March reading round-up

sleeper and spindleIt’s been another genuinely good reading month. Oddly enough, my favourite title was one I didn’t review at the time The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell so I thought I would write a little about it now. It’s a beautifully told and even more beautifully illustrated retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, with some other fairy tales mixed in for good measure and some major deviations from what you might remember/expect. It stars a kickass queen who sets out sword in hand to save the neighbouring land. I really loved Gaiman’s language and the ways he mixes the familiar with brand new ideas but what really made this special was the artwork. It’s all drawn in black and gold, elaborate and, well, gorgeous. I highly recommend you seek it out.

This month my blog turned five years old. Five years already! To celebrate I held a giveaway of five of my favourite books of the last five years. If you’re reading this before midnight on 31 March you can still enter, but do it quickly!

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A story can even raise the dead

Gospel of LokiThe Gospel of Loki
by Joanne M Harris

I had very high hopes for this book, possibly too high, so that even though I really enjoyed reading it, I somehow feel slightly disappointed. I’m pretty sure I’m being unfairly harsh.

Yes, the Loki of the title is indeed the Loki of Norse myth. This is the story of his time in Asgard, from his recruitment by Odin, the Allfather, to the final battle of Ragnarok. Loki narrates the tale himself, putting his own self-serving spin on events as they unfold. In this accessible, relatable style, Harris successfully brings to life a complex set of myths without the whole thing feeling complicated (although I did have to refer to the handy character list a few times early on).

“Words are what remain when all the deeds have been done. Words can shatter faith; start a war; change the course of history. A story can make your heart beat faster; topple walls; scale mountains – hey, a story can even raise the dead.”

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Bloggiesta: nearly done

Bloggiesta-S15Thank goodness for Bloggiesta! After a year of thinking about it I have finally installed a new theme that’s mobile-friendly and supports some plug-ins my old one didn’t. It took a few tweaks to get it working but I think it’s there now. Please do let me know if you spot anything strange!

I’ve also tidied up my pages, read lots of great blogging advice and finished reading one of the three books I was in the middle of. (Which is progress of a kind, though perhaps not as much as I’d hoped for. I keep having non-blog chores to do. Damn that real life.)

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Bloggiesta: best blogging advice ever

Bloggiesta-S15Today’s Bloggiesta challenge is to post the best blogging advice you have ever been given. I’ve been blogging about books for five years now and I’ve definitely been grateful for some nuggets of wisdom along the way.

Lesson number one for every blogger should be back up your blog regularly. If you’re self-hosted or have made any tweaks to personalise your blog theme, then this means more than just exporting your posts and comments. Make a full copy of all the files on your blog’s FTP server once a year or so. Believe me: it can be a lifesaver. (You never know when you might need an emergency reinstall. It happened to me a year in and it was super scary, but thank goodness I had the files on hand.)

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Bloggiesta starting post: the spring clean begins

Bloggiesta-S15For those of who already know what Bloggiesta is, yes I am indeed a day late posting this. Oops! (In my defence I was working on my blog last night, I just forgot to write this post first. I was confused by all the WordPress theme choices!) For those who don’t know, suffice to say you’re gonna see some changes around here this week, including a whole new design. (If you’re a book blogger and don’t know about Bloggiesta, do look it up, as it’s a useful prompt to take care of your blog.)

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Sunday Salon: Eclipse and other fun times

The Sunday SalonWe seem to have packed in a fair bit of the fun stuff over the last few days, which means I’ve done almost no reading. I should probably feel worse about that, but frankly I woke up far too early today to feel bad!

On Friday Tim and I watched the solar eclipse from Castle Park in central Bristol. A fairly large crowd had gathered, with people from Bristol Astronomical Society and @Bristol bringing along lots of fun telescopes and pinhole cameras to view the Sun through and BBC Sky at Night had brought a bunch of eclipse-viewing glasses. It was pretty cloudy but we could see the eclipse really well and it was great to share the experience with a big crowd. I’d made a homemade pinhole for my own camera and got some half-decent photos.

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Monsters are always lonely

gardens of the sunGardens of the Sun
by Paul McAuley

This is a sequel to The Quiet War, a space opera that Tim encouraged me to read last summer. Then a few months later he started bugging me to read the sequel, so he could discuss the pair without accidentally spoiling the plot for me, because he couldn’t entirely remember which events happened in which book! It’s actually a trilogy, but neither of us has read part three yet. My review does contain spoilers for The Quiet War, because this book is very much an immediate continuation of events in that book.

I actually preferred this to the first book, as I felt the politics and philosophical debates were more varied, with more views and nuances depicted. Naturally the themes are largely the same: genetic modification; human responsibility for our planet and our fellow man; the endless possibilities of science and whether we should always pursue every avenue; diplomacy; whether good and evil are inherent or a product of circumstances and therefore variable; freedom; love, family and parenting. Just a few small things then!

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Female superheroes

When Tim went to our local comic shop a few weeks ago, he brought home issue 1 of several new (or recently started) series, no less than five of them new Marvel series with female leads. Which is a pretty big step to redressing the gender imbalance that has tended to exist in superhero universes. I’ve only read this selection of first issues (plus last year’s new series Captain Marvel and Ms Marvel) but they’re all kickass heroines who promise plenty for the future.

Bearing in my mind that these are single issues, so I’ve only had 20 or so pages of each story, here are my thoughts on these new series.

****Spoiler warning****
Tim has pointed that, because these characters are not new, my reviews do contain spoilers for previous series featuring these ladies, so if you’re a little behind in the Marvel universes, you have been warned!

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I am my mind. Not my body

The A-Z of You and MeThe A–Z of You and Me
by James Hannah

From the marketing campaign around this debut novel – and the strapline on the cover (“A comedy of errors, a tragedy of small mistakes”) – I was expecting quite a light read, even though the premise should have prepared me for something a bit darker. It’s certainly an easy, often sweet read, but its subject matter is pretty dark. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

Ivo is lying in a hospice, trying his best not to dwell on the past, but he’s so young to be dying, still in the middle of all the drama that is life. To distract him from the pain, his nurse gets him to play a game of naming a body part for each letter of the alphabet and coming up with an anecdote for each body part. And so he plays the game, telling the story of his life out of order and one body part at a time.

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Happy five years to me! Have a free book!

This competition is now closed. The winner will be announced shortly.

14_colour

This March I have been blogging for five years. Five years since that first tentative post. And I almost forgot about it. Shocking. But thankfully I didn’t entirely forget and here I am a-celebrating. And I’d like to do something for you, my lovely readers.

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