Monday, 31 May 2010

Reading Challenge - 20 a 24

20 - Oath Breaker by Michelle Paver
Oath Breaker (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, #5)This is the fifth book on the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. Set in pre-historic times, it is aimed to children/young adults, but it is such a beautiful story that I think everyone should read it.

This book deals with revenge and hatred, and is great because it teaches that it is never the best option:
"Vengeance burns, Torak. It burns your heart. It makes the pain worse. Don't let that happen to you."
The characters are amazing, both good and evil, but my love goes to Wolf, because it is not a talking animal, and is not anthropomorphized in any way. He is a wolf, no doubt about that. He has a way to communicate, and he has thoughts of his own, but those are clearly not human. The way he describes things is probably the best: Tall Tailless (Torak, his human "brother"), Bright Beast that Bites Hot' (fire) or Fast Wet (river).

It is a well paced story, that never leaves you wondering if, had it been an adult book, there would be more depth to it (it probably wouldn't).

Loved it.


21 - Ghost Hunter by Michelle Paver
The last book in the series. It is a brilliant ending to a brilliant series. It deals with darker themes, of death and ghostly things.

I loved following the struggle of Torak, Renn and Wolf. Being the last book in the series, it featured the last battle against the last of the Soul Eaters. It was mesmerizing and hard to put down the book, the pages flew by, as I always wanted to know what happened next. With all the bad things happening there I was craving the happy ending that I felt was so much deserved.

It is truly a wondrous series, with an amazing storyline; fantastic characters, believable and likeable; and beautiful covers (I only bought the first one because it was so pretty!).

One complaint (not really): Why introduce such a great character in the end of the last book? Now I want to know more about him!

Recommended! Go read the entire series.


22 - Secrets of Surrender by Madeline Hunter
Secrets of SurrenderThis was borrowed from a friend, and not exactly my kind of read. Too much on the chic lit side for my tastes.

The story goes like this: a girl has fallen prey to a very bad man that treats her as his plaything, even auctioning her off in a dinner party. The man who "buys" her turns out to be a gentleman and to save her from greater misery (because appearances are so very important) he proposes to marry her. There is no great mystery, there is only a story of falling in love and trusting each other, and the occasional (tasteful) sex scene.

It is a nice book if you are into that sort of thing, which I am not.


23 - Son of Shadows by Juliet Marillier
Son of the Shadows (The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Book 2)Another Juliet Marillier re-read (yes, I guess it is that time in the year). This is a personal favourite, and every once in a while I pick up this book to read my favourite parts. For me it's hard to review it without repeating myself: I love Juliet Marillier's writing; the historical element allied with some fantasy, but that still renders the story believable; and the complexity of the characters and their relationships.

The characters on Son of Shadows are actually one of the things that makes me continually pick this book up. I love that there is not a clear evil character thwarting our hero's plans, there are simply people with different opinions and on different sides. Liadan is probably one of my favourite female characters, strong in her convictions, making her own path and letting no one, be they human or fey, dare separate her family.

Loved it, as always.


24 - The White Raven by Diana L. Paxson
White Raven
This is a re-telling of the Tristan and Iseult legend, here with the names of Drustan and Esseilt. I was not very familiar with it, but this book didn't make me want to know more. It was told from Esseilt's cousin, Branwen, point of view (in the 1st person), but it was about Esseilt herself.

I felt distanced from the romantic pair, but to tell the truth, I was not very intrigued by them either. Esseilt was only a spoilt child, who never seemed to realize that Branwen was an actual person with feelings. One other aspect that I didn't like (but that is not really the author's fault, it's part of the lore) is that Drustan and Esseilt's love is due to a love potion. This robbed me of my favourite part in any romance novel: the falling in love part. One moment she was trying to kill him, the other she was deeply in love with him, and falling into bed with him. Also, much of the misery and angst could have been avoided had the characters talked (I mean, really talked) among themselves.

I wish there was more to Branwen's story, it had potential. There were hints of a story there, between her and the king, with mystical elements (in short, what I really like).

It was an ok book, that could have been so much better if it wasn't so focused on Drustan and Esseilt's story.


Friday, 28 May 2010

The Friday 56

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
* Post a link along with your post back to this blog.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Book: Misfortune by Wesley Stace

"From the second, she took books, books upon books, which she placed gently on the desk: some were in sets of eight or nine quarto volumes, some were large folios more foreboding than those friendly families, and others had indistinguishable diagrams and incomprehensible typefaces, possibly foreign languages, on the spines and covers."

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Carrot Cake with Chocolate

Posting a recipe, otherwise this blog would have more spoilers than nuts. This something I came up with on Easter, although it's not a ground breaking recipe. Just a simple carrot cake covered with chocolate. But it's very good.

First I should warn everyone that I'm not very good with measures for ingredients. Actually, I'm not very good with recipes, either writing them or following them. Everything here can be changed to your taste. More sugar if you want it sweeter, vegan substitutes if you swing that way, diet chocolate is you think it's going to help...

Also my favourite measure is a mug, which is about 250 ml (actually, for most things is pouring it down until I think it's right amount).

So, without further ado, I bring you...

Carrot Cake with Chocolate


1 mug of brown sugar
4 eggs
3 table spoons of cream
3 carrots
1 mug of flour 
1 teaspoon of baking powder

150g culinary chocolate
3 tablespoons of cream
1 tablespoon of sugar

There are two ways to make this cake. The normal way or the lazy way. The lazy way is throw everything into a blender, and then bake it.

The normal way still uses the blender for the carrots, but the ingredients are mixed by hand (or a mixer). A good substitute for the (fresh) carrots is frozen carrot purée. About 20 seconds in the microwave in the defrost setting and it's good to use.

Making the cake
Pre-heat oven to 180 ᵒC (350 F).

Mix the sugar and the eggs, until it's homogeneous.

Add the carrots (either after they passed through the blender or the purée) and the cream, and keep mixing.

Finally mix in the flour and baking powder.

Prepare a cake tin with baking paper, and put the mixture in.

Bake for 35 minutes.

In a pot or bowl put the cream, sugar and the chocolate (broken into small pieces).

Bring water to boil in a bigger pot, and put the first one over it (in a way that you can't get burnt). Mix the ingredients until all the chocolate has melted.

Spread it over the cake when it has cooled off.

I had some orange coconut shavings, so I sprinkled them on top of the chocolate. It ended up looking (and tasting) good. And looks like there are grated carrots on top of the cake.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Design Change

Decided to make some tweets to the design of the blog, add more stuff to the sidebar and make a masterlist of the reviews and a list of the books on the Reading Challenge (which is a good way to know which reviews I will be doing).

It's looking good, isn't it?

Reading Challenge - 16 to 19

16 - Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Howl's Moving CastleHowl's Moving Castle is one of those classics that I only discovered when the movie came along. It's a brilliant story, full of adventure and humour.

This is going to be one of those books that I will never part with, reread until the pages are worn, and recommend to everyone I know.

Full Review


17 - Rocannon's World by Ursula K. Le Guin
Rocannon's WorldLike with most of Le Guin's books, I needed sometime to get to know the characters and the world. At first it seemed to drag on, but once I was hooked on Rocannon's plight I wanted more. And because this is a novella and not a novel, once I was finally enjoying the story it ended.

Nevertheless I liked it. The species were reminiscent H. G. Wells' Time Machine, and I enjoyed that there was not one single species in this world, but different intelligent life forms, not related in any way.


18 - Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin
Planet Of ExilePlanet of Exile is another short novel/novella and, like Rocannon's World, ended when it was getting good.

It is set in Werel (also known as Alterra), which has the oddest cosmological traits: Each year (orbit time) is equivalent to 60 Earth years and each moon phase lasts 400 days. This means that a lifetime is equal to a year, and age is measured in moons. That was probably what I loved most about the story, because it was something so alien and strange, but that made complete sense.


19 - City of Illusions by Ursula K. Le Guin
City of IllusionsWhile only slightly longer than the last two, City of Illusions feels more elaborate and complete. It tells us the story of Falk, an alien from Werel, in a completely different planet, with no memory at all (no even speech), and his quest to discover who he is.

This is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, and Falk travels through a great land mass to reach the city where the enemy lives (we learn later on that this is the United States). So this is a road trip kind of book, even if Falk is alone for most of the journey.

It is a lovely story, that gives you a lot to think about. It deals with illusions, lies, and betrayal, as well as with what defines one self.


(These last three stories can be found in Worlds of Exile and Illusion)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

One bloody thing after another by Joey Comeau

One Bloody Thing After AnotherOne Bloody Thing After Another is an apt title to this book. It is a gory horror story, told in an episodic manner, with short chapters.

It tells us the stories of Jackie, her trees and schoolgirl crush on her friend Ann; of Ann and her mother's strange disease that transforms her into something akin to an animal; and of Charlie, his dog that walks into corners, and the headless ghost that has him bother a tenant every single day. These storylines cross somewhat, but follow their own path.

Jackie's story was interesting and, had this been another kind of book, I would have wanted to know more about her crush on another girl and her family life. It also felt like all the anger issues came out of nowhere, but then again maybe it was intended to be this way.

In Ann's story I felt that something was missing. It seems like the we never went further that the surface of the character. The same thing with her mother and sister's affliction. I would have liked to know where it came from, what exactly it was. Anyway, this is probably the most frightening part of the book, and certainly the most gory.

Charlie's story, and Mitchie's was lovely, probably my favourite, and I only wish there was more to of it

I liked the way the book is structured, the short chapters with "to-the-point" language. I absolutely loved the [not so] hidden message in between chapter (it took me a while to realize it was there, I blame it on being a ebook, I'm not used to those), it stands as a story of its own, and completes the others. The entire concept of the third part of the book is amazing: very surreal and a bit like a dream, with the repetition of the same events, changing ever slightly (reminiscent of the movie Groundhog day, only darker. And weirder).

I enjoyed this book, even if it's not my favourite genre. It is a fast read, but delivers what it promises.

Recommended to gore and horror fans.

I got this book from ECW Press, through Netgalley

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Ursula K. le Guin on Lavinia

Continuing from last post, now I have a video of UKL reading from and discussing Lavinia, with a Q&A in the end.

Simply brilliant!

A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back by Ursula K. le Guin

Like I said in another post, Ursula K. le Guin is one of my favourite authors.

Today I was checking her website and came upon a mp3 file of her reading from A Ride on the Red Mare's Back. You can download it (or listen if your browser supports it) here. It is a big file: 23Mb - 28 minutes.

A Ride on the Red Mare's Back

I think it's always great when the authors read their story. They can give the proper intonation to it. Ursula K. le Guin does it brilliantly, with troll voices and children voices.

Most important, it has a soundtrack. For the first minutes I actually wasn't sure there would be story at all. But the music was so beautiful. It reminded me a bit of anime soundtrack (and not the J-pop kind), a bit like Escaflowne's.

I really enjoyed listening to this story. Now I want the book!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Reading Challenge - 11 to 15

11 - Catwings Set by Ursula K. Le Guin
(I read the first book in the beginning of the year, but will comment here and consider the 4 books as one. They are very small.)
The Catwings Collection (4 Volume Set)Catwings is the first in this series. It introduces us to a litter of very special cats: wigged cats. It is an adventure story for young kids (I mean, really young). It's about finding your place in the world even if you are different. And it's about friendship. And about children, who don't care about the cats being different as long as they can keep them.  (4/5)

In Catwings Return, the kitties return to the city to try to find their mother. Instead they find a very scared sister (winged as well) who refuses to speak (the cats talk among themselves). Another adventure for catwings. And a very enjoyable read.  (4/5)

Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings introduces us to a normal cat. And a very snob one at that. It is again about friendship, but is also about overcoming a trauma. And it is still a children's book.  (4/5)

Jane On Her Own is about the little sister found on the second book. She goes back to the city to try to have adventures on her own. To me this is the best book in the collection. Although the main character is cat, the story is about people and their relation with animals, and what they expect to get out of them.  (4.5/5)

12 - Priestess of the White by Trudi Canavan

Priestess of the White (Age of the Five Trilogy, Book 1)Trudi Canavan is one of those authors that seems to have a fixed place on the fantasy bookshelf of any book store, but I had never read anything written by her, this book was my first. I enjoyed it, although it is very much like most the fantasy that is written nowadays.

I liked the two odd races presented, and the religious aspect of the differences between the tribes. I will most certainly read the next one in the series to find out what happens next.


(The next 3 books are a re-read of a series. I wanted to read the three books in one sitting, the first time I read them I had to wait about an year between books, for them to be published, and the experience is quite different. I called it my Bridei ReRead Marathon: 3 books in one week :D)

13 - The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marilier

The Dark Mirror: Book One of the Bridei ChroniclesI love this book. I love the way it's a historical novel, with elements of fantasy and you still believe it could have happen exactly like it's told. But I find that to true in all of Juliet's books.

I loved the story of Bridei, how he grows up to be a king. This being a reread, I knew what he would face and how some around him knew his path wouldn't be easy and helped him along (and usually by not being easy on him). I loved Tuala, and the almost sisterly love that she shared with Bridei, and seeing it turn into something more deep. And not getting the impression of incest when it happen.

This is a love story in essence, but there is a lot more to it. There is a clear political storyline, and it isn't there just to fill the background. It's important to everything that happens and it's one of the main strengths of the book.

Highly Recommended!


14 - Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier

Blade of Fortriu: Book Two of The Bridei ChroniclesBlade of Fortriu takes place five years after the end of The Dark Mirror, and the characters were not idle during that time. This book has two separate storylines, Bridei's and Faolan's. Faolan was introduced on the first book and soon became a favourite of mine (and all the readers, it seems), so it's no surprise when in my first read of the book I avidly read the parts relating to Faolan and Ana, while skimming Bridei's war campaign parts.

This time I was able to enjoy Bridei story that, like in the first book, has a political nature. I liked learning about what it meant to rule as king, the choices he made, and his anguishes. I also loved to read about Tuala, now being able to remove the (wrong!) image that I had of a meek girl from the first time reading. She still is as feisty as she was when younger!

What I wished that was better on this book was the connection between the storylines. It is there, but it's faint, and mostly lost in the romance and love triangle of Faolan's story. But still a very good read.


15 - The Well of Shades by Juliet Mariller

The Well of Shades (Bridei Chronicles)The Well of Shades was a book that I loved the first time I read, and loved even more the second time around. In the third volume of the series, Faolan also plays a very important part (actually we realize how vital he is to Bridei). It takes part immediately after the end of Blade of Fortriu, and again, has multiple storylines.

I loved the characters in this book, both old and new. Most of all, I loved the children, so well portrayed, and their relationship with the adults.

Sometime after I finished my first read (when details start to get hazy) I started having the feeling that Eile's was a kind of treat to Faolan, after the second book (like saying, you can't have Ana, take this red head instead). How wrong I was! How could I forget how amazing her character is, how things keep piling up on her, and she still has a will to live.

This book is on of my favourites, perhaps the favourite. I recommend it to everyone!