December 28, 2015

The Reading Book Post, December 28th


Hello, everyone!Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Only a few days of 2015 are left and I can't wait to welcome the new year. Plus, The Reading Armchair's blogiversary is approaching. The Reading Book Post this week is mostly Christmas-themed, so enjoy.

  • 82 literary critics have created for the BBC a list of the 100 best British books. The results show that many of these books were written by women. The list is pretty interesting!



  • What's better than listening to a Christmas story? Listen to Ja Rule read How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  for the BBC Radio 1.


  • And if you want to listen to more stories there are plenty of celebrities who have read our most beloved Christmas tales, like The Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol. Enjoy!




  • Have you ever wondered what is the origin of all of the Christmas words we use? Santa Clause, Mistletoe, Tinsel, Carol and many other words are explained. I would never guess the origin of some of those words!


  • Listen to these five clips from the children's books. Can you guess from which books they are and who narrates them? That's one tricky quiz!


  • Which "A Christmas Carol" Character Are You? Take the quiz to find out! I got Tiny Tim, which one  are you?

December 27, 2015

Review: The Ghost of Christmas by K.J. Emrick


Title: The Ghost of Christmas

Author: K.J. Emrick

Series: Darcy Sweet Mystery #4 

Publisher: South Coast Publishing

Date of Publication: 2013

Number of Pages: 75

Summary

Darcy Sweet loves the Christmas season with its snow and Christmas trees and colorful decorations. She also loves the Christmas pageant that her town puts on every year. However this year things don't go as smoothly as hoped when an unexpected visitor shows up: The ghost of a murdered man who was a former pageant Santa. The ghost needs Darcy to find out who his killer is so he may finally rest in peace. However, things are complicated further when there is an attempt on Darcy and her boyfriend's life, while he is wearing the ghost's Santa costume. Will they find the ghost's killer in time when every attempt Darcy makes is being impeded by forces unknown? Will they make it to Christmas in one piece or will the Santa suit claim another victim?

Review

Now that we've reached the last week of the year, I have a confession to make: I like cozy mysteries. The Darcy Sweet Mystery series was my introduction to the genre and as I read more installments from it, I like it even more.

Darcy Sweet lives in Misty Hollows, a town full of mysteries. When something bad is about to happen, a mysterious mist rises in the town, which is quite frequently. For Darcy, who can see ghosts, this often becomes dangerous, as she tries to help the ghosts and solve the mysteries of the town. In the fourth installment of the series, The Ghost of Chrismas, Darcy feels unsure about her future with her boyfriend Jon. This is when the ghost of Roger August visits her and informs her that he was murdered 20 years ago. So, Darcy ones again finds herself in a perilous situation! 

In The Ghost of Christmas, the elements of romance and the problems in the relationship between Darcy and Jon are more central than the murder. This fact doesn't bother me, as it's the fourth book of the series and I've wanted to learn more about the way Jon feels about Darcy's ability. And for a moment, it's so bad that they almost break up. By the end of the book, I feel like both of them learn things about themselves that they weren't aware of and their relationship gets stronger. 

The mystery was quite interesting as well. Darcy's ability and her aunt's ghost give good starting points for the investigation. The Santa suit, also, gives an unpredictable twist to the mystery. Is it really haunted? Like the other novels in the series, the conclusion comes quickly and quite easily. 

All in all, The Ghost of Christmas is a light mystery, easy to read during the holiday season. With the Christmas pageant, it has a wonderful seasonal atmosphere. But don't expect too much suspense, because you'll be disappointed.

So, my advice is...

Visit Misty Hollows!     

December 25, 2015

Review: Snowed In by Rachel Hawthorne


Title: Snowed In

Author: Rachel Hawthorne 

Publisher: HarperTeen

Date of Publication: 2007

Number of Pages: 261

Find it at: Book Depository

Summary

Well, apparently I live here now - my mom just bought the place. And named it after me, Ashleigh, which was nice. But did she know how cold it is here??

Um, it's a tiny island with not much to do, unless you really like sleigh rides. But I gotta say there are quite a few hot guys on this cold island...

Review

First of all, I love Christmas! Every year, around this time I want to read books about the season, and winter, and snow, and Christmas trees, and all these things. Well, I couldn't ask for anything more from Snowed In! This novel is ideal for the holiday season.

Ashleigh Sneaux (I just love the name) has just moved in a tiny island with her mother, where everyone uses sleighs for their transportation, as there are no cars. The island is also located north in the US, so the amount of snow and cold is immense. Think only that Ash moved there from Texas. But, as soon as the two women move to their place, Ash finds out that there are some hot guys in their new community, Chase and Josh. Will she get over the fact that she doesn't date the same guy for more than twice? 

Snowed In has an absolutely adorable story! Ashleigh doesn't do stable relationships and Josh (the main love interest) is already in a long-term one. The way they find their attraction for each other is just too cute, I've been giggling most of the time! Their conversations were hilarious, as well. From the very start, you can see the spark and that they are right for each other. How do you know that it's a great match? When her surname is Sneaux and his is Wynter.

Our main two protagonists, Ash and Josh, are so likable! Ash, at first, finds it difficult to fit in the community, but she tries hard. Her attraction for Josh is instant, which I don't really get, but it's something that I have been expecting. What really bothers me in her character is her stubbornness about the boyfriend thing. Even though she feels all those things for the first time, she still pushes Josh away. Thanks to her best friend Tara they were able to move forward a little! Josh, on the other hand, is so cute! He is the nice guy, he helps Ashleigh a lot and he has to deal with the worst girlfriend. Nathalie, Josh's girlfriend, is the character that I dislike the most in this book. Seriously, what is wrong with her? She refers to Josh as "my boyfriend" and only that and she even admits that she likes having a boyfriend more than she likes Josh himself. Oh well!

Snowed In is definitely an enjoyable read! It has an adorable story and likable characters. They may be a little immature at times, but by the end of the book, they learn their lesson. If you're looking for a holiday read, I recommend it!

So, my advice is...

Go for a sleigh ride!   

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you'll spend this day among the people you love. Since The Reading Armchair's first blogiversary is approaching (January 1st), I'd like to thank all of you who have supported me this year.   

December 24, 2015

Review: The Fin: Fate, is Only Waist Weep... by Matthew Danza

Title: The Fin: Fate, is Only Waist Deep...

Author: Matthew Danza 

Publisher: Self-published

Date of Publication: 2015

Number of Pages: 78

Disclaimer: The author provided me a copy of his book in exchange of an honest review. Thank you so much!

Summary

Lee Kager, her twin brother James, their best friend Adam and their father have been shipwrecked on a sandbar near the shores of Horseshoe Island. Stranded several miles from the local shore with no means of communication and the ocean’s tide rising fast, the only thing standing between them and the shore is a shark with an appetite for human flesh. Join their quest for survival as they fight their way to shore. Inspired by the blockbuster hit, Jaws. Read the book before you go swimming, and know that fate, is only waist deep.

Review

I have never read a book about a shark attack, not even Jaws. Maybe because I live in a country where shark sightings are scarce and attacks are even scarcer. But this fact didn't stop me from picking up The Fin, so this novel was my introduction to this particular theme.

The story is quite simple. Lee, our protagonist, goes fishing with her brother, father and best friend. But in a moment when they don't pay attention, they hit a sandbar and so their boat is gradually sinking. As they try to find a way to inform somebody that they need help, due to lack of signal and broken radio, the first attack happens. As it's only natural, their panic grows and so they desperately try to find a way to survive.

But there is one problem. About half of the book is just setup. We get to know our characters, Lee's relationship with each one of them, her concern about the future and all these things that make us feel for her. Normally, this is one thing that I look for in a novel, but here I felt that I needed less, or, at least, I needed the action to come earlier. Apart from that, once the boat hits the sandbar it becomes really interesting and I couldn't really put it down. You feel the danger they are in and you know that they only have a few hours before the tide sinks the boat completely. Moreover, they are hungry and thirsty and shocked. Everything is against them!

As I've already said, Lee is well-developed. We learn about her plans for the future, how she feels about the island she grew up and her relationship with the other three characters. I particularly understand her need to leave the island. I felt really close to her and that's why I felt sorry for her and anxious about her survival. But I could use more information about the other three characters, Lee's brother James, their friend Adam and the twin's father. There are some nice parts where they recall stories of the past that let glimpses of their characters reach us and I'd love to discover more.

The Fin is a short novel, but a well-written one. Except for the issues I've already stated, it's a novel with great action. I am a little unsure about the first half of it, some parts of the conversations between the characters felt forced, but once the shark actually appears the thrill is there. It was a great introduction to shark attacks and I'm certainly glad that I've read it.

So, my advice is...

Swim Among the Sharks!   

December 21, 2015

The Reading Book Post, December 21st


Hello, everyone! It's only four days until Christmas and, honestly, I can't wait! I like spending this day with my family and this year in particular I'm in the mood for this holiday season. Anyway, let's see what happened in the literary world the previous week.

  • The poet Allen Prowle has returned the award money he received when he got the 2015 Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation due to allegations of plagiarism. He had received the award for his translation of Johnson Brothers Ltd by Rutger Kopland.


  • You can now read an exclusive excerpt of Kerry Kettler's upcoming novel, The First Time She Downed. The book is due in March 2016. You can also see a preview of Allen: Son of Hellcock, written by Will Tracy and Gabe Kopolwitz and features art by Miguel Porto. The Z2 comic is now available!


  • A homeless man in France has written his memoirs about the 27 years he has spent on the streets of Paris. The book is called Je Tape La Manche: Une Vie Dans La Rue (My Life as a Panhandle: A Life on the Streets) and has sold nearly 50,000 copies. 

  • A recent survey by Vervesearch has shown that the bestselling books have increased in length by 25% over the last 15 years. Isn't that great?

  • Did you like The Martian? Andy Weir has revealed that his next novel will take place on the Moon, will feature a female protagonist and we should expect it either in late 2016 or early 2017. I can't wait!

  • A very rare watercolour illustration of a Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale has been sold at an auction. The illustration was created by Key Nielsen in 1923 and it shows the nightingale that sings for the Emperor of China. Isn't it beautiful?

  • Margaret Atwood will write in collaboration with Johnnie Christmas the new graphic novel Angel Catbird. The graphic novel will be about a very unusual superhero who is part cat and part bird and it will be released in the fall of 2016. 

  • Now that the end of 2015 is approaching you will see many lists about the best books of the year. Here is a list of the best book covers of 2015 according to The New York Times. Some of those covers are really impressive!

  • Which Studio Ghibli Female Character Are You? Take the quiz to find out! I got Shizuku Tsukishima from the film Whisper of the Heart and I couldn't be happier. Which one did you get?

December 20, 2015

Review: Undertow by Toni Holly

Title: Undertow

Author: Toni Holly 

Publisher: Pink Gables Publishing

Date of Publication: 2015

Number of Pages: 123

Disclaimer: The author provided me a copy of his book in exchange of an honest review. Thank you so much!

Summary

A hereditary curse.

Tiffany "Tiffy" Schafer is a novice Shaman. Saddled with spook-o-vision on her sixteenth birthday, Tiffy can chat with ghosts and may eventually be able to speak with Nature spirits like her Nana. Instead of vacations and sunbathing, she gets to spend an exciting summer in strict tutelage of how to use her new "gifts."

A summer of strange disappearances.

After a friend of Tiffy's ex-boyfriend goes missing, the boy returns as a grotesque Merrow: an undead thrall of a water witch. She realizes there's something fishy going on in her coastal town than simple disappearances. Caught in the middle of this brewing supernatural battle is the boy Tiffy swore to love forever. The prize: his heart.

Review

Undertow is a very quick paranormal read, yet one that I enjoyed immensely. I've always liked stories about shamans and spirits and this one has plenty of these two! You also know by now my fascination with folklore, so encountering creatures like merrows is a bonus for me.

Tiffany, our protagonist, is a shaman in training. At least, that's her intention of spending her summer with her Nana, from which she inherited her gift as well. One day, two ghosts ask for her help and the same morning she accidentally learns that her friend is missing. From this point on, everything gets complicated as she finds herself in a dangerous situation. This novel has a very intriguing story, which sucked into its world from the very beginning. It has some twists towards the end that I wasn't expecting, which certainly added to the enjoyment. My only problem is that I'd like it to be more extensive. I felt that when the action reached its peak, the resolution came too quickly.

Tiffy, also known as the Tiffinator, is a very likeable character. We feel for her when she meets her ex-boyfriend with a new girl, or when he tries to approach her and she's confused. We are anxious when she is in danger and we are shocked by her findings. But she is a strong character and she copes with everything that comes in her way with an admirable determination. The only thing I could say is that I'd like the secondary character to have a more active role in the story. I liked Father Vincent instantly, but he appeared very little in the novel. Also, Nana could be a great guide for Tiffy, a thing that I missed.

Therefore, Undertow proved to be a great novel, although it is pretty short. The writing is very good and it makes you want to know more about the story and the characters. The ending left me feeling that there might be a sequel, or at least other adventures with Tiffany and her new-found powers. If you like paranormal novels, I recommend it wholeheartedly!

So, my advice is...

Dive deep in the ocean!

December 19, 2015

Review: Nightmares by Dan Sihota


Title: Nightmares

Author: Dan Sihota

Publisher: Self-published

Date of Publication: 2015

Number of Pages: 121

Disclaimer: The author provided me a copy of his book in exchange of an honest review. Thank you so much!

Summary

A collection of stories which chill the senses with tales of vivid imagery. Prepare to be drawn into worlds of dark innermost secrets, bleak violence, and ancient lore.

Review

Nightmares is a collection of nine short stories. All of them deal with situations that feel like nightmares do come true, so I couldn't imagine a better title for the collection. 

Some of the stories are pretty realistic, while others have heavy supernatural elements. Whether a young man is taking the bus to visit his girlfriend, or a group of friends travel to India, things get really quickly out of hand. And there is no hope to be seen. In fact, all of protagonists have dark futures ahead of them. I like the fact that superstition and folklore is a part of some of these stories and these are the ones that I prefered, stories like The Spell, Dead Man's Fruit and The Field. I also like the fact that many of them are set in India, a country that seems so different from my own, yet has such rich traditions. 

But I didn't find all of the stories that appealing. For example, the first two stories, Road Rage and The Bus Journey, left me unsure. I couldn't really understand why things were happening the way they did. In these two stories, I couldn't really connect with the characters, because I felt that I was lacking information about their idiosyncrasy. 

The rest of the protagonists, though, were pretty likeable and I was sorry to see them in misery and distress. Ok, some of them brought their bad luck upon themselves, but I was still sad about the way the ended up. I have to comment in particular about the main character of the short story called Torture. He is such a well-developed character that I was very impressed.

All in all, Nightmares is a good collection of unsettling stories. This is a pretty quick read and if you love horror stories and maybe a little bit of violence, then you'll definitely find something to like. 

So my advice is...

Live your nightmares!

December 16, 2015

Review: Slade House by David Mitchell


Title: The Slade House

Author: David Mitchell

Publisher: Random House

Date of Publication: 2015

Number of Pages: 238

Find it at: Book Depository

Summary

Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.

Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside? For those who find out, it’s already too late...

Review

Before anything else I have to declare that I'll try not to sound too much of a fangirl. I'll sincerely try.

Slade House is a collection of five stories all revolving around a mysterious house in Slade alley. Each story is nine years after the previous one and they are all related in some way or another. This is not a new pattern for David Mitchell, as we've seen him do something similar both in Ghostwritten and in Cloud Atlas. Nevertheless, the way everything adds up in the story of Slade House and at the same time in Mitchell's universe brings us closer to understand it better and reach out for its secrets.

The stories of the Slade House are intriguing. They are short, and quite easy to read, yet they suck you in a bizarre world which is not that much different from our own. The only difference? The existence of supernatural creatures. Deeply connected to the Bone Clocks, we encounter once again the Atemporals which suck human souls, in order to live forever. But Norah and Jonah Grayer work on their own, hidden from the Shaded Way. The twins, are indeed soul vampires. They have created a system which enables their souls to live on with the condition that their birth bodies remain intact and they provide energy for this system every nine years. The energy they need is of course the soul of an engifted person. So, every nine years they choose someone and lure him into the Slade House.

In that way, the five victims that we get to know are the ones from the last five decades of the Grayer twins. Each one has completely different circumstances, different age and gender and different ways of perceiving what they are going through. The one thing that I found in common is that they all faced serious problems. For example, on the one hand, Nathan Bishop is a socially awkward boy and on the other hand Inspector Edmonds has grave financial problems. Sally Timms is the next victim and she has self-esteem and anxiety problems and she is followed in the next decade by her sister Freya who tries to figure out what actually happened to her sister. The last one that enters the Slade House is none other than Marinus,  the same one from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and The Bone Clocks. You can guess my delight when I got to the last story and encountered Marinus for another time! He/she is one of my all-time favourite characters and it's never disappointing. Apart from Marinus, I liked all of the protagonists. I was able to understand their way of thinking and how they dealt with each situation. I got closer to Sally Timms because I felt that she was closer to my own character. And she got caught with the most hellish way!

While reading the stories I was able to find a certain pattern in the way the Grayer twins realised their plans. Each one of the victims has a very specific reason to find Slade House, or at least to be near the Slade Alley. They all encounter a jogger wearing black and glow-in-the-dark orange, which might be a coincidence, but by the end we know that Norah is using the mind of this jogger. Later, when they enter the house they are compelled for some reason to go up the stairs, they see the clock with no hands, they see the portraits of the previous victims on the walls and they also see a portrait of themselves. When they reach the end of the stairs they find a door with a shiny doorknob and when they enter they find themselves in a totally different environment, where everything is as they'd wanted it to be. But in their most blissfull moment they awake into a dark attick with ony the candlelight and this sums it up. I find it very appealing that there is this certain ritual, it indicated that the Grayer twins are very methodic in their ways. Maybe they are a little archaic, as Marinus points out, but they stick to them and up to a point they succeed.

But can the Slade House stand as a horror novel? There is neither much violence in it, nor much blood spilt. In fact, there is no blood shed. Norah and Jonah are interested only in the souls of the engifted ones. If there were other people with them, they were just casualties that they had to get rid of. But it's creepy and weird and can certainly give you goosebumps. I remember when I was reading the first story, The Right Sort, I was shocked by the way the twins manipulated Nathan and the same thing happened again and again in all the following stories. I can conclude that the atmosphere was right.

As I've already told you Slade House fits perfectly in the universe David Mitchell has created with his work. The biggest proof is Marinus, a character that appeared in other two novels and I hope will appear again in the future. We learn that the twins learnt the Shaded Way, from The Bone Clocks, as well as that Norah had contacted Enomoto Sensei, whose grandfather appeared in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. But there are also subtler nods to Mitchell's previous novels. Someone is reading Crispin Hersey's Desiccated Embryos (from The Bone Clocks), another is dreaming of Vyvyan Ayrs (from Cloud Atlas) and a third is working for the Spyglass magazine (The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas). This world just keeps getting more and more real with each new novel!

All in all, Slade House was an excellent book for me. I waited for its publication for a long time and I wasn't disappointed at all. Once I got reading it, I couldn't put it down. Although it's not necessary to have read The Bone Clocks before this one, I would strongly recommend that you do so. You will get a better understanding what Norah and Jonah Grayer really is and so the story will become clearer. So, if you've read and enjoyed The Bone Clocks and you like David Mitchell's writing style. you will love it. But if you haven't read anything by this author before, I would advise you to begin with some of his other novels first. Lastly, I have to admit that the end of this novel made me ask for more and I could certainly see Norah Grayer returning to get her revenge.

So, my advice is...

Don't open the small black iron door!


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