Tag Archives: TBR Dare

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

derkholmDark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Greenwillow Books, New York, 2001

From my TBR pile. Read for Diana Wynne Jones month and Once Upon A Time VII.

The story takes place in a world of high fantasy, where griffins and young magicians are siblings, pigs fly and the mysterious Mr. Chesney runs Pilgrim Party tour groups from what appears to be our world.  Chesney insists on all the familiar scenes, wizards, demons and horrible battles, which include the deaths of some “expendable” tourists. The tours continually wreak havoc throughout the land and destroy many inhabitants livelihoods.  These people are tired of being exploited, but are helpless to fight back until the dragons show up.  No suprise there.

Dark Lord of Derkholm is a parody, filled with family squabbles, depressed and drunken wizards and adolescents yearling to spread their wings, both figuratively and literally.  It is a joy to read.  It won the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature in 1999.  There is a second book in this series, Year of the Griffin, which I hope to read sometime in April.

What a master.  I was introduced to Diana Wynne Jones by Ana a couple of years ago, and felt robbed at not having found her sooner.  She was a British author who somehow never received the media push granted to J.K. Rowling.  I have since tried to convince every Harry Potter fan I know to read her books.


Filed under 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, British, Fantasy, Once Upon A Time VII, Young Adult

Playing Catch-Up

Due to lots going on at work, and my fighting a coldish thing,  I’ve been sleeping a lot and have not been around the internets of late.  I’m still here,  reading, just not writing, and am excited about two reading events coming up in January.  I wanted to want to tell you about them.

One event, organized by Ana and Iris,  invites readers to settle down during the month of January and read some of  those long-awaited books.  You know, the ones that have been sitting on your shelf for ages and ages, waiting to be read, while you get distracted by a fancy cover or something just published by a favorite author.  I have a couple of stacks of them..Please note,  this is not a challenge but because things are often better when we share them, an event that will hopefully get us reading those books we’ve been meaning to get to for ages.

The second event is organized by James, of Ready When You Are, C.B., and his lovely dog Dakota.  This year they invite us to join the TBR Double Dog Dare.  This is the third year James has called the Dare, which runs from January 1st through April 1st, and encourages us to read only books already sitting on our shelves or books requested from the library before January 1st.  You can make exceptions for book club choices or other events.  Last year I allowed myself a couple of books for the Science Fiction Experience that Carl V. organizes, but other than those books,  I  managed to stick with the Dare for the entire three months.

Between these  two events, I am hoping to read many of the books that have managed to sneak into the house over the last year.  I’m not really sure how this happens.  They just seem to suddenly appear.  Just this week I found these two sitting in a box on my doorstep..


Filed under Books, Events

I Double Dare Ya…

James from Ready When You Are, C.B. has issued the call.  Last year between January and April he dared us.  This year it’s a Double Dare.

As James says..

Make a resolution to read only the books in your To Be Read stack from January 1, 2012 to April 1.  Can you survive?

For more information or to the join in the fun click here.


Filed under Dares, Events

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Random House, New York, 2010

I own this one, thank goodness for gift cards.

This novel, written by an American, takes place in a small village in Britain.  It is a gentle love story that exposes modern-day prejudices and social issues in a way that reads like a comedy of manners.

Major Pettigrew, a widower in his sixties, lives by himself in Rose Lodge, reading his books, playing an occasional round of golf and trying to understand his son Roger.  When his brother suddenly dies his world is turned upside down, he’s not sure how to deal with his sister-in-law or his niece and Roger takes a sudden interest in being near his estranged father.

All of this is softened by the presence of Mrs. Ali, the owner of the village shop.  As their relationship develops racism and religion rear their ugly heads.  From the disapproval expressed by some townspeople over their “friendship” to the pressures of obligation from Mrs. Ali’s family, these two lovely people face difficult choices.  Throw in a quandary over the pride taken from objects passed down through generations verses humility and caring for others and you have quite a hefty story, much deeper then it first appears.

He had always assumed gossip to be the malicious whispering of uncomfortable truths, not the fabrication of absurdities.  How was one to protect oneself against people making things up?  Was a life of careful, impeccable behavior not enough in a world where inventions were passed around as fact?  He looked around at the high-ceilinged room filled with people he considered to be his friends and neighbors.  For a moment he saw them as complete strangers; drunk strangers, in fact.  He stared into a palm tree but found only a label that identified it as plastic and made in China.  From page 253.

Simonson handles these issues honestly, with a charming touch of humor.  Her writing style is being compared to that of  Alexander McCall Smith and even to Jane Austin.  Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand has gathered high praise from the press and from book blogs. The novel deserves and I enjoyed it.

Other reviews:

Capricious Reader

Fleur Fisher

Jenn’s Bookshelves

S. Krishna’s Books

The Captive Reader


Filed under ContemporaryFiction, Dares, Review

Who Has Seen The Wind by W.O. Mitchell

Who Has Seen The Wind by W.O. Mitchell

McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, 1998

I own this one.

I learned about this classic Canadian novel that by reading other Canadian novels.

First published in 1947, this is a story about a boy growing up in a small town on the Saskatchewan prairie during the 1930’s.

Brian O’Connal lives on the edge of the prairie with his Mother, Father, Grandmother and younger brother.  He is surrounded by odd characters, his Uncle Sean, Old Ben and Saint Sammy who lives in a piano crate.

When we first meet Brian he is angry over all the attention his sick baby brother is getting. His mother and father ignore him, his Grandmother shoos him out of the house.  Brian’s thoughts and feelings, expressed in internal dialogue,  are so like a four-year old child’s.  This is one of Mitchell’s gifts.  He had an ability to let us into his characters thoughts.

As Brian grows up, sharing the town with his friends and his dog Jappy, we meet many of the people who live around him. He learns about life, faith and human failings from his experiences and the adults he interacts with.  He is always drawn to the Prairie and to a wild boy who lives there.

And all about him was the wind now, a pervasive sighing trough great emptiness, as though the prairie itself was breathing in long gusting breaths, unhampered by the buildings of town, warm and living against his face and in his hair.  From page 13.

But it is not just Brian that we follow in this novel.  We follow other characters, particularly the teachers and principle of the local school.  Mitchell give us this small community with all its strengths and weaknesses.  Small town prejudice and hypocrisy, the class system of  the ” right” and “wrong” side of the tracks, the devastation of the dust bowl years.  All placed in a landscape that holds it all together as if in a golden bowl.

W.O. Michell paints this place with words.  The language is pure and lyrical.  I kept seeing each scene as if I were standing in the middle of  the prairie.  It is magnificent, every color, every sound, every scent.  I can understand why Canadians love this novel, how it has become a classic.  It is a part of that vast and beautiful country.

The following poem by Christina Rossetti inspired the title of this book.  Several boys actually quote a few lines in the text.

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.


Filed under CanadianBookChallenge4, Historical Fiction, Review, TBR

Small Island by Andrea Levy

Small Island by Andrea Levy

Picador, New York, 2004

Winner of the Orange Prize and the Whitbread Book of the Year in 2004.

I own this one.

This novel is rich, multi-layered and courageous.  “Small Island” could refer to the island of Jamaica, the island of Britain or the island of an individual life.    Based in Britain during the years after World War II, it follows four characters, sometimes moving back in time to bring their histories, values and prejudices into focus.

Two of these characters, Hortense and Gilbert Joseph, have emigrated to England from Jamaica, expecting to find their place and enrich their lives in the “Mother Country”.   What they find is a place ripe with prejudice.  Levy holds nothing back showing the struggles of these British citizens as they try to make a life in London.  The verbal abuse and racial discrimination are all too familiar, like discrimination and segregation in the United States.  I did not know about this part of England’s history, somehow I though it was different.

The other two characters, Queenie and Bernard Bligh, show parts of the spectrum of British prejudice and class during a time of great upheaval.  All of Levy’s characters have strong voices, distinct and different.  She portrays them with great humor and pathos.

Luck is a funny thing.  To some only a large win of money at the pools is luck.  Or finding a valuable jewel at your feet on a London street.  That surely is luck.  But during war luck take another turn.  The bomb that just miss you is luck. Only your leg blown off and not your head is luck.  All your family die but your mummy is spared – congratulations, you a fortunate man.  So, let me tell you what is luck for a coloured man who is just off the boat in England.  It is finding Queenie Bligh.  It is seeing she has a big house and is happy to take me and a few of the boys as lodgers.  Greater than sipping rum punch from a golden bowl – that is luck England-style.  From pages 183/184.


When they’re close, bombs whistle.  Their melody is a sharp descending note that only sounds right when it ends with a bang.  Then everything you thought was solidly fixed to this earth suddenly takes flight, for just a second, and then is put back down – if you’re lucky in the same place.  Breath is ripped out of your lungs, your eyes bulge, your stomach squeezes its contents up or out, and your heart races so unfamiliar you think it is a clockwork toy.  I remember fairgrounds – the helter skelter, the switchback – paying good money to make my face blanch, my knuckles whiten.  In those days, before the war, I thought it was fun to be scared witless.  From page 225.

Other themes that run through the novel are about war, its devastation and the effects of colonialism, both in the British West Indies and in India.  All of this is told in language that is rich and beautiful.  This complex story of lives and loves touched my heart.   I loved this Orange Prize winner, have enjoyed every Orange Prize winner I have read and can’t wait to read more nominees and winners.

Other reviews:

Farm Lane Books Blog

Reading Matters

Savidge Reads

Shelf Love


Filed under Historical Fiction, OrangePrize, Review