Friday, 23 April 2010

The Livingstone Tanzania Trust

Without the discipline of participating in The Year of Readers I've rather neglected posting about what I am doing with the donations I make to charity for books I read.

Along with the usual payroll credit into my Charities Trust account I have been diligently adding in an additional £1 per book I read (after costs) and today I made my first (of many, I suspect) bookish-related donation to the Livingstone Tanzania Trust. They are a self-help development charity, focused on Tanzania, working to alleviate poverty through education.

I was born in Tanzania and my Grandmother was a teacher in Arusha for many years so I must admit that a large part of the reason that I chose this specific charity was that their efforts are, at the moment, centred on Babati which is in the northern Manyara region which is "near" where my family lived. I've been looking for a Tanzanian educational charity for a while and so am pleased to have found this one.

A browse through the projects on their website includes building classrooms, teachers’ houses and kitchen/toilet facilities; raising health awareness; farming development and training as well as community support including football pitch building. When my husband and I went to Kenya last year we had the pleasure of a walk through a nearby village to watch the (recently crowned regional champions!) girls team play football on the village pitch. It was such a delight to see their enthusiasm and to see just how much use that pitch got as a focus for the younger people in the community. We also talked about the distance travelled by students to attend school with our guide who was one of the lucky ones - he got a scholarship to enroll in an educational wildlife programme which in turn led to his job working for the company who owned the property we stayed at for a couple of nights.

Not sure how I got from reading to education in Tanzania to football pitches in Kenya but I am pleased to have found this charity to add to my list of ones I support and that I have (eventually) made my first reading donation.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Girl Genius - Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio

This is both a Once Upon a Time IV & Graphic Novels Challenge 2010 read.

On Friday I read a glowing joint review from The Book Smugglers (who are currently celebrating a second Steampunk Week) about this omnibus edition of the first three volumes in the Girl Genius series. So, despite current attempt to resist adding to Book Mountain, on Saturday my copy arrived and I spent a rather lovely afternoon in the garden reading it whilst enjoying the sunshine. Which, it should be noted, had a rather detrimental impact on the book's spine. :(

Girl Genius is an online webcomic and can be read for free - starting here with new pages released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Described as a "gaslamp fantasy" featuring Adventure, Romance and Mad Science and, honestly, what more could you ask for?

The Girl Genius in question is the curvaceous Agatha Clay - a student at the Transylvania Polygnostic University who unable to build anything that actually works and seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. Chuck in a tyrant Baron Wulfenbach with an airship city, his son Gilgamesh (perhaps a hint of lurrveee for later episodes?) , a host of supporting characters (mostly made of awesome!) and an action-packed plot and you have a story that is both light hearted and funny. Oh - and I absolutely loved the artwork too.

After the first book, the series is released in colour however the omnibus was black and white. I don't think that was hugely detrimental to my enjoyment but having had a look at the panels online I would have definitely preferred to read in colour. I would absolutely love to be able to justify the purchase of the whole series in individual editions but am not sure even I can convince myself of the $23 a pop (plus post from the USA) investment when it's available free online. Unless it was an investment, of course....

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Pink Lemonade

A Bookling tried and tested recipe as enjoyed today.

Take half to one cup of sugar (depending on taste!) and one cup of hot water then, using a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar into the water. Add one cup of lemon juice and stir together. Add small handful of raspberries/blackberries and blend.

Dilute your pink lemonade mix with three to four cups of water (again depends on taste), add ice and enjoy sipping it in the sunshine whilst reading a book. Keep keen eye out for stealthily approaching small dogs though...


Friday, 16 April 2010

Pyongyang: Journey in North Korea - Guy Delisle

This was read for the Graphic Novels Challenge 2010 and was my non-fiction read participating in Heather at Tales of a Capricious Reader's April mini-challenge.
Last year I wrote about reading Guy Delisle's The Burma Chronicles and so when I saw the theme for this year's mini-challenge was non-fiction it seemed like a good time to read one of his earlier books.

Guy Delisle is a Canadian animator, illustrator and author who spent two months in early 2001 living in a drab hotel in Pyongyang whilst working on a project for Scientific Educational Korea. He can only leave the hotel when accompanied by his translator and official guide, who are unquestioningly loyal to the regime. As he is dragged around the compulsory, and propaganda filled, tourist sights his observations are both thoughtful and illuminating offering a rare insight into life as a foreigner in this very restrictive country.

Clearly Delisle found his experience living here incredibly frustrating as well as sometimes surreal. Pyongyang itself strikes me as a very weird and sterile city - kept immaculate by teams of creepy citizen "volunteers". In telling the story of his experience living there, his gentle humour, when paired with such deceptively simple and expressive artwork, works so well for me so although this was not a light-hearted book to read it was a thought-provoking and interesting one.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

24 Hour Read-a-Thon

Bother. Just checked my reader feeds and realised that the fabulous Dewey's 24 hour Read-a-Thon was this weekend. I could have sworn that it was next weekend but nope - based on the most recent post (and all the feeds I've seen from bloggers I follow!) it is now hour 20.

I participated this time last year and I had a great time although I remember that I did spend far too long reading about other people's experiences, and being distracted by twitter, than enjoying my own books! Re-reading those posts I am absolutely gutted that I didn't remember that it was this weekend. I have actually read half of The Little Stranger in the qualifying period but not sure it would be quite the same experience to join in now so I shall go and cheerlead some of the other participants who are better at planning than I am instead!

...and make a note of the October date on my calendar when it's announced!!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

This is a Once Upon a Time IV read.

I have one very strict rule when it comes to reading books that belong to a series. The series must have been already written. All of it. The only exception is if I am absolutely sure that the novel can be read as a stand-alone too. There is a reason...

Many years ago, in 1995, I had a summer job at the Bertram Books Warehouse. These are the guys who supply bookshops, and libraries, with stock. At this point it was still a family owned business and they had a massive warehouse near the centre of Norwich which was about a mile from where my parents lived. The point of this story is that they also had a staff bookshop where the damaged books were sold for 10% of cover value. As you may imagine this meant that they received a substantial proportion of my wages straight back!

To cut a long story short, with diligent application, I was able to build up a Wheel of Time collection for a fraction of its actual cost. All six books. The eagle-eyed reader will have spotted a flaw in this purchase but the younger Peta was very pleased with herself. I read all six books back to back. And then realised that although Lord of Chaos has an epilogue (you see, I'd flicked to the end of the last book to be sure that there was a "proper ending") this was not the Last Book in the series. The next year A Crown of Swords came out and, having waited for a while for it to be released in paperback, I started the whole series from the beginning and when I got to the end of the seventh book I realised that this was not the Last Book in the series... Much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments ensued and it was at this is point that The Rule was implemented and it has not been broken since.

Now I have known for a while that Patrick Rothfuss is one pretty cool guy. I read his blog. I've bought (too many!) tickets for his fundraisers. I've seen evidence that he loves Ana from The Book Smuggelers. I've read other people's universally raving posts about his debut novel and watched the central character, Kvothe, progress to the semi-finals in the cage matches where he was beaten to the final by Jaime Lannister. Who stars in another rather famous series that I have not read. Because it is not finished.

So why give in now and come to the party so late? Well. I'd just finished Absolute Sandman One and wanted to read a really good fantasy novel. One that I knew would be excellent.

I also had a nasty feeling that I was missing out on something that I shouldn't be.

So having given in and broken The Rule was it worth it? Well. All I can say about this book is "Oh to the Em to the Gee". Please note that phrase was not used seriously! This guy can write and I absolutely LOVED this book. Kvothe has to be one of my favourite ever heroes, he has a great story to tell and I have (almost literally) not been without my nose in this book since picking up first thing yesterday. Hurrah for bank holiday weekends!

In fact I loved it so much that I have already placed a reservation for it with the library - even though there is no confirmed release date and amazon currently has it scheduled for August 2011. It seems that two other people from Norwich can't wait either though as I am already third in the queue!

Clearly I am gushing too much to be able to explain clearly why I loved it so I suggest reading what the following bloggers thought:
A Dribble of Ink (plus an interview in parts one and two)
Strange Horizons
Neth Space
The Book Smugglers
Fantasy Debut

Additionally, Orion Books have posted a really nice series of interview with Pat from Summer 2008 in three parts one, two and three. He really is such a cutie!