Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Once Upon a Time in the Spring

"In Fairyland," by Richard Doyle, 1870
Generally this time of year brings one of my very favorite reading events — the Once Upon a Time Challenge, hosted by Carl V. Anderson over at his Stainless Steel Droppings blog and dedicated to reading works of fantasy, fairy tales, folklore, and mythology. I've participated (not always successfully, but you know...) in eight of those annual fests, and enjoyed every minute I devoted to them.

"Midsummer Eve," Edward Robert Hughes, ca. 1908
I've been expecting an announcement from Carl about this year's challenge/event, but so far nothing has appeared. So I'm guessing that after ten years of hosting, Carl has had enough. Which I can definitely understand. Still, I love reading those genres in the spring — just feels like a perfect match; so I'm going to continue the tradition on my own.
[UPDATE: I've noticed that on his Facebook page, Carl says he's on vacation and will announce the new Once Upon a Time event when he gets back to his blog. (Yay!) So it might become official any time now (Yay!)]

"A Midsummer Night's Dream: Titania and Fairies" ca. 1896
I might even end up with a reading of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream on Midsummer's Eve.  But even if I don't keep up with that tradition, I'm hoping to read at least a few works that would qualify for a Once Upon a Time event. I'm starting with one of Edward Eager's 1960s kids' fantasy novels — Magic by the Lake.

Cover art by N.M. Bodecker

And after that, I have quite a list of possibilities. Of course, I won't get to all of them; but I hope to read at least one or two of these from my TBR list:
  • After Alice. Gregory Maguire 
  • Beauty. Robin McKinley 
  • Bedknob and Broomstick. Mary Norton 
  • The Bell at Sealey Head. Patricia A. McKillip 
  • The Boggart. Susan Cooper 
  • The Book of Lost Things. John Connolly 
  • The Box of Delights. John Masefield 
  • The Children of Green Knowe. L.M. Boston 
  • The City of Dreaming Books. Walter Moers 
  • The Crystal Cave. Mary Stewart 
  • The Foretelling. Alice Hoffman 
  • James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl 
  • The Magic City. E. Nesbit 
  • Magic or Not?  Edward Eager 
  • The Mennyms. Sylvia Waugh 
  • The Mists of Avalon. Marion Zimmer Bradley 
  • The Moon of Gomrath. Alan Garner 
  • Mythago Wood. Robert Holdstock 
  • The Neverending Story. Michael Ende 
  • The Phantom Tollbooth. Norton Juster 
  • The Princess and the Goblin. George MacDonald 
  • Silver on the Tree. Susan Cooper 
  • Solstice Wood. Patricia A. McKillip 
  • Stuart Little. E.B. White 
  • Tuck Everlasting. Natalie Babbitt 
  • The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame 
  • The Witches. Roald Dahl 
  • A Wizard of Earthsea. Ursula K. LeGuin

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: The Bell at Sealey Head

This week my teaser lines come from Patricia McKillip's 2009 fantasy novel, The Bell at Sealey Head. This quote comes from pg.11:
"Among my eccentricities is the pursuit of things mysterious, otherworldly, magical. There is magic in this place. I want to find it."
I haven't actually started reading this one yet, so I'm not sure what's going on here, or who's pursuing the mysterious, otherworldly and magical. This time of year I usually like to read a little fantasy. Springtime just seems to be the perfect setting for that. And this book has been on my TBR list for quite a while now — so I'm thinking of pulling it out and finally reading it.

And how about you? Do you ever read fantasy? Interested in the mysterious, otherworldly and magical? Or do you prefer that your bookish adventures stay a little closer to the real world?

If you'd like to see more Teaser Tuesday offerings, or do some teasing yourself, just head on over to The Purple Booker and leave your link. And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: Rosemary's Baby

This week my teaser lines come from Rosemary's Baby, by Ira Levin. This snippet is from p.24 of the new paperback edition (sorry it's more than two sentences, but they're short sentences):
They heard Minnie Castevet before they met her; heard her through their bedroom wall, shouting in a hoarse midwestern bray. "Roman, come to bed! It's twenty past eleven!" And five minutes later: "Roman? Bring me in some root beer when you come!"
Now who doesn't like a nice bit of root beer at bedtime, hmmm?

Levin's wonderfully spooky/funny horror tale has always been one of my favorite books. And since 2017 marks the novel's 50th anniversary (it was first published in 1967), I decided to give it a quick reread and was very happy to find it's just as good now as it was when I first read it back in the Pleistocene Era.

The book has been translated into dozens of languages and reprinted over and over, with most of the covers focussing on the apartment house where it all takes place — like the paperback edition (above) and the original hardback:

But some of the other covers have been a little more creative — not to mention lurid. I like this one which seems to be a Greek edition and features a spooky broken doll that really doesn't have much of anything to do with the story.

Chilling image.

So, is this a book you'd read? Or maybe you've read it in the past? Or do you read horror novels?

Oh, and have you seen the movie? (Also one of my faves.) It's very faithful to the book, and has some great redecorating scenes, if you're into HGTV-type viewing.

If you'd like to see more Teaser Tuesday offerings, or do some teasing yourself, just head on over to The Purple Booker and leave your link. And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Beginnings: The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal, by Brunonia Barry (Crown, January 2017). These are the first lines of the book's Prologue:
November 1, 1989
Salem, Massachusetts 
Isn't it a little late for praying? Tom Dayle thought but did not say.

About the Book:
"When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween night, Salem's chief of police, John Rafferty wonders if there is a connection between his death and Salem's most notorious cold case, a triple homicide dubbed 'The Goddess Murders,' in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. He finds unexpected help in Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims newly returned to town. Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. Were the women victims of an all-too-human vengeance, or was the devil raised in Salem that night? And if they cannot discover what truly happened, will evil rise again?"

Initial Thoughts:

I haven't actually started this one yet, so I'm not really sure exactly who Tom Dayle is or why he's in such a negative mood. But too late for praying sounds like things must be pretty bad.

I loved Brunonia Barry's first book (The Lace Reader, 2006) but was not as impressed with her second effort (The Map of True Places, 2010) — not a terrible read, just not as good as I'd expected. I've been waiting quite a while now for this new book, and I have high hopes.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Man Booker International Prize Longlist

Candidates for this year's Man Booker International Prize have been announced with the release of a 13-book longlist. The prize is awarded annually for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK. The award of £50,000 (about $61,020) is divided equally between the author of the winning book and its translator. A shortlist of six books will be released April 20th, and the winner named on June 14th in London. This year's longlisted titles are:
  • Compass by Mathias Enard (France), trans. by Charlotte Mandell
  • Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg (Poland), trans. by Eliza Marciniak
  • A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman (Israel), trans. by Jessica Cohen
  • War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (Belgium), trans. by David McKay
  • The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (Norway), trans. by Don Bartlett & Don Shaw
  • The Traitor's Niche by Ismail Kadare (Albania), trans. by John Hodgson
  • Fish Have No Feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson (Iceland), trans. by Phil Roughton
  • The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke (China), trans. by Carlos Rojas
  • Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou (France), trans. by Helen Stevenson
  • Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer (Germany), trans. by Katy Derbyshire
  • Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors (Denmark), trans. by Misha Hoekstra
  • Judas by Amos Oz (Israel), trans. by Nicholas de Lange
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina), trans. by Megan McDowell

The 13 books have been translated from 11 different languages, across Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East.

Some interesting titles in the list. Unfortunately, they're not always available here in the US, at least not right away. But the fact that they've been nominated for such a prestigious award can mean wider publication, so I'm sure they'll get here eventually.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Book Beginnings: The Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley (first published 1982). These are the first lines of the book's Prologue:
Morgaine speaks . . .
In my time I have been called many things: sister, lover, priestess, wise-woman, queen.

About the Book:
In Bradley's masterpiece the legend of King Arthur "is for the first time told through the lives, the visions, the perceptions of the women central to it. For the first time, the Arthurian world of Avalon and Camelot with all its passions and adventures — the world that, through the centuries, each generation has re-created in countless works of fictions, poetry, drama — is revealed as is might have been experienced by its heroines: by Queen Guinevere, Arthur's wife (here called Gwenhwyfar); by Igraine, his mother; by Viviane, the majestic Lady of the Lake, High Priestess of Avalon; and, most important, by Arthur's sister, Morgan, who has come down to us as Morgan of the Faeries, as Morgan le Fay — as sorceress, as witch — and who in this epic retelling of the story plays a crucial role both in Arthur's crowning and destruction. Above all it is a story of the profound conflict between Christianity and the old religion of Avalon."

Initial Thoughts:

Well, I'm not sure I can really call them initial thoughts, since I've been thinking about reading this one for several decades now. So when I was looking around recently for a book with MIST in its title, for the Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge, this one immediately came to mind. This could be the year I finally tackle it — it's a real chunkster (somewhere between 800 and 1100 pages, depending on the edition), and I generally try to stay away from anything that long. I'm a slow reader and tend to get bored with anything over 300 or so pages. But I do love the Camelot story, and the idea of seeing it from the female point of view is very attractive. Maybe it's time to just settle down and devote some of my spring reading time to Guinevere and Arthur et al.

So? To read or not to read? Too long to bother with? Or just the right thing to get lost in this month? What d'ya think?

Oh, and the book has been translated into many languages over the years. One of the covers I really like is this one from an Italian edition. (And no, I don't read Italian — regrettably.)

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Baileys Prize Longlist

The longlist has been announced for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, which celebrates "excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world." I believe it was issued yesterday, in time for International Women's Day. The Prize was previously known as the Orange Prize, and after this year will be known as something else — apparently Baileys is "re-focusing" their marketing strategies and dropping sponsorship of the book prize. The award is one of the highest-profile book prizes in the world and one of the very few specifically focused on women.

The winner will be announced June 7, and will receive £30,000 (about $36,500). The longlisted books are:
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
The Mare by Mary Gaitskill
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
Midwinter by Fiona Melrose
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Barkskins by Annie Proulx
First Love by Gwendoline Riley
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

I've got a couple of those title on my "interesting-new-books" list (The Essex Serpent, The Gustav Sonata), but most of the others I'm hearing about for the first time. I did try to read McBride's The Lesser Bohemians last month, but had to abandon it almost immediately — I kept getting tangled up in the stream-of-consciousness confusion. (I'm confused enough on my own.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: The Blazing World

I think this is the first teaser I've posted this year. Where've I been? Anyway, this week my teaser lines come from The Blazing World, by Siri Hustvedt. This snippet comes early in the book, from pg.5 (or Location 118 of the Kindle edition):
Victor Hugo: "God became man, granted. The devil became a woman." 
I've never read Victor Hugo, but I've heard that quote before. And I still resent it.

This is one of those ARCs from a couple of years ago that managed to slip between the cracks in my reading that year. I feel very guilty about that, and really owe the publisher and author an apology. Especially since I'm enjoying the book so much now. Really wish I'd actually read it before now. Oh well....

If you'd like to see more Teaser Tuesday offerings, or do some teasing yourself, just head on over to The Purple Booker and leave your link. And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.