My Christmas Gifts

How is everyone after a busy Christmas? Did you all have lots to eat and see all of your family or did you have a quiet one this year? I had a pretty quiet one, but as usual, my body clock was all out of sync (Night Shift Worker) and i ended up sleeping a good chunk of it. What did you all get for Christmas? Any books …

Christmas Books

I did! I get lots of books, as you can see in my wonderfully constructed photo. I thought i’d give you a run down on all of my Christmas gifts and see if you got any of them too. Or do you want to read them? Or have you read them? If you have – let me know what you think.

I’ll start with Count Karlstein by Philip Pullman – as most of you already know, Philip Pullman is a big inspiration of mine. His Dark Materials forms my favourite book series of all time. However – i am yet to read this. Apparently Count Karlstein was Pullman’s first ever children’s book based on a play he wrote when he was an English teacher.

Here is the blurb:

No one in the village of Karlstein dares to leave their home on All Souls Eve – the night Zamiel, the Demon Huntsman comes to claim his prey.

But the evil Count Karlstein has struck a terrible bargin with Zamiel, and so the lives of his young nieces, Lucy and Charlotte,are in danger. Their only hope lies with Hildi, a castle maidservant, and her fearless brother, Peter. Can they save the girls from their dreadful fate? Only one thing is certain – the Demon Huntsman will not return to his dark wood unsatisfied!

I received two novels by Tim Parks this year; Dreams of Rivers and Seas and The Server. Last Christmas, i actually got a Tim Parks non-fiction book called Teach Us To Sit Still from my best friend. It chronicled Parks’ quest into finding alternative treatments for his un-curable pain. The book was incredibly interesting and i’ve found myself adding his fiction works to my Amazon Wish-List.

The Blurb for Dreams of Rivers and Seas:

‘For some time now, I have been plagued, perhaps blessed, by dreams of rivers and seas, dreams of water.’

Just days after Albert James writes these lines to his son John, in London, he is dead. Abandoning a pretty girlfriend and the lab where he is completing his PhD, John flies to Delhi to join his mother in mourning.

A brilliant and controversial anthropologist, the nature of Albert James’s research, and the circumstances of his death, are far from clear. On top of this, John must confront his mother’s coolness, and the strangeness of the cremation ceremony that she has organised for his father. No sooner is the body consigned to the flames than a journalist arrives, determined to write a biography of the dead man. The widow will have nothing to do with the project, yet seems incapable of keeping away from the journalist.

In Tim Parks’s masterly new novel, India, with its vast strangeness, the density and intensity of its street life, its indifference to all distinctions between the religious and the secular, is a constant source of distraction to these westerners in search of clarity and identity. To John, the enigma of his father’s dreams of rivers and seas appears to be one with the greater mystery of the country.

The Blurb for The Server:

Sex is forbidden at the Dasgupta Institute. So what is the sparkling, magnetically attractive Beth Marriot doing here? Why is a young woman whose irrepressible vitality and confident ego were once set on conquest and stardom, now spending month after month serving in the vegetarian kitchen of a bizarrely severe Buddhist retreat?

Beth is fighting demons: a catastrophic series of events has undermined all prospect of happiness. Trauma leaves her no alternative but to bury herself in the austere asceticism of a community that wakes at 4am, doesn’t permit eye contact, let alone speech, and keeps men and women strictly segregated. But the curious self dies hard. Conflicted and wayward, Beth stumbles on a diary and cannot keep away from it, or the man who wrote it. And the more she yearns for the purity of the retreat’s silent priestess, the more she desires the priestess herself.

The Server sets western individualism against the Buddhist belief that what we call ‘self’ is insubstantial fantasy. Unsure of anything but pain and pleasure, Beth’s constant invention and destruction of herself and the people around her is both riveting and highly entertaining.

One particular book i’m excited about reading is A.S Byatt’s novel Ragnarok: The End of the Gods. I have a particular fascination in mythology and for anyone who knows anything about my own novel ‘The Black Petal‘ – Valkyries feature in it. I thought it a great idea to add this to my Wish-List as it would be interesting to see how Byatt included Norse Mythology into her own work.

Here is the blurb:

Recently evacuated to the British countryside and with World War Two raging around her, one young girl is struggling to make sense of her life. Then she is given a book of ancient Norse legends and her inner and outer worlds are transformed. Intensely autobigraphical and linguistically stunning, this book is a landmark work of fiction from one of Britain’s truly great writers. Intensely timely it is a book about how stories can give us the courage to face our own demise. The Ragnarok myth, otherwise known as the Twilight of the Gods, plays out the endgame of Norse mythology. It is the myth in which the gods Odin, Freya and Thor die, the sun and moon are swallowed by the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Midgard eats his own tale as he crushes the world and the seas boil with poison. It is only after such monstrous death and destruction that the world can begin anew. This epic struggle provided the fitting climax to Wagner’s Ring Cycle and just as Wagner was inspired by Norse myth so Byatt has taken this remarkable finale and used it as the underpinning of this highly personal and politically charged retelling.

The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan is next on the list. This is O’Bryan’s debut novel and follows in the same sort of genre as Dan Brown and Raymond Khoury – two particular favourite thriller writers of mine. I first heard of this book when O’Bryan actually started following me on twitter (@Dan_pentagram) and one thing led to another and i actually saw this book in my place of work. It is the first novel in a series, which is always a good thing and i look forward to getting stuck in as its received many great reviews.

Here is the blurb:

Buried deep under Istanbul, a secret is about to resurface with explosive consequences…

Alex Zegliwski has been savagely beheaded. His body is found hidden near the sacred archaeological site of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

When Sean arrives in the ancient city to identify his colleague’s body, he is handed an envelope of photographs belonging to Alek and soon finds himself in grave danger. Someone wants him dead but why?

Aided by British diplomat Isabel Sharp, Sean begins to unravel the mystery of the mosaics in the photographs and inch closer to snaring Alek’s assassin. Evil is at work and when a lethal virus is unleashed on the city, panic spreads fast. Time is running out for Sean and Isabel. They must catch the killer before it’s too late.

An electrifying conspiracy thriller which will entice fans of Scott Mariani, Sam Bourne and Dan Brown.

I also received the sequel in The Midnight Chronicles series The Monster Mobile Zoo by Neil Trigger. For those of you who regularly read my blog, you’d remember my review of the first book – The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange was favourable and i conducted an interview with Neil Trigger also. It’s ultimately a book for children, almost gothic in style, but full of imagination.

Here is the blurb:

When a Mobile Monster Zoo comes to town posing as a themed circus, Bethany Rider and her friends soon work out that something more sinister is afoot.

Bethany, Derek, Caitlin and Jake all return in this spellbinding sequel to find the stolen Obsidian Orb – the source of all of Strataton’s power. This time, however, they’re not allowed to use magic!

Is Midnight behind the theft, and why is Bethany still having dreams about a witch that was vanquished months ago?

Yes, there are more! From my best friend (who is currently celebrating Christmas in Ney York) i got two novels by Marcus SedgwickMy Swordhand is Singing and The Kiss of Death. I have recently read the first book, if you remember from my post Library Addict, but i never got around to writing the review because not long after finishing the book, i was rushed into hospital. However, The Kiss of Death is the sequel to My Swordhand is Singing and i thought it would be a good thing to review the books as a series. You can’t go wrong with a good vampire story!

Here is the blurb for My Swordhand is Singing:

In the bitter cold of an unrelenting winter Tomas and his son, Peter, arrive in Chust and despite the inhospitability of the villagers settle there as woodcutters. Tomas digs a channel of fast-flowing waters around their hut so they have their own little island kingdom. Peter doesn’t understand why his father has done this, nor why his father carries a long battered box everywhere they go, and why he is forbidden to know its contents. But when a band of gypsies comes to the village Peter’s drab existence is turned upside down. He is infatuated by the beautiful gypsy princess, Sofia, intoxicated by their love of life and drawn into their deadly quest. For these travellers are Vampire Slayers and Chust is a dying community – where the dead come back to wreak revenge on the living. Amidst the terrifying events that follow, Peter is stunned to see his father change from a disillusioned man to the warrior hero he once was. Marcus draws on his extensive research of the vampire legend and sets his story in the forbidding and remote landscapes of the 17th century. Written in his usual distinctive voice, this is also the story of a father and his son, of loss, redemption and resolution.

Here is the blurb for The Kiss of Death:

Marcus Sedgwick’s tale of Venice and vampires is a captivating companion volume to the bestselling My Swordhand is Singing. Marko and Sorrel meet in Venice for the first time. They must uncover the mystery of what has happened both to Sorrel’s father, plagued by a strange madness that prevents him from sleeping, and to Marko’s father, a doctor, who has mysteriously gone missing after travelling to Venice to help his old friend. Years on from My Swordhand is Singing and Peter is still on the trail of the Shadow Queen. His search leads him to Venice, a city whose beauty disguises many ugly secrets. The Shadow Queen is there, gathering strength, recruiting a new army of the Undead for a final confrontation. This fabled city with its lapping waterways, its crumbling magnificence, dark, twisting alleyways and surprising piazzas is the perfect setting for Marcus’s captivating gothic novel of love and loss in C18th Venice.

And lastly, i received Two Brothers by Ben Elton. It is a recent book, released only weeks ago, but i was taken aback by the front cover. It is obviously about Nazi Germany and World War II and to be honest, it is a period of history i often neglect to pay any attention to. I never paid attention to it in History lessons in school, simply because i was far to interested in Ancient History. However, my interest was certainly high when i saw this on the *New* bookshelf and i thought it would be a powerful story full of historical detail and rich imagination. I have only ever read one previous Ben Elton novel and that was Inconceivable, which is an entirely different kind of novel altogether.

Here is the blurb:

Berlin 1920

Two babies are born.

Two brothers. United and indivisible, sharing everything. Twins in all but blood.

As Germany marches into its Nazi Armageddon, the ties of family, friendship and love are tested to the very limits of endurance. And the brothers are faced with an unimaginable choice….Which one of them will survive?


As You can see, that is one long list of books! Obviously i will write reviews for all of them as i get through them. Wish me luck!


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