Friday, 27 January 2012

Last Friday of January

Gain New Blog FollowersFollow Friday  is hosted by Alison Can Read and this week's qst is: 

Which book genre do you avoid at all costs and why?

I tend to avoid paranormal, mostly because I usually find the story line rather boring (sorry paranormal fans). I just think that since 'Twilight' a lot fo paranormal authors have stuck with the vampire/werewolf/human love-triangle. I think I would enjoy reading paranormal if I felt that they were truly original. I guess that me avoiding it has led to me not knowing any good ones, but I simply dislike it.

Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by A Few More Pages.  

This week I chose 'Aspects of a Novel' by E.M. Forster. I recently read Forster's 'A Room With a View' and liked it, so I decided to pick this one up to. It is not really a book,but more a collection of lectures given by a friend of his, adapted in such a way they can be read. I really enjoyed David Lodge's 'The Art of Fiction' so I figured this would be a pleasant enough read.

Book Beginnings:  (I decided to skip the Introduction because the beginning of that wasn't interesting or fun although the intro itself was)

'We shall all agree that the fundamental aspect of the novel is its story-telling aspect, but we shall voice our assent in different tones, and it is on the precise tone of voice we employ now that our subsequent conclusions will depend.'

I would say the story line is one of the most important things in the book. If it is boring than no matter how lively your characters are, you will be let down by a book.

Friday 56: 

'So let us think of people as starting life with an experience they forget and ending it with one which they anticipate but cannot understand. These are the creatures whom the novelist proposes to introduce as characters into books; these, or creatures plausibly like them.'

Well, here I seem to have found a good definition of character. I am so using that in my English exam in June: 'these characters seem to work towards a goal which they anticipate but cannot understand'! For once, I will sound smart.

So, how about you? What is your least favourite genre?

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Spotlight: 'The Darkening Dream' by Andy Gavin

And here is another amazing novel I would like to share with you. Also, the cover was made by Cliff Nielsen, the fantasy artist who made the current Narnia covers!

The Darkening Dream is the chilling new dark fantasy novel by Andy Gavin, creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter.

Even as the modern world pushes the supernatural aside in favor of science and steel, the old ways remain. God, demon, monster, and sorcerer alike plot to regain what was theirs.

1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does notunderstand. 

With the help of Alex, an attractive Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them to the factory mills of Salem, on a midnight boat ride to spy on an eerie coastal lair, and back, unexpectedly, to their own homes. What can Alex’s elderly, vampire-hunting grandfather and Sarah’s own rabbi father tell them? And what do Sarah’s continuing visions reveal? 

No less than Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days, is at stake, and the forces that have banded to recover it include a 900 year-old vampire, a trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods, and a demon-loving Puritan minister. At the center of this swirling cast isSarah, who must fight a millennia-old battle against unspeakable forces, knowing the ultimate prize might be herself.

Sound good? Click HERE for the review information and request a copy!

And of course a link to Amazon

Check back in the next weeks for a guest post by Andy Gavin!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Friday the 20th!

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and the Qst is:
What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get your hands on any particular book?

This is not exactly crazy, but for the fifth Harry Potter I went to one of those all night events. There would be Harry Potter activities, drinks would be served from a big cauldron, there were magic beans and the muffins had a magic surprise. And then at 12 'o clock they would read from the 5th book. 

The craziest thing I ever did was pay £70 for a book I really wanted. It is a sort of vocabulary/dictionary for Egyptian Hieroglyphs, translated into Latin and German. I had been passing this book for over a year and no one else had bought it in that time, so I figured it was destiny. 

 TGIF is hosted by GReads and this week's Qst. is:
Recommend It: Which book from the last 10 you've read would you recommend to a friend?
There are soo many books I would like to recommend to people. But here are the 3 that immediately came to mind:

  1. All the 'Harry Potter' books, because they are simply great stories.
  2. 'The Lord of the Rings' is simply a brilliant epic story that anyone interested in literature should now. 
  3. 'The Shadow of the Wind' and 'The Angel's Game' are brilliant books and anyone who loves intricate, slightly Gothic stories should now these.

A friend recently gave me a book called 'The Patchwork Planet'  by Anne Tyler and I thought I'd use it for Friday 56 and Book Beginnings. 
Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by A Few More Pages

Book Beginnings: 
'I am a man you can trust, is how my customers view me. Or at least, I'm guessing it is. Why else would they hand me their house keys before they leave for vacation?'

Friday 56:
'Or Mr. Shank, a lonesome and pathetic type, who took advantage of  our no-task-too-small, no-hour-too-late policy to phone us in the middle of the night and ask for someone to come right away for some trifling, trumped-up job like securing a bedroom shutter that was flapping in the wild.'
Happy Friday!!!!

And this is what I did last week: Poe-Week, with reviews of 'The Tell-Tale Heart', 'The Fall of the House of Usher', 'The Cask of Amontillado', 'The Raven' and 'The Mask of Red Death'. 

So how about your answers? And what have you been up to this week?

Review: 'The Mask of Red Death' by Edgar Allan Poe

This is the last review in this years Poe-Week and I really enjoyed it, so I might do it again next year with different texts. But for now, it is time to review 'The Mask of the Red Death'.

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publication Date:  May 1842
Publisher: Graham's Magazine

Masqueofthereddeath-Clarke.jpgThe story is set in a country, I presume, where the Red Death is plaguing the population. Prince Prospero is hiding out in his abbey, together with about a 1000 friends. The abbey has 7 rooms, each of which are decorated in different colours. All of the rooms seem very cheerful, except the one decorated with black velvet and with red windows. They have a masked ball and everything seems fine, until a hooded figure appears.

This was the probably the ultimate Gothic story out of all of those Poe stories I read. It can be interpreted in many different ways. The 7 different rooms could be seen as different parts of the mind or different human traits. In that sense the story might be a story about how death is inevitable, because the Red Death will find you, no matter where you hide or how you behave. Of course, there is also the interpretation of Poe saying that not even the rich can escape death and that their behaviour is scandalous.

I really enjoyed the story even though it is rather grisly. The idea of these rich people hiding away and letting the poor die creates a group of victims that you almost want to die. And the setting description is simply gorgeous. Especially the way the black velvet room is described creates a rather scary atmosphere.  Only criticism: you never really get to know any of the characters and therefore their death is not as shocking as in the other stories!

A movie was made of it: 'The Mask of Red Death' (1964). And although the story was slightly blown up and although they added satanism, it is still funny to watch:

Well, this what is then. The end of Poe-Week. Hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Review: 'The Raven' by Edgar Allan Poe

It is Edgar's birthday!! Let's all mentally sing a 'Happy Birthday' and then get cracking on this review. I think 'The Raven' is definitely one of Edgar's most well-known works. It is also the only poem I am reviewing this week.

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publication Date: January 1845
Publisher:  First in 'The American Review' but under a pseudonym. First time under his own name: New    
                     York Evening Mirror

The Narrator is mourning the loss of his love, Lenore, when suddenly he hears a rapping on the door. He believes it is an unwelcome visitor but there is no one there. When he hears the rapping again he opens the window and a raven flies in. Amused by its serious air he asks it his name, to which it responds 'Nevermore'. He seats himself opposite the Raven who  has seated himself atop a but of Pallas Athena and concludes it learn the word from his previous master. But as the evening continues he becomes more and more desperate and that is all I will tell.

I truly enjoyed this story because it is beautifully written. It is not a true poem, but a narrative poem with its main theme being undying love. In an essay from 1946, called 'The Philosophy of Composition', he says he wanted to create a poem that is suitable for both the public and the critics.  He thought of every single detail and planned the story carefully so every detail would be important. I think that this dedication definitely shows in the story and how it effects the reader. It is at the same time interesting and terrifying. You never know whether the Raven is conscious of the effect it has on the Narrator or not. I quoted the beginning below because it is one of my favourite beginnings to a poem.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door —            Only this and nothing more." 
Apparently Edgar was inspired by Dickens Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eight, which I have never read, therefore I would not know, but it has a talking Raven. I wonder how you feel about author's borrowing ideas from others. I don't think there is anything wrong with it because writing is about being inspired by something, What does upset me is the endless copying of certain themes or ideas, such as the typical Twilight-set up: girl falls in love with 2 different boys and has to choose. 

Something I want to share with you: James Earl Jones reading 'The Raven'. He is Darth Vader's voice and his reading is simply beautiful. And it also highlight the rhyming in the poem.

What are your thoughts on this?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Review: 'The Cask of Amontillado' by Edgar Allan Poe

And it is Wednesday and we are more than half way through the Poe-Week. Now, for today I have 'The Casque (or Cask) of Amontillado' , a grizzly story about immurement. 

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publication Date: November 1846
Publisher: Godey's Lady's Book 

This is the first of his stories that I read for this week where the narrator is actually named. Montresor wants to avenge himself on his "friend" Fortunato, who has the bad luck of somehow insulting him. We are never told what the insult is but apparently it was awful enough for Montrsor to want to taste blood (figuratively of course, I haven't encountered cannibalism yet in any of Poe's stories).

Montresor comes up to Fortunato during the Carnival and the latter is rather drunk, even to such an extent that he doesn't get any of the hints that Montresor drops, such as "No one insults me with impunity". It seems to me that if you have insulted someone then this hint must be enough to get you thinking. Unless you are very drunk, I guess. 

Fortunato and Montresor enter the latter's vaults where he says he has a pipe (about 492 litres) of Amontillado wine that he wants Fortunato to look at. Although in the previous 2 posts I have tried not to let you know anything about the story, here I feel it is too vital not too. The immurement of Fortunato is a rather strange ordeal. It seems more stressful for Montresor than for Fortunato, who is almost too drunk to actually fully appreciate what is being done to him. And it also seems that the fumes in the catacombs were fatal to his weak chest, which means the immurement is barely of any use. 

This was definitely a chilling story to read, since as a reader you already know what is going to happen because the narrator is clearly preparing himself for it and we follow his thought process. However, because we are never told what the offense was, we are unable to agree with him or feel that he is any way justified to take revenge. And what got me wondering was that he seems unwilling to fulfill his wish . He keeps on asking Fortunato whether they should not go back and it seems just strange that he doesn't seem to actually want to kill him.

I found this animation on Youtube, together with a song-adaptation, which I thought would be fun to share, since it's rather good. Don't forget: SPOILER ALERT.

Final note: I think the name Montresor was intended to be read by Poe as the French Mon Tresor, which means 'my treasure'. He does stow Fortunato away rather safely and perhaps Fortunato stole something from him that he regarded as a treasure. I love these small intertextual links that Poe has quite a lot. And don't forget: tomorrow it is his actual birthday, which means I will be reviewing 'The Raven'.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Review: 'The Fall of the House of Usher' by Edgar Allan Poe

It is day 2 of the Poe Week and I think my nightmare from last night might have something to do with having read this book. It is a rather haunting tale.  G.R. Thompson said "the tale has long been hailed as a masterpiece of Gothic horror; it is also a masterpiece of dramatic irony and structural symbolism."

Here's the basic info:
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publication date: September 1839
Published as: a periodical in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine

In this tale an unnamed narrator (this seems to be something Poe used a lot) goes to visit his friend, Roderick Usher, who is suffering from a psychological illness.  He goes there to find out his friend's troubles are worse than he expected and that they are linked to the possibly speedy death of Roderick's sister. This is as much as I will tell because I don't want to spoil the story.

What I especially loved was that the first six or so pages are filled with the narrator's description of the landscape and the House of Usher. The House really is the first character that's introduced, since 'The House of Usher' doesn't only mean the actual house but also the family. Through that description you immediately get into the atmosphere of the story. The story is a good example of how everything, every detail, is important. It is crucial to understand that Usher's senses are over-active and therefore cannot be trusted and that he expects to be ill more than he is actually ill. It explains a lot of what happens later on. 

Roderick also has a sister, who falls into cataleptical shocks, which means her body becomes rigid and unresponsive. This contributed to one of the most horrific moments in this story. Poe also mentions the heart again: 'Do I not distinguish that heavy and horrible beating of her heart?' It seems that he saw the heart as something treacherous that pops up in the most unfortunate of moments. This has been called Poe's best prose story and I must agree, so far, because never before have I seen a story so well crafted and executed. For example, read the next couple of lines. 

There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.

How perfectly does Poe describe the feeling of fear and terror? This story deals with so many emotions and especially with how a mind can cause itself to go crazy. And here is where I see a comparison to 'The Tell-Tale Heart'. It's narrator caused himself to go crazy as well and again it has something to do with family.

So, how do you feel about this story? Does its intense description of emotion and landscape scare you off or does it sound like your cup of tea? And don't forget, tomorrow's story is 'The Cask of Amontillado'.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Review: The Tell-Tale Heart' by Edgar Allan Poe.

 Edgar Allan Poe's birthday is on the 19th and today we are starting the Poe-Week with a review of 'The Tell-Tale Heart'. I will not be rating these stories.

First some general info:
Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Publishing date: January 1843
Published as: a periodical in The Pioneer.

So, let's get to the review. In this short story the narrator, most likely a man, tries to convince the reader of his sanity. He goes into detail, describing exactly how he killed an old man that lived with him. As he says:

One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fellupon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man,and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

I really enjoyed this story, as much as you can enjoy a story about a psychopath. Our unnamed man is looking back on the murder and on his own cleverness in covering the crime up (by disassembling the man) when he is visited by police officers. I won't tell what happens afterwards because ruining the plot would be awful. Throughout the 10 pages you really start feeling the narrator's insanity.

The introduction in itself is brilliant. Immediately you can guess something is off and that the narrator isn't half as sane as he believes.

I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

There have been a lot of guesses as to what the relationship between the narrator and the old man was, since it is never explained. However, looking at Edgar's relationship's with his father, who abandoned his family when he was 1, and his strange relationship with his "adoptive" father who was on the one hand spoiling him and on the other almost aggressive in his discipline. Perhaps Edgar always felt the two looking over him and perhaps hindering him, which led him to writing this.

So, have you read 'The Tell-Tale Heart'? And don't forget, tomorrow I will review 'The Fall of the House of Usher'.


Sunday, 15 January 2012

Listen up, Poe fans!

No, I did not misspell Pooh, I mean Edgar Allan Poe. He was born on the 19th of January in 1809 and I decided that I would spend this week reviewing 5 of his short stories!

This is what the schedule looks like:
Monday: 'The Tell-Tale Heart'
Tuesday: 'The Fall of the House of Usher'
Wednesday:  'The Casque of Amantadilo'
Thursday: 'The Raven' (I thought that this classic would be suitable for his birthday)
Friday: 'The Masque of the Red Death'

If you are a Poe fan and want to join me in talking about and reviewing some of his works, just enter the Linky below!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Review: 'A Room With a View' by E.M. Forster

Book a room with a view.jpgMy topic in English this year is 'Love Through The Ages', which means I am allowed to re-read books such as 'Pride & Prejudice' and 'Jane Eyre' and call it school work. One of the books I had to read that was new to me though was 'A Room With A View' by E.M. Forster.

It was published in 1908 at the beginning of the so called Edwardian Era, which followed the Victorian period. The latter was a very repressive era, whereas the Edwardian period was much more about self-exploration and independence, especially for women. In this book Forster shows these opposing social ideals and how they influence a  young woman called Lucy Honeychurch.

The story is separated into 2 "books". The first is set in Florence, where Lucy is doing a Grand Tour, and the second in England, where she lives. A Grand Tour was usually reserved for men, but that changed in the Edwardian period and Lucy went to Florence to expand her cultural knowledge. She is accompanied by Ms. Bartlett, who is somewhat of a spinster. She represents the Victorian values in the book, always telling Lucy how to behave and what to do. Lucy has completely accepted this and seems almost void of any actual feelings, until she meets George Emerson, a working class young man.

Forster beautifully crafts their affection for each other in such a way that we as a reader know exactly what is going on but that we can also see Lucy's confusion at these ne feelings she does not understand. His use of language, especially when describing nature is beautiful. Forster has been known and criticized for his love for symbolism. I very much enjoyed it, because it meant he spent enough time on description, which many books lack. Also, his characters formed perfect oppositions to each other. The two Emersons seemed so free and wise in our eyes, whereas Ms. Bartlett and Cecil seemed old-fashioned and aged.

The love story is a truly typical one, but executed in such a way you are never quite sure whether what you are expecting will actually happen. Therefore the end is both surprising and gratifying as a reader. Forster even wrote an appendix for his novel because he felt he wanted to share what he thought would happen to his characters after the novel finished.

All in all, this is a truly enjoyable book, even though it needs some getting into. His characters are funny, especially the way they talk about each other, and he describes Florence in such a way that I cannot wait to go travel there myself. I do think that perhaps Forster should have been less severe on Ms. Bartlett. Although he does redeem her in the end, we despise her throughout the largest part of the novel.

I give this book...


Despite being harsh on some characters, Forster brilliantly describes the clash between two different  periods and different schools of thinking. His skill in symbolism and imagery is stunning and creates pages of writing that are fascinating to read.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Will To Murder, by Hilary Thomson

Today I would like to share a book with you I wished I could have accepted for review! Why am I so busy?
This is 'A Will To Murder' by Hilary Thomson. 

"When wealthy and eccentric patriarch James Boyle dies a peculiardeath, the DA declines to investigate, convinced that the victim diedof natural causes. Yet even the police are stunned when members of theBoyle family gather at the estate of Rollingwood for the reading ofJames' will--and begin to die, one at a time. Only when long-lostrelative Bradley Smith appears, along with reporter Eric Maxwell, dothe mysterious deaths finally receive a proper investigation. Even so,no one is prepared for the lunacy that hides beneath the mansion'sbizarre facade."

Amazon & Barnes & Nobles

Doesn't that sounds good?

Friday, 6 January 2012

First Friday of 2012

It's Friday, which means its meme and blog-hopping time!!
First it's Follow Friday, hosted by Alison Can Read. Don't forget to follow the Friday Feature: Pawing Through Books!  

Go count the number of unread books sitting on your shelf. How many?

Oh help. I think if I just look at books I have not finished but only started I am already on about 30 books. And then to add the books I have not looked into yet, then in total I would say about 50?

And then there are books and papers on my Kindle that I haven't read. These are mostly classics that I save for when I have some moments of rest to completely emerge myself into 'Anna Karenina', or 'War and Peace' etc. How many of those there are I dread to imagine. The Gutenberg Project is to me what Net-a-Porter is to other!

Book Beginnings is hosted by A Few More Pages.
 I am reading 'A Room With a View' by E.M. Forster so I decided to use that for the next two memes!

"THE  SIGNORA had no business to do it,” said Miss Bartlett, “no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.
“No, I agree,” said Miss Lavish. “It’s like a school feast; the boys have got separated from the girls. Miss Lucy, you are to go. We wish to converse on high topics unsuited for your ear.”

So, what are your answers? 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

'Beat The Band'

Don Calame is back with his follow up to YA hit ‘Swim The Fly’ this coming February with ‘Beat the Band’. This time we see the return of Coop, Matt and Sean as they embark upon achieving Rock God status. The boys need to win a schoolBattle of the Band’s competition if they are to claim back any form of reputation and coolness following an incident with ‘Hot Dog’ Helen and a safe sex class project.

With the release of the book in February 2012, there will also be a booktour. And...there is a book trailer! Check it out below!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012