How I deal with Depression

When I’m in a bad place (emotionally speaking) I always turn to things which comfort me. This summer, I could not turn to comfort food, since I am trying to keep track of my calories. I did turn to my one and only, however I really did not want to be too clingy – the poor guy needs his space after single-handedly taking care of all the house chores, etc for the past two and a half-months, so I had to lay off in that sense. And that, of course, left ‘comfort-books‘!

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Some books are a guilty pleasure. As the years roll by, I read them again and again at studious intervals, associating certain books or book series to certain mind-sets. Now, don’t laugh at me, but I actually have a book which I like to read each year when the first big storm hits after an arid summer. The book in question is ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith. There is also a series of books I read when I’m feeling particularly witty or frolicksome (mainly Neil Gaiman), and books I just love to read at Christmas-time, because, you know, they put me in the mood. Whenever I am about to travel on holiday, I also try to find books with a story based in that particular country, and I always manage it! I really had a field day when I went to Venice (why do books set in Venice always seem to be erotic romances?), and of course, the UK is easy. And so on.

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Since this summer was a terrible one for me, as I had to spend most of it in bed and in pain due to health issues, I obviously gravitated towards those books which comforted me. The 10-book part series I read, is the one which first introduced me to epic fantasy books, and the one which made me fall in love with that style of writing when I was 13 years old. I am speaking about David Edding’s Belgariad (first five books) and Mallorean (another 5 books).

635922775449353047712033543_The Belgariad Series

Recently I discovered that these book series are considered to be YA. They were actually written in the 1980s, a time when the term and concept of YA novels wasn’t thought of yet. So even though some readers may consider them to be YA, I do not, as they are certainly not as vapid, mediocre or predictable as YA books usually are (yup, you got me, I hate YA books in general, though there are exceptions).

The plot is basically a bildunsgroman, that is, a coming of age story. We see Garion, a naive boy living on a farm, realize that the world, and the people around him are, and were never, what he believed them to be. The world is complicated, mysterious and wonderful, and Garion finds that he himself is a very special person, destined to change the course of the known world forever. I am not going to go into any more details as I do not want to give any spoilers. Suffice it to say that I really love the cast of characters presented by Eddings. Their repetitive banter may irritate one after a while – still I read all the 10 books in around 3 weeks (remember I’m house-bound here), so one must take that into account. The books are not as lengthy as the tomes I am used to, and the old Maltese Pound price tags attached to the covers make me even more nostalgic, remembering how happy I was about buying these first books out of my own pocket money. Books which, for the first time, no one had chosen for me because they were ‘what children read’, but which I had chosen for myself, deviating from the norm. 

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If you haven’t read the Belgarion and the Mallorean, I strongly suggest you do. They are not as popular or well-known as book series like Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ or George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (Game of Thrones), but they are still worth a read. Then again, I’m biased, hehe…

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Goodreads Challenge – NAILED!

One of my favorite websites, Goodreads, organises a ‘Challenge’ at the beginning of the year. Basically it asks all readers to set a number of the books to read by the end of the year, in order for one to keep track of his/her reading acumen.

Unfortunately, gone are the days when I had the time and opportunity to read at least 7 books a week (thick dreamy ones not thin ‘young adult babble’ ones). Now I have a demanding full-time job, house chores, a live-in boyfriend and many many errands. HOWEVER I did try to set a reading challenge anyways, at least to see how far I had fallen from my previous pinnacle.

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So, my target was to read at least 50 books (almost one book per week – terrible I know). The catch is this – I was not to record any books RE-READ!! Some books, I fully feel, are like good old friends – one misses them at times, and ends up re-reading, re-living and re-meeting all one’s friends at least once every couple of years. Taking into account how many good books I’ve read in my life, it’s obvious that I do a lot of re-reading. A LOT. So, the target of 50 books for 2015 actually meant 50 NEW books and it also meant that I was conscious that I would actually be reading many more books than this.

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Well guess what? I reached the 50-bookmark yesterday, during the second week of October. Considering that one must keep in mind the many life-changing and time-consuming things that happened this year – some examples; moving in with bf, buying a house, renovating said house, chasing after plasterers, painters, etc, moving for the second time this year into said new house, and going abroad twice) AND also re-reading tons of old friends, I am really proud of myself. I have fallen from my Tower of Incredibly Insurmountable readership BUT I have not fallen off the grid. There is still hope.

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And for those who ask, NO I did not stretch myself to the max trying to reach this goal. I did it naturally and effortlessly. I simply read when I wanted to (which is all the time), when I had the chance, and wasn’t sleeping/eating/consorting with people.

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What I am going to do next is note how many new books I will have read by 31 December 2015 in total, and then set a new target for 2016. Resolving to make time for old friends like Gaiman and Pratchett, Rothfuss and GRRM, but also to read new stuff from new authors, whenever I can 😀

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Epic-Fantasy Nerd Moment

Ever since I picked up ‘The Sword of Shannara’ around 8/9 years ago, I’ve had this naggy feeling about it. The novel (I admit I hardly managed to finish the first one) was a complete copy (minus the good writing that is) of Tolkien’s ‘LOTR’ and nothing more. Enter the usual metaphorical nerd-grumbling in my head. I researched online and asked about it and everyone seemed to have enjoyed reading it, not to mention staring blankly at me when I criticized it as being a Tolkien-wannabe.

Flash-forwards to a week ago, where suddenly someone I know commented negatively on Terry Brooks and his plagiarism. Miraculously, I could hear a chorus of angels singing ‘Halleluljah’ in soprano and treble. Someone else with a brain!

Then this morning, I stumbled on this – http://www.newstatesman.com/2015/05/neil-gaiman-kazuo-ishiguro-interview-literature-genre-machines-can-toil-they-can-t-imagine  !!

An interview with the MASTER Neil Gaiman who while describing said books said ‘And then you had people like Terry Brooks, who wrote a book called The Sword of Shannara, which was essentially a Lord of the Rings clone by somebody not nearly as good, but it sold very well.’…. YES YES EXACTLY!! THANK YOU!!images (1)

Sorry Mr Brooks, I know I’m not a great book-selling writer, but REALLY… I’m a reader and in this case, that’s what matters, since it is people like me who are the most qualified to actually say whether they enjoyed your work or not.

Anyone who wants to read the whole interview – it is really brilliant, though quite long 😀

March Recap – A Month of re-reading and remembering

And here we are again, at the end of yet another month. This has been a hectic and life-changing one… cannot write why yet here, although most of my friends do know ;-p

Anyways, there is always time for reading of course. Nothing changes that. And this month’s reading list has reflected some things which took place in March, and will be taking place in April, as well.

1. Heir to the Shadows – Anne Bishop – The Black Jewels Trilogy 2

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I tried. I really did. Just as I tried to read this series some years ago, and had to just stop in the middle. The plot has so much potential, but the characters are so darn cardboard, two-dimensional and plain BORING as to make one want to scream. The men are all so good looking, hot and dangerous… even though they never actually do something bad, we hear so much again and again about them being evil. Same goes with the ‘Queens’ who are supposed to have so much power, yet the only thing they seem to be able to think about is sex. The main character is a teenage queen who has suffered and been raped at the hands of bad men, whom, in an ‘I spit on your grave’ kind of rage she hounds down and punishes. On the other hand everyone loves her and fears her because she’s so beautiful and powerful… yet again, she does nothing.. ugh BORING BORING BORING

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2. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

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After being mired in Bishop, I just had to read something AWESOME, and this is why I decided to re-read Rothfuss. Yes, another book I had already read before, so what? Rothfuss simply enchants me, his plot-lines, his characters, his style of writing, are all simply amazingly detailed and cunningly wrought. Now THIS is a real writer!

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3. The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

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A continuation of ‘The Name of the Wind’, in this second installment, the main character, now a young man, still tries to come to terms with his studies, while navigating the cruel and manipulative society he is in. Mired in plots and hidden agendas, he does his best to pursue his thirst for knowledge about the Chandrian, who had killed his parents, while at the same time being that endearing, infuriating rogue we all know and love.

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4. Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

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In March, Terry Pratchett, one of the greatest contemporary writers of our times, died. I really cried, knowing that his talent was gone forever and that I would never meet him, yet I also rejoiced in his works. I simply had to re-read Good Omens, and laugh, snigger, and gasp, whenever Terry and Neil did. Now THIS is one book about religion which really hits the spot lofl. Parody and satire a-la-carte.

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5.The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon – Stephen King

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King did a really good writing workshop and exercise with this one. A girl is lost in the woods. Days pass. She struggles to survive. In the end, she is found. Basically nothing else happens. And everything. You must read it to understand. This rite of passage makes ‘Survivor’ looks like a kindergarden child’s drawing. And I say it again, notwithstanding his popularity and ‘mainstream’ image, Stephen King is a writer to be reckoned with!

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6. A Feast for Crows – George R. R. Martin – Game of Thrones Book 4

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And finally, since in a couple of weeks, the Game of Thrones series will be continuing on HBO, and as the writer revealed, there will be many new surprises even for readers, I decided to re-read the last two GOT novels in order to refresh my mind and hunger for it once again. WHEN IS THE BLOODY 6TH BOOK COMING OUT??

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Yesterday I cried… a lot…

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Yesterday I arrived home, I put on the water-heater in the bathroom, I switched my laptop on, and while it was loading, went to see which book I would read during the evening, since I had just finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’ ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ for the second time. I knew it had to be good to follow up Rothfuss, so I picked Pratchett and Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’, which I hadn’t looked at in a while.

My pc had come around by then, and I went to take a quick peek at my email as well as Facebook, before starting my household chores. It was then that I saw it… TERRY PRATCHETT HAD DIED AT 66

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I know, I know, he had Alzheimer, and all Terry-lovers knew we had to loose him someday. But ‘someday’ and ‘dead at 66’ are worlds apart. Not only is 66 not that old by today’s standards… THIS IS TERRY PRATCHETT!! He died while I was working at some boring meeting two hours previously, and I did not know anything about it! The earth did not tremble, the sun did not shatter, my heart did not scream in rage!! I just could not believe it! How could the literary genius of our time be dead, and only a few be so concerned as to even comment on Facebook?

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How can the rest of the world not be in a brainless comatose stupor like me??

I cried while I prepared my work-lunch for today. I sobbed while I laid out my work clothes ready for usage at 6am. I shrieked silently and continuously while I showered. I trembled and shook while I wrote my aunt’s birthday card. I keened while I stared disconsolately at my Terry Pratchett books in the living room. I wailed when I looked outside and realized that the spirit of that great writer, my inspiration, the source of all comic and parodic genius, had left the planet. I blubbered as I gazed at the pc screen and realized that for most people this was no big deal. I bawled and hugged myself as I crouched in a fetal position under the bedclothes.

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Then, I blew my nose, shut up, and thought a bit. NO he was not dead. His books were still there. Part of him lived and would live forever. There would be no more books. He will never sign anything for me. I will never meet him. That is the truth. But the truth is also that he made his great mark upon the world, he inspired millions of people. Made them laugh. Made them cry. Made them be alive.

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Maybe now that he’s dead, he will finally get the recognition he deserves. Most literary geniuses only seem to get it once they are gone anyways, for some weird reason. I guess TV channels will just gobble up the Discworld stories, and I really welcome that. I just hope that they don’t rape them, like the last Indiana Jones movie was raped. I hope they continue having that awesome flavor and fantastic weirdness present in previously rendered films like ‘Hog Father’ and ‘Going Postal’.

We’ll see.

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Round-up of Books read in February

It’s the first time I’m doing this, but I think it’s a fairly good idea to summarize both my ratings and my thoughts regarding the books read during each month. The books here are the ones I FINISHED during the month of February. This does not necessarily mean that it’s the first time I have read said books.

So here they are, by the order (date) in which they were finished, that is, read by me ;p I keep my goodreads account as updated as I can. There are 9 of them in all. Not bad, considering I spent a week abroad this month too (I took some books with me ofc).

1. The Death Cure – James Dashner – Maze Runner #3

2 Stars – Whether it’s because these dystopic novels all seem to end up the same, or whether I expected something more, I’m not sure to be totally honest. Suffice it to say that I was kind of dissatisfied by the way the trilogy ended. Thomas’ relationship with Teresa was cloudy and unrealistic to say the least. His whole character left something to be desired, and not just because of the memory loss (gods how I hate that too-facile writer’s construct). Also, the last ‘scene’, reminiscent of Kevin Costner’s movie ‘Waterworld’ was too good to be true, not to mention simplistically explained.

The_Death_Cure2. Coraline – Neil Gaiman

4 stars – I just love Gaiman’s style. He does not write books ‘for kids’, HE IS one of them! Apart from that, his plot-lines are so full of different layers and psychological innuendos that even when they are aimed at children, you know that there are things only an adult will realize too. Each book is a real treasure. WE WANT MORE!

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3. The Lady of the Rivers – Philippa Gregory – The Cousin’s War #3

4 stars – Philippa Gregory’s recount of British history is mesmerizing. Weaving a coloured tapestry made up of real known historical events, mashed with the imagined account of individuals’ everyday emotions and passions, her writing-style is a very interesting blend of magical motives and the intricate psychology behind human nature.

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4. The White Princess – Philippa Gregory – The Cousin’s War #5

4 stars – I had purchased all the Cousin’s War books online, unfortunately they didn’t arrive all at the same time, so I ended up reading some books before others, and not in their intended sequence. This is not as bad as it sounds, since the narrator of each novel is different, so the plot-lines, though interlocking, still make sense no matter which sequence you read them in. That being said, like the rest of the series, I loved the political yet individualistic tribulations.

download (1)5. A Wheel of Stars – Laura Gilmour Bennet

3 stars – This wasn’t the first time I had read this novel, though quite some years had passed since I read it first. I took it with me during my trip to France as I knew I would be visiting various Cathar Castles, and since the novel takes us back to the Cathar crusade, I knew it would be quite interesting to read in that particular setting. That being said, the writing is ‘okeyish’, as are the characters, nothing more.

download (2)6. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

3 stars – I already wrote my own review of this novel in details https://ddmoonsong.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/the-unbecoming-of-mara-dyer-michelle-hodkin-book-review-spoilers/

download (3)7. The Evolution of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

4 stars – Wrote a more in detail review of this one too here https://ddmoonsong.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/book-review-the-evolution-of-mara-dyer-michelle-hodkin/

download (4)8. The Retribution of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

3 stars – And for this one too https://ddmoonsong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/book-review-the-retribution-of-mara-dyer-michelle-hodkin/

157684099. Daughter of the Blood – Anne Bishop – The Black Jewels #1

3 stars – I had kind of forgotten this series, even though I had bought them ages ago. Was curious to see whether I would evaluate them differently now that I am older. The fact that unlike most books, the main character is not the narrator is very freshening. There are multiple narrators, all of whom revolve around the main ‘heroine’ however we only ever see her through other people’s eyes, and never actually hear her own narrative voice. This is very original, yet can be frustrating too!

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Anyways, there’s the haul! Next month will probably continue Bishop’s series, as well as a couple of more Philippa Gregory Books. Also have got a brand new copy of Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ waiting for me and calling to me sonorously from my sitting room table ^^ So much to look forward to! ❤

Book Review – Coraline – Neil Gaiman

First let’s make this clear – this is a review of the book NOT the animated movie, although I loved the movie too (and it could still be construed as such).

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That being said, I think what touched me most about this book is that it is truly a book for children. The plot line is quite deep, the psychology behind it is disturbing and twisted, and most of the story itself is so metaphorical as to be almost frightening, and yet, it is set so as to not only enter into the world of children, but also make every child who reads it feel totally at home there.

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It captures everyday moments of every child’s life – the unlikeable ‘recipes’ served at dinner, the boredom of rainy days, the loneliness of children with no other brothers or sisters, the sense of loss when one’s parents seem distant and busy with their own lives, the way children’s opinions are glossed over and ignored when it comes to practical matters like choosing clothes for school.

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Most importantly, it offers two different perspectives of parent-hood. On the one hand, we have Coraline’s normal family – her two working parents who both work at home and have their own studies there, who sometimes have no time for Coraline and who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child, and therefore do not understand her, yet who love her and would sacrifice themselves for her.

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On the other – there are the Other parents – especially, the Other mother. She is a perfectly frightening representation of those clutching needy mothers, who need something to love so much, that they literally stifle their children, bottling them up in a bubble of fake smiles and repression – until finally the childrens’ individuality is squeezed into nothingness… which is what they become.

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This metaphor of the needy cold mother, who selfishly does not really care about who Coraline is or what she actually wants, is the prevalent ‘monster’ in the story, and is all the more terrifying in that there are so many real monsters like her out in our world.

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Coraline’s natural communication with the animals around her is so normally-portrayed as to be totally believable, and not relegated to the label of ‘magical’ or ‘supernatural’ at all. Cats talk, mice dance, rats can be spies – it is presented as a fact, and so it is.

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This short book reminded me of the premise of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, where family issues are combatted by children through metaphorical intervention. Totally brilliant.

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2015 – What shall I read next?

I keep seeing book-lists and challenges for 2015, mainly people promise themselves to read books by author with diverse ethnic origins, autobiographies, historical tomes or disadvantaged individuals. I thought about doing my own list, but it seemed pointless to wrap myself up in cellophane and limit myself so much, especially when I already know that there are a number of books waiting on the shelf, freshly bought, which I have not read yet.

So, instead of making a list of books I ‘SHOULD’ read, I’m making one listing the books I am sure I WILL ACTUALLY read.

1. The Blood Knight – Greg Keyes – right now I’m finishing ‘The Charnel Prince’, which is the second book of the quartet ‘The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone’. It will be finished by tomorrow at the latest, so this is what comes after.

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2. The Born Queen – Greg Keyes – Quartet book number 4

3. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett – bought this last weekend and I can’t wait to start it.

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4. Stardust – Neil Gaiman – it’s been a long time in coming, bought it last weekend as well ❤

5. The Silmarillion – J. R. R. Tolkien – I know, I know, but better late then never right?

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6. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn – I already read this in 2012, but after watching the movie I MUST re-read it again 🙂

7. The White Queen – Philippa Gregory – some time ago I came across a tiny bookshop which sells really cheap secondhand books, it hardly had anything I liked, and then I discovered a treasure trove of Gregory’s books. I had already devoured The Wideacre Trilogy and the Tudor series ages ago, so I bought the first 5 novels which make up the Cousin War series. Still gotta get the last one, published in 2014. The next 4 novels are the other books in the series.

8. The Red Queen – PG

9. The Lady of the Rivers -PG

10. The Kingmaker’s Daughter – PG

11. The White Princess – PG

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12. Prince Lestat – Anne Rice – I’m currently waiting for this one to come out in paperback.

I’m guessing that will take care of the first two/three months of the year for sure. After that… who knows? Bookdepository is my oyster ;p

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Xmas Presents from Me to Me!!

And here they are! Freshly arrived postally this weekend! I so love receiving parcels by post, it’s like receiving Xmas presents, which in this case – they actually are! I really treated myself this Yule.

Firstly, I got two books from one of my favorite writers – Neil Gaiman. I had watched ‘Stardust’ the movie with Claire Danes and De Niro, but, I am ashamed to say, never actually read the book. I also got ‘Good Omens’, a collaboration between the two Masters Gaiman + Terry Pratchett, another favorite.

The goth girl in me had to splurge a bit as well, buying a couple of fabulous fitting tops from Spiral Direct, one of my favorite gothic brands. Can’t wait to wear them!!

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Packing for Ireland – Of books and Gods

Finally the day is approaching! We leave on Saturday!

‘Leave’ – such a great word. I have so much I want to leave behind. So many feelings and hurts which I try to suppress and forget, but which creep out silently on clawed feet to haunt me at night. Sweaty nightmares and unshed tears apart, escapism is all very well, but is it enough?

Yesterday I started packing. I had made a list earlier – well two really. One was a list of things I needed to bag i.e clothes, jackets, socks, etc. The other more important one was a list of ‘those books’ which for some reason or other, seemed kind of perfect reading for Ireland! I know books kinda weight a lot but…

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YES I’m gonna take and read all of those. And yes I can manage thank you! Apart from a three hour flight to Ireland and back, we have some serious long drives, not to mention the fact that night dons its mantle at 4pm in Ire, so probably we’ll start exploring early, but snuggle tightly in our cottage early too. Not that I’m complaining mind you, there are many things one can do in a cottage ;p

At the moment I’m re-reading ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ (read previous post). It’s almost done actually, so ‘Hollow City’, its sequel, comes next. There are three masterpieces by Neil Gaiman which, again, I’m re-reading for the second time just because I miss Neil I guess hehe. Also Ireland, full of Celtic Gods, faeries, seelie myths and history, puts me in a Gaiman kind of mood.

Next comes a find from a second-hand bookstore, James Herbert’s ‘The Ghosts of Sleath’ which is basically a haunting horror mystery taking place in a small mysterious British town.

And to round up, there’s Greg Keyes’ ‘Kingdoms of Bones and Thorn’ quartet. Through the beautifully crafted plot and characters, the one which shines in my estimation and the reason why I’m lugging these books along to Ireland, is the Briar King. God of the Forest, reminiscent of Cernunnos, and the Green Man, and personification of the power of mighty wisdom encapsulated within the earth, this character fascinates and grips me so totally that I wanted to experience it in a country which I associate with the beauty of nature so much.

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