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calm's alphabet challenge

Alphabet Challenges

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Edited: Oct 28, 2009, 7:44am Top

I have thought about and watched how this challenge is going and have decided not to miss out on the fun:)

I am not going to read alphabetically but just fill in the ABC's as (and if) I start to read them. The tickers will move when I finish a book.

At the moment I am counting each book towards both title and author ABC's. This is because it feels like I am actually moving towards the target but eventually I will only count each book for either author or title (dependent on how the ABC's go and on the overlaps). So I will end up (if I can find a book for each letter) reading 52 books in the challenge.

Edited: Oct 1, 2010, 11:28am Top


A Lloyd Alexander The Book of Three

B Geraldine Brooks The People of the Book (read)

C Angela Carter Black Venus (read short story collection)

D Charles de Lint The Harp of the Grey Rose (read)

E Kerstin Ekman The Forest of Hours

F Ken Follett - World Without End

G Alan Garner - Elidor

H William Horwood - Skallagrigg (read)

I Kazuo Ishiguro An Artist of the Floating World

J Robert Jordan - The Gathering Storm (read)

K Katherine Kurtz - St Patrick's Gargoyle (read)

L Michelle Lovric The Floating Book : a Novel of Venice (read)

M Patricia A. McKillip Alphabet of Thorn (read)

N Andre Norton Forerunner Foray (read)

O Stephen Oppenheimer Out of Eden : The Peopling of the World (read - nonfiction)

P Terry Pratchett Unseen Academicals

Q Quercus Feline Friends

R Jeb Rubenfeld The Interpretation of Murder

S Vanitha Sankaran Watermark : A Novel of the Middle Ages

T Junichiro Tanizaki A Cat, a Man and Two Women

U Jane Urquhart The Stone Carvers

V Vendela Vida Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

W A. N. Wilson My Name is Legion: A Novel (read)

X Xinran Sky Burial

Y Jane Yolen Briar Rose

Z Carlos Ruiz Zafon The Shadow of the Wind

Edited: Oct 15, 2010, 4:31pm Top

Book Titles

A Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip (read)

B Black Venus Angela Carter (read)

C A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

D The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb (read)

E Elidor by Alan Garner

F The Floating Book : A Novel of Venice by Michelle Lovric

G The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan

H The Harp of the Grey Rose by Charles de Lint (read)

I The Interpretation of Murder by Jeb Rubenfeld

J Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

K Kraken by China Mieville

L Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (7 June - 8 June)

M My Name is Legion : A Novel by A. N. Wilson (read 29 Oct - 2 Nov)

N Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India By William Dalrymple (10 June - 13 June)

O Out of Eden : The peopling of the world by Stephen Oppenheimer (read)

P People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (read)

Q The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds

R Red Dog by Louis de Bernieres

S Skallagrigg by William Horwood

T Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams

U Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

V Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

W World Without End by Ken Follett

X XIsle by Steve Augarde

Y Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Z Ze by Renee Smith

Oct 24, 2009, 12:19pm Top

Welcome to the challenge. Fun and tackling our respective mount tbr's are what it's all about. Have a good 'un!

Oct 24, 2009, 12:22pm Top

Thanks for the welcome AHS-Wolfy! :)

Oct 24, 2009, 1:40pm Top

The first book I am reading that will count for this challenge is

Title S for Skallagrigg
Author H for Horwood, William

This is a re-read of a British book first published in 1987. There are just over 100 copies on LT and no reviews. I think that this is a book that needs a LT review.

Oct 24, 2009, 3:28pm Top

Yeah, you caved! Welcome and enjoy your challenge. Oh by the way, your TBR's are sure to grow in size but that's half the fun.

Oct 24, 2009, 6:56pm Top

Hi Calm, nice to see you over here. Looking forward to seeing how you fill in your ABC's!

Oct 24, 2009, 8:18pm Top

Hi Calm. Welcome to the challenge. I'm looking forward to reading your review for Skallagrigg. Will you please post it here as well?

Oct 25, 2009, 4:26am Top

Thankyou for the welcome. Very nice to have visitors (maybe I shouldn't spend so much time lurking on other people's threads and actually say hello myself!)

Carmenere - the TBR might grow but half the fun is knowing that the book exists and that maybe one day you will get to read it (before LT I walked around with a notebook with around 100 titles that I would like to read - if I could find a copy)

DeltaQueen50 - I think I get almost as much fun seeing what other people have enjoyed (or not) as I actually get from reading a book myself:)

RidgewayGirl - I will probably be doing something similar to my 50 book challenge thread; putting some thoughts about the book here straight after reading it and then posting a full review on the work page (if I can write one and when I am happy with it!)

Oct 26, 2009, 8:57am Top

Hi (and welcome) from a fellow lurker who is also looking forward to the review.

I know what you mean about writing quick reviews 1st then adding a full one later. Some of my 1st attempts just make me wince :)

Edited: Oct 28, 2009, 7:35am Top

Oct 28 I have finished Skallagrigg so here is a copy and paste of early thoughts from my 50 book challenge thread


Initially all I am going to say is that this is not a comfortable book. If you know this author's works from his Duncton Wood books you might recognise some of the themes of darkness and suffering but here they are not filtered through a fantasy about moles. This is a graphic portrayal of life as a handicapped person and how attitudes and treatment change. There is one character committed to an asylum as a child in the 1920's and another born in the 1960's.

I have never been able to adequately explain why I think that this is a brilliant book and I am sure that many people will find it incredibly disturbing.

The simplest explanation is that I find its themes of hope and belief; the power of love and faith and friendship worth the struggle.


So that is my first book in this challenge completed. Now I will take some time to think of the review and what I am going to read next.

Oct 28, 2009, 8:12am Top

#12 nice review you have intrigued me, I am going have to search the library for a copy.

Oct 28, 2009, 9:41am Top

Thanks clfisha, not the full review yet just enough to give a reaction (though if you go to the Reviews Reviewed group you can see the first draft of the full review).

I hope you can find a copy. As it was originally published in the UK in 1987 I don't know how available it will be.

Oct 30, 2009, 12:43am Top

Hola Calm. Just stopping in. I saw you are reading The Dark Is Rising series from your profile. Those books were favorites when I was a kid.

Oct 30, 2009, 6:11am Top

Hello chrine yes I gatecrashed the 75 book challenge group read - one book a month. That means I will be reading Silver on the Tree along with some other people by 8 Nov. It is an interesting thread, sirfurboy has been putting up pictures and links to some of the real places that are settings in the books. Here's the link if you want to take a look.


Though you seem to have enough on the radar to keep you reading already:)

Oct 30, 2009, 2:40pm Top

I am in one of my rare occasions of having more than 2 books in currently reading as I am planning on joining in on the group read of People of the Book (start 1 Nov)and, as stated above, also the one for Silver on the Tree (8 Nov). So

Black Venus by Angela Carter - a collection of short stories (I frequently have a short story collection that I dip into when I do not want to read a novel

Out of Eden : The peopling of the world by Stephen Oppenheimer - nonfiction about anthropology and human migration.

My Name is Legion : A novel by A. N. Wilson - a British satirical novel.

Hopefully I will have finished the novel in time to start reading the first section of The People of the Book this weekend to fit in with the group read in the 50 book challenge group.

Oct 30, 2009, 6:46pm Top

Calm, I am planning on reading Over Sea, Under Stone for my 1010 challenge, so I plan on coming back here for that link to the group read, if you don't mind.

I too am trying to get through some books in order to be ready for the group read of People of the Book, so I'll probably see you over on that thread as well!

Oct 31, 2009, 8:33am Top

DeltaQueen50 why should I mind:).

It's great to see what other people make of a book. It is one of the things I am trying to get more involved with on LT and I am thinking of rearranging my 1010 categories so I fit in one just for various Group Reads.

Edited: Nov 2, 2009, 9:45am Top

Second book finished in this challenge
M title My Name is Legion
W author A. N. Wilson

(Copy and paste of the review)

This is a book I picked up as part of my summer "book splurge", a moment of madness in my local town when nearly all of the places you can buy second hand books practically give them away. My copy of this book has no publisher's blurb but is covered with snippets of reviews that led me to believe that I would be reading a modern satire (published in 2004) about Fleet Street. I read a couple of random paragraphs and added it to the pile of books that I wanted to read. It turned out to be much more.

A.N. Wilson takes a cast of characters and ties their stories together in such a way that you don't know whether there is any hope in the world. This is a story about the ability to manipulate the truth so that lives are built up and destroyed on a whim. It covers life in modern Britain; the media; religion; modern art; the politics of post colonial Africa; what people hope for in life and how our choices can destroy us into one amazing book.

I am just about to start People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks for the 50 book challenge Group read.

Nov 3, 2009, 10:16am Top

#20 I loved that book when I read it last year - I hope you will, too.

Edited: Nov 3, 2009, 10:36am Top

#21 sjmccreary loving it;) I have read the first third and can't wait to start discussing this week's section. Wonderfully atmospheric snippets of history!

Edit to add the link to the discussion thread if anybody fancies joining in.
General thread
Part one thread (up to end of Feathers and a Rose)

Edited: Nov 9, 2009, 7:05am Top

Third book completed in this challenge is
A title Alphabet of Thorn
M author Patricia A. McKillip

I gave this book 4 and 1/2 stars.

(copy and paste of review)

I love McKillip's use of language and imagery. This is a wonderfully layered fantasy with story unfolding within story. A wonderful, magical world where the stories of many characters and different lives collide and entwine. It is also a story of love tipping over into obsession. The love of books, language and knowledge within the library; the passion of first love; the love of country and what one might do to sustain love.

Edited: Nov 9, 2009, 7:06am Top

double post!

Nov 9, 2009, 10:28am Top

I think you get an extra point for reading a book with the word "alphabet" in the title!

Nov 9, 2009, 10:43am Top

#25 Maybe the extra point can be used to cover one of the hard letters - a sort of "get out of jail free" card

Nov 9, 2009, 6:50pm Top

You've sold me on Alphabet of Thorn, I'm adding it to my wishlist.

Nov 10, 2009, 4:43am Top

Hello RidgewayGirl and sjmccreary. I am sure there are other alphabet books out there for your own ABC's ;)

DeltaQueen50, if you love fantasy and fairytales McKillip is a wonderful writer.

Nov 13, 2009, 5:14pm Top

T title Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams. (read 9-12 Nov)

I already have a W author so this just counts for a title. Another fantasy, this time about cats. It is a quest novel but Tad Williams has created a mythology that explains a lot of cat behaviour. Believable characters and great description means that this merits 4 stars.

Nov 15, 2009, 11:52am Top

While I am taking part in the group read of The People of the Book I seem to be spending the in-between times reading fairly short fantasies so the next book completed in this challenge is

H tile The Harp of the Grey Rose
D author Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint's first completed novel. A fine first book rooted in a traditional style folk tale. This tells of the young orphan Cerin; his falling in love and his quest to battle evil. Most of the traditional elements are here and it shows the promise of de Lint's future work.

Nov 19, 2009, 1:03pm Top

P title People of the Book

B author Geraldine Brooks

Read as part of the group read. So just a very brief comment.

Like the illustrations in the Haggadah Geraldine Brooks has created pictures of important points in Jewish history. Wonderful story telling and heartbreaking in places. Four stars.

Nov 19, 2009, 1:05pm Top

D title The Dragon Keeper
H author Robin Hobb

The tenth book set in the world of the Six Duchies/ Bingtown/ the Rain Wilds. There are brief cameo appearances from the Vestrit sisters (Althea and Malta from the Liveship traders trilogy) but this is about a new cast of characters. This is about the rain wilds and the newly emerged dragons. Robin Hobb's return to this world is worth reading but ends abruptly and leaves me needing to read the next book (which is as yet unpublished).

Nov 23, 2009, 6:04am Top

O title Out Of Eden: The Peopling of the World

O author Stephen Oppenheimer

This is a synthesis of genetics, archaeology and climatology that looks at how and where our ultimate ancestors could have lived. Stephen Oppenheimer presents a plausible theory about the earliest days of man. It is categorised as popular science but it is not always an easy read and, for me, some of the chapters dragged. Worth reading but I do not think it should be read without some knowledge of the topic.

Nov 25, 2009, 11:05am Top

F title The Floating Book : A Novel of Venice
L author Michelle Lovric

Historical fiction that melds fictional characters and real people from history in a recreation of the early days of the printing press and the coming of "quick books". One of the main themes of the book is the printing of Catullus's poetry. The book focuses on several characters involved with this; their lives and relationships. Each section of the book is prefaced by a snippet of Catullus's life and relationship with Clodia (the inspiration for much of his poetry) these reflect aspects of the Venetian story.

I must say that the voices of the various characters were not always distinct (it sometimes took a paragraph or two to decide who was speaking). Apart from that minor quibble I really liked this book. The author created wonderfully evocative images of Venetian life.

Nov 25, 2009, 6:27pm Top

#33 This is one of my favorite topics, so I've added it to the wishlist and will attempt it, in spite of your warning that it might be difficult. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Nov 30, 2009, 10:05am Top

J author Robert Jordan
G title The Gathering Storm

I loved it, I am back in a world which I discovered nearly 20 years ago. The characters were well written; the plot moves on apace and I think that having Brandon Sanderson continue this epic was a brilliant decision.

Nov 30, 2009, 10:07am Top

K author Katherine Kurtz
another S title St Patrick's Gargoyle
(so it doesn't add to the count)

I picked this up after reading about it on another LT thread thinking it was a dimly remembered book I read around 20 years ago. It's not that book but it was an enjoyable visit to Dublin to meet some very interesting characters. A different take on urban fantasy where the gargoyles are not what they seem; also an interesting look at religion, church history, angels, life and death. Highly enjoyable.

Dec 2, 2009, 1:17pm Top

N author Andre Norton
another F title Forerunner's Foray (so it doesn't add to the count)

Enjoyable SF from the 1970's, reminded me of why I loved Andre Norton way back then. Time to look for more of her books:)

Edited: Dec 4, 2009, 1:55pm Top

C authors Angela Carter
B titles Black Venus

I find it difficult to review short story collections. A couple of these stories just miss for me but most are little gems. A wonderful use of language to create evocative scenes, some of them surreal and dream-like; others read like snippets of history; rambling and succinct at the same time. Four stars.

Dec 11, 2009, 12:37pm Top

One addition to the authors and two to the titles this time.

P author Terry Pratchett
U title Unseen Academicals

Brilliant, don't miss, five stars!

Terry Pratchett is a brilliant social commentator, taking aspects of our society and sprinkling them with Octarine and reflecting them back on us. In Unseen Academicals he takes a look at community, race and prejudice and delivers his usual magic.


R title Red Dog by Louis de Bernieres

I picked up this collection of short stories after some one asked about books about Australia. From memory I had rated it as a 4 star book, on re-reading it has been reclassified to 5!

This is about the life of Red Dog, a stray dog in a Western Australian mining town in the 1970's. As the community grows Red Dog is the connection that brings this town to life. Louis de Bernieres has a wonderful eye for character and description. If you haven't read any of his work this might be a good place to start; if you have don't miss this one!

Edited: Dec 21, 2009, 4:03pm Top

I managed to add another title so

Y title Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

After reading People of the Book earlier this year I wanted to read this novel and I wasn't disappointed. When the Great Plague of 1665 hits a small English mining village they make the decision to isolate themselves rather than spreading the disease. This novel takes the few facts known about a real town that made this choice and gives us a truly wonderful story. The various reactions of the villagers to the deaths of family, friends and neighbours feel real. Definitely my kind of historical fiction.

Dec 21, 2009, 9:48pm Top

I loved Year of Wonders. It was the first of her books that I read and my favorite one so far. I am hoping to read March next year for my 1010 challenge.

Dec 22, 2009, 11:29am Top

#41 The only Brooks book I've read was People of the Book, which I loved. I've wanted to read another, but couldn't decide which. I think it will have to be Year of Wonders. Thanks for the recommendation.

Dec 22, 2009, 11:38am Top

#42 & 43

Everywhere I looked I kept coming across March but, not being familiar with Little Women or knowing much about the American Civil War, I didn't fancy reading that one. If I do get to read Little Women (which is on my TBR shelf) this year I might give March a go.

Dec 22, 2009, 11:43am Top

#44 I've read Little Women - as an adult, so it didn't blow me away as much as it seems to do when read as a child - and I did a lot of reading about the civil war this year - and it's gotten tons of positive comments - but I just haven't been able to commit to reading March. Not sure why, but it leaves me open to read YofW instead.

Dec 26, 2009, 7:43am Top

Another letter off the title list!

C title A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

What does one say about such a well known story. It is a timeless story of the importance in the way we live our everyday lives; that love, family and community are more than money or material possessions.

Nearly every year I watch one (or more) of the film versions. But, even if you think you know the story, I recommend that you still read the book. Coming back to Dickens' own words adds a depth to the story. The richness of his descriptive language and his ability to paint a scene in a few words is wonderful. One well worth revisiting time and time again.

Dec 26, 2009, 8:37pm Top

#46 And a timely choice it is!

Edited: Dec 28, 2009, 1:03pm Top

and another author (though this might be a slight cheat) I believe that the name is that of the publisher and most of the book is photographs!

Q author Quercus Feline Friends

A short book consisting of photographs of cats and quotations from various sources. Quotes from nursery rhymes, proverbs and poems and general musings on cats that match the photos beautifully. A lovely addition to any cat lovers library.

Jan 8, 2010, 8:51am Top

and finally another title

V title Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Bizarre and quirky. An intriguing look at how pop culture and the ubiquity of instant media leads to an expectation of how we should behave when certain events happen.

After his best friend kills most of their classmates in a high school shooting Vernon Little becomes the scapegoat; the target for the town's anger. His mother is ineffectual; his father has disappeared sometime before; his best friend is dead and nobody believes that Vernon is innocent. Throw in some supporting characters - the local housewives; the cops who want an arrest; a media circus; lawyers and a truly weird psychiatrist - and we end up on a nightmare journey with a teenage American boy.

The characters are sketchy and disagreeable and the plot implausible. It is also crude but the pictures it conjures and some wonderful imagery drew me in. Strangely enough I really liked it.

Jan 21, 2010, 8:17am Top

More to add to this challenge

G author Alan Garner

E title Elidor

I first read this, as a child, back in the 70's and vaguely remembered it. Garner's power of description and the creating of atmosphere means that the quality of writing is good; but for me too many questions are left unanswered. The opening scenes as the four children explore the Manchester slums being demolished draw you into a feeling of discomfort. The descriptions of family life and the impact of their adventure are drawn out but the actual climax of the book felt rushed and left me feeling unsatisfied.

Feb 8, 2010, 8:00am Top

At last I've read something starting with letters that I hadn't already filled

F author - Ken Follett
W title - World Without End

Covering the period 1327 to 1361, this medieval history tells of the years of Edward III. His wars with France, including the battle of Crecy, and the Black Death. Returning to the fictional town of Kingsbridge once again we have the conflict between church and town as times change. Follett gives us a real feel of the struggles to live as peasant, craftsman, tradesman, nobleman or a member of the church. The question of whether the prior owns the town or the lord his serfs versus the needs of the people to live and love, work and feed their families. How much should traditional ideas be able to influence life against the ability of man to innovate and change?

I found this an interesting book. Some of the characters might be perceived as having no redeeming qualities but overall I believe that it is a good portrait of people - their ability to do good or bad; to make the wrong decisions in life; to change and to make a difference.

Edited: Feb 12, 2010, 6:04am Top

Z author - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (8 Feb - 11 Feb) Translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves.

This is a picture of post civil war Barcelona seen through the eyes of a boy as he finds mystery, love and pain. When Daniel is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten books he discovers The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, an author he has never heard of, but this is a dangerous book to have as someone is trying to destroy Julian's works. As Daniel begins to uncover the story of Julian's life he finds his own life under threat and strangely mirroring that of Julian.

A book about books, stories and love. The love of parents for children; first love; passion and family. The intertwining stories gives it depth and a rich feel. As the mystery is uncovered each new piece of information adds another layer to this story. A wonderful book.

Feb 12, 2010, 5:10pm Top

I'm glad you liked The Shadow of the Wind; it's one of my favorite books. The Angel's Game is also excellent.

Feb 12, 2010, 5:27pm Top

RidgewayGirl - It's available at my local library - so it's now reserved;-)

Edited: Feb 14, 2010, 8:26am Top

T author Junichiro Tanizaki

A Cat, A Man and Two Women (12 Feb - 13 Feb)

My first foray into Japanese literature. Written between the First and Second World Wars this is a collection of one novella and two short stories.

The first is "A Cat, a Man and Two Women". In this we see the relationship between Shozo and the women in his life — his mother, first and second wives and Lily, the cat of the title. The second story is about a schoolteacher and how his aspirations wither as the demands of family life overpower his dreams. The third is a strangely voyeuristic piece written in two parts — the first part is an interview between a journalist and a professor and the second is about what happens when they meet again a few years later.

All three pieces are interesting snapshots of life. Of the three my favourite is the first. It is a story of love and rivalry and I like the descriptive nature of this. (4 stars) The second with its schoolteacher losing control of his own life I give 3 1/2 stars. The third was slightly disappointing, only a 3 star read. So overall a worthwhile introduction to Japanese literature.

Feb 25, 2010, 7:47am Top

R author Jeb Rubenfeld

I title The Interpretation of Murder

A historical, murder mystery. New York 1909 and Freud, Jung and others are visiting in order to give lectures at a university. This visit coincides with the murder of a young socialite and another attack that leaves a girl, alive, but with similar wounds. A young American psychotherapist is given the task of analysing the victim.

Rubenfeld mixes his fictional characters and events with real people and events. He provides a detailed portrait of New York and its society but, too often, it feels like too much information — which disrupts the flow of the story. The characters also felt rather flat, for me the most likeable being the young detective assigned to the case. The story was interesting enough to keep me reading and there were moments when it felt like it could have been a good book but, on the whole, it turned out to be nothing special.

Mar 8, 2010, 11:31am Top

Y author Jane Yolen Briar Rose (5-7 Mar)

All I knew going into this book was that the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty was somehow linked to a tale of the holocaust. What I read was more than that. This is a deceptively simple book that shows the importance of story as metaphor for life. How the memories of atrocity are hidden and buried. The people of the small Polish town who will not speak of the past; the grandmother who conceals her own history in the guise of a fairytale and Becca's own search for her roots and a sense of family.

Becca's grandmother Gemma is dying, the one constant in her life was the continued retelling of the story of Briar Rose. After Gemma's death Becca finds she knew very little about her grandmother's past and follows the clues from the story and the contents of a box - a man's signet ring; some photographs; newspaper clippings and some names on an entry form to the USA. What unfolds is a story of survival that leads her to Poland and the horrors of the Death Camps of World War 2.

A well told story; well worth reading.

Mar 9, 2010, 12:11pm Top

A author Lloyd Alexander The Book of Three

Taran, Assistant Pigkeeper, to Hen Wen the oracular pig longs to be a hero. Weeding the vegetable garden and learning to make horseshoes just seem boring. So when Hen Wen runs away he follows. This leads to a series of encounters with characters good and evil and he finds out that what he thought about being a hero comes nowhere near the truth.

This is book one of one of my favourite children's series — The Chronicles of Prydain. Too often going back to childhood favourites is disappointing but this is fast moving; filled with interesting characters and firmly based in Welsh mythology. Travelling with Taran, Eilonwy; Gurgi; Fflewddur and Doli is like revisiting old friends — comfortable and I am left with a feeling of real pleasure.

Mar 29, 2010, 12:00pm Top

Slowly I am adding to this challenge. Another author for the list.

E author Kerstin Ekman

The Forest of Hours by Kerstin Ekman (translated by Anna Paterson) (24 Mar - 29 Mar)

A very atmospheric and sad story. Skord is a troll who lives in the forest but, as human life encroaches, he becomes involved with what it is to be human. His life and travels; hopes and dreams become more and more intertwined as time goes on. He ages slowly, passing as a child as people he knows grow old and die.

This is not a story about the nicer things in life. We meet outlaws; prostitutes; armies; alchemists - all have their influence on Skord. He learns and dreams of becoming a doctor but fate conspires against him and he returns again and again to the forest of his birth. Time is uncertain; as years pass we see the changes but is there any hope for love and life.

Fascinating, bleak and slightly surreal. A wonderful book that I'll definitely want to read again - some day.

Edited: May 7, 2010, 12:53pm Top

Not been concentrating on this challenge but I've finally managed to read a book that fits;-)

U Author Jane Urquhart

The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart (3 May - 6 May)

From the 1860's to the 1930's this book looks at settlers in Canada. A small, mainly Bavarian, community in the backwoods is at the heart of the story. The vision of the priest sent to this community and his dream to build a church; the woodcarver who helps him and the woodcarver's descendants. Escaping from troubles and the threat of war in nineteenth century Europe some of these descendants are pulled back to conflict with the outbreak of the First World War.

A story of love and obsession. Klara the woodcarver's granddaughter is in love with a young Irishman who goes to war. She also wants to carve but her grandfather's attention is on her brother who runs away from home. Eventually love and redemption comes at the Vimy Memorial in France. Amongst this fictional story we see the obsession of Walter Allward — the Canadian sculptor who created the Vimy Memorial to the missing Canadian soldiers of the First World War.

This is a wonderful story. Urquhart has created a fascinating insight into the lives of her characters. There are many layers such as weaving Klara's story with the founding of the community; the dreams of the priest with those of King Ludwig of Bavaria; the vision of Allward and the lives of the masons and sculptors who realise his dream.

I'll definitely be looking for more of this author's works.

Jun 10, 2010, 9:31am Top

Finally managed to read something that fills another letter in this challenge. Maybe I should be thinking about books to fill the gaps rather than reading whatever takes my interest:-)

L title

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (7 June - 8 June)

This is an enjoyable YA, steampunk novel. This is set at the start of the First World War, in an alternate history. Britain has built on Darwin's work and created beasties; other parts of Europe have developed machines. The stage is set for the clash of Darwinists and Clankers. Two 16 year olds are at the centre of the action - Dylan, who wants to fly in the living Leviathans of the British Airforce, and Alek, a young Austrian nobleman.

Westerfeld has created an imaginative alternate world. A lot of thought seems to have gone into the development of both the mechanisation of the Clankers and the evolved creatures. There is reasonable development of the two main protagonists and supporting characters. This is an engaging story and sets the scene nicely for the future books of the series.

Jun 13, 2010, 10:24am Top

N Title

Nine Lives : In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple

Nine lives; nine paths to spirituality in modern India; nine heartbreaking stories of individuals who hold on to tradition while India changes. The paths of these people are not easy — whether it is learning the sacred songs; sculpting the religious idols; living as a sacred prostitute or simply roaming the roads of India, forsaking home and family.

Dalrymple has travelled through India and talked to the people who have found a calling. Some through family tradition, carrying on as their ancestors did and trying to pass on their knowledge to the next generation; but the spread of education and technology means that their are now other paths to follow. Some to find a new life and community, even when their families object. What brings these stories together is the joy that many find in the way of life they follow. The acceptance of the community for these differing ways; a degree of religious tolerance that has lasted centuries. There are and have been challenges - the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the suppression of the Buddhist monasteries; Partition and the splitting of Muslim and Hindu; the Taliban and extremist views; the thought that traditions are mere superstition. Is India going to lose part of that long standing multi-religious tradition or will these paths always exist?

This was a fascinating glimpse of a culture. Dalrymple has a wonderful ability to tell these tales in a non-judgemental way, capturing the essence of nine characters and their paths in life.

Jul 3, 2010, 6:51am Top

Well I finally read something to fill one of the gaps in this challenge.

K title

Kraken by China Mieville (28 June - 2 July)

Weird and convoluted I found this fascinating reading. This is London's underbelly, a world not of dreams but nightmares. Billy Harrow is a curator at the Darwin Centre, when one of the specimens goes missing he is drawn into a world of cults and magic. The criminal Tattoo; the murderous Goss and Subby; Londonmancers; various cults who are looking forward to their various Armageddons; the FSRC - the Fundamentalist and Sect-related Crime Unit — all want Billy and what they think he knows.

What a warped and twisted imagination Mieville has and I am delighted to read his work. Wonderfully inventive and imaginative, this is complex reading. Multiple strands and POVs entwine to create a novel so rich and dark; descriptive and atmospheric that I am in awe of Mieville's ability to write such a roller-coaster of a ride.

Jul 7, 2010, 8:05am Top

I really enjoyed Kraken too, I loved the idea of the tattoo. Amazing how menacing a drawing can be :)

Jul 7, 2010, 8:47am Top

Hi clfisha - Thanks for stopping by. This thread is rather neglected but I've got a note of the letters I still need to fill - and I do intend to complete the alphabet, someday. Those X's!!

I'm really getting into Mieville's books, love his imagination, warped as it is;) I agree the tattoo was amazing!

Jul 8, 2010, 6:40am Top

Ha! I think its going to take me years to complete this challenge, those last few letters are hard :)

Its hard to pick a favourite of China Mieville's, but Kraken is definately up there as one of his best.Have you read Un Lun Dun? Is the only one of his I haven't read yet and I am wondering if I should get hold of a copy.

Jul 8, 2010, 7:33am Top

Un Lun Dun was my first Mieville - I loved it. If this works right it should be a link to my review


I still haven't read very much of his work. But do want to get hold of the Bas Lag trilogy. My local library only has Perdido Street Station;(

I have got books on my shelves that will complete most of the missing letters in the alphabets. It is just finding the time to read them. That X is still the most tricky, though I spotted a YA at my local library with an X title, X-isle by Steve Augarde (http://www.librarything.com/work/8721440) and am thinking of Xenophon for my X author.

Jul 8, 2010, 8:35am Top

nice review. I didn't realise it had illustrations, I think I will look for copy that has them.

Perdido Street Station is a great sprawling novel so I think it's time for a reread, I can hardly remember it! I do remember that Iron Council is set some time after the events in Perdido but The Scar, whilst set in the same world, is pretty much standalone. I didn't love The Scar though. Anyway hope you find some copies!

Those X ideas look good, especially X-isle, if you do try that I will interested to see what you think.

Jul 11, 2010, 10:52am Top

and another one

S author

Watermark : A Novel of the Middle Ages by Vanitha Sankaran (8 July - 11 July)

The early fourteenth century; Southern France and a girl is born. Albino and mute she must make her way in a world of suspicion of heresy and witchcraft. The attention of inquisitors has been drawn to the small town where she lives. Her father's craft of paper making is looked on as a way for heresy to be spread. What protection is there for one so different?

Vanitha Sankaran's historical novel is an interesting book, well researched and well written. The feel of the times; the people; crafts and ideas are described acurately (as far as I can tell). Auda, the protagonist, is naive; intelligent and a well developed character. The conflict of family and societies expectations unfold in a tale that could have taken place.

A good debut novel and I look forward to reading more of Vanitha Sankaran's work.

Jul 20, 2010, 8:04am Top

Yes! I've read an X title and it's a good one.

X title

XIsle by Steve Augarde (17 July - 18 July)

This YA post-apocalyptic novel is certainly compelling reading. The world has been devastated by floods and the survivors eke out a living scavenging and trading. At the start of the story a mob of people wait on the shore hoping that there is room on the island for some of their children. On the island there is food and shelter, the boys work at cleaning and labelling the cans of food recovered from the drowned supermarkets, but it is thought of as a better life than the struggle to live on the mainland. We follow two boys as they take the journey, what they find on the island and how their lives change.

Steve Augarde has created a world that seems all too likely in the wake of a global catastrophe. Memories of the days before, what people have to do to survive and the need for hope. I am a bit wary of the YA tag as this is violent and disturbing; containing religious mania and prostitution. Having said that this is a brilliant novel. The characters are interesting and the story fascinating. I scarcely wanted to put the book down as I needed to know how the story would end.

Jul 20, 2010, 8:21am Top

cool review and so off to the library I go :)

YA is a really difficult tag get right, it seems to cover such all such a wide age range or I guess just a wide range of reading experiances. However it's not much help when you are trying to judge books..

Jul 20, 2010, 8:35am Top

Steve Augarde's earlier books were for children (the author blurb mentions picture books). As for this one - as the POV character is a young boy I reckon that the people who decide these labels just assume that the book is suitable for younger children.

Aug 16, 2010, 4:45pm Top

I author Kazuo Ishiguro

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (15 August - 16 August)

My first Ishiguro and it won't be my last. A memoir of an ageing artist in post WWII Japan, this is a gently unfolding story. I love the picture of the country as it deals with the consequences of the war and the guilt felt by certain people.

Told purely through the eyes of Masuji Ono, the artist of the title, it is a story that reveals his youth and idealism. A portrait of a life that has changed, his confusion at those changes; his relationships with family and friends, his teachers and students. I found this a powerful story and loved it.

Aug 28, 2010, 8:28am Top

Well I finally got a Z title read:)

Ze by Renee Smith (26 August - 28 August)

It's very hard to think what to say about this book. The premise was interesting and the story was not too bad. I did enjoy the writing but it was hard to connect to any of the characters.

A woman, Xana, leaves her husband and drifts into a relationship with Jamie, a very troubled young man. When she finds out that he was adopted she decides to find out what happened to his parents. This takes her to a remote Indonesian island.

I think my main problem was that both of the main female characters were just insipid. They drift into circumstances without any real control of their own lives. This was debut novel and I might read another book by Renee Smith if she publishes one.

Sep 8, 2010, 6:54am Top

25 letters on the authors done - Only X to go now - as I read

V author

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (6 September - 7 September)

A novel about the search for identity. When Clarissa was 14 her mother abandoned the family. Years later, following her father's death, she discovers her birth certificate and finds out that the man she thought of as her father wasn't. In fact she had been born in Lapland. In some ways echoing her mother's actions she leaves her fiancee, without telling him where she is going, and travels in search of her biological father.

The prose is simple and elegant, the story fascinating, a delight to read.

Oct 1, 2010, 11:32am Top

Well I changed my mind on my X author book, I'll get to the Xenophon another day:)

This completes my A to Z of authors and I only have 2 more to go on the titles and both of those are sitting near the top of my TBR shelves ready to read this month!

X author - Xinran

Sky Burial by Xinran (29 September - 1 October)

In 1994 Xinran, a Chinese radio journalist, interviewed Shu Wen. It took her 10 years but finally she wrote Shu Wen's story and what a story it is. As a young woman in 1950's China Wen married a doctor who was later reported dead in Tibet. Not quite believing this she travels to Tibet to find the truth.

This is an amazing story that spans thirty years, though the way Wen's travels are described give no real sense of years passing. The lifestyle of the Tibetan nomads she joins means that seasons blur into each other and there is an acceptance of that pace of life. This is a fascinating insight into a way of life and a depth of love that transcends time.

Oct 1, 2010, 12:30pm Top

Congratulations on completing A-Z authors!
I still have to find my X author...

Oct 1, 2010, 1:27pm Top

Yes, congratulations, I just checked in here and have picked up a couple of books ideas - Un Lun Dun and Xisle are going onto my wishlist. I have already wishlisted Sky Burial but it is good to see such a positive review.

Oct 1, 2010, 1:35pm Top

Hi VictoriaPL, good luck with whoever you choose for that pesky X. I'm sure there are lots of interesting possibilities on the threads.

Hi DeltaQueen50, good choices. There are some good YA books out there. I hope you like Sky Burial. I'm already thinking of requesting Xinran's Good Women of China from the library soon.

This has been a fun challenge. It's surprising what you can find to fit all the letters:)

Oct 8, 2010, 3:17pm Top

The penultimate book for this challenge and I already have the last one lined up to read this month. So I'll manage to complete this challenge approximately a year after I started it :)

Q title

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds (5 October - 7 October)

Seven seasons in the 1840's in Dr Matthew Allen's High Beech Private Asylum, following the lives of the inmates; staff and neighbours. This is in some ways disjointed and episodic; shifting from character to character with gaps in time. As a picture of marriage; society and the entrepreneurial nature of some Victorians this also looks at the obsessional nature of man. It is also an almost poetic description of varying forms of mental illness; nature and Victorian life. That is not surprising as two of the characters are poets - John Clare, an inmate of the asylum, and Alfred Tennyson, who has rented a house nearby while his brother is at the asylum.

This is a beautifully written book. Some of the scenes are distressing, as befits the subject matter, but overall this is a fascinating, interesting read that casts a light into Victorian life and the treatment of mental illness at the time.

Edited: Oct 15, 2010, 4:37pm Top

The last book in my ABC titles challenge. I do need to do a bit of tidying up so that books aren't duplicated on Author and Title lists but I'm sure that I have read since I started this challenge to do that. I have enjoyed doing this challenge but am glad to have finished.

J Title

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey (11 October - 14 October)

There is a very Dickensian feel to this novel. It is well written but, for me, not a particularly gripping story. This story starts in 1837 when Jack Maggs returns to London looking for Henry Phipps, this leads him to the household of Percy Buckle and a meeting with Tobias Oates, an author and amateur hypnotist. Slowly the history of Maggs is revealed and he acts as a sort of catalyst in the lives of those who meets.

There is a great feel of the times and the people but somehow I didn't really care for any of the characters. In fact this does sometimes feel like more a set of character studies - rambling from character to character, getting their back story - than purely the tale of Jack Maggs. An interesting but slightly unsatisfying look at life in Victorian London.

Oct 15, 2010, 4:49pm Top

Congratulations on finishing this challenge. I'm still struggling to finish the last couple of letters though I have been taking them in order.

Oct 15, 2010, 5:00pm Top

Thanks AHS-Wolfy:)

I don't think there is any way I could have done this in alphabetical order. It was hard enough just trying to find something I felt like reading for each letter. So well done to you for doing it that way!

Oct 15, 2010, 7:30pm Top

Congratulations on completing the challenge! Are you going to go for a second one, or move on to something different?

Oct 15, 2010, 8:41pm Top

Congratulations, Calm. I've really enjoyed getting some excellent reading ideas from you.

Oct 16, 2010, 6:33am Top

Sandy - I'm not going to be doing another alphabet challenge. I think it is time to concentrate on my slightly neglected categories in the 1010 and also try to organise my ideas for the 1111 categories. I'm also enjoying taking part in TIOLI which allows a lot of flexibility and new challenges every month. Not sure if I want to take part in another focused challenge, whether I change my mind when I spot another interesting idea is another question:)

DeltaQueen50 - thank you. I hope you enjoy whatever you happen to read. I think that's one of the things I love about LT - you get to hear about books that would probably never have come to your attention otherwise. I've certainly read books that I would never have considered without this challenge.

Group: Alphabet Challenges

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