Pandaemonium (Audiobook)

Warning: I’m about to gush over another audiobook

I’m using my Audible account to catch up with books I want to read, but haven’t quite got round to yet and Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre was high up there on that list. I love Christopher Brookmyre books, he’s one of the few authors where I make a point of reading all their work but I was a little disappointed by his last book, A Snowball in Hell, it wasn’t as funny as his others, however Brookmyre principally is not a comedy writer, he’s also a lot more than a thriller writer to, in fact I’m not quite sure what he is, but he’s brilliant and from listening to Pandaemonium, he’s improving his game all the time.

Once again, there wasn’t a laugh out loud, split your sides moment in this book either, although plenty of wry moments, but I can see where he’s going with that now, for a start having a laugh out loud, split your sides moment in a book featuring deep philosophical discussions on the nature of religion, quantum physics, the nature of responsibility and the effect of a teen killing, growing up as a teenager and at the end, an absolute blood bath, may not have been totally appropriate.

Christopher Brookmyre is like Dan Brown souped up on speed and an intelligence implant; tackling one of Brown’s favourite topics in this book, the Catholic Church, Brookmyre has us following a group of teenagers and their teachers on a retreat in the Scottish Highlands, to recover from a brutal killing in their school. He also takes us into a secret underground base, where there is an unusual anomaly which has made the MOD reach for the Vatican on their speed dial. You can guess where the teenagers are staying; above the underground base.

There is a vast cast of characters and Brookmyre in particular portrays the teenagers very very well, which in comparison with the adult characters, makes the adult characters a little more indistinct, but only because the teenagers are written so well. My only criticism of the teenagers is that they seem to be extremely intelligent teenagers, who despite obviously being sex, drink and video gamed obsessed, alongside mucking around in class, must have been paying attention somewhere. Brookmyre writes the teenage girls in particular extremely well, with their multitudes of insecurities. Each teenager character is well rounded and distinct from the other teenagers, even to an extent when I reached a point where we were with two female characters and I sat there listening and I thought about one of the girls, “I bet she reads Neil Gaiman” and a few minutes later, the character pulls out a copy of Sandman from her bag and uses it to make a pertinent plot point.

Down in the secret base there is a battle between the scientists, the military and the Vatican. There are some good parts here to, I particularly liked one of the character’s ponderings about hell on earth, where at several points he wonders whether he actually died during an accident months ago and failed to realise it and instead hell has come to him. An idea echoed by the teenagers a little later in the book.

There is lots of talk of parallel universes, alternate time lines and dark matter, which I lapped up with enthusiasm. I always like it when my fiction reading / listening, coincides with some non-fiction reading / watching, as I’m also in the middle of reading Michael Brooks 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense and he talks about dark matter a lot in that.

The latter half of the book is very violent, as the daemons that having been coming through the anomaly make their appearance. I loved how the violence was very sudden. You see it on TV and with a lot of writers, if something is going to happen, you get the build up, the anticipation, if it’s TV, the creepy music and that can be great for building anticipation, but with Brookmyre it was so sudden and unexpected (even though you had an obvious idea that the daemons were going to appear at some point), so almost matter of fact, it made it a lot more shocking. There are scenes with characters talking to each, seemingly safe, you think they’re safe, they look as if they’re playing out completely different plot points altogether and then mid sentence someone gets a knife in the throat.

There are some really thought provoking discussions in this book about the battle between religion and science and how we create what we perceive and how our behaviour can affect others, a really good book.

On a final note, this audiobook was narrated by Kenny Blyth, another skilful narrator to add to my personal list of favourite narrators.

Highlights of 2009

Here’s some highlights of 2009.

Family Highlight

Boy Lacer starting nursery, I always knew that place would be good for him and it is incredibly pleasing to see how right that was. Within a week he was climbing climbing frames, they got him washing hands and they were / are just so all round brilliant with him.

As I wrote in my highlights of 2007 post and my highlights of 2008 post, I would kind of like to dump the pushchair but that hasn’t happened yet and we have had to go for a special needs pushchair but Boy Lacer does walk to school occasionally without it and on those moments I do often realise that pushchairs are good things, he’ll get there in his own time (often literally).

Personal highlight

Finishing the first draft of my novel!

Book highlight(s)

I can once again give you my incredibly nerdy personal book stats; this year I read / listened to 37 books (down 5 from last year, bad me), broken down that was 17 adult fiction (-17 down from last year), 2 audio books (I’ve got into audio books just this year, so none last year), 14 children’s fiction (+6 last year), 1 graphic novel (+1 from last year), 2 books of short stories and 1 non-fiction (-6 last year). I did not read as much as I wanted to this year, particularly towards the end of the year I’ve had a run of bad books and I am always loath not to finish a book which tends to mean I just don’t read at all. But there have been plenty of book highlights.

Adult fiction favourite

My adult fiction favourite goes to Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, I loved that one. I also particularly enjoyed the rest of the Shardlake series, which I read at the beginning of the year.

Children’s fiction favourite

I have read some really good children’s books this year but my absolute favourite goes to Charlie Higson’s The Enemy, which had me hooked literally from the supermarket conveyor belt. Honourable mentions go to anything I’ve read this year by Eoin Colfer and Anthony Horowitz.

Cook book highlight

For this I can’t chose between Fay’s Family Food and River Cottage Everyday, both really usable, family friendly books.

Film / DVD highlight

Another one for Neil Gaiman, the adaptation of his book Coraline was amazing. I also (although I never actually blogged about it) thought the film Moon was fantastic, really clever and ‘proper’ original sci-fi.

TV highlight

Nope, I’m not going to say Doctor Who, because although largely fantastic, it was not consistently fantastic. What has been consistently fantastic was Torchwood: Children of the Earth, for telly so gripping and so real life scary (come on, don’t you just think real life politicians would behave that way?) and for Merlin for fantastic characterisation with great individual storylines yet an intensely building over riding story arc, that just makes me want to write stories that are half as good as the way Merlin is written for TV.

Happy New Year everyone!

Fragile Things

fragile thingsMore readings from Mr. Lacer’s book pile, although of course I’d have gone and brought it eventually if he hadn’t.

Fragile Things is another one of Neil Gaiman’s short story collections and I think this one is even better than Smoke and Mirrors. Now I’m not normally a great fan of short story collections, as I think they can often be an excuse for the author to go ‘look how clever I am’ but Neil Gaiman can always write a good proper story, long or short. There are lots of stories from Fragile Things that I think I can say are favourites of mine; October in the Chair, which is sort of two stories in one and features the nice idea of anthropomorphised months of the year sitting around telling each other stories. Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire is fantastic, a topsy turvy tale of a tortured writer in a gothic world trying to write gothic realism and then realises that maybe he should try some fantasy. The Flints of Memory Lane, a reportedly real ghost story. And whereas Closing Time is  a spooky London-ey ghost story, that captures story telling perfectly, Bitter Grounds capture’s Gaiman’s other ability to capture the surreal elements of journeying across America. Other People is literally a clever and hellish Moebius story. Keepsakes and Treasures is Gaiman back on this side of the pond introducing one of Gaiman’s trademark sinister characters, Mr. Alice, that later pops up in the American Gods novella, The Monarch of the Glen, at the end of the book. Harlequin Valentine is another slice of Americana, written again in Gaiman’s hypnotic prose. The Problem of Susan talks about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and is one of those short stories you find yourself thinking about days after reading it. Sunbird is a fantastic story featuring a group of people who’ve eaten almost everything. And finally The Monarch of the Glen, the American Gods novella, which I thought was brilliant to, making me remember exactly how much I loved American Gods, reintroducing the character Shadow, this time he’s in rural Scotland, a place which from how I’ve read Gaiman write about it elsewhere, he loves and is fascinated by. The Monarch of the Glen opens a little like a Christopher Brookmyre novel, you know, Scottish wilderness, weird locals, big old house, big party, people getting shipped in, you know it’s going to end in murder and mayhem. Except of course Gaiman introduces a mythical element to it, introducing two mythical characters (I won’t say which ones, don’t want to spoil the surprise, but he’s dealt with them before).

So, all in all, a brilliant book and with a high concentration of ghost stories and spooky goings on, great for the lead up to Halloween to!

Stardust

Stardust

Mr. Lacer actually brought this one (he’s developing a dangerous book buying habit ;) ), he was reading Gaiman’s Fragile Things at the time (also another one of his purchases) and Stardust was the last of the Gaiman books with the nice Headline covers that we didn’t have. He handed me Stardust, “You’ll read this before I finish Fragile Things”; I’m a far quicker reader than him and Stardust is only a short book (at around 190 pages), however, I am shocked to say, this has taken me ages to read and poor Mr. Lacer finished Fragile Things ages ago and he’s been consequently waiting for me to finish.

Now, normally I adore books by Neil Gaiman and will devour them, 190 pages, pah, that’d take me 2 days max, because when I find a book I like, I make time to read it, Stardust on the otherhand, well, it was beautifully and evocatively written, literally dripping with gorgeousness, just a mere sentence transporting you to the land of Faerie, but plot? A little lacking compared to Gaiman’s other books I love, like Neverwhere, Coraline, American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, heck all of them! In Gaiman’s defence, I don’t think he was aiming for much plot here, don’t get me wrong, there was plot, but it was quite ‘traditional’, which is what I think he must have been going for. Stardust is a very traditional fairy story, telling the tale of Tristran, from the village of Wall, he crosses over to Faerie to find a fallen star. There’s witches, feuding Lords and other strange miscellanous creatures. Gaiman brings everything to life with his normal skill at writing, in fact I think he surpasses himself here, evoking everything from the mundane of the weather, with brilliant lines like

The rain began at dawn, abruptly, as if the sky had turned to water,

and

Dusk seemed to have started at dawn that day,

to lines describing the people Tristran meets (you’ll forgive me for only specifically remembering the lines about the weather, I have a soft spot for well described weather – I’m so English). I also really liked the idea of the village of Wall, a village in our day to day reality, yet close enough to Faerie, that strange things happen if the wind blows the wrong way, I liked the whole borderline-ness of it all.

So, for reading the majority of the book, I’d read a few pages, think “Well this is all very nice, stunningly written,” and then go and put the book down and do something else. The story does pick up however towards the end. So to anyone who’s just read Stardust and have based their opinions of Gaiman’s work on just that, I’d say read another one, like maybe Neverwhere or The Graveyard Book, for a taste of his more ‘English’ works and American Gods for a taste of his more ‘American work’, to get a better idea about what Gaiman normally writes.

Finally, as usual with (at least the Headline editions), there is some nice extra material with this book; an author interview and a prologue for a book Gaiman hasn’t written called Wall. Stardust, it turns out, is sort of a prequel for a book that never was. Whereas Stardust is set in the Victorian era, Wall is a modern day story, set in the same village as Tristran came from, featuring a 40 something romantic novelist who’s books are read by characters in American Gods. As someone who is interested in writing, I love those extra little details about the author, Gaiman obviously has these massive complex worlds going on in his head and we’ve only seen glimpses of them so far in his books. And as much as Stardust is not my most favourite book of his, by far, I do hope he write’s his Wall.

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

batmanMr. Lacer’s birthday present from me was rather late this year, but in my defence they’ve only just released this, and I knew this was worth waiting for. Both me and Mr. Lacer are massive fans of Neil Gaiman (in fact, hold the front pages, Mr. Lacer recently shocked me by actually going out and buying a book, all by himself, bless, he only normally buys Terry Pratchett and even then he hopes someone else will buy it for him, he normally just reads a select few of my cast me downs, namely anything by Neil Gaiman and Dexter, but he got tired of waiting for me to buy Gaiman’s Fragile Things, so he brought it, he would have brought Stardust to, but it didn’t have the right cover . . .), anyway, me and Mr. Lacer are big fans of Neil Gaiman, we both read his blog, so off course we knew that he’d been asked to write the final Batman, we didn’t go as far as getting the comic when it came out but I was rather pleased to find out that it was coming out later as a book.

So, Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is a lovely, shiny, hardbacked copy of parts 1 and 2 of the final story, illustrated by Andy Kubert. It also includes a further three Batman stories, also written by Gaiman; A Black and White World, Pavane and Original Sins, which has When is a Door? within that story. This was my first experience of any of Gaiman’s comic writing, it feels sort of wrong that I’m not breaking my teeth on Sandman first, the series he’s most famed on, but the price of those books (although understandable, they’re big books, puts me off), so some Batman was a good start. I really liked Whatever Happened?, it looked at how all the people in Batman’s life saw him and how death wasn’t necessarily big, it can happen with the small things to, like being shot trying to stop in a street robbery or drowning in an attempt to save a child, (which of course in real life, to real people, those things would be epic but when you’re Batman and you’re used to being inches away from death from god knows what, they’re little).

Out of the other stories, I really liked A Black and White World, an interesting take on comics, were the Batman and the Joker are behind the scenes of the comic in the green room, practising their lines. The other two stories didn’t really feature Batman at all, concentrating instead on the villains and how they effected other people.

Now, I just have to wait for Mr. Lacer to finish Fragile Things, it could be a while . . .

Anti-Plagiarism Day

Today is anti-plagiarism day on Jane Smith’s How Publishing Really Works. Inspired by a case of plagiarism she had witnessed unfold, there’s now a whole raft of articles accessible from her blog post here, discussing various aspects of it. Jane herself has talked in the past about the particular case that inspired today, a what seems to be a case of writers’ group plagiarism where the guilty party won prizes off the pilfered work and didn’t seem to understand what he did wrong, to a case she talks about today where a best selling novelist lifted entire chunks of prose from another author’s books. I particularly liked Nicola Morgan’s blog post, where she talks about how being accused of plagiarism is one of her worst fears and about how easy it is to do. Jane’s post also talks about how easy it is to do (further down her post), with a discussion on unconscious plagiarism, or cryptomnesia, but I agree with both Jane and Nicola, that you have to be really conscious about making sure that you don’t do it and take proactive steps to avoid it.

The concept of plagiarism scares the hell out of me, not so much that someone will plagarise me, I, after all, am an unpublished writer and I don’t attend writing groups. I should say here that the principal reason why I don’t attend writing groups is that there isn’t one within easy reach of me anyway (which is strange in a literary town, thinking of it) and I harbour doubts about the usefulness of having my writing critiqued by other unpublished writers anyway, but I’ll admit the prospect of plagiarism would worry me a tinsy bit to. My work in progress is my baby and although I know I’ll have to let my baby go one day, I want it to go to the qualified ‘carers’ of the publishing industry, the agents and the slush pile readers. But, I’m getting side tracked, what really scares the hell out of me as far as plagiarism is concerned is me unintentionally committing it, through either coming up with an idea that just happens to be already out there (and I like the post Jane found in Neil Gaiman’s blog (scroll down a bit) on this matter, where he talks about his opinion on whether JK Rowling ‘stole’ his idea of owls delivering messages amongst other things) or using an idea that I have read or seen and forgotten that I’ve read or seen it or in the case of non-fiction writing, through sloppy note taking or taking short cuts I shouldn’t have, committing plagiarism there. The latter, as in the non-fiction writing, I’ll admit I have done, some of the first posts on this blog, just over two years ago, were written in the aftermath of me being caught, see here and here particularly. I was incredibly peed off with myself for doing it, I’m still peed off with myself for doing it, as I wrote in those two blog posts I’ve linked to, I had entered a non-fiction writing contest which was designed in such a way that the only people with a chance of winning were those that had written the most volume of articles over a set period of time and when a contest is judged more by volume rather than quality, I should have seen that good writing practice was not going to be involved here and me, two years later, can see that, me two years ago, I was naive. I thought, as long as I didn’t directly copy and paste (which I didn’t, although I could see quite a few writers in the contest were, as they’d still left in the ‘see picture here’ comments, on articles that had no pictures). No my crime was paraphrasing and paraphrasing badly. I’ve learnt my lesson since I hope, since that time I haven’t written any more non-fiction anyway, a combination of still not quite trusting myself and issues with time, I see myself as a fiction writer and the non-fiction websites were a distraction away from my goal of working on my fiction work, plus, linking with my fear of not quite trusting myself, a lot of the non-fiction opportunities I’ve seen since, principally providing copy for websites, you have to produce the copy so quickly, I just wouldn’t have the time personally to produce work that I knew, 100% in my heart, was paraphrasing free. I also have the side issue of the fact that when I do write non-fiction it tends to be science based, as that’s my background and I have issues with things like, for example, describing the structure of the DNA molecule in a succinct, easy to read, to the point manner, there are only so many ways of describing the components of the DNA molecule, you can’t just go and invent a new component just to make your work original, so in summary, non-fiction, a whole mine field I am staying way out of. I still do have some non-fiction work out there on the net, posted for a different website, one which placed a greater emphasis on original work instead of volume, that I wrote about the same time as the paraphrasing incident and I still worry about them and look at them and think “is that work really truly mine?” and to be honest if I could take them down, I would, just to get the whole non-fiction thing out of my hair. I look at them and I think, “I think that’s mine,” but I just don’t know anymore about that whole (to me) blurry line of non-fiction science writing.

As for fiction though, I am a hell of a lot more clearer, I can’t even imagine why anyone for a start would deliberately plagiarise, to me, that’s just not in the spirit of writing, why would anyone, as in the case Jane talks about in her blog post, whilst writing her novel, go “I know, I’m just going to insert a great big chunk of someone elses work here”, why do that? When I write fiction, as I’m sure it is with most other fiction writers, it is my world I’m creating, I don’t want to go and borrow anyone elses world. As for lifting whole story concepts, as in the case of Jane’s writing group example, that’s just mean and indicates a complete lack of original ideas from the plagiarist. So I see there a great big fat line which would be very difficult not to see and equally difficult to morally and professionally cross. You’re a writer, ergo you should have pride in your writing not someone else’s. But I think there’s also a thinner, more blurrer line, one which is easier to cross, as I wrote about my fears at the beginning of this post, having an idea completely independently from someone else at the same time or including an idea that you’ve read or seen about and have absorbed into your subconscious and forgotten its origins. Going back to Neil Gaiman’s post about the owls as an example, I think he’s right, the concept of owl’s delivering messages, probably not particularly new and he’s right about his relaxed attitude to it, another writer, who knows, could be a bit more uptight. I think the writers only defence against this particularly murky and blurring thin line is to do what they recommend all beginner writers to do anyway, know your market, read the competition, make sure your ‘baby’ isn’t too similar to someone else’s ‘toddler’ that’s been lurking around on the shelves for a few years. And of course all that reading is good for a writer anyway but then you’re flooding your brain with all those words, all those ideas and what if something pops into your head a year or two later and you can’t quite figure out if it’s your idea or you’ve seen it before somewhere . . .

So that’s my person take on plagiarism in writing, but I am also interested (read concerned) about plagiarism in another aspect of my life which has similar issues that writing has with plagiarism, that of producing and selling original crafted designs. I should explain to those just visiting my blog, that as well as try and write, I also enjoy my crafting and plan to open an Etsy shop this summer and the thought of opening my shop has very much concentrated my mind on what constitutes an original design, after surely a scarf is a scarf or a tote bag is a tote bag, but it’s nowhere near as clear cut as that, base a product you’re selling on a design from a book and you’re breaking, what copyright? You’re breaking something anyway. But I find the blurry line is how far away from that original bag you made from a book does your bag have to be before it’s different? Luckily for me I’m absolutely rubbish at following other people’s designs, so I’m not too worried about that. With me, it’s just like the issue with writing, you absorb yourself in all the wonderful design work out there and it comes to a point where you think of an idea and you think, once again, is that really my idea or someone else’s, have I seen that somewhere before and forgotten? Of course there’s still that great big thick line to, deliberately copying someone’s design, I’ve even heard of someone recently copying word for word, i.e. copy and paste, someone’s shop’s terms and conditions.

So, over 1500 words of ramble, which I’ll now try and sum up. Personally I don’t think plagiarism is black and white but nor do I think it’s excusable. I think you have to work very hard not to fall into some of the more greyer areas of plagiarism, you need to do your research to constantly check the validity of your ideas, and you need to try your hardest not to be naive or lazy or rushed to fall into the more obvious areas of plagiarism.

Happy Birthday Mr. Lacer!

Excuse my absence for the last few days, been busy plus, as this blog is pretty much a record of things I’m enthusiastic about, it’s been too hot to be enthusiastic about anything other than the air conditioning in Sainsburys.

Friday was cake selling at school, where ‘shame’ on me, I turned up with shop brought cakes.

Saturday, was a massive family shopping expedition, you know the sort of shopping expedition where you’ve been waiting for weeks for payday, me and the kids had to get birthday presents for Mr. Lacer and we wanted to get an iphone for me, plus the kids had a Charlie and Lola thing at a bookshop to attend. The iphone proved to be out of stock (back in stock next weekend hopefully) but the kids were hilarious whilst we were waiting in the queue in O2, they spotted a couple of iphones on display in the corner, now Boy Lacer’s had plenty of opportunity to play with one when we’ve been in the Apple store “Here small child, play with expensive gadget whilst I try and sell one to your mother” , but Girl Lacer has only (and very willingly) sat through the 15 minute ad on Youtube with the good looking apple sales guy “Ooh, it’s got touch screen. Ooh, it’s got maps. Oooooooh, you can play games on it!”. So they both squeal in delight, but instead of rushing over to the two display phones, Boy Lacer just stands and stares, at a very respectful distance, takes a few tentative steps closer and then (honestly) drops to his knees in awe. Girl Lacer then rushes over to the display but even she’s too nervous to take them off their stands whilst Boy Lacer finally approaches his technological god and stands tiptoed against the table, fingers clinging on the edge, peering up at them.

But by the time we were hunting for birthday presents for Mr. Lacer, Boy Lacer was a nightmare, partly because I’m still lacking my ‘safe zone’, i.e. a pushchair I can comfortably contain Boy Lacer in if it gets too much for him, we’re still borrowing a friend’s old Maclaren and it’s way too small for him. I’d been bidding all week on a special needs buggy on ebay but I was competitively bidding against someone probably just as desperate as me and the amount was getting just stupid, so in the end I let myself get outbid. I’m now watching another special needs buggy on ebay but this time I’m not going to get into a bidding war with someone and I’ll wait until the last few hours of the auction to show my hand. But that does mean the small Maclaren for at least another week, don’t think we’ll be going very far. ‘Unsurprisingly’ the occupational therapist (whoever she is now) never got back to me.

Saturday afternoon my dad was over and completely laid into my gardening skills, hmph. Put it this way, my idea of when to water my plants is a tad greener than my dad’s and on the long list of things I need to do in my life, weeding the patio, way down at the bottom.

Sunday, Girl Lacer had a mock ballet exam, unfortunately one of the things we’d planned to get in town on the Saturday was some replacement ballet kit, but Boy Lacer was so exhausting, the ballet kit slipped my mind, so me and Girl Lacer had to go into town first to get the ballet kit.

And then that leaves today, Happy Big Four-oh Mr. Lacer, having a husband in a different decade to me always makes me feel considerably younger (I have another 5 1/2 years of my 30s to go). Girl Lacer woke predictable early today, she’d got Mr. Lacer some chocolate turtles from ‘the chocolate shop’ (Montezumas), Boy Lacer got Mr. Lacer a wallet and I got Mr. Lacer a presentation pack of the mythology stamps with little stories by Neil Gaiman as a clue to what his real present will be when it’s released in August. As we were up early I got a chance to make blueberry muffins (my trusted recipe from the Friends cookbook, they’re delicious) for breakfast, as they’re Mr. Lacer’s favourites. I’ve made a birthday cake today as well, the ‘girl’s birthday cake’ from Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen (without the girly bits), I love that recipe, just as I love any recipe that says ‘put all ingredients in a bowl, mix, put in tin’ plus it always tastes gorgeous. Unfortunately today though, when I was removing the second sponge from the tin, it literally fell apart in my hands, so once again Mr. Lacer had a flat birthday cake (see the bottom of this post).

I also made today (and only because I was concerned about my rhubarb getting too stringy if I left it any longer) rhubarb and strawberry compote, based on a rhubarb compote recipe in the Leon book (and I say based, more like looked at the book, thought no way have I got 900g of rhubarb growing in my garden and then proceeded to make it up as I went along). I had about three very long stalks (I’m leaving on my smaller stalks for later), so I thought I’d better throw in some of my minuscule but powerful strawberries at the same time (some of my strawberries are tiny, but oh they taste good). I made about enough for two healthy sized dollops on a portion of something like say porridge or if you’re more pleasurably inclined, rice pudding (guess who had two portions of Rachel’s Dairy Rice Pudding in the fridge?), so I stuck half the compote in the fridge and half on a shop brought rice pudding (yes, I know home made rice pudding is far nicer, but I never have the forward planning to make it and Rachel’s Dairy Rice Pudding is, whilst still being nice, considerably lower in fat I think). And ooh it was good! Will probably making it again, although with the aid of the supermarket this time, I’m rapidly discovering this year (after my adventures in spinach soup  as well), that as nice as my little vegetable patch is, to grow enough fruit and veg to make certain dishes, with any frequency and put it this way, family sized, I need more space.

Girl Lacer had more ballet after school today (groan) and then the kids had a token birthday tea and some flat cake (me and Mr. Lacer are having some nice delivered pizza tonight, in the company of Van Diesel, hmmmm). Sports Day tomorrow, so it’s not allowed to rain until after then, but some soon after would be good!

Spider ATC

spider ATCThis photo has been on my camera card for a while. This is an ATC I did for a spider theme on swap bot. Inspired by the cover of Anansi Boys (which I was reading at the time).  Stitched completely free hand, I quite like it.

Anansi Boys

 

the cover of my book was actually neither white or blue but instead a far more attractive black
the cover of my book was actually neither white or blue but instead a far more attractive black

I finished Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys on Friday night and I absolutely loved this book, it’s now ranking as the best book I’ve read this year, so far. Sort of a sequel to American Gods, although it isn’t really, it follows the same idea that different cultures brought their gods with them when they emigrated and Anansi is an African trickster god in the form of a spider. Anansi Boys follows the story of Anansi’s sons and whereas American Gods was very, well, um American, in the way how a) it was set in America and b) the way how the characters travel across America, the whole story has a very wide open feel to it. Anansi Boys is quite opposite in that it has a cosier English feel and it reminded me a lot of another Gaiman story set in England, Neverwhere. Anansi’s son Fat Charlie emigrated to London with his mother as a child from the US, where his father stayed and large chunks of the story take place there (as well as Florida and one of the Caribbean islands). It starts with the death of Anansi and Fat Charlie discovering more about his family than perhaps he really wanted to.

This story had me giggling from the outset and has to be the funniest thing by Gaiman, that I’ve read so far, with incompetence at funerals, scary future mother-in-laws and obnoxious bosses. On one level it’s a really fun read, yet on another level it covers everything from the evolution in human behaviour, family relationships and life after death.

And on one final point, Neil Gaiman is apparently currently writing the Anansi Boys movie script, now that will be one good movie!