Snow White' and 'Cinderella' to the danger and wit of such lesser-known tales as 'The Three Snake Leaves', 'Hans-my- Hedgehog' and 'Godfather Death', Pullman brings the heart of each timeless tale to the fore, following with a brief but fascinating commentary on the story's background and history. In his introduction, he discusses how these stories have lasted so long, and become part of our collective storytelling imagination. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

It was clear from the start that Philip Pullman was not planning to tamper with the original Grimm tales but rather tidy them up where needed to provide what he terms as 'clear as water' re-tellings. I certainly felt that he succeeded in this as this was a delightful collection with each tale followed by notes from Pullman on the origin of each tale and other observations. There were plenty of familiar tales but also ones that I had not encountered or did not recall from my childhood readings of the Grimm tales.

I decided to approach the tales quite slowly by combining listening to the stories via the Audible edition and then reading them and the notes a day or so later in the print edition. While I loved Samuel West's narration I was a little disappointed that Pullman's notes at the end of each of the 50 tales were not part of the audio experience. Still this situation was dealt with by my dual approach.

Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales: an immersive fairy-tale - details about a 2014 London stage performance of a few of the tales.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

One more book under my belt for the year. Last night before going to sleep, I finished reading Osprey Raid #37: Blackbeard's Last Fight: Pirate Hunting in North Carolina 1718, a fascinating description of the political situation that led to piracy in the Americas, and in particular the raid that killed Blackbeard and broke his pirate band. Very good.
UP Coast Perhaps

Book #4: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I DID IT! I am posting to triumphantly announce that I have FINISHED READING 1Q84.

I was absolutely taken in by the storytelling technique, the vision, and the voice of this work. I started reading it shortly after finishing nanowrimo, which was a mistake. It made me feel very ... small ... as someone working on their own writing. The atmosphere he was able to create, within the first page of the novel, made me feel like I was dreaming as I was reading.

This is book #4 finished of the year, and it has definitely taken a ton of my time. At 1,157 pages, it's an absolute behemoth. I'm very happy I read all the way to the end, but it was definitely difficult to get through. I'm very much a person that reads more than one book at once, and having one take me this long (six months) to finish definitely left me feeling antsy that I couldn't spend enough time with my other books.

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Next on my reading list:

Wuthering Heights (for book club - delightful)
The Way of Herbs
The Red Tree

Now, on to more books!

Book 107: The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell

Book 107: The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander #10).
Author: Henning Mankell, 2009. Translated from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson, 2011.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Thriller. Police Procedural. Nordic Noir.
Other Details: Hardback. 367 pages.

On a winter day in 2008, Håkan von Enke, a retired high-ranking naval officer, vanishes during his daily walk in a forest near Stockholm. The investigation into his disappearance falls under the jurisdiction of the Stockholm police. It has nothing to do with Wallander — officially. But von Enke is his daughter’s future father-in-law. And so, with his inimitable disregard for normal procedure, Wallander is soon interfering in matters that are not his responsibility, making promises he won’t keep, telling lies when it suits him — and getting results.

But the results hint at elaborate Cold War espionage activities that seem inextricably confounding, even to Wallander, who, in any case, is troubled in more personal ways as well. Negligent of his health, he’s become convinced that, having turned sixty, he is on the threshold of senility. Desperate to live up to the hope that a new granddaughter represents, he is continually haunted by his past. And looking toward the future with profound uncertainty, he will have no choice but to come face-to-face with his most intractable adversary: himself.
- synopsis from author's website.

I had put off reading the last in the Kurt Wallander series because I really did not want to say goodbye. Yet with the BBC4 transmission of the TV adaptation of the novel I figured the time had come to say goodbye. I appreciated the Cold War elements of the story.

Like many in the series, this is a very slow burning novel as Kurt investigates the disappearance of the parents of his daughter's partner. It is an unofficial case that he slots into his free time and during various holidays. Throughout Kurt is haunted by his own fears of old age and dying. His health has never been brilliant and now something else is stalking him. I found it a very sad book for this reason. It is certainly not one to read first if not familiar with the series and characters even though Mankell provides a good amount of back story and reminders of past events.

While not the best in the series, it still proved that Henning Mankell is a master of the Scandinavian crime genre. I am so glad that I discovered his writings before Nordic Noir came into fashion.


#25 Matthew Reilly: Roger Asham and the King's lost Girl.
A short story about Roger Asham - a scholar who is asked to investigate the disappearance of a courtesan, favoured by King Henry VIII. I quite enjoyed it until the King started using the f-word with every other word. It's not that I mind swearing. Rather I remember reading that in fact Henry VIII was rather prim and very much disliked such language. So that was somehow discordant.

#26 Maryann Philip: A Borgia Daughter Dies
Another historic mystery. This time, during the papacy of the famous Borgia, so Lucrezia and Cesare are also present. I found the book rather uneven, but an OK read.

#27 Robert Jordan: Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time: Book 11)
I liked the beginning of the series and occasionally come back to it in the hope of reading it to the end some day. I like completing things. This one was a bit weird though. There was mention of switching, slippering, strapping, birching, lashing etc. on every page. So it read rather more like trashy Victorian erotica than a fantasy novel and the repetitiveness after a while became just plain ridiculous.

#28 David J. Hand: The Improbability principle
A very nice book explaining how probability works. Why extremely rare and strange events happen all the time? Why people, who demonstrate psychic abilities in the first scientifically set-up trials, appear to lose it later on? And whether statistical significance the same as practical importance. Really enjoyed that one.
gothic 01

Book 108: Soulless: the Manga Volume 1 by Gail Carriger and Rem

Book 108: Soulless: the Manga Volume 1.
Author: Story by Gail Carriger, Artwork by Rem, 2012.
Genre: Steampunk. Historical Fantasy. Vampires. Werewolves.
Other Details: Manga/Graphic Novel. 224 pages.

The life of a spinster in Victorian London isn't an easy one on the best of days, but such a life becomes infinitely more complicated when said spinster is "soulless" - a preternatural bridging the gap between the natural and supernatural worlds. Miss Alexia Tarabotti has this unique distinction, and when she is assailed at a formal gathering by a rove vampire, an encounter that results in the death of the half-starved creature, her circumstances become exponentially more complicated indeed! Now caught up in an intrigue with life or death stakes, Alexia must rely on all her talents to outmatch the forces conspiring against her, but it may be the man who has caught her eye - Lord Conall Maccon - and their budding flirtation that truly drives her to her wit's end! - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

I found this a delightful manga adaptation of Gail Carriger's first novel in her Parasol Protectorate series. I do feel it is best to read the novels first as obviously there is a lot that cannot be illustrated.

The artwork was lovely. The sex scenes were handled quite tasteful with strategic clothing or wisps of hair covering up anything too graphic.