Thursday, 30 September 2010

Banned Book Week: The Banned Book Cove*

Banned book week

As every other blogger out there I have a TBR list, and as I’ve previously discussed I am now referring to it as Lake TBR. today I will introduce you to the part of Lake TBR that I like to refer to as The Banned Book Cove. It is the part of the lake where all the banned books I want to read live :D

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This book seems so very interesting and thought provoking. It has been on my TBR list for years I just never get around to it.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Once upon a time I was a student of economics, I actually started out as a double major in business studies and economics but realised there was to much maths in economics for me. What I was interested in was development economics and the economics of everyday. This book looks like it looks at economics on a more personal level, that is where my interest lies.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls

I am a watcher of people (not in a creepy way though :D). People and the lives they live facinate me. That’s why I like reading memoirs and biographies, this book interests me for these reasons.

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

I love history told by ordinary people. This was the history I wasn’t allowed to study in school but that my interest in people draws me to. The fact that it has been challenged only makes me want to read it more.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Yes I have not read this seminal book on the banning of books. But I really do want to read it. In addition to the overall topic of book banning I also want to read it for the dystopian aspect. I love dystopian books.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Several different book bloggers have raved about this book over the past year and although graphic novels are not my normal medium I really do want to read this book. It sounds like a fantastic story.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The story of Lolita is so often quoted in pop culture that I want to read it for myself. I don’t expect it to be a comfortable read. I don’t expect to love it. But I do want to read it.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

This book seems to show up on every reading list in US high schools and I want to read it for that reason. Also I have a peculiar fondness for school stories set during the world wars.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

I really enjoyed My Ántonia when I read it and everyone said I should read Death Comes for the Archbishop so here it is, the last book on this edition of Banned Book Cove. Please come back next year to see what progress I’ve made :D


SignatureCopyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Banned Book Week: Read in the Past

Banned book week

Here are some of the banned books I read in my pre-blogging days, with some of my thoughts on them. Most of these thoughts are very muddled by time :D This is by no means the full list of banned books I read in my pre-blogging list, but it turns out I’m quite subversive :D

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I didn’t actually enjoy Anne Frank when I read it. Thirteen year old me found Anne whiney and shallow. This doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and appreciate its historical value, and I do think it should be read.

Hills Like White Elephants: The Complete Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway

I haven’t actually read the complete short stories but I have read Hills Like White Elephants and it is a short story that I have taught in the past and will continue to teach in the future as it is an excellent introduction to the iceberg principle in literature. Although I’m not Hemingway’s biggest fan I can see the value in this story.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This was one of the few assigned readings in school that I did not object to. I loved it. I loved the story, I loved the lessons, I loved the characters. I simply loved it and think everyone should have a chance to read it.

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary

Oh. Come. On. Banning the dictionary is the most ridiculous thing EVER!! Okay, so who hasn’t spent at least some time looking up naughty words in it, but still (actually me and my college flatmates and two other friends spent a very very amusing evening looking up various words in the dictionary and thesaurus, some naughty, some not). I  have Merriam-Webster Online on one my browser toolbar and consult it on at least a weekly basis. I recommended it to colleagues today as an excellent resource.

Twilight Series by Stephenie Mayer

Yes I’ve read it. Wasn’t the greatest bit of literature ever. Falls on the brain candy side of the scale and we all need brain candy.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

It was an enjoyable enough book. I honestly didn’t see the religious issues, or when I saw them I didn’t see them as problematic, but then again I am not a religious person. All that said I personally think there are better fantasy books out there.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I didn’t exactly enjoy The Catcher in the Rye. I just found Holden Caufield to be whiney. But my brother loved the book so take my opinion with a grain of salt :D

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Yeah I wan’t a fan. I finished the book but had no desire to read the rest. To me it felt very formulaic. Move from one mystery to the next without me really caring about it.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood

I really do love dystopian novels and this book was no exception. I read most of it on a transatlantic flight and was glad I had the excuse to just keep reading :D The ideas in the book felt eerily familiar. It felt spooky and like something that could happen.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I actually read an excerpt of this book today. It was in my English students text book. I didn’t enjoy it when I read it in high school but now I can’t actually remember why. I think that indicates that it is time for a re-read.

A Time to Kill by John Grisham

I went through a period in high school when I read most of the Grisham novels. I know I’ve read A Time to Kill but I can’t actually tell you what happened or what I thought about it.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

One of my favourite books. I love the imagery in this book. I also find the message very interesting. It is a book I will most definitely teach for many years to come.



Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Banned Book Week: Reviewed in the Past

Banned book week

I thought I would kick off Banned Book Week with a “Greatest Hits List” (yes I know Banned Book Week started Sunday but due to some laptop issues I’m currently running a bit behind with posting). These are some of the Banned Books I have read (and reviewed on this blog)

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone) J.K. Rowling

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

These books have all been banned or challenged in the last 10 years. These books have been challenged for a variety of reasons from sexual innuendo, drug references, to the ever popular promotion of the occult (I feel like making a joke about sex, drugs and rock and roll here but nothing quippy comes to mind right now). Apart from the fact that they have been challenged and/or banned they are all books that have made me think, that have entertained me and have in some way challenged me. In addition they are all books that I would recommend to friends and that I would consider teaching in my classroom (well I probably wouldn’t TEACH the HP books but I would not only allow but encourage them for free reading). In some way I think these books all have something that is worth while to discuss. And therefore I will discuss them with my students, but that my friends is a post for another day :D


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Book Review: The Woman in White

The Woman in White The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Publisher: Vintage

Category: Classic Crime

Challenges: R.I.P. V Challenge, 2010 Challenge (TBR)

Synopsis: Marian and her sister Laura live a quiet life under their uncle's guardianship until Laura's marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. Sir Percival is a man of many secrets. Hence, Marian and the girls' drawing master, Walter, have to turn detective in order to work out what is going on, and to protect Laura from a fatal plot (synopsis from BookDepository)

My Thoughts: The book certainly lives up to its inclusion in the R.I.P. V challenge. It manages to include several mysteries as well as intrigue and things that go bump in the night. In this respect I found the book very satisfying. The intrigue kept me going. Who was actually the bad guys and how were they bad? And why were they bad?

Now I’m going to put on my militant feminist hat and get on my soapbox. I really disliked the way Collins portrays Laura. At no real point in the book is she strong. Not only is she strong, but she is all fainty. I HATE fainty females. Yes I know this book was written in a different time and that I shouldn’t project my 21st century sensibilities onto a book written in 18?? But the thing is, Collins does make Marian stronger. She isn’t all fainty. So he obviously knew women could be capable. That said none of the female characters in the book are all that  strong. They are either very scheming or plain weak. The only righteous character in the book is Walter Hartright. Yes the other men are hardly admirable characters either (do not get me started on the uncle, I might hit something).

All that said, I really enjoyed the book. I really enjoyed the narrative style adopted. The story is told primarily by Walter, who takes on the task of storyteller and he addresses the reader directly. The other narrators are compelled to do so by Walter, to tell of the events that he wasn’t there to see himself. This makes the story seem somewhat more real. It makes you think it could really have happened.

Although it has taken me a while to read this book, it is actually an easy read. Unlike many other classics (and remember I like classics) the language in this book isn’t hard to understand. It is an intriguing story and a great mystery. I highly recommend it!

Purchase The Woman in White from BookDepository


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [Audio]

harrypotter_philosopher Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Narrated by Stephen Fry

Category: Children’s

Challenges: R.I.P. V Challenge

Synopsis: Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin who do NOT like him when he finds out that all the weird things that happen to him are because he is a wizard. The wizarding world is full of interesting and frightening creatures and people, and no place more so than Hogwarts School at which Harry is now a student.

My Thoughts: It’s been quite some time since I read or listened to the Philosopher’s Stone and I got to fall in love with this book all over again. It really was a case of falling in love all over. Harry and his friends are so incredibly innocent and likeable in this book.

In addition to the general likeability of the main and supporting characters Rowling paints a picture of an incredibly wonderful magical world. I am always caught by the description of Harry’s first meal in the Great Hall. The description of the heaping platters and the general bustle of the great hall always paints such a vivid picture for me. Plus it always makes me incredibly hungry. The fantastic thing about listening to this part of the story was that these pictures somehow became even more vivid. Fry’s voice lent something a little extra to this picture. I really loved it.

The general themes that are present throughout the series are first presented in this book: friendships (and how we are stronger with our friends), good vs. evil and finding strength within. I find, now that I have read the whole series (multiple times), that especially the theme of friendship is very strong in this book. Throughout the growth of the friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione the reader is shown how they complement each other and how each is made stronger through the others. In today’s world I think it is so important to emphasise the strength we can take from each other.

As I have previously said I do really love Stephen Fry’s narrations. He has a very comforting voice at the same time as he manages to make each of the characters their own and make the story come alive.

Purchase Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in audio from BookDepository


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Friday, 17 September 2010

BBAW: Future Treasures

BBAW_2010_ImageWe’ve been visiting each other and getting to know each other better…now is your chance to share what you enjoyed about BBAW and also what your blogging goals are for the next year!

As always BBAW has been a lot of fun, even though I have been unable to participate as fully as I would have liked (stupid school :D). I have read tonnes of posts but not commented as much as I would perhaps have liked. I have found a several new to me blogs, caused by TBR pile to turn into a vast lake instead of a nice little duck pond* and above all I have once again been reminded that the book blogging world is a NICE world!

USA Summer 09 402

As always looking at other blogs has given me ideas for improvements and changes on my own blog. No real big ones but little tiny ones, some policy changes and clarifications which will go up over the next few weeks.

My BBAW related goals for Notes from the North over the next year is to become better at commenting on other blogs and to respond to comments on my blog. That is my one goal!

*Eva and I had a conversation on twitter last night where she said she has started to look at the TBR pile a pool instead of a mountain, that way it isn’t as intimidating, I have to agree. A mountain looms over you. It’s an image that wants conquering. A pool or a lake is much more tranquil. A lake is a place where you can paddle around the edges. Dip your toes in or jump in from a raft. It doesn’t really matter if it is super deep in the middle because you can go as deep in as you like. So from now on my TBR pile isn’t a mountain, it’s a lake.


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

BBAW: Forgotten Treasure


Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction.  This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!

Well I wrote a guest post for Aarti at BOOK LUST on the book that I would normally have touted here, but I suggest you go and read that post if you want to know about my normal, “everyone must read this book, why is no one reading this book?” book. But I thought it was time for another book now, one that was a best seller at the time but I think deserves another plug:

The Belgariad and The Mallorean

by David and Leigh Eddings

Pawn of prophecy queen of sorcery Magicians Gambit (2)

I’ve reviewed the first five books in the series here (follow the link above, please be kind those reviews are from when I was a very baby blogger, I cringe when I read them now) and I’m hoping to review the remaining seven books later this year (I have a couple of challenges left to finish before I do my re-read). The Belgariad has a very sentimental place in my heart because these were the last few books my mum read aloud to me. I was 10 or 11. She stopped reading them because I would get so engrossed in the story I would continue to read the next chapter and the next chapter long after she had kissed me good night :D

Castle of Wizardry Enchanters End Game Guardians of the west

Two series?

Well, yes and no. The books are grouped into two series of five books each plus to Prologues except they are actually epilogues. (are you more confused now?) The first five books are collectively known as The Belgariad whereas the second set of five are called The Mallorean. The last two books tell of events leading up to the first book in The Belgariad but they are written to be read after you have read The Mallorean as they refer to events in The Belgariad and in The Mallorean.

King of the Murgos Demon Lord of Karanda Sorceress of Darshiva

What are the books about?

The first book of The Belgariad, Pawn of Prophecy, starts with the story of the young farm boy Garion. Garion think he is just an ordinary boy, however, he will soon come to realise that his aunt Pol and the mysterious Mister Wolf, the storyteller, are anything but ordinary. And thus the real adventure begins. 

The Seeress of Kell Belgarath the Sorcerer Polgara the Sorceress

What do I love about this series?

Well apart from the sentimental value this series is funny! Especially as you continue to read the series and the amount of in jokes increase. The in jokes that are easily understandable to the reader makes one feel part of the story, sort of like being an extra character in the story.

That feeling is increased by the fact that the main character, Garion, is supremely real. Maybe it helps that I myself was almost a teenager when I started reading the books. Garion’s feelings of never being told what is going on, the resentment at being sent away when exciting things are being discussed, they are all feelings teenagers can relate to. Although Garion is the main character, the books feature a whole host of other characters, and among them is one of my favourite female characters of all time, Garion’s aunt Pol. She is a strong, intelligent, no nonsense female. I adored her growing up. And she isn’t the only strong female character in the books. One can tell that, although only the last two books reflect it, Eddings had a strong female in his life.

Like many of the books in the fantasy genre the books in the Belgariad and the Mallorean deal with the fight between good and evil. There are mythical beasts and magic. There are different tribes of people, most of which can be connected to nations or cultures in our own world, but our world is never referred to. This is a world complete with its own mythology and history.

If you enjoy a good story, with a familiar* message that allows you to escape into a world of chivalry, but with very strong female characters, I highly recommend this series.

*familiar does not have to mean boring, just sayin’


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

BBAW: Unexpected Treasure


We invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger.  What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like? 

Oh wow…a book?! Just one?! I think I might have to break the just one book just a little. I can’t write about just one book, as because of book bloggers, I’ve discovered a treasure trove of books. There was The Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent that I discovered through Eva at A Striped Armchair. Then we had The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman which wasn’t a review but a twitter conversation with Nymeth and Eva. The more I go through my bad blogger list the more I realise that Eva is very responsible for the state of my TBR pile BAD Eva :D However if I had to pick one of my bad blogger books to highlight to you all I would have to pick Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, for which Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot is responsible, with this review.


Why did I love this book so much?

Well mystery is one of my favourite genres but this mystery was a little bit different. Sayers manages to create a very creepy but real feeling. I actually felt like I was transported to Oxford in 1930.

I am really glad I took up the recommendation from Nymeth because it allowed to find not just a book that is vying for my favourite reads of 2010 but also introduced me to a new to me author. Although I had heard of Sayers before it was actually in connection with education and not mysteries and here I am, wanting to read all the Peter Wimsey series (plus the one Harriet Vane book I have left). This book also helped me look outside of my normal mystery series. So although this book was in one of my “normal” genres it was still a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up had it not been for bloggers.

What made me pick up this book?

Well first off, it is a mystery, which is one of my favourite genres. Secondly, Nymeth wrote such a glowing review of it, how could I not? Add to these two factors it features a strong, independent female character as its main character, which is something I really like. And it was set in Academia, a world in which I am supremely happy. This book and I were made for each other. We really were.


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

BBAW: New Treasure - Interview Swap


Welcome to day two of BBAW and the interview swap! I am very pleased to welcome Sophia of the Fiction Vixen Book Review  to my blog! Although she reviews in a genre that I don’t read a lot of books in I really enjoyed getting to know this new to me blogger.


First off, can you tell me and my readers a bit about yourself?

Hi Zee, thank you for having me at Notes From The North today.  My name is Sophia and I am an unapologetic romance novel lover.  I write the blog Fiction Vixen Book Reviews where I review romance and urban fantasy books.  I am married and mother of three girls. 

What made you start blogging about books?

I originally started my blog as a way to connect with other readers who share my love of books.  I didn’t have a clear idea of the direction I wanted to take my blog back in August of 2009 when I first started blogging but eventually I fell into a my groove and found my blogging voice. 

How did you find out about BBAW?

BBAW was in full swing just after I started my blog and became more active in book blogging community.  I didn’t participate last year since I was a fairly new blogger, but I decided that I wouldn’t miss out in 2010.  I’m very excited to have been short listed for Best Romance Blog this year. 

What other bloggers have you connected with? What made their blogs stand out to you?

Since my main reading interests are in the romance and urban fantasy genres I mostly visit blogs that focus in those areas.  My must read blogs are Smexy Books, Babbling About Books and More, Smokin’ Hot Books…actually the list is a little too long to share here.  I love these blogs and others because they are written by smart women with opinions.  They read the books they love and write thoughtful, constructive reviews.

If you didn’t blog about books what would you blog about ?

I’ve been a blogger for years about various topics, however my book blog is the only one I currently write.  In the past I have kept a family blog, blogging about family life and parenting.  I also had a blog dedicated to digital scrapbooking where I promoted my business and shared my digital art.  But these days if I wasn’t blogging about books I’m not sure if I’d be blogging at all.

In your post from December 2009 you admit how you fell in love with “your” genre you mention that your “gateway” books were Twilight and then Sookie Stackhouse. Are there any other books you think a relative “virgin” to the genre should read? (I’ve read Twilight and I’ve got the Sookie Stackhouse books waiting for me).

Well, my December 2009 post was mostly tongue-in-cheek where I was being a little silly.  Most of my readers are used to my sense of humor but I sometimes wonder how someone who just happened to stumble upon my blog might receive some of my posts.  I like to have fun and keep it light. 

Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse did lead the way for my love of paranormal romance.  If you’ve read those books and enjoyed them then you might enjoy the Immortals After Dark Series by Kresley Cole as well as the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward.  Paranormal Romance was actually the gateway to my most favorite genre, romantic urban fantasy.  My favorite urban fantasy series include The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, and a few more you can see here.

Before you found your love for Paranormal Romance what type of books did you read or did they turn you into a reader?

I have been a reader most of my life.  I’ve dabbled in horror, mystery and suspense as well as some Christian fiction.  However I’ve always loved romance and that’s what I always come back to.

I noticed you read a lot of books on your Kindle, what made you switch from print to e-reader?

I haven’t totally switched over to e-books yet since most of the books I receive from publishers for review are print books.  But when I purchase books for myself I prefer e-books.  I don’t like clutter and overstuffed bookshelves and my e-book library stores nicely on my hard drive and e-reader.  I love the convenience of e-books as well.  I can easily take all my books with me on vacation or anywhere else and I can purchase new books within seconds.  I just recently purchased a Kindle 3 and I love it.  

Let’s play Desert Island Discs Books! If you could pick only 5 books to take with you to a Deserted Island (no you can’t bring your Kindle :D) which books would you take? And why?

Oh gosh, that is a hard one.  I think I would take the first five books in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  That series is one of my most favorite and I could read it over and over again.  It’s a mix of fantasy, historical and paranormal romance and adventure.  It’s written beautifully and each book at least 650 pages or more.  Plenty of pages to keep me busy.

Thank you!

Thank you for having me here today Zee, it was fun. J


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Monday, 13 September 2010

BBAW: First Treasure


We invite you to share with us about a great new book blog you’ve discovered since BBAW last year!  If you are new to BBAW or book blogging, share with us the very first book blog you discovered.  Tell us why this blog rocks your socks off and why you keep going back for more.

Allow me to introduce my “New to me” book blog!

A Little Bookish

A Little Bookish

A Little Bookish is run by Carin B and like me she reads quite an ecclectic mix of books! Just take a look at her sidebar to see what she has read in 2010. Her reviews are always thoughtful and I’ve added a tonne of books to my thanks to her! (should it really be thanks? sometimes I wonder ;))

But it isn’t just her ecclectic mix of books I like, she also runs (or co-runs) a bunch of fantastic features on her blog.

First there is Friday Coffee Chat where she asks book related questions and asks her readers to comment on it. One of my favourite topics was Are You a Book Abuser? (answer: yes)

The second feature is Book Around the World or Book Hobo where she has two different books travelling around the world to different bloggers. Carin generously provided two books to travel around the world: Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost (my group) and Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. When a blogger receives the book they read it 1-2 weeks and then writes a guest post for Carin about where they are from and about the package they received, you see each blogger sends some small local gifts to the next person on the list along with the book. It is such a fantastically fun idea. I can’t wait to see what I get and I’m trying to think of what to get myself.

In addition Carin is currently running 3 different competitions, so stop on over and enter!


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

TSS: BBAW, the Dewey 24-Hour Read-a-Thon and a Book Fair

The Sunday

School is picking up so I’m not getting as much fun reading in as I would like, and even though I am reading loads I won’t be reviewing my ethics textbooks here thankyouverymuch so reviewing might slow down (it might also speed up because I am making a concerted effort to READ in my free time :D) but I do have some exciting bookish events coming up that I wanted to share with you all!


So starting tomorrow is the start of BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) and I’m really excited and I’ve got some great posts lined up. Because of this I won’t have any regular review posts up during the week, I know everyone will be busy reading all the fantastic posts for BBAW and I will save any review posts for after the event. But do please check in as I will have some review posts (of sorts) and will be highlighting some great bloggers!


I’m also throwing my hat in for the Dewey 24-hour Read-a-Thon. I won’t be reading for the whole event due to family commitments but I will read as much as I can. I’ve missed the previous two events due to various life things so now I’m going to make some time for me! And READ!!

Bok och bibliotek

Finally I am hoping to have some great posts to share with you in late September-early October about my experiences at Bok & Bibliotek Göteborg Book Fair which is one of the highlights of the year for me. I’ve just about triple booked myself for every hour of the day and really have to start making some hard choices soon but it all looks like so much fun!!


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Book Review: The Graveyard Book [Audio]

The Graveyard book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Narrated by Neil Gaiman

Category: Children’s Horror

Challenges: R.I.P. V Challenge

Synopsis: Nobody Owens aka Bod grows up in a graveyard where the inhabitants of the said graveyard keep him safe (for the most part) from the Man Jack who wants to kill him. Along the way Bod learns about the graveyard, how to do certain non-living things and above all how to be a good person. However, as he grows older the threat from the Man Jack looms ever nearer.

My Thoughts: I really really enjoyed this book. Although it was quite predictable it was also sweet and mysterious and…I don’t know had some sort of indefinable characteristic that had me gripped from the word go (or should that be from the word boo?)

Bod was a very likeable character who had just enough curiosity to keep the story flowing without making him seem overly precocious or annoying. He was very ordinary (if ordinary little boys lived in graveyards and could fade), he doesn’t always do what his parents and guardian tell him. He feels like the whole world is against him at time, and consequently falls in with a bad lot. I found the story to be simple but profound. Sometimes we have to do things that might seem horrible in order to save ourselves and others. And above all stay true to ourselves.

The writing style in the book is fantastic. I love how the different inhabitants of the graveyard are referred to by their name and epithet. It contributed to the overall feeling of different I got from this book

I loved the narration of the book. I have a particular fondness for authors who read their own books and Gaiman reads his work to perfection. He is soft spoken and this lends itself well both to comfort and to the slightly sinister tone that is present throughout the book. He also uses a particularly British inflection when reading the name and epithet of the different ghosts which lends a certain tone to the story.

I find this review very hard to write because I loved it but I can’t put my finger on what I loved about the book, I do however highly recommend it.

Purchase The Graveyard Book from



Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Book Review: John Adams

John Adams John Adams by David McCullough

Category: Biography

Challenges: 2010 Challenge (TBR), Memorable Memoirs

My Thoughts: This book left me with two overarching thoughts: 1) Nothing has changed in politics in the past 150 years. 2) Those who use the term “this wasn’t what the Founding Fathers intended…” really need to study some history, ‘cause the Founding Fathers couldn’t and didn’t agree on almost anything.

I really enjoyed this biography. I enjoyed getting to know John Adams and Abigail Adams both through McCullough’s narrative and through the great use of primary sources, primarily letters written by the different people in the book. I enjoyed learning more about a period in history of which I (to my embarrassment) know very little. I enjoyed the vivid portraits painted by McCullough.

As I mentioned I enjoyed getting to know John and Abigail Adams and I felt that although McCullough is clearly a fan of Adams he still managed to give a fairly balanced view. Or at least he manages to point out the faults that Adams undoubtedly had. However, he is far more critical of Adams contemporaries than he is of Adams himself. As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I would like to, in the future, read a biography written by someone else, in order to get a more balanced view. I would also like to read biographies written about the rest of the “cast”. They all seem to be fascinating characters.

As someone whose favourite subject in school was history I was very pleased with the extensive use of primary sources used by McCullough. This was clearly helped by the fact that Adams was a prolific letter writer, in the closing pages of the book McCullough remarks that in a letter exchange between Adams and Jefferson, Adams wrote at least two letters for every one of Jefferson, often more than that. And Jefferson wasn’t Adams only correspondent. At various points in his life Adams corresponded with his wife, his children, his in-laws, his grandchildren and various friends, acquaintances and enemies. In addition to writing many letters Adams also kept diaries and notebooks, wrote pamphlets and reports, not to mention being on the committee charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence. McCullough therefore had a large amount of primary sources from which to learn about the man. In addition to all this written material Adams also argued with his books, in his books. Yep (and I hear some of you gasp out there) Adams WROTE in his books (you can guess how vindicated I feel here). Adams enjoyed arguing with his books in pen, at the source. 

As I said in my opening paragraph this book showed just how similar politics then are to politics now. Even in Adams time the different factions pursued campaigns of defamation of character centred around the different individuals political and/or religious affiliation (or lack thereof), their personal choices (who really cares who warms whose bed?) and other sundry political missteps. Part of me wanted to be really depressed at this intrigue and part was glad to know that at least we haven’t sunk from great heights (we are currently in the last two weeks of a general election campaign here, at let me tell you, politics on this side of the pond? just as muckslingingly disgusting).

Although the biography is about John Adams, it also heavily covers Thomas Jefferson as he had a large impact on Adams life, for good and for bad. And despite the fact that the hero of the book is most definitely Adams I felt some sympathy for Jefferson, even though he is portrayed as a bit of a clueless dandy at times. This sympathy is perhaps what really marks McCullough’s writing, all of the people are show at their best and their worst and this both heightens the hero status many of these people have, but at the same time makes them feel very approachable. And I must admit that I actually cried when first Abigail and later Adams and Jefferson passed away (partly I think it is because I was not at my best when reading those sections, but partly it was because these people, who died long before I was a twinkle in anyones eye, were real people to me now). I really wish I could have known these men and women, and I really hope that McCullough writes a biography about Abigail.  

At the end of the book there are extensive source notes as well as an extensive bibliography for the reader who wishes to continue their study of this time period and the people connected with it. In addition McCullough has also has several other books and audio series concerned with the same time period. I highly recommend 1776 as well (review from when I was a very baby blogger before this blog was really a book blog).

Overall I thought this was a very good biography. It gave me a good feel for both the man, John Adams, and the time in which he lived, as well as the historical events in which he was involved. In addition I felt like I learned something about humans and the human condition. I would recommend this book to others.

Purchase John Adams from BookDepository


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

TSS: Read in August


The Sunday

August has ended, school is back in session and the leaves have started changing colours. It is time to summarise the reading that got done in the last month of the summer despite working almost full time.

Months-August10bymagic_art Image Credit

I read 6 books in August. I loved one and hated one. The others were all enjoyable in their own way.

Emma the bermudez triangle my most excellent year

Emma by Jane Austen Really didn’t enjoy this book. Enough said.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson I thought Johnson handled the confusion that is being a teenager very well. I also enjoyed the snarky commentary. I did find it hard to distinguish between the different voices in the book though.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger An amusing YA book about friends and growing up. I liked the writing style and different narrators.

Have his carcase cover GaudyNight harrypotter_azkaban

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers I really enjoyed the social commentary in this book, and the mystery had me guessing.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers I really really really enjoyed this book. It was a fabulous mystery with a great social commentary and above all, complex characters whom I loved a great deal.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. Narrated by Stephen Fry. This particular HP book is one of my favourites and when Stephen Fry reads it it is enough to make me a very happy camper.


I also wrote posts about building my library and that of my niece. Thank you to all those who have given me suggestions. I’m keeping a list, and I will be checking it twice :D I also wrote a post on Library Envy


Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.