March 20, 2015

Breaking News: Lancelot was NOT a hottie

First of all, it turns out that I really know very little about the Arthurian legends. Here are some things I've learned from The Once and Future King: 1. It's spelled Merlyn. 2. It's spelled Guenever.
3. Lancelot is considered quite ugly. 4. This is not the authoritative volume of all things Arthurian. There is actually a series of books by Sir Thomas Malory collectively called Le Morte d'Arthur (I've just ordered the first book so get ready for that in the future) which were referenced more than once in The Once and Future King. This was a beautifully written book and had me so caught up that I actually missed my stop on the train...twice. It's full of damsels in distress, knights in glittering armor, love beyond measure, and above all chivalry. There's a reason that many consider this book to be the best fantasy novel ever written.


You know how websites recommend items to you based on earlier purchases? Well, as you know I have a fondness for children's literature especially German-to-English translations. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the next book I'm reading was originally written in German and has been (thankfully) translated to English. Have any of you heard of The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear (Zamonia #1) by Walter Moers? Neither had I but apparently it's what would happen if J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends), and Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) had a baby. I'm 53 pages in and I can confirm that this is indeed the case. I can't wait to review this for you guys!!


I hope the weather isn't tamping down your enthusiasm for reading. What are you guys reading right now? Any recommendations for me?

March 7, 2015

A++ children's literature

I have a lot to say about The One and Only Ivan so get ready. Firstly, I'd like to thank Katherine Applegate for getting it. She understands the importance of children's literature and how it can fundamentally change the life of a child when they find the "right" book. I bet that this book would be just exactly right for a lot of children (and adults if they gave it a shot). As frequent readers of the blog will know, I am passionate about cultivating lifelong learners and lovers of reading. It is heartening to see this passion take the form of an excellent book for children. Secondly, I had no idea that the seed of this story was based off of a true tale. There really was a gorilla that lived in a shopping mall for almost 3 decades. (Just typing those words makes me ill.) Of course, the rest was fictionalized as the story is narrated by Ivan and it would be impossible to know what he was actually thinking and/or feeling during and after his captivity. Thirdly, I appreciated that the back of the book included Applegate's Newbery Medal acceptance speech. She touched on the importance of allowing children to read books that might make them sad or angry. For some reason, parents are always wary of allowing their children to experience any kind of negative emotions in literature. Do they truly believe that kids have no concept of pain, fear, or sadness? Wouldn't it be better if they read about it and discussed it with their parents afterward in a safe and loving environment? What if by reading a book that made them think and question the world around them they became more well-rounded human beings? In conclusion, don't censor your child's reading. If they want to read a comic book, let them. If they want to read a series with a gazillion books in it, let them. If they want to read Little Women, let them. And if they want to read this book, read it with them.

Many, many moons ago I read a book which blew my mind. The name of this book was The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and it told the story of the women from the Arthurian legends and in particular Morgaine. Until I had read this book, I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought to the story of Arthur, his knights, or Merlin. After I read it, I kinda wanted to go on an epic quest with only females by my side. Since then, I've learned a wee bit more about these mythical men (thanks Merlin!) but I think it's time I read the book that started it all. That's right. It's time for The Once and Future King by T.H. White.

March 6, 2015

From tasty treats to salty tears, these are the days of my life

I've marked several recipes to try for my next party and I've learned heaps of trivia about food and famous mystery writers (and characters). For instance, did you know that you can use milk as a kind of invisible ink? (You know I'm going to have try this out now.) Fans of Agatha Christie won't be surprised to learn that the author used poison in over half of her 66 novels as the murder weapon. These were usually hidden in food or drinks such as coffee, marmalade, and even curry. Each of the recipes contains a short blurb about the author, a famous mystery character, and the food item itself. There are some really hilarious ones such as Sue Grafton's 'Kinsey Millhone's Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich'. It was so funny that I'm determined I'll try it at least once. The best one, however, might be the last one of the book: Lee Child's 'Coffee, Pot of One'. Now THAT is a recipe I can get behind. ;-) Bottom line: If you're a foodie and/or a mystery enthusiast then The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook is the one for you. It goes on sale March 24th! :-)

I just received my next book in the mail as an early birthday present (my friends know me well) and I have a feeling it's going to make me cry. It's a Newbery Medal winner and if you know anything about children's literature you'll know that this means this book is cream of the crop. I'll stop teasing you...it's The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It's the tale of a gorilla who lives in a shopping mall and what happens when he makes a new friend by the name of Ruby who is a baby elephant taken from her home. From what I can see, this promises to be a story about perspective, discovering your true identity, and the meaning of family. We'll see if I'm right in my next post!

PS How did you guys celebrate World Book Day earlier this week? I celebrated by turning my place upside down trying to find one of my favorite books. Spoiler alert: It's still MIA.

February 28, 2015

Are you hungry for books? I AM.

My initial thought about Hallowe'en Party was that it was written in a vastly different style from the other Hercule Poirot mysteries that I had read by Agatha Christie. The reason, I quickly ascertained, was that it was one of her later works (1969 to be exact) and her narrative voice (as well as the times) had vastly changed. Christie certainly knew how to adapt to stay 'en vogue' because I had to check more than once that it wasn't some weird adaptation that I was reading instead. This mystery involves a retired Poirot being called in to consult on a murder by a friend (a female mystery writer of great repute who loves apples). What struck me is how often the characters mentioned individuals with mental disorders and how they were 'let out because of overcrowding in the hospitals'. Was that a huge concern in the 60s? The story was very convoluted so that you had to constantly re-write the timeline of events as they unfolded (the past caught up to the present in a big way). I wouldn't say this was in any way one of my favorites (Murder on the Orient Express which was my first Poirot mystery remains my absolute favorite) but I did rush home to finish the last 10 pages...

Up next is something completely different. I'm going to be reviewing The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. This is exactly what it sounds like: recipes by several American mystery writers and edited by Kate White. My plan is to read through the scattered excerpts and try out some of the recipes to let you know how they go. If you have another idea of how I could review it then do let me know! XD

February 25, 2015

A journey of self-discovery left me with a flat tire on the side of the road

As the title suggests, I've been on an epic journey of self-discovery and the title of this journey is The Magicians. I'd like to say that this was a pleasant journey that opened up my horizons and led me to unheard of heights of imagination and wonder. Alas, that is not the case. I'm going to come clean to you, guys. I couldn't do it. I couldn't finish this book. I gave it my best shot but on the train yesterday morning I decided that I was going to throw in the towel despite being a little over halfway finished. Here's what happened: I wanted something like Harry Potter but set in the non-magical world with adults. Instead I got angst. SO much angst. There's a big difference between realistic fantasy (There's no doubt that these characters are real because they have real issues and problems...with a dash of fantasy thrown in i.e. this book.) and fantastic reality (Wait, is that a dragon? Holy cow, I just levitated! Gee willikers, I can control forces heretofore undreamed of by man or beast...with a dash of reality thrown in  i.e. most other fantasy novels.) I was looking for something fun which would transport me to another world. What I got instead were young adults abusing alcohol, having promiscuous sex, lamenting their genius level IQ's, and whining about the monotony of studying spells. Basically, that wasn't what I thought I was signing up for and once I figured that out (two weeks later) I wanted out in the worst way. Soooo that's my review of 60% of Lev Grossman's The Magicians. It wasn't my cup of tea but it might be yours. :-)


Before I delve into another lofty text (it's another trilogy), I thought I'd read a quick Agatha Christie novel that I've been holding over from Halloween. It's a Hercule Poirot mystery aptly titled Hallowe'en Party. This is one of those Poirot mysteries where he is no longer working directly with the police force but is called into consult on a case that involves one of his friends (who is a female mystery write no less!). The start of this book is quite different to all of the others I've read from Christie but it's proving already to be vastly entertaining. I can't wait to get back to you with my review!

February 5, 2015

Oh dear, is this the start of another book series?: An Autobiography

I'm going to be forthright with you guys. I was disappointed in Seriously...I'm Kidding (which is a strange statement to make considering that title). I guess I was expecting more comedic memoir and less relentless stand-up in book format. I did say in my last post that I thought that was the premise but I was still hoping for more. Now this isn't Ellen's first book. It's actually her third and so I'm wondering if perhaps the other two captured more what I was looking for from her. That isn't to say that there weren't funny parts. It's Ellen for goodness sake! This is just to say that I was looking for something else and this wasn't it. If you're looking for a quick read that is light and easy then I would recommend this to you (especially if you enjoy Ellen's sense of humor). If you're looking for a comedic memoir I encourage you to look elsewhere.

A while back I took a trip to one of my favorite places on the planet: Strand Books (this is not an endorsement but boy howdy if you want to give me free books I will take them). While I was there, I did my typical "Oh boy! I've been wanting to read this one!" while grabbing up everything in my eyesight. One of the books I grabbed (which was suspiciously near the front entrance) was The Magicians by Lev Grossman. This book had been on my radar for quite a while. It's been on it so long that the author finished the trilogy (of which The Magicians is the first book). As the title suggests, this is a book about magic in the modern age (in New York of all places). Honestly, I was hooked within the first few pages so unless something goes horribly awry I'm most likely going to be in this for the long haul (I'm talking to you remaining two books in the trilogy). I'll let you know how it goes in my next post! :-D

I hope you're all staying warm because this winter is the pits!!

January 31, 2015

10,000 views!!

It was a little over a year ago that I was writing a post very similar to this one when the blog reached 5,000 page views. I was absolutely stunned at that number and so to see that it's tipped over 10,000...well, it's frankly robbed me of words.

I just want to thank you, reader, for dropping by my blog. I hope you've gotten something out of it because I know that I certainly have. I love writing this blog. I look forward to choosing books which I think will be interesting for you to try and I love posting my reviews for you all to read. So thanks for sticking with me. XD

Here's to 10,000 more!!!