Friday, 23 December 2011

New challenges for 2012!

The blog is now nearly six months old (or is it more?) and after many book reviews and a first giveaway, it's time to start with some reading challenges! They are the firsts but probably won't be the lasts...

Let's start with a nice Steampunk Challenge that got my eye the minute I saw it, organized by the great Bookish Ardour. The challenge is running from the first to the last day of 2012, and the idea is just to read as many Steampunk books as you can! Since we're pretty new to this, I will start with the lowest level, Geared, with 5 books to read. I don't know yet which books it will be, but there will be some Scott Westerfeld there for sure!

And since Bookish Ardour is organizing so many great things, we're also going to let ourselves be tempted by the Off the shelf Challenge! I don't know about you, but we've got so many books bought in the previous years that we haven't read yet! So it's high time to roll a challenge and get through those forgotten jewels. We'll be Making A Dint with 30 books to start with (woah!), let's see how we can manage to get these off the shelves!

We also just joined Goodreads (high time, right?), so we'll probably join the Reading Group Challenge for 2012. Add us as a friend (Lily and Lyra) and let's review books together!

And don't forget to join the French Books Reading Challenge, of course!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Audiobook giveaway ended!

You like mystery? Magic? Westerns?
You're a Sanderson fan?
You're just curious to try it out?

The Alloy of Law, latest book by Brandon Sanderson, is up for...

An Audiobook Giveaway!
... That just ended!

Too late to join

Never heard about The Alloy of Law before? How come, we have published a review about it some time ago, where you can even listen to an extract of the audiobook. And we gave away one ebook version of it!

And the winner of the raffle is...

Because sometimes, only one chance is enough! Congrats Zach!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Timothée de Fombelle - Toby Alone

Title: Toby Alone (Tobie Lolness, book 1)
Original title: La Vie suspendue (Tobie Lolness, tome 1)
Author: Timothée de Fombelle
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 400
Editor: Walker

Summary: Toby Lolness is just one and a half millimetres tall, and he’s the most wanted person in his world, the great oak Tree. When Toby’s father makes a ground-breaking discovery, tapping into the very heart of the Tree’s energy, he also realises that exploiting it could do permanent damage to their world. Refusing to reveal the secret of his invention to an enraged community, the family is exiled. But one man is determined to get hold of the forbidden knowledge ... and his plan is to destroy the Tree. Now Toby's parents have been imprisoned and sentenced to death. Only Toby has managed to escape, but for how long?

Toby Lolness is a two-parts saga that takes very little time to read. I've read each of these books in a few days only, maybe less.

This first book introduces us Toby, a 13 years old boy, who lives in the Tree. But the Tree is vast and a lot of tiny people live inside. There's the Treetop, the Lower Branches; the wise and kind people, the evil destructive people who are destroying the tree; and Toby, running for his life, after his parents have been imprisoned. Toby, trying to guess who is on his side, who is trying to catch him, and how to survive alone in the Tree, with almost everybody looking for him from the top to the roots. Luckily, he is not exactly alone all the way and he is full of resources!

Toby Lolness is a story about family, ecology, friendship, love, death, acceptance and so much more. But don't make the mistake to think that it's only a children book, for you can appreciate it even as grown-up. It's not patronizing, as some might be. It's just a story of a young teenager forced to leave his home, going even as far as the Ground Beyond, trying to live his life and saving his family while staying optimistic and hopeful.

After reading this book, you'll probably want to read the sequel (Toby and the Secrets of the Tree), so maybe you should aquire the two in one go. Like I said, it's a really fast reading so you can easily read them one after the other.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Alloy of Law - Audiobook giveaway!

You like mystery? Magic? Westerns?
You're a Sanderson fan?
You're just curious to try it out?

The Alloy of Law, latest book by Brandon Sanderson, is up for...

An Audiobook Giveaway!

Come and join!

Never heard about The Alloy of Law before? No worry, we just published a review about it two days ago, where you can even listen to an extract of the audiobook.

And now, thanks to Macmillan Audio, here is a chance to win the full version (info about it here)! You could be listening to it over and over again, narrated by the charming voice of Michael Kramer... tempted? Then join this awesoome giveway!

How does it work?

- The giveaway is for US residents only.

- Follow the instructions in the box below: leave us a comment and tell us what you like about audiobooks - the rest is just extra chances!

- Anyone can join, even if you come to this blog for the first time.

Good luck!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Brandon Sanderson - The Alloy of Law

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 336
Editor: Tor Books

Summary: Three hundred years have passed since the events of the Mistborn trilogy and Scadrial has changed.
Electric lights now illuminate its streets, buildings soar into the skies, and the planet is a hive of commerce. Waxillium Ladrian has spent twenty years in the dangerous frontier wilderness known as the Roughs. When a family tragedy calls him back to Elendel, he imagines that he is leaving danger for the safety of urban civility.
Little does he know what grave dangers await him.....

Me, being a fury-fan of Sanderson's work, that's no news for you I think. So well, me jumping at this not-so-next-but-still book of the Mistborn series is no news either, right? Tor has published the first 6 chapters online this autumn and I was feverishly waiting for each new part to come up. I tell you, those chapters, that's a good third of the book, but read them anyway. They're worth it.

This new book is a bit leaving behind the usual Mistborn atmosphere to take a much more Western novel side. The hero, Wax, is an "old" sherif of the Rough coming to town to save his family heritage. He cannot resist the temptation to investigate a series of heavy robberies happening around the city, and helped by his faithful Wayne, will stick himself where he shouldn't have, obviously.

I loved finding here the usual humour Sanderson uses in his books, since on the magical side it was not as good as it was. Sure, allomancy is still here, it's even combined with feruchemy (don't try to remember the names of the combinations at the end, I got a headache from that), but somehow it's not really the point. Here, the story is really focused on the robberies, the mystery solving, etc. But the humour! It has a name, and it's Wayne: dear, awesome grumpy Wayne, obsessed with hats, always a stupid joke on the tip of his tongue, master of "exchanging" what he needs against what lays in his pockets. And man, the guy can make speed bubbles and fight like you've never seen it. How much better could this get?!

Alright, let's be fair, I maybe didn't enjoy this book as much as the others. Some characters lack a bit of deepness (I didn't even like Marasi, sorry), the story is pretty classical and very westernish, far from the mysterious intricate Fantasy Sanderson usually serves us. But for a pretty classical story, it was really good. And I'm telling you, passing on that, it's like passing on a cookie fresh from the oven, just because there's not as many nuts as in the previous one.

But there's plenty nuts in there, dirty fellows!

And for the first time ever, you can listen to an extract of the audiobook from Macmillan Audio.
Like it? Come back this week for a chance to win it!

"Aw, biscuits," Wayne said. "Did you have to hit him in the head?
That was my lucky hat he was wearin'."

Monday, 28 November 2011

R.I.Pern, Anne McCaffrey

The Dragondriders of PERN is probably the first series I read after Harry Potter and The Lord of the rings.
I fell in love with that world, its characters, the dragons... and the talent of Anne McCaffrey.

So when I read the news of her death, I felt like I didn't want to talk for a while. Just to honore the woman and her masterpiece. I know she hasn't written only The Dragonriders of PERN but that's her only series I've read.

In France/French, it's pretty hard to find every book of PERN, and it took me almost 5 years to acquire every one of them. It's funny how I always left one book of PERN unread. I couldn't find it anywhere in French (I was 15yo at that time and wasn't able to read as well in English as now) so I bought the book in English. But the level was a bit high for me and I let the book in my TBR Pile, waiting for me to be ready for it. I feel like I should read it, now.

PERN isn't well known in France. I mean, I don't know a lot of readers, including my big readers friends, that have read a book from Anne McCaffrey, PERN or other series. If at first I was a bit sad of that, I realised later that I was glad, because it was as if PERN was a little secret between the author and me.
I've enjoy every single book of this series, no matter who were the main characters or when it was in the History of the planet. She always knew how to make me fall for at least one character, dragging me inside the life of this society.

She's probably the reason why I'm enjoying stories about dragons now and why I love fantasy so much (even if PERN is more of a Sci-Fi saga). I will definitely start to read her other stories too, to seek again her writing. It's a shame I needed that kind of news to do that... but well... better now than never.

I don't really believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, may she rest there with dragons and people she loved.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Karen Miller - The Innocent Mage

Title: The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, book 1)
Author: Karen Miller
Pub. year: 2005
Pages: 613
Editor: Orbit

Summary: "The Innocent Mage is come, and we stand at the beginning of the end of everything."
Being a fisherman like his father isn't a bad life, but it's not the one that Asher wants. Despite his humble roots, Asher has grand dreams. And they call him to Dorana, home of princes, beggars and the warrior mages who have protected the kingdom for generations.
Little does Asher know, however, that his arrival in the city is being closely watched by members of the Circle, people dedicated to preserving an ancient magic.
Asher might have come to the city to make his fortune, but he will find his destiny.

After our first CR together, and because I bought Lily a book I had in my TBR pile that I wanted to read with her, here we come again for a four-hands review on a very surprising Fantasy story!

Was the story good?

Lyra: Actually, I liked it, even if it's not really consistent. I mean, clearly, it's not what makes the quality of this book. There isn't a lot of things happening it the first book of this series, though I found it enjoyable. But yeah, you can easily predict of lot of the story.

Lily: Definitely, the scenario isn't the strong point of this one. The first pages I read gave me this deja vu impression, a mix of very classic Fantasy (a quest, a fabulous destiny, an evil magician, blabla) and very predictable action, which kind of spoils the fun of reading from time to time. The thing is, the book has many good points, don't get me wrong, but there are no surprises to expect, no heavy suspense, and mostly you just continue reading knowing where it's going. Luckily, you easily forget about this flaw, thanks to...

Were the characters moving?

Lyra: THAT's the whole point of the book. The main characters are really entertaining. Asher, with his accent, his honesty and everything that makes him who he is, is a very well written character. He brings a lot of fun to the story. Gar, Dathne and Matt add a lot to that, even if Gar is a bit naive and shakeable sometimes. And the "bad guy" is such a cliché that he's almost funny.

Lily: ... yes, the moving characters! This book relies on it's character to hook you, and good for me, I love being hooked by characters. The hero is pretty amazing, talking like a fisherman even in front of the prince, never afraid to say the wrong things, to dress the wrong way. His honesty plays a very big part in the charm of this book. The rest of the characters are also worth mentionning, though not as good as Asher: prince Gar is a good lad but quite predictable, and he really lacks strenght to be a proper leader. Dathne and Matt both have potential but in this first part, they don't do enough to be very interesting. I hope to see more of them in the second half.

So altogether... a must read or not?

Lyra: Maybe not a must read, but I definitely recommend it to you. It's been a week since I finished it, and I still think about it sometimes, even while reading another book.
The Innocent Mage is funny and entertaining. Once you're in it, you want to know what happens next, even if you know that action isn't the key word of the story. I think I'm gonna read the second and last book pretty soon. Maybe with the Muffin!

Lily: It's hard to say "must read" after pointing out so many flaws, but strangely I found it so easy and fun to read that I don't want to qualify it second rate either. For those who are not used to Fantasy, I think this is a great way to start, and anyone who's bored with war and politics would definitely enjoy the fresh atmosphere this book offers. I'll definitely read the second one, but not for some time probably... really, those friends that only offer you the first half of the series, that shouldn't be allowed!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

Title: Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus
Author: Mary Shelley
Pub. year: 1918
Pages: 202
Editor: HarperCollins
Summary: ′It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open...′

Written when Mary Shelley was only nineteen-years old, this chilling tale of a young scientist′s desire to create life still resonates today. Victor Frankenstein′s monster is stitched together from the stolen limbs of the dead, and the result is a grotesque being who, rejected by his maker, sets out on a journey to reek his revenge.

Having always heard about this story, I wanted to read it and know exactly what it was. The cover was pretty cool, which helps. I'm not fond of classic books, but once in a while, it doesn't hurt.

It's nice to know the true story as it was written (even if I was a bit disappointed by the fact that there was no "IT'S ALIIIIVE" =D), like I did for Dracula or other well known stories/myths. The epistolary style brings a much more personnal dimension to the story, allowing us to understand with their own words what's going on, like being inside the mind of the characters.

I felt sad for the creature, his loneliness. I was always balanced between affection and horror about him. Both him and his creator had ambivalant personnality. I won't judge Frankenstein (the master, not the creature, just to be clear for those who confuse them) because I don't know what I would have done if I created that kind of creature... but I don't think this story would have been the same if he accepted him, and if he faced the consequences of his acts.
It feels like everything is just working to bring both of them to a really sad ending. All the decisions, everything that's happening... It's kind of oppressing in that way.

Anyway, it was nice to enter in that kind of reflexion afterwards. I can't say I loved it, but it was rewarding and I'm glad I read it.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Marcus Sedgwick - Vampires and Volts

Title: Vampires and Volts (The Raven Mysteries, book 4)
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 256
Editor: Orion Childrens

Summary: Join the wonderfully weird Otherhand family and their faithful guardian, Edgar the raven, and discover the dark secrets of Castle Otherhand. It's Halloween and the Otherhands are enjoying the Annual Pumpkin Hunt. And there are preparations to be made for the Great Halloween Ball. Minty is all a-fluster. Solstice is busy spraying fake cobwebs everywhere. Valevine is in charge of disorganising everyone's carefully laid plans, and Cudweed seems hungrier than ever and oddly preoccupied with 'fresh brains'. In fact when Silas, Valevine's long lost brother, turns up with Samantha, the Otherhands would be well-advised to check out their guests. It's not long before wily Edgar works out that there's a preponderance of vampires and not all of them have false teeth. Just when he's about to solve the latest mystery at Otherhand Castle, the lights go out...

It's Hallowe'en!! You know, that time of the year when you stuff yourself with candy, take out your old gothic clothes from highschool days hoping they'll still fit, put pumpkin brains everywhere while trying to carve a damn face into the thing... well, why not read Hallowe'en books too, while you're at it? Don't move, I have exactly what you need here. Pumpkin hunt, Hallowe'en ball, vampires, one old black crow: Edgar is back (in paperback) for a new issue of the wonderful series!

Remember the delightfully weird Otherhand family? After battling against a monster in the basement, ghosts in the attic and a very weird teacher, they are back for Hallowe'en this time. No one can do better than them to celebrate this party properly: after all, it's almost Hallowe'en everyday at the castle! Cudweed is as hungry as ever, Solstice the usual busybody, Valevine the usual nutcase and Minty the unusal preoccupied lady. But fear not, the real hero is still our brave Edgar, always ready to grumpily save the day!

As before, the narration is really the strong point of this book. Edgar is the most wonderfully funny crow you've ever met and it's a pleasure to have him tell the story from his point of view, with a lot of puns and jokes, and a great deal of complaining! You won't get scared by this book, that's for sure, but the whole point of it is to have fun with original characters, mysteries to solve, suspects to apprehend and adventures to have. Four book later, still no sign of getting bored, and both children and adults alike will love it. Does it get any better than this?

On a different but related note, don't forget that Neil Gaiman has set up this great new tradition for Halloween: offer a scary book to someone! I already sent mine and I hope they'll like it... How about you, why not sending a great book like... Vampires and Volts for example?

All details and stickers are on All Hallow's Read, and listen to our great Neil Gaiman talk about it, he does it much better than I!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Ernest Hemingway - The Sun Also Rises

Title: The Sun Also Rises
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Pub. year: 1926
Pages: 251
Editor: Scribner Book

Summary: The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway's masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters : Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

I wanted to discover a bit more about Hemingway's life in Paris, because of a bookshop he used to go, and I thought this book would be a good start. Unfortunatly, it's more about Spain than Paris, and A Moveable Feast would probably have been more appropriate for my initial purpose.

However, it was nice to read something else from this author, even if I didn't really enjoy it. I was mostly bored and unattracted by the personality of the characters, the way they lived and talked. Even if I'm glad I learned a bit about the life during those years—and a bit more about Hemingway's style—I have to admit it's not my kind of reading.

I didn't really like the way the characters acted so scornful towards one another, such as: you're English, or you're Jewish, so you're that way. Heck, they're supposed to be friends! I know it was before WW2 and everything, but I always feel uncomfortable with that kind of statements. Plus there's a lot of repetition in words as well as in scenes, which doesn't help sweetening the pill.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that I'm not fond of the way he wrote and I was bored most of the time. That's a bit sad because I was hoping to like his books, but well, you don't choose what you like.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Neil Gaiman - Stardust

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pub. year: 1999
Pages: 223
Editor: Vertigo

Summary: Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining...

Although Lyra and I have been blogging together for a while, we never really had the opportunity to read a book at the same time. Now it's finally the case! Let's enjoy this opportunity to see how both of us liked it, and what we have to say about it.

Was the story good?

Lily: Well, how could I say no? It is, after all, a Neil Gaiman's book, and I don't think I ever did—or ever will—find any of his stories bad. They have something very special in them, because in a way I can never say that it's "the best I ever read", even thought I never find it a chore to finish the books. Well here is the same, the story is kind of classic—very fairy tales like, as you guessed already, but with an edge to it, very dark sometimes. It's somehow based on a child story, being about this plain hero rescuing the star and bringing her back to claim his lover's hand, but quite mature in it's content—and I'm telling you, not all characters in this story will remain unharmed. And yes, there are details. Brrr.

Lyra: I agree with the Muffin. I'm never really enthousiastic with Gaiman's books, but I always enjoy them. He has a gift to tale things in a way that no matter what it is, I like it. I'm not a big fan of fairy tales but this one was cute, yet mature and unusual. I've always found it weird and frustrating that princesses fall in love with complete strangers, just because they're princes and about to rescue them. Here, we discover the girl AND the guy, and it feels all more credible and enjoyable.

Were the characters moving?

Lily: Of course, they're not staying still all book long... oops, sorry, you mean touching? That is something else also frequent with Gaiman books: while his characters are always surprising, courageous, strongwilled and so on, they lack some emotional attachment to them. Take for example Tristran... he's a nice guy, brave, becoming along the way a true hero, but that's it. You don't feel for him, as you don't feel for the pretty star, or the bad sorceress, or any other. It's a perfect story to read or to tell to escape the dull everyday life, but it's not the kind to become you favorite book ever.

Lyra: Will you stop saying what I have in mind, please? Like I said, I was glad to get to know each character, but yeah, I wasn't really moved by them. They were enjoyable but sometimes, I thought that they were acting in a way that didn't seems appropriate for what I knew about them (especially Tristran and Una).

So altogether... a must read or not?

Lily : A must read, I don't know. I definitely don't regret reading it, and I would recommend it to Gaiman's or Fantasy fans, but it's not really in my top list. The end is very predictable, not much happens during the story, and not being a big fan of fairy tales probably doesn't help. One thing though, the edition I read illustrated by Charles Vess is most awesome, the drawings fit perfectly the mood and I loved just looking at them. Buy it just for that, you won't regret it! And if you don't know it already, a movie was made in 2007 by Matthew Vaughn, quite different from the original story, but for once... I think I liked it better. Maybe because there were more pirates?

Lyra: (I always knew you were TEAM Pirate :P) I don't have the same edition, and mine wasn't illustrated (that's unfaiiiir), but anyway, I think it's a fine book to read. It's nice, I spent a good time with it, and I'm glad I did. But a must read, maybe not. If you feel like you can appreciate it, if you like fairy tales, if you like Gaiman's books or Fantasy, you should definitely try. If you don't, well, it's up to you. I've never been really disappointed by this author because he damn knows how to tell stories, no matter the subject, so, it can't hurt trying!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Blake Charlton - Spellwright

Title: Spellwright (Spellwright, book 1)
Author: Blake Charlton
Pub. year: 2010
Pages: 467
Editor: HarperVoyager

Summary: In a world where words can come to life, an inability to spell can be a dangerous thing. And no one knows this better than apprentice wizard Nicodemus Weal.
Nicodemus Weal is a cacographer, unable to reproduce even simple magical texts without ‘misspelling’ – a mistake which can have deadly consequences. He was supposed to be the Halcyon, a magic-user of unsurpassed power, destined to save the world; instead he is restricted to menial tasks, and mocked for his failure to live up to the prophecy.
But not everyone interprets prophecy in the same way. There are some factions who believe a cacographer such as Nicodemus could hold great power – power that might be used as easily for evil as for good. And when two of the wizards closest to Nicodemus are found dead, it becomes clear that some of those factions will stop at nothing to find the apprentice and bend him to their will…

Since I am willing to be a speech therapist, this summary caught my eye. The beautiful cover helping, I bought the book pretty quickly after discovering it. I'm glad I did.

The author's way of bringing his handicap through the story is really clever and brings something special to it. And it allowed people to start understanding what it feels like to suffer that kind of disorder. Nicodemus isn't perfect, he's got his problems, his faults, his dreams, like anybody else. But if I liked his personality, I was a bit disappointed because I couldn't really become attached to the characters. Even if some of them have really interesting parts. It was like I was watching from beyond a veil. I really hope it gets better in the next 2 books.

Apart from that, I really enjoyed the story, the magic inside. I loved the different creatures we heard about, even if the beginning was a bit confusing and we don't really know what we are dealing with. I also appreciated to see different civilisations with their own beliefs. The frame is well written and well thought. But I am disappointed with the last 2 chapters, they should have been in the next book, not at the end of this one. It breaks the 'to be continued' end there could have been. The end is interesting, but it is not a end to me. It is a beggining stopped at a point where it shouldn't be.

Anyway, as you can see, it's hard to feel the whole stuff just after this introduction book, so I'm looking forward to read the following ones.

Monday, 3 October 2011

John Scalzi - The God Engines

Title: The God Engines
Author: John Scalzi
Pub. year: 2009
Pages: 136
Editor: Subterranean Press

Summary:Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given.
Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It's what he doesn't know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put -- and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely...

I already told you about John Scalzi, didn't I? Yes, remember, something about an old guy going to war... Well, I was so charmed by his style and humor that I decided I would now read everything he did. And instead on continuing with the previous series, I came accross this short novella, all cheap and shiny with this wonderful cover by Vincent Chong. How could I resist that?

It could have been a simple SF novella. It could have been about this captain, utterly religious like everyone else in this universe, that goes on a special mission and meet some alien or another. It could have been about quantum physics, about spaceships coordinates, about space battles. It could even have been some funny story like I sort of expected, with improbable meetings and crazy situations. It could, but it isn't. Forget everything you thought this book was, because it is something else.

Yes, it is about religion, and I don't like this better than you probably do. But don't let it stop you! It is also about how a whole population can live solely on its beliefs, and rely on the power of fallen Gods to provide them the technology to travel through space. But being treated as they are, the Gods won't help with a smile, and Tephe will face the one of his own ship when his faith will be shaken by a terrifying event. The point of all this (at least the one I found for myself, thank you) is to make you think about what you want to believe in: an overpowering God that lies to you? That kills people? The other Gods that seem to tell the truth but also kill people? What if you've been blinded, if your world has shrunk because of a Faith too powerful to withstand science? And what if that was also a lie?

So it was not funny, but it was not disappointing either. Only 136 pages and you don't have the time to breathe with the succession of action, reaction, questions and (false) answers that shake our poor hero, to whom I couldn't help but relate. So short but oh so unnerving story, that leaves you trembling for him, forever lost in this madness. And you cannot help but think... what if God was the instrument of our ruin?

Monday, 19 September 2011

Kenneth Grahame - The Wind in the Willows

Title: The Wind in the Willows
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Pub. year: 1908
Pages: 256
Editor: Egmont
Summary: The Wild Wood seems a terrifying place to Mole, until he finds it's full of friends - kind, sleepy Badger; brave and lively Ratty; and the irresponsible Mr Toad, famous for his wealth and his car smashes.
But there are also the sinister weasels and stoats, and they capture Toad Hall when Mr Toad is in jail. How will he escape? And can the friends fight together to save Toad Hall?

I wanted to read that book for a while, so when I get the opportunity to buy it, I did. Still, I waited a year to read it.
I'm glad I did, but I can't say I enjoyed it. It's not the first time I'm desappointed by children books' authors from the beginning of the 20th century. I think I'll stop here with that kind of literature, because everytime I get angry at the author. The thing is, I always find them patronizing in their way to telling tales to children. So most of the time it pisses me off and I just want to get rid of this story and read something more entertaining.

Every character is a cliché, 100% good (kind or brave) or 100% bad (weak or mean). I'm so bored with that kind of character. They're so predictable and and annoying. I know that this way of writing was appropriate at the time it was written, but even when I try to forget what bother me, I can't enjoy the story.

Still, like I said, I'm glad I read it, because now I know what it's about and it's all good for my own culture. Not much more to say about this book so I'll stop here and try not to read that kind of stories anymore.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Jim Butcher - Storm Front

Title: Storm Front (The Dresden Files, book 1)
Author: Jim Butcher
Pub. year: 2000
Pages: 341
Editor: Orbit
Summary: Harry Dresden--Wizard
Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things--and most of them don't play too well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a--well, whatever.
There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.
Magic. It can get a guy killed.

I discovered The Dresden Files by the TV Series with Paul Blackthorne as Harry Dresden. I really enjoyed it, so I decided to read the books when I heard about them.

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a 30-something wizard named after three magicians. He's quite attractive but doesn't really seem to notice since he has no mirror. He's a lonely guy and everybody thinks he's a weirdo because of his job. But his bigest problem is that he's often the scape goat of whatever is going wrong since he's always found we're he shouldn't be. But what I really like about Harry is that he certainly knows how to use sarcasm and irony.
There's also Bob, a spirit trapped in a skull that Harry possesses, who is quite hilarious too when it comes to sarcasm and irony. And Murphy, the policewoman who ask for his help sometimes, where murder become too strange..
This first book introduce us with Harry's world which is not very different from our world, except that there's magic and different creatures such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts, demons, ...
We learn that this magic part of the world has it's own rules and it's own hierarchy. We also learn little bit about Harry's past. Just enough to arouse curiosity

I hope the following books we'll follow the lead and that I'll enjoy them too :)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Start of the Challenge

Today's the day!

Let's start the Challenge! You can still apply for it whenever you want until it ends (Aug 31th, 2012). For those who don't know what challenge I'm talking about, go and have a look here and then there!

How does it work? Easy! Enter the challenge any time, read as many French books as you want, and enter your name & the title of your book (ie Lily (The little prince)) as well as the link to your article for the Challenge in the box below. Do it for as many articles as you publish. And leave a comment to let me know you're participating!

I'll put the name of the contestants here when I'll receive their first review of a French book! Enjoy your readings and see you very soon! (This article will be linked in the Challenge page, so that you can find it easily.)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Clive Barker - Abarat

Title: Abarat (Abarat, books 1 & 2)
Author: Clive Barker
Pub. year: 2002
Pages: 388
Editor: HarperCollins

Summary: Abarat: an archipelago of amazement and wonder. A land made up of twenty-five islands, each one representing one hour of the day, each one a unique place of adventure and danger (and one mysterious place out of time), all ruled over by the evil Christopher Carrion, Lord of Midnight, and his monstrous grandmother, Mater Motley. Candy Quackenbush, a 16-year old from Chickentown, Minnesota, crosses by accident from our world into Abarat, and discovers she has been there many, many times before. She has friends there and she has enemies. As Candy makes her journey between all the islands of the archipelago, she will discover a plot by Christopher Carrion to block out the Sun, Moon and stars to achieve a condition of Permanent Midnight. In order to prevent this disaster, Candy must find the courage to confront the Lord of Midnight; and in doing so come to know who she really is: a revelation which will transform her own understanding of her place in the epic events.

I already presented many of my favorite books to you, and I don't think this would feel right if I don't add Abarat to the list. I discovered this book by chance at the bookstore—the cover was beautiful, I knew the author from The Thief of Always (excellent book by the way) and the story seemed intriguing enough for me to go home with the first two books. Probably one of my best compulsive bought of the latest years.

The story works around some classical fantasy elements—a young and courageous girl with a greater destiny, magical creatures, an epic quest to save the world—but beyond all that there is something really fascinating about this story. I don't know if it is because the illustrations (by the author himself) are dazzling, or because the creatures living in the Abarat are so weird that you can't even begin to imagine where they come from, but it seems impossible to remain untouched by these books. Candy is the typical hero that you look upon to, flawed but oh so human, and all the people she meets on her journey are so surprising, terrific and terrible that it's impossible to forget them.

With the third book going out this month, the Abarat quartet will surely be one of the must have for a very long time, fit as well for children as for adults. Original, full of magic, mysteries, epic adventures and emotion, it has everything to seduce the reader, including delightful paintings (don't get the massmarket paperback or you will miss them!) and complex characters. Well, is there anything that could be missing? Oh yes, humour—forget it, it's also funny. If you a have some hours to spare, you definitely should spend them in the Abarat. The islands frozen in time are waiting for you!

Scarebaby, scarebaby,
Where do you run?
Out in the graveyard,
To have some fun?
Dancing with skeletons
Up from the ground?
Doing a jig
On the burial mound?

Scarebaby, scarebaby,
Horrid you are!
With the wings of a bat,
And a face with a scar,
The fangs of a vampire,
The tail of a snake;
You open your mouth
And the noise that you make
Is a song that the Devil sings,
Bitter and loud.
Tell me, my baby,
Was your mother proud?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, book 1)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Pub. year: 2008
Pages: 374
Editor: Scholastic
Summary: "Once I'm on my feet, I realize escape might not be so simple. Panic begins to set in. I can't stay here. Flight is essentiel. But I can't let my fear show."
Winning means fame and fortune.
Losing means certain death.
The Hunger Games have begun...

I've heard of this book a long time before I finally agreed to read it. It reminded me of the movie "Battle Royale" which I didn't like, and it was too praised—something that often repels me too much to try it. Luckily, one of my friends didn't really leave me any choice and decided that I should read it: she lent it to me and wouldn't take no for an answer.

Knowing that we usually have the same taste, I was almost certain that despite the fact I wasn't willing to read it, I'd probably love that book. And indeed I enjoyed it very much! I read it pretty quickly... actually, I was so into it that from the moment the characters entered the arena, I read it in one go overnight.

The idea of a game where the principle is to kill or die kind of made me worry about the story, but it's so well written with not that much details that it quickly became an unputdownable book. The strategies, the relationships between the characters (not always the obvious ones) and the laws imposed in this world by the Capitol are, IMO, a good part of the reason why this book is so well received. Obviously, there's an heavy atmosphere and everything is far from being perfect, but as in 1984 by Orwell, you want to see what happens to the main characters (and you hope really hard that nothing like that will happen in real life)

So, since I really appreciated this story, I'm glad I read it! As you can see, sometimes it doesn't hurt to look beyond one's prejudices.

I've started the second book a few days ago, and I really liked it too ! I don't know if I'll come back with the other two, cause I don't like to spoil. But may the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Diana Wynne Jones - Howl's Moving Castle

Title: Howl's Moving Castle (Castle series, book 1)
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Pub. year: 2009
Pages: 304
Editor: HarperCollins Children's Books

Summary: In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter. After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.
The Hatter sisters--Sophie, Lettie, and Martha--and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.
In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?

After telling you about all those authors I love, I couldn't miss on the great Diana Wynne Jones, the one who—though I didn't know it at the time—wrote the book that inspired Hayao Miyazaki's eponym movie, one of my ever favorites. I am not going to tell you about this movie, but really, you should see it. Best animation movie ever—or close to be. So back to business: Diana Wynne Jones. Not only the lady was an amazing story teller, she had a way with words that makes them almost as magic as her stories. With a little down-to-earth and lots of demon/magic formulas/potions/sorcerers/moving castle, she brews this kind of story that makes you open your eyes wide and find again in yourself this little excitement that you had when you were a kid, and that some of us still have. Or is it because some of us are still kids?

This "Castle series" is composed of three books. In the first one, we follow the strong willed Sophie, changed into an old lady by the Witch of the Waste, who gets on board of Howl's moving castle. Howl is reputed to be a terrible magician eating ladies' hearts, but in fact he's just a gigolo, slightly lazy and stubborn, who made a pact with a fire demon—the delightfully funny Calcifer, in charge of moving the Castle. Sophie will try to break the promise binding them together while visiting the country and trying herself at magic, of course! In the second book, meet Abdullah, who by an extraordinary set of events finds himself a magic carpet, and meets a princess to save from the claws of an evil being. In this Arabian Nights atmosphere, we follow him and his annoying bottle genius to the rescue of not one, but a whole bunch of princesses... including Sophie, of course! In the third book, a young lady called Charmain is called to tend the house of a sick magician. The house has many tricks in its pocket for her, and while she tries to be a good helper at the royal castle's library, she will have to solve a mystery with the great Howl himself...

If Howl and Sophie are the constant characters of the series, you won't see them that often. What you will see is loads of original characters, magic everywhere, great adventures, mysteries and suspense... well, everything that makes a perfect fantasy book. Kids or not kids, who could deny the talent of the wonderful Diana Wynne Jones?

Monday, 8 August 2011

We want you to read French authors!

As French girls, we wanted to do a little something to promote French litterature to English speaking people. Then came the idea of this challenge. The goal is for you to read as many French books (in English, but if you want to try reading in French, be our guest) as you want.

I've made a non exhaustive list of French books that I know have been translated in English, feel free to choose other books too if you find some. I'll add them on the list.

This list will be on the challenge page so that you can access it easily without searching (you'll find the page at the top of the blog, just above the articles).

From the 1st of September, you'll be able to enter links pointing to your reviews of French books read for the challenge in the Mr Linky box right here. Once a month, I'll check them and will make a clear list of what each of you have read so far.

You'll have 1 year to read as many books as you chose to. Here are the different levels you can try to reach:

Antoine de St Exupéry level (1 book)
Alexandre Dumas level (3 books)
Albert Camus level (5 books)
Jules Verne level (10 books)
Victor Hugo level (More than 20 books)

To answer some of your questions:

* You can only read novels (let's say more than 80 pages at least) and plays.
* You can choose ebooks, paper or audio books.
* Only books read between September 1st and August 31st of this year count (but if you want to reread a book you've read before this challenge, you can).
* You can join and change your level of participation at any time, and you don't have to list in advance the book(s) you'll read.
* Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
* You can register starting today, just leave a comment on this post to let us know you're in.

Voilà! See you on September the 1st!

Monday, 1 August 2011

John Green - Paper Towns

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Pub. year: 2008
Pages: 305
Editor: Speak
Summary: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life--dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge--he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues--and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

I discovered this author through is vlog (=video blog) on youtube and when I heard he was a writer, I was curious to read one of his books. I liked the cover of Paper Towns I saw, so I bought it and read it a few weeks later.

I'm pleased by the ability of John Green to write a story about teenagers without falling into clichés. Each character is credible, neither too popular nor too much of a loser, as we often see it in this kind of story (and being French, I never experienced the gap between cheerleaders/footballers and isolated people, in my High School it was all about being with your group of friends). Quentin is a normal teenager who shows us the complexity fragility of relationship at his age. The writing is clever and funny, and the author as a keen sense of teenage reactions.
Plus, there's a lot of references in it, especially to Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, which adds moments of reflexion about who is the other in front of us, about leaving, and so on. A lot of ideas that may change the way you might see things.

I like how John Green finds a way to teach all sorts of stuff while is telling you his story. I really enjoyed all the plot around "paper towns", for example. I didn't know what it was before this book and I appreciated to learn that kind of not really useful but still fun facts.

I believe this is the kind of book that can invite people to read more, because it's really easy to read, and because of it's sensibility.

Quotes :

What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.

I'm not saying that everything is survivable. Just that everything except the last thing is.

If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all.

That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfeast cereals based on color instead of taste.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Scott Lynch - The Lies of Locke Lamora

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora (The Gentlemen Bastards, book 1)
Author: Scott Lynch
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 544
Editor: Gollancz

Summary: After a devastating plague, a man known as the Thiefmaker pays off the city guard to allow him to take in thirty newly-orphaned individuals, whom he plans to train as thieves. One orphan sneaks into the group of paid children, "thirty-one of thirty". The Thiefmaker soon discovers that this one child, Locke Lamora, is extremely clever but not "circumspect", and is a liability due to his lack of foresight or restraint. The Thiefmaker decides to sell Locke to Chains, a priest of the Nameless Thirteenth god, the Crooked Warden who protects thieves. Chains uses his temple as a front to operate the Gentlemen Bastards, where they play confidence games on the city's richest citizens, in defiance of the Secret Peace.

This summary is probably not the best you've ever seen, and it certainly doesn't do justice to this book—mind you, I couldn't find anything else, and God knows I am bad at making them myself. One thing you need to know about this book: it's awesome. I know, I know, always telling you about good books... but who cares about the bad ones? Well, I don't, so here I am, telling you about something good again. Awesome even. Wanna know more?

Locke Lamora, as the title says, is what you could call a pretty good liar. But not the petty kind of lie where you try to cover a missing assignment or something: the kind where you take a false identity and set up a scam so great it's going to cost the victim a good deal of its fortune. Because like Robin Hood, Locke steals only the wealthiest, though he doesn't give to the poor; everything goes to the vault of his "church", where he and his little gang stack up all they need for their crimes. And everything could have been "happily ever after" if some Grey King didn't appear suddenly, killing garristas, blackmailing the Master of thieves and using Locke against his will to cause a great commotion that will probably cost too many lives.

Oh, here I am, making a summary after all. Well, now you know what it is really about, the gangs, the scams, the bloody Grey Kind and his mess. But one thing you still don't know is that: not only the characters living in this puzzling world are original, they also have a terrific charisma—starting with Locke, this genius, this weird gentleman that knows enough and has enough nerves to pretend being anyone in order to get what he wants (and I tell you, he does get it!), and also his crew, the devil twins Calo and Galdo, the strong Jean and the snoopy Bug. Just for the sake of this bunch, you should read this book. So if I tell you that many other characters are as much interesting, that the chapters about the Gentlemen Bastards' childhood are as hilarious as the ones about present times are gripping, that the city of Camorr is as full of mysteries and surprises as a good Fantasy book should be (though I must admit, the beginning tends to be slow and over-descriptive, you need to hang on before catching the ride), well...

I said enough, didn't I? How could you not like it? And even more: how could you know if you don't try? And like it all you want, there are still many to come, Read Seas Under Red Sky is waiting and so is the rest of the series!

Monday, 18 July 2011

China Miéville - Un Lun Dun

Title: Un Lun Dun
Author: China Miéville
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 521
Editor: Pan Macmillan

Summary: Stumbling through a secret entrance, Zanna and Deeba enter the strange wonderland of UnLondon. Here all the lost and broken things of London end up, and some of its people too - including Brokkenboll, boss of the broken umbrellas, and Hemi the half-ghost boy.

But the two girls have arrived at a dangerous time. UnLondon is a place where words are alive, where a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, where carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets... and a sinister cloud called Smog is bent on destruction. It's a frightened city in need of a heroine...

When I first heard about Un Lun Dun, I thought "sounds like Neverwhere by Gaiman" (which has been in my TBR pile for a while) and I didn't want to read 2 similar books one after the other. But I don't know why, when I saw this one's cover, I just wanted to buy it and read it as soon as possible—which I did.

China Miéville has an impressive imagination and even in the foggy, dark and a bit scary world he writes about, he manages to put slices of humour that are really enjoyable. The illustrations aren't too much to help us picturing the characters he depicts. The story is full of mystery enhanced by the mist around and the threat of pollution that lays around. There's a lot of different parts in the evolution of the main frame so it leaves no time for boredom.

Apart from that, I felt a lot of references during the reading, to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Neil Gaiman's world, Ghibli movies, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so on (some of them are confirmed at the end of the book, I might be wrong for the others) and really appreciated it!

Therefore, this book was a great discovery. Now I'm curious about Miéville's other works! Luckily I have another book he wrote in my TBR Pile (even if the beginning looks complicated): The City & The City.

Quotes :

"The hautest of couture. Be entertained while you wear. Never again need you face the misery of unreadable clothes. Now you can pick up your favorite works of fiction or non-fiction for your sleeves. Perharps a classic for the trousers. Poetry for you skirt. Historiography for socks. Scripture for knickers. Learn while you dress !"

"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Fransisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless... It's a terminus."

Monday, 11 July 2011

John Scalzi - Old Man's War

Title: Old Man's War
Author: John Scalzi
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 320
Editor: Tor Books

Summary : With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army. Now better known as the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), Perry's service-of-choice has extended its reach into interstellar space to pave the way for human colonization of other planets while fending off marauding aliens. The CDF has a trick up its sleeve that makes enlistment especially enticing for seniors: the promise of restoring youth. After bonding with a group of fellow recruits who dub their clique the Old Farts, Perry finds himself in a new body crafted from his original DNA and upgraded for battle, including fast-clotting "smartblood" and a brain-implanted personal computer. All too quickly the Old Farts are separated, and Perry fights for his life on various alien-infested battlegrounds.

I took the liberty of putting the awesome cover of the Subterranean Press edition instead of the ugly Tor one—I hope you don't mind. I thought that maybe, with a nicest cover, more people would try it... because let's admit it, not only the ugly cover but also the summary doesn't really give you the sudden urge to read this book. Doesn't work with me, at least—and yes, I'm not a huge hard SF fan, so sue me. But that, dear, that would be a great mistake. Because this is not hard SF. This is not a boring scientific book for nerds full of battleships and the likes. This, my lovely little bunnies, is the funniest and most awesome SF book I had the chance to read for a very long time.

I usually aren't that fond of old people, especially an old hero, but this one is an amazing old guy. His wife died and he realises that nothing really awaits for him anymore, so instead of wasting his last years, he enrolls in the Colonial Defense Force. Some people say that they only take in old people to make them young again before sending them to battle... and being young again is the dream of a big part of these old jeezers. Perry soon becomes friends with a bunch of them, naming themselves the Old Farts. Along with him being sent to weird planets needing to be protected from Aliens attacks, we follow the adventures of those guys, how they meet, how they live, how they die.

Yes, it's mostly about fun, but it's also about dying. The whole book is a deeply human adventure where people think about their lives, about all they lost, and all they will lose. About the right they have to conquer those planets, their right to kill other species for their own survival. About the rightness of their choices. Yes, you will have fun, this I can guarantee. You will also see the stars, some ships, some amazing technologic discoveries and some weird creatures, and the trip will take you to the end of the universe and back. But Perry will keep your feet on earth, that's for sure. Lucky you, if you miss him already, there are three sequels - not that any mystery is left at the end of the first book but I must say, more of this, it's hard to say no!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Stephen Clarke - A Year in the Merde

Title: A Year in the Merde (Paul West, book 1)
Author: Stephen Clarke
Pub. year: 2005
Pages: 383
Editor: Black Swan

Summary : They do eat a lot of cheese, some of which smells like pigs' droppings.
They don't wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after pétanque. And, yes, they do use suppositories. In his first novel, Stephen Clarke gives a laugh-out-loud account of the pleasures and perils of being a Brit in France. A Year in the Merde tells you how to get served by the grumpiest Parisian waiter; how to make amour -not war; and how to buy a house in the French countryside.

This book is a window to France for English speakers, especially English people. I found it interesting to discover this point of view on my country, and even more to share it with you as a French person. The author is quite realistic about France even if he draws a negative portrait of it. Luckily, he sees positive stuff in it as well.

The narrator is a sarcastic English man who discovers the hexagone and tries not to complain too much about the local English accent. He gets used to the numerous strikes and explains the differences there are between the two countries.

I have to say that all of it is not exactly true, and that some of it isn't true at all for me, but maybe that depends on where you live in France. Paris doesn't really reflect the life anywhere else in France on a lot of aspects. And obviously, he chose extreme characters to serve his purpose-most of them not really representative of our population. But I guess it would have been a little bit boring to pick "normal" people.

Even though I liked discovering this vision of France, I regretted that Paul West was so obsessed with dog shit, strikes and sex. I mean, it's funny at first, but after a while it becomes a bit boring and at some point, the reader stops enjoying the book for a moment. Apart from that, it was fun to read.

I read the second book, Merde Actually, but it's not worth mentionning. The narrator goes to the countryside but nothing really happens for the first half of the book, and the second half is still less entertaining than the first book. I also have Merde Happens in my TBR Pile but since I didn't really enjoy the 2nd, I don't really feel like reading it anymore... not before a long time, anyway.

Quotes :

"It's a sort of dyslexia. You know dyslexia?"
"Yes," Alexa nodded, peeling a ripe purple fig with painful symbolism.
"I'm in some way dyslexic. Or colour-blind. Some people can't make out the meaning in words or the differences between colours - I can't make out dog turds. I'm shitlexic."

"The Unions were furious that the government had been rumoured to be thinking about considering the possibility of maybe looking into the purely theoretical concept that it might one day (not now but in, say, 80 years' time) be less able to pay for transport workers to retire at 50"

"And in a similar vain, the rural party promised to change the law on endangered species so that hunters could now shoot dodos, unicorns, mermaids and American tourists."

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Florent Chavouet - Tokyo on Foot

Title: Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods
Author: Florent Chavouet
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 208
Editor: Tuttle Publishing

Summary: Florent Chavouet, a young graphic artist, spent six months exploring Tokyo while his girlfriend interned at a company there. Each day he would set forth, with a pouch full of colored pencils and a sketchpad, to visit different neighborhoods. This stunning book records the city that he got to know during his adventures, a gritty, vibrant place, full of ordinary people going about their daily lives. Realistically rendered city views or posters of pop stars contrast with cartoon sketches of iconic objects or droll vignettes, like a housewife walking her pet pig and a Godzilla statue in a local park.
With wit, a playful sense of humor, and the colored pencils of his kit, Florent Chavouet sets aside the question of urban ugliness or beauty and captures the Japanese essence of a great city.

I think it's high time we present you some of the French goodies, dear little English readers. You probably know some classics already, as if the French were only good so many years ago... but not at all ! For once, here is a young French guy with amazing ideas and a book translated into English, that you absolutely cannot miss.

This book kind of looks like another tourist guide, at first. Or maybe like a kid illustration book. Well, it is neither one nor the other. Florent Chavouet has spent six months in Tokyo, living among its inhabitants, looking at the small details which the city is full of and that no tourist ever see. Here, you can discover Tokyo through new eyes, curious and baffled by all those exotic things that Japanese take for granted. An excursion into the unknown, or a bunch of souvenirs for those who already set foot there.

The drawings may look funny in the beginning but you quickly get used to them. Sometimes scenery, sometimes people, sometimes weird anecdotes, they take you along the ride without ever getting bored. The small comments written all over the pages are full of humor and jokes, and if you are like me, you will spend hours looking at the amazingly detailed maps of the neighborhoods. Even though the book is quite long, there's never enough... for your eyes at least ! Pray for your arms that will carry it and turn it around to read the small lines... time for a good massage after that !

And if you liked it, his second book, Manabe Shima, is already out in French. Time to take a trip on a small island and live the life of the locals there...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Madeleine L’Engle - A Wrinkle in Time

Title: A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time, book 1)
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Pub. year: 1962
Pages: 232
Editor: Square Fish

Summary: Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure - one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

An American friend of mine told me about that book a while ago, saying that it was rather famous in the USA. Never heard of it before, so I bought it to see what it was about and maybe promote it in France at the same time.

The good thing about not knowing anything about a story is that you read it without any prejudice. You just take it as it comes, nothing comes spoiling your reading. And that’s how I discovered the story of these children, the magic it contains, the strange characters they meet. I think it’s a perfect adventure to read to kids, but it doesn’t keep me from liking it (since anyway I like to feel a bit like a child sometimes, especially when I read).

This book introduce us Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin, three young children who found themselves trapped in some wrinkle in space and time, looking for their father vanished years ago.

Despite the strangeness of some things (like Charles Wallace behaviour for a kid of his age), I found the stoy well directed with some obvious truth but also a lot of stuff that you don't see often in youth litterature. For a book this old, it's pretty amazing.

This book is the first of a series of five, all about the O’Keefe and Murray families, so you'll probably hear of it again around here sooner or later.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Marcus Sedgwick - The Raven Mysteries

Title of the series: The Raven Mysteries
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Pub. year: 2009 - 2012
Pages: 256 (or so)
Editor: Orion Publishing

Summary: Meet the wonderfully weird Otherhand family and their faithful guardian, Edgar the raven, and discover the dark secrets of Castle Otherhand.
Edgar is alarmed when he sees a nasty looking black tail slinking under the castle walls. But his warnings to the inhabitants of the castle go unheeded: Lord Valevine Otherhand is too busy trying to invent the unthinkable and discover the unknowable; his wife, Minty, is too absorbed in her latest obsession - baking; and ten-year-old Cudweed is running riot with his infernal pet monkey. Only Solstice, the black-haired, poetry-writing Otherhand daughter, seems to pay any attention. As the lower storeys of the castle begin mysteriously to flood, and kitchen maids continue to go missing, the family come ever closer to the owner of the black tail...

Flood and Fang is the first in a brand new six book series of tales of mystery (with a touch of goth-froth) from bestselling author, Marcus Sedgwick, with quirky black and white line illustrations from new talent, Pete Williamson.

I had to pick the summary from the book one of the series, Flood and Fang, in order for you to get a glimpse of what to expect from this lovely series. The fifth volume is already out in hardcover but if like me, you enjoy those nice monochromatic paperback covers, only thefirst three are currently available.

So, what's it about this Otherhand family? Well, one thing I can tell you, you'll have great fun with them. I don't know if you watched The Addams Family or Beetlejuice series on TV when you were kids, but these are pretty much the same kind of stories: funky goth characters, lots of silly jokes, adventurous kids, weird parents and extraordinary events occurring in an old strange mansion full of ghosts. Goth-Froth, they say. Yeah, whatever.

In this series, you will find a lot of pointless things (like Minty's many passions for cake tins, knitting, pottery...), a lot of complaining, some frighteningly-funny creatures tagging along and a couple of animal squabble. Because let's not forget who's the hero of these books : Edgar the raven! Yes, a raven is telling the story, and I must say he is one of the most delightful and entertaining creature I have encountered so far. And like my favorite pirate, he hates monkeys-especially Cudweed's Monkey, Fellah. Nasty little fellah, if you hear me.

I don't know if you've been following me at all, but if you have, I think there's a chance that you might have picked up on the fact that I have, how should I put it... a very bad opinion of monkeys.
I mean, to put it plainly, what are monkeys for? Really?
It's a question I suspect you will struggle to answer because I have wrestled with it myself ever since the arrival of Fellah at castle Otherhand, and I have found no satifactory answer.
Are they useful? No.
Do they look nice? Definitely not.
Do they sound nice? They do not.
Do they smell nice? Quite the opposite!
And furtermore, if the pickle-brained specimen we have to live with is anything to go by, they seem to be masters at being loud, irritating, smelly, ugly and rude.

Even though this is intended for kids, I fully enjoyed the first three books (or was it the kid in me?) and I recommend it to anyone at any age. The illustrations by Pete Williamson are pretty much awesome and fit very nicely with the story. These are some of the most funny books I've read so far, written in a simple but elegant style, and I am simply dying to read the next three.
I could kill a monkey for a it, can you believe that?!