Books, hockey, and a bucketful of snark

Being the musings of a Yorkshire lass living in the USA. I'm a book geek, bird nerd, grammar Nazi, and hockey nut.  Sarcasm is my default setting. 

Halloween Bingo 2016 - Young Adult Horror

A Certain Slant of Light  - Laura Whitcomb

Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're dead.


Now that's just the kind of opening sentence to suck you into a book. 

Halloween Bingo 2016 updates


Ten books down, still no bingo. I know this is the scenic route, but I really could do with finding the highway sometime soon.


Next up - Young Adult Horror



Witches (9/1/16)

Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett


Classic horror (9/1/16)

The Monkey's Paw, W W Jacobs

Scary women (authors) (9/3/16)

The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Reads with (Booklikes) friends (9/4/16)

Ammie, Come Home, Barbara Michaels


It was a Dark and Stormy Night (9/6/16)

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle

Black Cat (9/6/16)

Coraline, and The Price, Neil Gaiman


Set in New England (9/9/16)

Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane

Magical Realism (9/18/16)

The Ghost Bride, Yangsze Choo


Read by Candlelight/flashlight (9/19/16)

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Alan Garner


Diverse Authors can be Spooky Fun (9/28/16)

The Hundred Secret Senses, Amy Tan


Young Adult Horror
A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Witcomb


The Shining, Stephen King


Full Moon
The Moon of Gomrath, Alan Garner


Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

Young Adult Horror
A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Witcomb

Grave or Graveyard
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde

Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire

Creepy Crawlies
Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham

"Fall" into a Good Book
Before the Fall, Noah Hawley

Locked Room Mystery
Murders in the Rue Morgue, Edgar Allen Poe

Vampires vs Werewolves
Etiquette and Espionage, Gail Carriger

The Rook, Daniel O'Malley

Halloween Party, Agatha Christie

Set on Halloween
Something Wicked this Way Comes, Ray Bradbury


Free Space

Magic Binds, Ilona Andrews (here's hoping)

Halloween Bingo 2016 - Book 10 (Diverse Authors Can be Spooky Fun)

The Hundred Secret Senses - Amy Tan

Diverse Authors can be Spooky Fun : The Hundred Secret Senses, Amy Tan


"The family, that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor in our innermost hearts never quite wish to." - Dodie Smith


I can see where the comparisons with The Ghost Bride came from; 19th Century China, ghosts, reincarnation. But in my opinion this is by far the better book of the two. Tan's writing is deeper, more nuanced, and heartfelt, and her observations about relationships (particularly between the sisters, Kwan and Olivia) are spot on. 


I will definitely be reading more Amy Tan. 

Next year's vacation is in the diary

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America - David Allen Sibley A Field Guide to Western Birds: A Completely New Guide to Field Marks of All Species Found in North America West of the 100th Meridian and North of Mexico - Roger Tory Peterson, Virginia Marie Peterson Birds of Utah Field Guide - Stan Tekiela

Only 12 months to wait. 

Reading progress update: I've read 200 out of 358 pages.

The Hundred Secret Senses - Amy Tan

"I imagine a hundred Chinese Icaruses, molding wings out of earwax. You can't stop people from wishing. They can't help trying. As long as they can see sky, they'll always want to go as high as they can."

Is there a prize for most books read without actually getting a bingo?

A Certain Slant of Light  - Laura Whitcomb

Because I think I'll win it.


I'm dependent on what is available at the library for quite a few of my reads, and have had to put holds on some of them. 


Got the email last night letting me know that my 'YA Horror' square is available for me to pick up, which means yet again, no bingo for me.

Reading progress update: I've read 133 out of 358 pages.

The Hundred Secret Senses - Amy Tan

I'm reading this one for the 'Diverse Authors' square, and so far I'm enjoying it. Amy Tan is one of those authors who has been on my radar forever, but for one reason or another, I just haven't got around to reading.


I love how Tan describes the family dynamics between Kwan, and Olivia, the wildly opposite half-sisters. Olivia, is sensible, pragmatic and conventional, while Kwan has 'yin eyes' and can see and talk to ghosts. 


Siblings. They can be the biggest pain in the arse, embarrass the life out of you, but when push comes to shove, you will defend them against anyone. 

Halloween Bingo 2016

The Hundred Secret Senses - Amy Tan
Diverse Authors can be Spooky Fun
Kwan, a seventeen-year-old Chinese half-sister, turns young Olivia's world upside down with her stories of ghosts of another time, tales that have a profound impact on Olivia's life and imagination, until she discovers a way to reconcile the ghosts of the past with her dreams of the future.
I had a last minute change of plan for this square. After reading and enjoying The Ghost Bride which was compared favourably to Amy Tan's work, I decided that seeing as I hadn't read any Amy Tan, perhaps now was the time to do so.
I chose this one because it has a decidedly supernatural bent which fits nicely into the bingo theme.


Halloween Bingo 2016 - Book 9 (Read by Candlelight/Flashlight)

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner

Read by Candlelight/Flashlight : The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Alan Garner


Alan Garner has written some of the best fantasy books for young adults. And Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, and Susan Cooper have all cited him as having a big influence on their work. Like them, his books have children from our world encountering creatures and people who they thought only existed in the imagination.


"Neither Susan nor her brother, Colin, ever thought that war would be waged over a simple gemstone in her bracelet. But that's what happens when the children visit Alderley Edge, a spooky place in a remote part of England. There, they meet the wizard Cadellin, who needs the stone to rouse his allies in the never-ending battle between good and evil. But when the stone vanishes, Susan and Colin must find it before the forces of evil use it to destroy all the goodness that ever existed in the world."


Garner uses a mix of Celtic and Norse folklore and mythology, so there are plenty of references to Herne the Hunter* and the Wild Hunt, the Morrigan, Brollachan et al. There are cameo appearances by characters from the Arthurian legends, and a 'blink and you'll miss it' mention of the Tarnhelm.


The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was Garner's first novel and it was published in 1960. This is what my much-loved copy (from the 1970s) looked like.




 I haven't read this book in about 40 years, and I think it has held up pretty well. It's a bit creaky in places (Garner himself said it was "a fairly bad book"), but it has all the fantasy elements you could want. Wizards, elves, dwarves, scary creatures, and human children who don't have a great deal of adult supervision. All culminating in a big Good vs Evil showdown.


And reading it by candlelight has brought back many happy memories of reading this one by torchlight (I'm English, it's a torch not a flashlight) under the covers after my mum had turned the light off in my bedroom.


* Not to be confused with Herne the Hunted, who appears in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. He is a small god and the patron of those animals destined to end up as a "brief, crunchy squeak."


Reading progress update: I've read 201 out of 289 pages.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner

Ugh. The scene in the underground cave is just as claustrophobic as I remember.


Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 289 pages.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner

What I didn't notice when I read this book as a child, was the wonderful detail about the landscape. The towns and villages mentioned are all real places, as are the dales and hills. 


This is Alderley Edge where much of the action takes place. Although these days you are more likely to bump into a Manchester United football player than the wizard Cadellin.


Reading progress update: I've read 11 out of 289 pages.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner

I haven't read this in over 40 years, but I remember bits of it so vividly.


And I think my pumpkin and candle are suitably atmospheric. 


Well, you've got to support your local independent bookstore

The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe - Michael Pye Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland - Dave Barry

"Fort Lauderdale is sometimes called The Venice of America by people who have clearly never been to Venice."


Picked up the Dave Barry book for my husband, and somehow the Michael Pye book just fell into my basket. Don't you hate it when that happens?



Halloween Bingo 2016 - Book 8 (Magical Realism)

The Ghost Bride: A Novel - Yangsze Choo

Magical Realism : The Ghost Bride, Yangzee Choo


There are plenty of books where I think to myself, why on earth does the author think this story can be extended into a trilogy? And then there are books where I'm thinking OMG, I hope s/he writes a sequel. 


The Ghost Bride falls into the 'please write the sequel' category. 


I liked Li Lan as a heroine, even though she did occasionally slip into TSTL behaviour. And in this book, that isn't a good idea as she finds herself in the spirit world desperately trying to return to her corporeal body before she becomes a 'hungry ghost'.  


The descriptions of the clothes, houses and lifestyle of Malaysia in the late 1800s are fascinating as are the insights into the religious beliefs and superstitions of the Chinese and Malayan cultures.  

It's a beautifully lyrical book. Languid and ethereal. But dangerous too. You wouldn't want to linger too long on the Plains of the Dead.

Home from the Vineyard

Stokes Beginner's Guide to Shorebirds - Donald Stokes, Lillian Stokes

As always we've had a fab few days on Martha's Vineyard. And I think our favourite place on the island is the Long Point wildlife reserve. 


We saw plenty of shorebirds and we think we've managed to identify them all correctly. 


Top row (L-R): Piping plover, semi-palmated plover, sanderlings


Bottom left: Semi-palmated sandpiper


Botom right: Pectoral sandpiper

Halloween Bingo 2016

The Ghost Bride: A Novel - Yangsze Choo

So The Weirdstone of Brisingamen has been put on hold as I don't think the proprietor of our Vineyard guesthouse will be very happy if I start lighting candles in the bedroom.


Magical realism it is then. 


Yangsze Choo's stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists. "One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride..."


Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.


Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.


After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim's handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy--including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets--and the truth about her own family--before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.


Reminiscent of Lisa See's Peony in Love and Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter, The Ghost Bride is a wondrous coming-of-age story from a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Currently reading

The Golden Notebook: A Novel
Doris Lessing
Progress: 20 %
The Luminaries
Eleanor Catton
Progress: 31 %