British Reading

Some weeks ago, my tongue was a bit twisty after reading two British books in succession; I can’t help reading them without a British accent in my head! At that time, I was also nursing a bad cough (read: evil virus going around) with lots of mint tea and honey (okay, and some all-butter shortbread), so I was enjoying round-the-clock teatime, perfect for these two books: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend, and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

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The London Eye Mystery


I was out of town with my cousins last weekend for a special marathon of our current favorite show,The Big Bang Theory, and what is fast becoming a weekend tradition: gaming (the hidden object and action strategy type).  Dianne mentioned a book she read recently, and of course when either of us talks about a book we like, the other eventually reads it (because we feed off each other’s compulsions that way!), and so I ended up borrowing her copy of The London Eye Mystery with me to read in between our marathon sessions.

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Trivia, trivia


I’ve thrived on a steady diet of trivia books since childhood,  because I’ve always been a sucker for useless information.

The compulsive book-finisher that I am, I like trivia books because I can read them in fits and starts, and I don’t have to worry about losing the storyline. They’re also great for cleansing the palate in between books, warding off boredom  in the middle of a book thats difficult to finish, or getting some breathing spac (erm, procrastinating much?) while taking on a tedious task — in my case, that’s often writing, or painting.

I just finished four of these books around roughly the same time: Lang’s Compendium of Culinary Nonsense and Trivia by George Lang; The Book of General Ignorance (A Quite Interesting Book) by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson; The Monopoly Companion by Philip Orbanes and Rich Uncle Pennybags; and How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening: A Collection of Literary Encapsulations compiled and edited by E.O. Parrott (books #162-165 for 2009). Continue reading “Trivia, trivia”

Peter Rabbit and company (Picture Book Roundup #6)

I haven’t done a picture book roundup in nearly a month, so here’s one on my Beatrix Potter books (books 86-88 for 2009), because I recently found a great Peter Rabbit gift set at Book Sale

I didn’t really grow up on Beatrix Potter; I was familiar with her books (well, who wouldn’t be, they’re the best selling picture books of all time!) but I didn’t really pay attention to them until later on, I think when I was in high school, when my sister got The Tailor of Gloucester as a Christmas present and it became my favorite Beatrix Potter story.

The Tailor of Gloucester is similar to The Elves and the Shoemaker story, but in Beatrix Potter style, it involves a cat named Simpkin and a band of mice. The tailor needs to sew a coat for the Mayor of Gloucester, and has all the pieces cut out and laid out at his shop, but he is lacking one skein of cherry-colored silk.

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The Lionboy series by Zizou Corder (Conclusion)

Books 4 and 5 for 2009
Lionboy: The Chase
Lionboy: The Truth

My first read for 2009 was the first book of the Lionboy series, which I deemed average, as it started out slow and took a while to pick up.

But getting through the first book was worth it, as the next books in the series prove why Lionboy holds up admirably as a fantasy series.

The series is quite inventive – a boy who can speak Cat; a world with no petroleum; a money-grubbing pharmaceutical giant that creates illnesses to generate a demand for its products; a pack of lions who want to go home – and the whole bliddy circus!

I think the mother-daughter team behind Zizou Corder really got into their groove with the next two books, which had me swiftly turning pages to the end. The story’s framework falls into place, and the story flows more fluidly.

I like the character development in the books, both for the human characters and the animals. Charlie Ashanti, the protagonist, grows on you, with his spunk, intelligence, and Dickensian goodness that shines through without appearing clichéd or contrived.

The rest of the humans make a delightful supporting cast – the misguided (and unlucky) Rafi; Charlie’s unconventional but loving parents Aneba and Magdalen; the half-crazed lion trainer Maccomo; the jolly adventurer King Boris and the loyal (and I suspect dreamy!) Claudio – but it is the animals who steal the show.

I have to say it again, I’m not a fan of talking animals, because they’re normally just two things – twee and cutesy, or excessively symbolic, but the main animal characters in Lionboy stand out because of the right mix of animal-ness and personification. It was also particularly enjoyable for me because of the instrumental roles that felines play in the series, although those who are freaked out by cats (I can think of certain people) would likely cringe while reading this book.

Of the lions, my favorites are Primo the smilodon, who evokes the raw earthiness of a prehistoric animal; and the feisty Elsina. Sergei the cat makes a wonderful wisecracking sidekick, while Ninu the chameleon was a stroke of genius.

Another thing I like about the book: the vivid descriptions. They live in a world similar to ours but gone off on a tangent, and it is successfully established in the little details incorporated into the story rather than handed out in tidy exposition. The adventure is also more exciting because the highly imaginative settings were truly fleshed out: the Circe, the floating circus, because it was wild and raucous as a circus should be; Venice, (I love books set in Venice – there’s just something magical and madly romantic about the place); the exotic Essaouira; and even the Corporacy communities – you could just feel what it’s like to live there.

Fred Van Deelen’s whimsical maps and illustrations also serve as the perfect complement to the vivid descriptions. There are score sheets interspersed with the text, too — the series has a soundtrack by Robert Lockhart, I hope I can find it on the Internet.

As the series progresses, it delves more and more into themes of environmentalism and stewardship, genetics, and even discrimination, and it’s admirable how it’s presented in a way a young reader would understand, without any preachy-ness to it, because they’re all incorporated into the story.

And one last highlight: the book is so bliddy British! I generally like British authors more than American ones (especially in fantasy, and in chicklit) because they write better, and the humor is just so spot on. And yes, you can read this book with an accent, and have loads of fun with the Britspeak, particular when Sergei or Rafi are speaking.

Yep, I’ve definitely had my kip.

My copy: Lionboy: The Chase, large paperback from the NBS bargain bin, about P99; Lionboy: The Truth, paperback, also from the NBS bargain bin, P30. See, impulse buys can pay off, and it feels much better when a bargain book turns out to be a great read! :)

My rating: Lionboy: The Chase, 4/5 stars; Lionboy: The Truth, 4/5 stars.
Lionboy series: 4/5 stars.

Photos from fantastic fiction UK