Friday 27 March 2009

Non-fiction Five challenge

Reading-wise, one thing I'm very remiss about is reading enough non-fiction. It's silly because I actually enjoy non-fiction quite a lot, but I always automatically gravitate towards fiction when I'm choosing my next book. To encourage myself I'm going to join a new challenge for the summer - The Non-fiction Five challenge which is being hosted by Trish at Trish's Reading Nook.

The Rules: (unchanged from previous years)

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2009 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found each month on this blog)

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

My list... though this will no doubt change:

1. Birds, Beasts and Relatives - Gerald Durrell (memoirs, natural-history)
2. Solomon Time - Will Randall (travel)
3. Trains and Buttered Toast - John Betjeman (essays)
4. Underground London - Stephen Smith (history)
5. Anything Goes - John Barrowman (memoirs)
6. On Hitler's Mountain - Irmgard Hunt - (memoirs, history)
7. The Cruellest Journey - Kira Salak (travel)

As you can see, I can't count.

Anyway, looking forward to this challenge immensely. Anything that makes me read more non-fiction has got to be a good thing.

Wednesday 25 March 2009


I've reached the stage where I'm now reading the same books as my eight year old grandaughter. I'm not sure if that means I'm going backwards or she's leaping forwards... or maybe we've met in the middle. Whatever. It was great fun talking with her about Larklight by Philip Reeve this afternoon and I love that we've reached this delightful point in our grandma/grandaughter relationship. She loved this YA book and I liked it rather a lot too.

Twelve year old Arthur Mumby lives at Larklight with his older sister, Myrtle. They are Victorian children of the British Empire. Their mother is dead, their father is a mad scientist type and Larklight is no ordinary house; it floats in space, as a matter of fact, not far from the moon. When the house is invaded by huge spider creatures and their father captured and presumed dead, the children flee by way of an escape pod and end up on the moon. Here they run into all kinds of problems not least of which is being captured by a Potter moth and imprisoned in jars. Their rescue comes courtesy of Jack Havock, a teenage pirate, and his gang of weird and wonderful followers. He sweeps them away on his pirate vessel and they and up on Venus where Myrtle is captured by the spiders and whisked away to Mars. Although there's no love lost between Art and his sister, Art is desperate to rescue her and, oddly enough, so is Jack. Their quest takes them all over the solar system, into much swashbuckling danger, and Art eventually discovers the secret of his home, Larklight.

Philip Reeve has created a weird and wonderful alternate universe in this, the first of his Larklight trilogy. The setting is Victorian times but not as we know it. Space travel is possible and famous travellers of the age, such as Richard Burton, are space explorers not earthly ones. The moon, Mars, and Venus have all been colonised and the 'power' of the age is The British Empire.

This author also produced the Mortal Engine series for slightly older children, of which I've read two, and I wondered if there would be similarities. There are in the shape of um... not sure how to put this... the engineering, mechanical kind of feel to the books. In Mortal Engines, whole cities move around by way of amazing engines; in this series ships float through space by way of a 'chemical wedding'. It's all very imaginative and 'different' and I must say I like Philip Reeves's writing very much indeed, even if it's not really aimed at my age group! The style is very tongue-in-cheek; the two narrators, Art and Myrtle (by way of her diaries) are very Victorian in their speech and attitudes but there's a delightful dry wit on display. The book is beautifully illustrated by David Wyatt who, like Mr. Reeve, also lives here in Devon.

Two more books follow this, Starcross and Mothstorm and I'll definitely be reading those when I see them in the library. This is my 1st. book for Carl's Once Upon a Time III challenge and my 6th. book for J.Kaye's Support your local library challenge.

Monday 23 March 2009

Short stories - Charles De Lint

Despite it being Mothering Sunday yesterday I still managed a very quiet weekend due to still getting over my cold bug thing. So I finished a book and also read several short stories for Carl's Once Upon a Time III challenge -

The anthology I chose off the pile was by Charles De Lint:

I'd read the first story in this 'Newford' anthology previously so I moved straight on to the next three.

1) Mr Truepenny's Book Emporium and Gallery. This story concerns 'Sophie' who, as a child, is a latchkey kid after her mother runs off and leaves her with her father. Money is short so Sophie has few things to entertain her. She borrows books from the library but is a quick reader so those are soon read. As they have no TV she draws or daydreams and it's while doing this one day that she invents a book and art gallery shop, run by a Mr. Truepenny, where she can go in her head. Except that sometimes she feels it's not imaginary but very real; she even invents unique books and paintings to stock the shop. Eventually, of course, she grows up and outgrows her 'visits' to the shop and forgets all about it... until one day she is out shopping and a young girl looks at her accusingly and tells Sophie that it's *her* fault that Mr. Truepenny is being evicted. Sophie is shocked to the core. How can this child know about a shop that only existed in Sophie's head?

2) The Forest is Crying. Dennison is a social worker in despair. He's failed to save a child that was in his care and breaks down after identifying the body. He decides it's time for a career change and gets rather drunk while he thinks about his decision. He's taken home by a woman he met earlier in the day who'd tried to get him to take leaflets about saving the rainforest, but who seems to know him. She watches him overnight to make sure he's all right and leaves the next morning, leaving a phone number and address. When Dennison goes to the address later on the woman isn't there. Instead there's mother and an obviously beaten child...

3) The Wishing Well. Brenda is friends with Wendy (who appeared very briefly in the Mr. Truepenny story) and Jilly Coppercorn. But Brenda has problems. These stem from a difficult childhood - her father died when she was very young. Brenda feels fat, when she really isn't, has severe money problems, and never seems to be able to keep a boyfriend. She meets 'Jim' who seems really interested but Brenda can't understand that he likes her for herself and goes on a crash diet and gives up smoking. The effect is catastrophic and Brenda loses her job and thus can't pay off her debts. She disappears and goes to live in an abandoned motel where there's a very strange wishing well that Brenda has often been to before and heard voices...

Three really good stories from Charles De Lint, my favourite being The Wishing Well. I love his rather dreamy, conversational style of writing that sucks you right into someone's story... a story if written by someone else might not interest you in the slightest. I also like the way he manages to connect most of the stories. Often the connection is Jilly Coppercorn, the fae artist, but other times it's one of her friends or a friend of a friend or even a place. This is only my second Newford book and it's a year since I read the first but I fell right into it like I'd never been away. That's mark of a skilful writer, imo. Looking forward to reading the rest of these stories and would like to read some of the Newford novels but am finding it hard to find a list that suggests a good order to read them in.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Blood Bound

The fault for my current addiction to the Mercy Thompson series by Patrica Briggs lies with Susan and Kailana I believe, though I think I'd probably read about them elsewhere before I took the plunge and bought the first one a month or so ago. Anyway, this is book two of the series, Blood Bound.

Mercy is not best pleased when she's woken in the middle of the night by Stefan, her vampire friend, her *only* vampire friend as a matter of fact, because rule number one when dealing with vampires is that you should never trust them. Not ever. He reminds her that she owes him a favour and she reminds him what time it is. It makes no impression and, next thing you know, Mercy finds herself outside a hotel, with Stefan, in her guise as a coyote to bear witness to Stefan's dealings with the dangerous being in one of the rooms. It's Stefan's hope that it won't realise that Mercy is any more than a pet. Inside and face to face with a vampire/sorcerer that's being ridden by a demon, Mercy has the worse experiences of her life and the rogue vampire escapes unscathed, unlike her and Stefan.

Back at home with her two werewolf suitors, Adam and Samuel, furious at the danger she exposed herself to, the decision is made that the pack will hunt this being and bring him down. But the local vampire seethe has other ideas of course and things become confused and downright life threatening for all concerned. Mercy simply cannot work out what is going on and who is really responsible for the mess they find themselves in. But solve the riddle she must before... well... I'm not saying. :-)

I can't get enough of these books at the moment. I love Briggs' writing and the wonderful characters she's created in Mercy, Adam and Samuel. And she spends no less time in making secondary characters compelling as well, imo. I like Bran, the Marrok of the US and Samuel's father, Stefan because he's *good* but with a real edge to him, Warren the gay werewolf and his boyfriend, Kyle, Jesse, Adam's human daughter, even Marsilia, the Mistress of the vampires. She's so clearly evil but with weaknesses that mean she's not at all two dimensional as a character, but has real depth. Briggs makes you trust her when you really shouldn't and, to my mind, that shows real skill as an author.

And I love, love, love the edginess and the ambivilence to Mercy's relationships with Adam and Samuel. Despite being a Coyote herself, she knows there is real danger in hooking up with either of these two and has to be permanently on her guard, especially with the Alpha male, Adam, who seems to have the ability to mesmerise her in some peculiar way. It's very erotic without being terribly explicit, and how nice to find an author who can achieve that!

I'm banging on about these books, I realise it. *g* But for me they're a perfect read with their mix of horror, romance and whodunnit, or *why*dunnit sometimes; pageturners extraordinaire. I have two left to read, so will not go straight on to book three because otherwise I'll be finished and have none left! And then I'll be in a situation which I don't often find myself in, that of waiting anxiously for new books in a series to come out. I can hear Deslily laughing already...

Friday 20 March 2009

Once Upon a Time III

Absolutely thrilled and delighted to see that Carl has posted about this year's Once Upon a Time challenge. For several weeks now I've been thinking about which books to choose and even saving books up... the pile steadily growing and growing like Topsy. I even stopped myself reading fantasy books when I wanted to with the idea that come the challenge I would be so ready for a fantasy novel I would gobble up all the books in my pool! Heh. ;-) We'll see...

So, without further ado, The Once Upon a Time III challenge.

Such a beautiful and mysterious image.

The Quest I've decided to do is:

Which is to...

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time III criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

I've decided on a pool of books to read from but tend, very often, to go off on a tangent, so we'll see how it goes. I don't think it matters one way or other but I would like to read at least a few off this list:

Larklight - Philip Reeve (a library book that will double for my 'support your local library' challenge.)
Infernal Devices - Philip Reeve (book 3 of his Mortal Engines series)
Truckers - Terry Pratchett
Over Sea, Under Stone - Susan Cooper
Jack of Kinrowan - Charles De Lint (2 books in one)
Ship of Magic - Robin Hobb (book 1 of the Liveship Traders trilogy)
The Wood Wife - Terri Windling
Shadow Bridge - Gregory Frost
The Ropemaker - Peter Dickinson ( a double-up with my Awards challenge)
Daughter of the Blood - Anne Bishop
Here, There Be Dragons - James A. Owen
The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
Morrigan's Cross - Nora Roberts
Diggers - Terry Pratchett
Wings - Terry Pratchett

As well as those I plan to take part in...

This quest involves the reading of one or more short stories that fit within at least one of the four genres during the course of the weekend. Ideally you would post about your short story readings on Sundays or Mondays, but this is not strictly necessary.

The books I've chosen to pick my stories from are:

Comic Fantasy edited by Mike Ashley
Great Fantasy edited by Robert Silverberg and Martin H. Greenberg
The Ivory and the Horn - Charles De Lint

And that's about it. The Once Upon a Time III challenge will run from now until the 20th. June and I hope everyone who's doing it has a lot of fun. I'll be starting soon but first I have to finish Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Remember Me?

I'm once again inhabiting the world of blocked up noses, sinus headaches, and coughs and sneezes (spreading diseases), thus, easy reading is on the menu for me at the moment. Nothing requiring too much concentration, so one of the books on my library pile was just the thing: Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella.

Lexi's life is a bit of a shambles. She has a rubbish job, a rubbish boyfriend, name of 'Loser Dave', and an oddball family. She's out one night with her friends who are celebrating their bonuses - she didn't get one because you had to have been working a year for her company and she was a week short - and takes a really bad tumble while going for a taxi. She wakes up in hospital, bruised and battered, but things are not quite right. They tell her she was in a car crash when she knows she can't drive. She discovers she has expensive belongings, is in the private ward of the hospital and... horror of horrors... is married. Lexi, it appears, has lost 3 years of her life: she has amnesia.

Back at home with her husband, Eric, Lexi discovers she is wealthy. They live in a massive loft appartment and have very expensive tastes. To say she's bewildered is a gross understatement. Her next discovery is that rather than being an underling in her company, she is now the boss of her previous department, and worse... she was horrible, the boss from hell; her friends now hate her. But still, she has this marvellous new expensive lifestyle to compensate doesn't she? Her husband is good looking and attentive and clearly loves her? Well no, the reality is that he's a stranger now, one she doesn't love or even recognise any more. And then there's Jon, Eric's architect. Where does he fit into the equation? He's clearly suffering badly over Lexi's loss of memory. Somehow, Lexi has to rebuild her life, relearn all her work skills, get to know the people in her life again, find out who's lying to her and why and, most important, find out who she *really* is.

Let's get something straight - I'm not the world's biggest chick-lit fan. I do, however, love a bit of romance in my reading, so you'd think I'd be a big fan? No. The thing is, if I'm going to read a romance I want to be hit around the head with the emotions. I want to suffer with the characters, fall in love with the hero, hate him when there's some misunderstanding and the heroine is devastated and so on and so on. For some reason, chick-lit doesn't supply this for me; I find it insubstantial in the emotions department. Of course, I should add - rather sheepishly - that I'm no expert as I haven't really read loads of it; I perhaps ought to do a bit more research before I declare that I'm not really a fan...

Anyhow, all that said there's always an exception to the rule and for me that author is Sophie Kinsella. She's best known for her Shopoholic books of course and I like those well enough, but my favourite book of hers is a stand-alone, The Undomestic Goddess, or it was. Remember Me? is now my favourite... I really, really enjoyed it. The plot accounts for a lot of that. It's an unusual situation and you suffer along with Lexi because you have no idea what's going on either. As the plot thickens, so to speak, and things get horribly complicated with her relationships and at work, it really is quite upsetting. No lack of emotion here... the pages whip by as you find you can't put the book down! Two nights in a row I've been up till 1.30am, despite a rotten cold, because I just couldn't stop reading. And now I've finished - the ending was very satifactory in every way - I feel quite bereft. Luckily, there's another of her stand-alones I haven't read and that's Can You Keep a Secret? Needless to say, I've just reserved it from the library.

This is book number 5 for my Support your local library challenge, being hosted by J.Kaye.

Sunday 15 March 2009

The Reaper

Well, now I seem to be back on a crime story kick. Author, Peter Lovesey, was recommended to me some while ago by somebody or other but I'm not sure who. So what I did was nabbed a couple of his books that I spotted in charity shops. This is one of those: The Reaper.

Otis Joy is a murderer. A serial murderer to be exact. He is young, handsome, charismatic and the new rector in the village of Foxford. Aside from murder, his other crime is embezzling church funds and this is where the story starts, with the bishop accusing him of misappropriating funds from his last living. Not long after this the bishop is found dead at the bottom of a quarry, having apparently committed suicide; it was said he couldn't live with his sexual perversions. No one suspects the young and charming vicar, Otis Joy, of any sort of crime.

The next to go is Stanley Burrows, the treasurer of the PCC in Foxford. He has decided to give up the post and plans to hand over the books to his successor, explaining various things that Otis would really rather he did not. Otis arranges that the new treasurer be Rachel, a young woman, keen church goer and helper at fund raising events. She is married to Gary, ten years older than herself and, quite frankly, a bit of an oaf. Like several of the women in the parish, Rachel falls heavily for Otis and things get slightly out of hand one evening when he brings the treasurer's books around for her to peruse, while Gary is in the USA. Gary returns and smells a rat. He goes to confront the vicar, having no idea at all of the danger he's putting himself into. Meanwhile, Burton Sands, the young accountant who wanted Rachel's treasurer's job, is busy investigating...

Hard to overstate how much I enjoyed this one. It's a real page-turner of a book that doesn't rest on its laurels for five minutes. We learn within the first few pages what Otis Joy is, so this is not your run-of-the-mill crime story with a detective figuring out clues. This is a 'he did it, watch what else he does, and see if he gets away with it' kind of yarn. So, as the reader you're in the position of knowing everything that's going on. Well *almost*. There are a couple of twists that keep you guessing and Lovesey leads you up the garden path a bit too... right up to the end in fact.

Otis Joy is wicked beyond words but somehow you just love him. The author describes his looks as rather 'young Harrison Ford'... I just couldn't picture that at all. For me he came over as pure David Tennant and if they ever dramatise it (they won't obviously) they need to grab him and make him do it: with his ambivilent personality he'd be fantastic.

Anyway, all that said, it can be supposed that I loved the book and you'd be right. No quibbles at all, it was just perfect and I'll be reading a lot more Peter Lovesey. I have the first two Peter Diamond books on my tbr pile and grabbed The Circle from the library yesterday (about a writing group apparently) and a book of short stories. I think I'm going to enjoy this 'new to me' author rather a lot.

ETA: Peter Lovesey won the CWA 'Cartier Diamond Dagger' lifetime achievement award in 2000 so I'll be adding this to my list of books for my Book awards reading challenge.

Thursday 12 March 2009

The Valley of Secrets

The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey was one of those random library picks. I do it occasionally - instead of looking for specific books or authors I pick up what looks a bit interesting, and this YA book, with it's lovely cover illustration of a wrought iron gate, looked... well... different.

Teenager, Stephen Lansbury, is alone. His mother abandoned him as a baby, or so he has always been led to believe, and he's been brought up in care. He's now in a bedsit having just finished a course, with no clue what to do with his life. Salvation comes in the form of a letter summoning him to a solicitor's office in Lincoln's Inn Field. Here he meets Albert Postlethwaite, a plant mad lawyer, who informs him that his Great Uncle Theodore has died and that Stephen is heir to his large estate in Cornwall. Stephen, having no idea he even *had* a Great Uncle Theodore, is astonished and confused but the solicitor refuses to enlighten him further, merely providing him with the means to get himself to Cornwall on the train.

Arriving, eventually at the gates of the estate, with dreams of kindly housekeepers and wonderful food floating around in his head, Stephen is shocked to find the path beyond the gates overgrown and, even more so, to find the house empty and neglected. An independent boy he sets about looking after himself, which basically means camping out in the house. But odd things start to happen. Items he knows he has placed somewhere are moved, wood for the stove arrives in the kitchen with no sign of who put it there, and things go missing. And there are odd sounds and noises in the woods... like nothing Stephen, a keen naturalist, has ever heard before.

Stephen then makes a discovery in the library: his uncle Theodore's travel diaries from when he and a mysterious person, referred to only as 'B', travelled and spent two years in the Amazon rain forest. Stephen starts to read...

Well, *different* is certainly a good way to describe this YA book. Charmian Hussey apparently wrote it for her teenage son, some seventeen years ago and then stored it in the attic. How it came to be published I'm not sure, it doesn't say, and in a way I'm almost surprised it was because it doesn't really fit into your run-of-the-mill YA fantasy type book. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting, which was some kind of supernatural element to it, although it definitely has a slightly creepy atmosphere in the beginning and there is certainly a mystery to the plot.

The travelogue element was also unusual in a children's book... but a very good part of it. I got quite wrapped up the uncle's adventures up the Amazon and his encounters with Amazonian Indians. It all sounded very authentic indeed.

Where exactly Lansbury Hall is situated, in Cornwall, the author doesn't hint at. My local knowledge tells me somewhere on or around Bodmin Moor but I can't be certain of that, it just feels right.

Nit-picks? There is a very slight amateurish feel to the writing, not enough to put me off, but it's there. I also take issue, once again, with a lad brought up in care speaking like a boy who's been educated at Eton. You do wonder what planet some of these writers live on if they think deprived children speak like Prince William.

So who would this book appeal to? Well, anyone interested in ecology, plants and animals, and the future of the rain forests. Hussey knows her stuff and details are precise, apart from one rather delightful imaginary element. All told, it wasn't a bad read, charming, informative, and with some gorgeous illustrations, at the beginning of each chapter, by Christopher Crump... which of course I couldn't resist photographing:

Book 4 for my support your local library challenge being hosted by J.Kaye.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Moon Called

I'm sensing a definite werewolf pattern to my reading at the moment. First Bitten by Kelley Armstrong and now Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I've read about this author's work in various places but most recently here on Susan's blog. She's the Bad Blogger who eventually made me do something about getting hold of the book and actually reading it.

The main character in this book is not a werewolf at all in point of fact. Mercy Thompson is a 'walker', a shapechanger who can change into a coyote but keep the memory of who she is. She has Native American heritage but was brought up in Montana as a member of a werewolf pack; she left when the son of the Alpha wanted to be her mate for all the wrong reasons. Mercy moved to Washington State and bought a garage mechanic business from a Fae. She also got herself a trailer, which just happens to be next door to the residence of the Alpha of the local werewolf pack, Adam. Things turn interesting for Mercy when a teenage werewolf turns up on her doorstep looking for a job. It's clear to Mercy that he's just been changed and could be dangerous but she takes him on anyway. Returning unexpectedly to her garage, late one night, she comes upon the scene of a group, including two werewolves, trying to take the boy away. She intervenes and a chain of events is set into motion that brings her closely into contact with Adam and his pack. Mercy has to return briefly to her adopted pack in Montana, and when she returns she brings Samuel with her, the werewolf that she'd previously had a romantic interest in when she was sixteen. What with the mystery of the deaths that have occurred, the kidnapping of Adam's human daughter, the involvement of the local vampires, and the sudden inexplicable rivalry between Adam and Samuel, Mercy suddenly finds her life more complicated than she could ever have imagined.

Given the cover of this book, I wasn't sure I would take to this book as much as I did. It seems to be the vogue at the moment for most of the paranormal series that are around to sport some scantily clad female on the cover who rarely bears any resemblance to the character they're supposed to represent. I'm not sure who the publishers are trying to appeal to. Obviously not women of my generation so I should shut-up and put-up I suppose but I can't help but be a trifle irritated by the trend.

Anyway, now I've got that off my chest, I'm going to go on to say how much I enjoyed this book. Mercy is an excellent main character. She's independent, smart, a 'good' person and I liked the fact that she's something different to a werewolf with different powers and strengths. The mystery element was strong and I had no idea, until the end, who the perpetrator of the crimes was, or why; red herrings galore sent me completely astray. I like that. I'm also an unashamed romance fan... 'in its place'. There are times when I feel it's inappropriate, but here it most certainly is not and there's a nice 'who is Mercy going to choose?' element to the book, which carries on into the sequels. I know who I want her to choose but it's not a foregone conclusion by any means as there are several choices. Other strengths of the book include its nicely understated humour, the setting in parts of the USA you don't normally hear about, and Patricia Briggs's excellent writing which, unlike some paranormal romance type books, does not annoy me but keeps me turning the pages.

I've already got two of the sequels, Blood Bound and Iron Kissed and, along with Kelley Armstrong's 'Women of the Otherworld' series, am greatly looking forward to reading them all. I think it's going to be a werewolf kind of year. :-)

Thursday 5 March 2009

More snow!

More snow for us this morning! It was forecast but I rather thought we'd just get a few flurries here in Devon, and not much else. Wrong.

The first few are from about eight to nine o'clock this morning:

And this is now:

There were real problems on the roads of Devon, first thing apparently, but it's melting fast and I would think it'll all be gone by the weekend.

Monday 2 March 2009


As far as I know Runemarks, by Joanne Harris, is the author's only foray into the realms of Young Adult fantasy. I've only read one other book by her (her French 'food' type books not really appealing to me) and that was Gentlemen and Players, a psychological crime tale, which I absolutely loved and which made my top ten best reads of last year. I also love YA fantasy so when I saw Runemarks in the library I grabbed it quickly because even though some of her books don't appeal, Joanne Harris can certainly write.

The story concerns Maddy Smith, a fourteen year old girl living in a remote village where she is 'different'. She she has a runemark on her hand, what the villagers call a 'ruinmark', and to them that marks her as magical... someone to avoid or make fun of. Her only friend is One-Eye a nomadic old man from the Outlands, who she meets when she is seven and who reluctantly takes on her magical education during his infrequent visits to the area. It's during her fourteenth year that the goblins from Red Horse Hill are suddenly behaving much worse than normal. The village is becoming overrun with them and it's clear that something is going on. One-Eye sends Maddy on a mission, through the eye of the horse, and into the hill. Alone and having no idea where to go, she finds a goblin, Sugar and Sack, to guide her and they go on a quest to find the thing that One-Eye wants - The Whisperer. The Goblins are being led by a human, known as The Captain, and Sugar and Sack is very anxious not to be caught by him, helping Maddy. They are of course, and the rest of the story hangs on who The Captain actually is, what he has to do with One-Eye and why they both want The Whisperer. The adventure leads them through a subterranean underworld to find The Sleepers and from there Maddy goes on a journey like no other. Not only to the depths of Hel and Dream, but also to find out who she really is and why the future of the Nine worlds depends upon her.

It took me about a hundred pages to get into this story. With another author I might not have persevered but I felt this was worth the effort and so it proved. Truthfully, I'm not that great on stories about gods and know very little about the Norse gods featured here. I'm not sure why god stories don't appeal to me in fantasy books, perhaps it's the whole omnipotent thing, the fact that can behave as they like without having to face the consequences, whatever - it's not my thing. And that was a feature in this book too but somehow I didn't mind. They weren't all powerful here and I took a particular shine to Loki, the trickster, and Odin.

Also nice was Harris's use of a female main character and sticking with her to the bitter end. No replacing her with a boy with whom she has to Fall in Lurve (take note, Mr. Pullman) or giving her fainting fits or hysterics when the going gets rough; Maddy is tough and determined and I liked her a lot.

Complaints? None really. Maybe I would have liked more goblins... I'm still looking for the perfect evil goblin book, (although Clare B. Dunkle's 'Hollow Kingdom' series *is* perfect it's more of a 'romantic goblins' sort of series, not evil ones) so that search will continue.

It's possibly not a book that will go into my best reads of 2009 list. I liked it, enjoyed some of the ideas, and even found the Norse mythology pretty interesting. But it didn't set me alight as, for instance, Robin Hobb's books do. I may be mistaken but the ending indicated to me that Joanne Harris may plan to return to this world and actually, I hope she does, because I would definitely read more.

Oh and *MAP love*! Not one but three at the start of this book. This is the best one, the map of The Nine Worlds:

Book three for J. Kaye's Support your local library challenge.