Ooh la la! Paris above and below…

We’ve just had a week in Paris.  What can I say, it’s an amazing City with so much to see and do, so much history and so much to visit.  The weather tried to dampen our spirits but it failed in it’s task!  And, I managed to do lots of things to feed my inner book monster.  We visited Shakespeare and Company – a gorgeous little book shop opened in the 1950’s.  This is only a fairly small space but every available inch is cram packed with goodness!

Cram packed shelves!

We walked down the Seine, the banks of which play host to a collection of old flea market type book and poster stalls – lovely to stroll by and check out the titles.  Not to mention all the famous bridges, a number of which have made appearances in various films over the years.

One morning we spent visiting the Catacombs.  This is a vast labyrinth of tunnels, the majority of which are not open to the public.  A number of these dark corridors now play host to millions of bones, transferred to these ossuaries to combat the problem of overcrowding in the French cemeteries around 1780 (ish).  The place is in fact an underground visitable mausoleum where the bones were stacked or arranged into various designs.  The corridors are marked with street names (from above) and various tablets with inscriptions.  It sounds creepy but it actually isn’t, in fact it’s incredibly interesting from a historical viewpoint.  Plus, my interest in the cemeteries and catacombs was piqued by reading Pure by Andrew Miller – which relates to Les Innocents cemetery which could be said to be the catalyst to use the catacombs for this purpose – and also I recently read The Undying by Ethan Reid – a novel in which the main protagonists use the tunnels of the catacomb to escape from certain death!

One of the oldest houses in Paris (in fact it is supposed to be the oldest) is that which used to belong to Nicolas Flamel.  Flamel is documented to have been an alchemist and if the name seems familiar – well, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone may be what you’re thinking of??

Now, if the next event doesn’t get your creative juices going then I don’t know what – we visited an amazing exhibition of works from the Ghibli Studio.  This exhibition explores the techniques used by Ghibli (which was formed after Miyazaki’s success with Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind).  I loved this and I admit it gave me a whole new found appreciation for the films – just to see the extent of the work involved.  Not to mention all the gorgeous illustrations.  If you get a chance, seriously, make time to take a look (details here – it runs until the start of March).  Plus, who can come away without goodies!!  I confess that I’m really regretting not buying the catalogue – which, I think, has the full exhibition contained within it’s pages.  And, the first thing we did when we got home – was watch My Neighbour Totoro and Ponyo!

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Finally, and please don’t get the wrong impression that I’m incredibly morbid or something, but we visited Pere Lachaise cemetery.  This place is huge – if you’re interested in a visit – one piece of advice – get organised!  Yes, this is a cemetery but not only is it now the final resting place for many famous people (such as Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf) but it also has some rather lovely sculptures to see.

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Of course, in case you’re’ wondering – we did a lot of more regular sightseeing and touristy type things – because, wth – we were tourists!!

Addicted to fantasy?

Posted On 10 December 2014

Filed under Book Reviews

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This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn we are again travelling through the tropes of fantasy.  This week the topic is:

DRUGS- Driver of all the underground economies. At times glorified, at times responsible for all the world’s evil, but just as common in Fantasyland as our own. A big thanks to Tammy for the suggestion as this is not from the Tough Guide.

Jaye Wells – Dirty Magic – street drug that turns people into animals – very nasty!

Scott Lynch – Gentleman Bastard series. Lots of drugs used in this. There is the drug from the first book, which I can’t remember the name of, but basically turns anyone who uses it almost into a zombie and Capa Rasa is planning to use on all the nobles. There is the drug that Locke and Jean are infected with during Red Seas Under Red Skies (although is this really a drug or a poison?) I seem to remember that in the political games of Republic of Thieves – the political assistant who aids Locke and Jean is a drug addict?

Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker contains a highly addictive substance called Yellow Sap which again with continuous use renders the taker into a zombie like state.

Tarnished by Karina Cooper. Another steampunk adventure where the main protagonist is addicted to Opium.

I’m away from home this week so apologies for the short post, any mistakes and lack of graphics. I know there are lots more great examples but I can’t think of them right at this moment. I know I’ll be kicking myself when I read everyone’s posts!

Where’ve you been hiding all my life???

b2bf5-toptentuesday2Over at The Broke and the Bookish this week the Top Ten Tuesday topic for discussion is

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

So, without further ado, here they are:

  1. Alex Scarrow – Ellie Quin Series- very entertaining sci fi read
  2. Christopher Moore – Serpent of Venice – omg so good, and so funny
  3. Anthony Ryan – Blood Song- a huge epic fantasy that was such a fast read.
  4. Joe Abercrombie – Half a King – my first Abercrombie – won’t be my last!
  5. Andy Weir – The Martian – if you haven’t heard of The Martian! Well…..
  6. Jeff Vandermeer – Annihilation – creepy, scary…
  7. Tom Lloyd – Moon’s Artifice – excellent fantasy
  8. Angus Watson – Age of Iron – omg so good, when is No.2 out????
  9. M L Brennan – Generation V – if you start no other UF than this – then you’ll still be happy.
  10. Jen Williams – The Copper Promise – i can’t even!  Ok, I can. This book is awesome.  The Copper Cat. That is all.

I confess, I’ve had a good year for new authors.  What about you?

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Posted On 7 December 2014

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Just finished reading The Walled City which was an intriguing read.

This is really a story of survival based on the lives of three fictional characters as they try to stay alive. And, for me what makes it a compelling read is the setting. It’s difficult to actually believe that this place was a real city in Hong Kong. More than 33,000 people living in what amounted to approximately 6.5 acres of land. The place was run by gangsters and the living was harsh. Until the decision to demolish it was made in the late 80s.

We start the story with an introduction to Jin Ling. Jin is a young girl. She ran away from home to search for her sister. She lives rough on the streets taking one day at a time. Her only companion her cat! The mantra on the front of the book ‘run fast, trust no one, always carry your knife’, are the rules by which she survives.

Mei Yee is Jin’s sister. Sold by her father to the reapers she now belongs to the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon. Mei is not only trapped in the brothel but she spends most of her time locked in a small room where she receives only one visitor. A powerful man who has paid for the exclusive right to Mei. She is sad and lonely until an unusual and mysterious boy starts to visit her. Well I use the word visit loosely. He creeps up to her window and talks to her. Giving her a tantalising glimpse into the outside world that is prohibited to her.

Dai is something of a mystery for the most of the story so I won’t spoil his secret! Not originally from the Walled City Dai is something of an enigma. He runs drugs for the Brotherhood and desperately wants to find a way in. Between Jin, Mei and Dai things are about to become more dangerous and the clock is ticking. Literally the timeframe for the story is 18 days.

What I enjoyed most about the story was the setting and the way the writing made it so easy to imagine. This undoubtedly isn’t my typical read. There is no fantasy or supernatural creatures in The Walled City. There is however a lot of darkness and suffering. This is a gritty slice of reality.

In terms of criticisms. Well, nothing major. I enjoyed the author’s style, very evocative. I would say it took me a little time to get used to it and I’m not overly fond of the repetitive style that is sometimes adopted. For example, ‘I run, run, run’. I found it a little bit distracting somehow. But, in the scheme of things that was only a very minor niggle.

My thanks to the publishers for the review copy. I thought this was a very good read. A strong story of survival and redemption.

Looks to me like you’re on the wrong side of the river…

Posted On 4 December 2014

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Art it Up.  This is a weekly meme hosted by Tabitha over at Not Yet Read.  The idea being to see if you can come up with some inspiration for a little sketch or doodle from your last week’s reading or just anything else in general. this week I’ve read Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews and I’m currently reading The Walled City by Ryan Graudin plus over at Fantasy Review Barn we’re looking at Priests – so I’ve taken inspiration from those areas.  Don’t forget to stop over and check out Tabitha’s post :D

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