Category Archives: Read-Along

It is Spring – Once Upon A Time VII


It’s Spring and Once Upon A Time is here.  Running from the March 21 to the June 21, Stainless Steel Droppings magical challenge is one of my favorite yearly events. From Carl V’s website:

Thursday, March 21st begins the seventh annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through Friday, June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

The Once Upon a Time VI Challenge has a few rules:

Rule #1: Have fun.

Rule #2: HAVE FUN.

Rule #3: Don’t keep the fun to yourself, share it with us, please!

Rule #4: Do not be put off by the word “challenge”.

There are many ways to participate, I plan on taking The Journey, which means I only need to read one book from any of the categories.  I plan one reading many more than that.

I am hoping OUAT VII and Arti’s Proust Read-Along will get me back into blogging about what I am reading.



Filed under Books, Events, Once Upon A Time VII, Read-Along

Dickens In December


An event for the coming of Winter, organized be Caroline and Delia.  I had said that I wanted to read some classics during the dark time and what better way to start than with this lovely event.  There is A Christmas Carol Read-along and the weekend of December 14th and 15th is dedicated to watching movies based on Dickens’ novels.  Why don’t you join us?


Filed under Charles Dickens, Classic, Events, Read-Along

The Graveyard Book – Week Three

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

From my book shelves.  Organized by Carl V, Week 3 of our read-along covers chapters 7 and 8 of Neil Gaiman’s Newbury, Carnegie, Hugo and Locus award-winning novel.   It has been a joy reading along with others and seeing their thoughts.  Please visit Carl’s blog for links to other posts about this deeply felt, wonderfully written book.

In Chapter 8 Silas is drawn away from The Graveyard but refuses to tell Bod where he is going or what he is doing.  Bod’s friend, Scarlett, returns from Glasgow and finds herself in a place that seems awfully familiar.  She is befriended by a nice man, Mr Frost, who takes rubbings of gravestones.   With his encouragement she  eventually discovers Bod’s family history, but this discovery has unintended results.

Bod finally learns about his past, about The Man Jack and his organization, and is faced with a difficult decision.  The choice he makes puts Scarlett in extreme danger and she cannot understand it and cannot forgive him for it.  He looses his friend, and is at a loss understanding why.

In Chapter 9 Bod enters young adulthood and begins to change, finding it harder and harder to see his friends and loved ones.  Eventually he must leave The Graveyard and journey into the wider world.

The Graveyard Book is all about growing up, be it in a normal family or a ghostly one.  We make choices, face the consequences and hopefully grow wiser with each of these steps.  If we are lucky we live in a circle of love, amid friends and family who support us, even when we make bad decisions.

Neil Gaiman states in his acknowledgements that he read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book over and over as a child and as an adult.  This is a book I love and read-aloud to elementary-aged children.  I can see the resemblance, but Gaiman has created a world of his own, filled with wonderful, caring, sometimes strict beings who surround and support Bod as he grows and finally leaves his home.  Maybe someday we will learn about his adventures in the world of the living.

There is a balance between gentleness and horror in this book.  A balance Neil Gaiman holds brilliantly.

Thanks to Carl V and all the folks who took part in this read-along.


Filed under Books, Carnegie Award, DarkFantasy, Horror, Hugo Award, Locus Award, Newbury Award, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

The Graveyard Book – Week 2

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

Organized by Carl V, Week 2 of our read-along covers Chapters 4 thru 6 and includes an Interlude.  Please visit Carl’s blog for links to other posts about this magical book.

One of the best things about The Graveyard Book is that it is made up of many stories, stories of Nobody Owen, growing up, protected and loved by ghosts and other beings that pass between worlds.

We learn a bit more about his guardian Silas, and Bod learns a bit more about the place where he lives. He meets the ghost of a lovely young witch and tries to do something kind for her.  Leaving the Graveyard for the first time since his arrival he runs into trouble.  Maybe the world of the living, outside of the Graveyard fence, is not the best place for a live boy with a kind heart.  But on rare occasions ghosts visit there, and sometimes the living dance with the dead.

     They took hands, the living with the dead, and they began to dance.  Bod saw Mother Slaughter dancing with the man in the turban, while the businessman was dancing with Louisa Bartleby.  Mistress Owens smiled at Bod as she took the hand of the old newspaper seller, and Mr. Owens reached out and took the hand of a small girl as if she had been waiting to dance with him her whole life.  Then Bod stopped looking because someone’s hand closed around his, and the dance began.
Liza Hempstock grinned at him.  “This is fine,” she said, as they began to tread the steps of the dance together.
Then she sand, to the tune of the dance,
“Step and turn, and walk and stay,
  Now we dance the Macabray.”  From page 159.

During the interlude we discover that the Man Jack needs to finish what he started.

Bod learns to fade and to haunt.  And craving knowledge of the world of the living, he goes to school.

Gaiman has a way about him.  A way of mixing life and death and giving grace to both.  Bod’s story is lovely and sad and joyful all at the same time, and oh so gentle, even at it’s most horrific.    I don’t know how this author does it.  It is a mystery, eerie and beautiful.


Filed under Books, Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

The Graveyard Book – Week One


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

From my shelves.  I am reading this book along with others in celebration of R.I.P. VII.   Carl V  suggested that we read The Graveyard Book in three sections, and post our thoughts on consecutive Sundays.  The first section covers Chapters One through Three.

This book has an extremely creepy opening.  The Man Jack goes about his business in a completely ordinary way and the horror builds so quietly from paragraph to paragraph that it is like a dream.  How can a story be frightening and calming at the same time?

A toddler finds his way to a graveyard and is taken in by a community unlike any other I have ever met.  There is so much love here.   I find warmth and comfort among the grave stones, in a place where those feelings are totally unexpected.  The toddler, Nobody Owens, has found a home.

How do the dead take care of the living?  Luckily, there is one who lives in-between and he sees to Bod’s earthly and intellectual needs.  Bod makes a friend, learns his lessons and has adventures.  When his protector, Silas, is forced to take  a journey Bod meets a new teacher.   She is strict in her discipline and who holds a great secret.

It is hard to write about this book without giving much of the story away.  It is layered with horror, mystery, romance and mythology.  I am so glad to be rereading it, going deeper.


Filed under DarkFantasy, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

Dune Read-Along Wrap-up

Dune by Frank Herbert

Ace Books, New York, 2009

From my science fiction collection.

A read-along organized by Carl V, Kailana and the Little Red Reviewer.  I finished Dune last week but due to computer malfunctions have not been about to post my response to read-along questions #2 and #3 until now.  I enjoyed the reread and was amazed at how well the book held up for me.  It’s been decades since my first reading, I never read the sequels and I never saw the movie.  I think I might be ready for the film even though I don’t know if I can handle a young Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Antreides.  Be warned, the following contains spoilers.

Dune – Book Two – Questions from Little Red Reviewer

Was Liet’s identity a surprise?  Who do you think he really works for?

No, because I have read the book before.  I do wish I’d been able to get to know Liet/Keyes better.  His impact on the thoughts of the Fremen, on their ideas about changing Dune into a more comfortably “livable” planet, is something I would like to know more about.  I not sure he was actually working for anyone other than himself.   his strong belief in the possibility of changing to environment of Dune led him to join and eventually lead the Fremen to that belief.

What do you think of the Fremen culture?  Is this a culture you think you’d enjoy spending some time with?

I am fascinated by the Fremen and would love to spend time with them but adapting to a planet without water would be extremely difficult for me.  If they were ocean beings, mere people, I would have no problem at all!

What do you think of Count Fenring’s unusual verbal mannerisms?  

I think that mannerism only adds to the idea of Fenring being “a small man, weak looking”.  He is deadly, a killer, and yet his way of speaking makes him appear harmless and rather dull.

This is a far future empire with very little in the way of computerization. Information is often passed down orally, and schools (such as the Mentats and the Bene Gesserit) have formed to train young people in memorization and information processing.  What are you thoughts on a scifi story that is very “low-tech”?  Does that sound like a feasable future? a ridiculous one?

It actually sounds like part of human history.   In ancient times there was something called The Memory Palace taught to students of rhetoric and philosophy.   Author Joshua Foer used the technique to become the 2006 U.S. Memory Champion.   I fear with our increasing reliance on technology we will lose this skill.  At this point the idea of no computers does seem ridiculous.

Dune was written in the 60’s. Does it feel dated to you? How does it compare, writing style-wise, to more contemporary science fiction you’ve read?  

I was surprised at how well this book held up for me.  Herbert took a culture based on empire and feudalism and flung it into the far-future. I read a few contemporary science fiction authors,  Iain Banks is a favorite.  To me  Dune could be a precursor to some of his novels.

Dune – Book Three – Questions from Books Without Any Pictures

1.  What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?

This was not a surprise to me as I had read Dune before.  I did appreciate her literary accomplishments and the fact that many quotes from her work were included in the novel.  I gained a deeper understanding of Muad’Dib from her writings.

2.  Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?

I enjoyed the ending and it certainly leaves open many possibilities for a sequel.

3.  On both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus, ecology plays a major role in shaping both characters and the story itself.  Was this convincing?  Do you think that Paul would have gone through with his threat to destroy the spice, knowing what it would mean for Arrakis?

I find the planet Arrakis to be as much a character in Dune as the human beings and feel that the idea of both planets shaping the story and characters totally convincing.  Humans have always been shaped by where they live, be it the desert or a hive-like megalopolis.  I don’t know if Paul would have destroyed the spice,  I think he knew his threat would be taken seriously and that it would never come to that.  I love the fact that the entire guild was dependent on this one desert planet and the Freman tribes for its survival.

4.  Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons.  Do you agree with their choices?

I understand the political and sociological structure of the Empire and the need for these marriages.  That does not mean I agree with these decisions or with the whole idea of Empire.  I don’t.

5.  What was your favorite part in this section of the book?

There are many but here are a few.   Paul being lost in time and becoming aware of his abilities even if he can’t control them. The point when he makes the decision to take The Water of Life, knowing that it could kill him.  Chani and Jessica bringing him back from near death. And of course, the ride on the Maker.

6.  One of the things I noticed in the discussions last week was Herbert’s use of the word “jihad.”  What do you think of Herbert’s message about religion and politics?

The place of religion and politics in Dune could be discussed and argued forever.  I don’t claim to understand his message about religion or politics.  I think he used ideas that were available from human history to build his Empire and it’s cultures and did a brilliant job of it.

Again thanks to Carl V for organizing this read along.  Now that my computer is up and running I hope to visit all the other participants!


Filed under Read-Along, SciFi