Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Library Loot: 9 April

I swear that this is not just one visit to the library because, quite frankly, I would have needed two carry bags to carry all my loot out!

Here's my loot for this week:

A Star for Mrs Blake by April Smith - I have seen some good things about this book, and now I am going to be participating in a blog tour for it.

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty - I read the first book in this series a while ago and was a bit underwhelmed by it until the very end when I was very definitely hooked into wanting to know what happens next.

Murder of Crows:  a novel of The Others by Anne Bishop - I thought that I was done with urban fantasy when I read the first book in this series by Anne Bishop and loved it last year!

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson - I definitely have a WWI theme going on with my reading at the moment, and this is the next one.

Marco's Temptation by Fiona McArthur - The next book in the Sydney Harbour Hospital series.

A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin - I am actually half way through this but was never going to finish it in time so I ended up returning it and borrowing it again within a couple of minutes.

Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson - I really liked Julia Gregson's other books but never actually got around to reading this one.

Blood Safari by Deon Meyer - Bree is a big fan of this author so when I was looking for a new audiobook and I saw this one I thought I would give it a go.

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright - This is one of the books that has been longlisted for the Stella Prize this year.

Regeneration by Pat Barker - Early prep for a readalong that we might be hosting over at Historical Tapestry later in the year (not that we have announced it yet)

The Luminaries: a novel by Eleanor Catton -  I went and heard this author speak in February and thought the book sounded interesting. I am not sure that I am going to get through it before it is time to renew it though.

Library Loot is hosted by Clare from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief. Clare has the Mr Linky this week so head there to share your loot links.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday Salon: March Reading Reflections

March was a pretty good month reading wise! My highlight was definite In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl, my first 5/5 read for the year. I was also very pleased with the number of books that I read for challenges this month, specifically the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Here's what I read during March:

The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck 4/5
Floodtide by Judy Nunn 2/5 (audiobook)
Hate is Such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub 4.5/5
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley 4.5/5
A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell 4/5
Dear Stranger by Alise K Ackers 4/5
Satisfaction by Sarah Mayberry 4/5
Sydney Harbour Hospital: Bella's Wishlist by Emily Forbes 2.5/5
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith 4/5
The Collector of Dying Breaths by M J Rose 4/5
In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl 5/5
1914: The year the world ended by Paul Ham 4/5 (audiobook)
Hope Flames by Jaci Burton 3.5/5
Just One Year by Gayle Forman 4/5
The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll House by Neil Gaiman 4/5
Play by Kylie Scott 3/5
Lick by Kylie Scott 4.5/5 (reread)

Challenge Update

Australian Women Writers - Floodtide, Hate is Such a Strong Word,  A Bitter Taste, Dear Stranger, Satisfaction, Bella's Wishlist, In Falling Snow, Play and Lick

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - The Debt of Tamar, In Falling Snow,

Once Upon a Time - The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll House

Reading now

Bellagrand by Paullina Simons, A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin, The Golden Apple by Michelle Diener and listening to Blood Safari by Deon Meyer

Up Next Jack of Fables: Jack of Hearts by Bill Willingham

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassels and Sariann Lehrer

It seems as all the gods have been smiling in terms of the timing of my post about this book. I was a bit disappointed when I saw that someone else had requested it from the library so I couldn't renew it but, given that I have been reading A Feast for Crows, indulging in watching Season 3 of Game of Thrones this week and Season 4 starts on Monday, the timing really couldn't be better.

This book is actually by two bloggers who started blogging about the food from George R R Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series over at In at the Crossroads and ended up with a book deal. Not only did they get a book deal, it is the officially sanctioned companion cookbook for the series and as such it includes a foreword from George R R Martin, In it he confesses to not being able to cook much at all, which given how much food is mentioned in the books might be a little surprising.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a book for the fans of the series, whether it be the books or the TV series, there are definitely aspects of the book that might be of interest to other people who like to read about historical food.

Let's start with why fans of the series will like the book. The book is broken up into a series of chapters which relate to different lands in Westeros and reflect the individual character traits of that land. For example, the recipes for the section from The Wall are mostly warm and hearty, as you would need if you lived atop a frozen wall whereas the recipes from King's Landing reflect the more cosmopolitan nature of the population, not to mention the feasts in the royal household and Dorne there are lots of spices and fruits. Each of the recipes includes a quote where the particular recipe has been mentioned in the books and there are plenty of pictures so you know what the finished product should look like.

What about from a purely food perspective? Whilst it would have been easy to put in a pie and call it something to do with the books, this is so much more than that. Lots of fantasy has it's basis in medieval history and this is true of a lot of the food in the series. The first section of the book talks about stocking a medieval kitchen and then gives some basic recipes. For example, there are recipes for Elizabethan Butter Sauce which is recommending for serving with small poultry and Lemon Pastry Dough  which sounds like it would be an awesome base for a fruit tart.

In the main recipe section of the book the authors have gone back through history to find dishes and techniques that reflect the dishes mentioned and then provided a modern equivalent for the recipe where possible. Whilst a lot of them are medieval (like Pease Porridge which I thought was just a nursery rhyme thing), there are some that are Roman in origin (Peaches in Honey-Cumin Sauce) and others Elizabethan. There are some recipes where it has not been possible to find a historical recipe so they have made one up but these are clearly marked as such.

One thing I did like was that on each recipe there is a suggestion of other recipes in the book that would work well together, so if you so desired you could easily have a complete Game of Thrones themed menu for you and your friends.

Because you can't just pop down the shops to buy auroch for example, they generally have provided suggestions for substitute ingredients. There are some recipes though that still have some more obscure ingredients like pigeon, rattlesnake and locusts that may be a little difficult to source, let alone to contemplate eating but reading about those are part of the fun. And there are some that will be challenging but it could be fun to try like Cream Swans which are meringues that are shaped to look like swans - an elegant  addition to any dessert menu I am sure!

The big question for a book like this though is could you cook from it, and I think that the answer is most definitely a yes. There are a wide variety of recipes from breakfasts to soups, mains and sides as well as desserts, cakes and drinks. Yes, there are some recipes that you would be unlikely to make (Honey Spiced Locusts anyone?) but there are more than enough that sound delicious enough to try. My list would include:

Buns with Raisins, Pine nuts and Apple
Bean and Bacon soup
Traditional Style oatcakes
Blueberry tart
Poached Pears
Lemon cakes
Tyoshi Honeyfingers

A really good read for fans of the series and for people interesting in comparing historical dishes with modern equivalents.

Rating 4/5


Ever wonder what it’s like to attend a feast at Winterfell? Wish you could split a lemon cake with Sansa Stark, scarf down a pork pie with the Night’s Watch, or indulge in honeyfingers with Daenerys Targaryen? George R. R. Martin’s bestselling saga A Song of Ice and Fire and the runaway hit HBO series Game of Thrones are renowned for bringing Westeros’s sights and sounds to vivid life. But one important ingredient has always been missing: the mouthwatering dishes that form the backdrop of this extraordinary world. Now, fresh out of the series that redefined fantasy, comes the cookbook that may just redefine dinner . . . and lunch, and breakfast.

A passion project from superfans and amateur chefs Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer—and endorsed by George R. R. Martin himself—A Feast of Ice and Fire lovingly replicates a stunning range of cuisines from across the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. From the sumptuous delicacies enjoyed in the halls of power at King’s Landing, to the warm and smoky comfort foods of the frozen North, to the rich, exotic fare of the mysterious lands east of Westeros, there’s a flavor for every palate, and a treat for every chef.

These easy-to-follow recipes have been refined for modern cooking techniques, but adventurous eaters can also attempt the authentic medieval meals that inspired them. The authors have also suggested substitutions for some of the more fantastical ingredients, so you won’t have to stock your kitchen with camel, live doves, or dragon eggs to create meals fit for a king (or a khaleesi). In all, A Feast of Ice and Firecontains more than 100 recipes, divided by region:

The Wall: Rack of Lamb and Herbs; Pork Pie; Mutton in Onion-Ale Broth; Mulled Wine; Pease Porridge
The North: Beef and Bacon Pie; Honeyed Chicken; Aurochs with Roasted Leeks; Baked Apples
The South: Cream Swans; Trout Wrapped in Bacon; Stewed Rabbit; Sister’s Stew; Blueberry Tarts
King’s Landing: Lemon Cakes; Quails Drowned in Butter; Almond Crusted Trout; Bowls of Brown; Iced Milk with Honey
Dorne: Stuffed Grape Leaves; Duck with Lemons; Chickpea Paste
Across the Narrow Sea: Biscuits and Bacon; Tyroshi Honeyfingers; Wintercakes; Honey-Spiced Locusts

There’s even a guide to dining and entertaining in the style of the Seven Kingdoms. Exhaustively researched and reverently detailed, accompanied by passages from all five books in the series and full-color photographs guaranteed to whet your appetite, this is the companion to the blockbuster phenomenon that millions of stomachs have been growling for. And remember, winter is coming—so don’t be afraid to put on a few pounds.

Includes a Foreword by George R. R. Martin
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Salon: Joint review of Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Bree from All the Books I Can Read and I often find ourselves emailing back and forward about what we are reading or thinking about reading. Recently we realised that we were both about to read Just One Year by Gayle Forman and so it seemed to be a good time for a discussion style review.

Bree has the first part of the discussion here, and I have the second part. My thoughts are in black and Bree's are in purple. Turns out that I enjoyed this book more than she did so it was an interesting discussion.



M: Did you find the similarities of Willem’s experience with those mirroring aspects of Willem’s parent’s story interesting with his own story or too convenient?

B: I would totally agree with you recommending If I Stay and Where She Went as books to start with. I think they better showcase Forman’s true emotional range as a writer. To be honest, I would’ve liked to see a little more emotional growth from Willem in this novel as a gradual thing. I feel like a lot of it was crammed right in to the end of the book and it didn’t seem to evolve as naturally as it could have. Willem seems to rely on other people to do things for him, or for things to fall into his lap - rarely does he display much effort in going out and getting something and making it his so I did applaud him when he played the acting role in the play to his own ability and didn’t take the direction that was given to him. I think that the end of the book shows his best side - he’s ready to move on with his life now, from the wanderlust that took him away from the unhappy circumstances his family found themselves in. He’s also, as you say, probably at that place where he’s able to deal with Allyson reappearing in his life.

I think that there were too many coincidences in the end, between Willem’s parents’ story and Willem’s and actually, I’d liked to have known more about his parents. There’s a few details sprinkled throughout but it sounded quite interesting. It actually took me a long time to even remember who Yael and Bram even were, given he refers to them by their given names. I was all prepared not to like Yael much but once Willem finally went to India and she began to get a voice, I was surprised by how much I found her voice compelling. There was definitely more there that I’d like to know, but it wasn’t their story which is kind of unfortunate!

Ultimately do you think the two books work together? Do you think there was even a need for Willem’s story? Would anything be different if there was only Just One Day?

M: Hmm, good question, one I am not sure that I know the answer for. I think you could probably have put more of Willem’s story into Just One Day and then come back together again, but I think that perhaps that would have diluted some of the more important parts of Allyson’s story. For example, one of the key issues in Just One Day was depression and how it impacts on a young girls life, and it would have been quite difficult to contrast that depression with some of the ways that Willem’s story played out and end up with a well balanced story.

What would your answer to those questions be?

B: Short answer? No and no. Honestly, I know I’m being pretty negative here but this book really didn’t add much to the overall arch of Willem and Allyson. We got maybe two seconds more of story after Just One Day left off and I didn’t get the explanations and reconnection that I really wanted to see. Allyson’s story definitely delves deeper into that depression and struggle to find yourself and balance that with expectations of parents, etc which I’m sure many young people go through when they move out of home and into a college dorm. Some people really struggle with that pressure, especially when they don’t want to know what they want to do with their lives or think that it won’t be approved of. In contrast, Willem kept wandering around the world, never wondering why his money didn’t run did that not cross his mind? If I was backpacking I’d be making sure I always had enough money to pay for my next meal, next bed, next flight or whatever out of there. I wanted this book to give me so much more of the bigger picture and honestly, if I hadn’t read it, I don’t think I’d be missing out on anything. I definitely can’t say that about If I Stay and Where She Went. I know, I know, I keep coming back to those two books. They’re different, I shouldn’t be comparing them. But when I think of them, they’re a story. Together, they make two parts of the same story. There’s a beginning, there’s a middle and then there’s an end, both of them get a satisfactory story and ending. This doesn’t feel the same way.

I’m overthinking it probably!

M: Actually, I think that If I Stay has a beginning, a middle and a not ending in a way. Anyway, that’s an aside!

I went looking to see what Gayle Forman is publishing next and I couldn’t see anything. On the basis of how much you loved If I Stayed and Where She Went and how much you ... didn’t love this one, will you be excited about what comes next?

B: I found a book on Goodreads scheduled for 2015 which is apparently about a girl exploring her best friend’s suicide. Look, I know that I haven’t given this one a glowing review but it’s not a terrible book. It’s just not the book I wanted to read. Gayle Forman has written two of my favourite YA books read in recent times so I’m still going to be pretty keen for anything she has coming out. I kind of hope it’s a stand alone though!

M: Yes, I would hope for standalone too, but I would be surprised if it is because series are such a cash cow in genre fiction that I think that publishers look for series rather than stand alone and she has been successful with these kind of connected books.

Whilst these two books didn’t stand up against the excellent If I Stay and Where She Went I do think that Forman is a very talented author who has the ability to write some amazing books. She has such a way with words. and there are time when I just have to stop and reread a phrase or a sentence, as in the example below from page 250.

The breath that comes out of me isn't a sigh or a sob or a shudder. It's something alive, like a bird, wings beating, taking flight. And then it's gone, off into the quiet afternoon.

I’ll take a quiet afternoon to read whatever she comes up with next!

B: Definitely! I think that she has many amazing stories still to come.

Rating 4/5


Twenty four hours can change your life....

Allyson and Willem share on magical day together in Paris, before chance rips them apart.

The romantic, emotional companion to Just One Day, this is a story of the choices we make and the accidents life throws at us.

But is one day enough to find your fate?

Currently Reading

A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin and listening to The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith.

Next up

Bellagrand by Paullina Simons and Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Slow Roast Leg of Lamb with Chardonnay, Rosemary, Sage and Bay

A few weeks ago the little chef and I were watching something on the Food Channel. I can't remember exactly what it was and, to be honest, it doesn't really matter. The program finished and I wasn't really paying attention and the next program came on. It was Lorraine Pascale's Fast, Fresh and Easy and the boy and I became instant fans as a result of watching that episode.

Whenever I watch a cooking show, it is usual to like one recipe an episode or several recipes over the series but what was different about this particular episode was that we thought that every single recipe shown was one that we would like to try and make!

I have since borrowed the book for this series from the library, and having had a brief look through it, I am pretty sure that when I have some spare cash I will be wanting to buy it because there were a lot of recipes in it that I want to try. 

I am not planning to review the book or the series this week, but rather today I wanted to share the first recipe that we have tried, and I have to say it was delicious! I will be mentioning this book again in the next few weeks I am sure!

I made the recipe as directed and it was perfect fare for a coolish autumn afternoon! Actually I shouldn't say I made it because the little chef did all of the cooking. I will confess that I am a bit gutted that his roast potatoes turned out much better than mine normally do!  The only thing I we he did differently was that we cooked a whole leg (we won't talk about the fact that we had to hack a little bit off the end to make it fit in the casserole dish) because I wanted to end up with lots of leftovers. That has kind of happened but it is very tempting to just walk past and grab a little bit of meat every time I go into the kitchen!

I am not sure if you will be able to see it or not but there is a video on the BBC page for this recipe. I can't get it to play but maybe it will work for others.

Slow Roast Leg of Lamb with Chardonnay, Rosemary, Sage and Bay

½ leg of lamb (the thick fillet end) with bone in (about 1Kg/2lb 4oz)
salt and pepper
2 red onions
8 garlic cloves
4 rosemary sprigs
4 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
400ml/14fl oz white wine
couple squidges of honey
1kg/2lb 4oz potatoes, peeled and cut for roasties
olive oil, for drizzling
300g/11oz frozen peas

Remove the lamb from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking (to bring it to room temperature). Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and make sure the shelves are set to fit a casserole pot and roasting tray in.

Place the lamb in a big casserole pot and season it really well with salt and pepper. Cut the onions into quarters, keeping the root intact, peel off the skin and throw them in with the (unpeeled) garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs, sage and bay leaves. Pour in the white wine and drizzle the honey over.

Put the lid on and place the whole thing in the oven, leaving it for about four hours. Set a timer for 2 hours 30 minutes as that’s when you need to add the potatoes.

When the timer goes, toss the potatoes in a roasting tin with a good drizzle of oil and leave them to sit. (They won’t go brown with the oil on.)

Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, drizzle a bit more oil on them if they have sucked it all up and place them in the oven for the remaining hour and a half. Give them a toss about every so often.

Finally, 10 minutes before the meat is ready, throw the peas into the lamb cooking juices.

Once everything is cooked remove them from the oven. The meat should be falling off the bone and the potatoes crisp and golden brown. There is no need to rest the meat after this long cooking time, so simply dish up and serve.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Half Moon Bay by Helene Young

I have owned Helene Young's first book for several years now. I bought it after hearing the author speak at ARRC and instantly bought it on the back of that. Of course, buying a book is lot different to actually reading the book and even more different to reviewing it. Alas, it therefore sits on my bookshelf still unread.

Fast forward to Valentine's Day and I once again was lucky enough to hear Helene Young speak as part of a romantic suspense panel at our local Sisters in Crime chapter. I was fortunate enough to win one of the raffle prizes which included a book from each of the panellists (the other two being Cheryl Tucker and Bronwyn Parry) and a true crime book. This time though, I was determined to read the book, especially seeing as this was a standalone novel.

Having now read one of Young's books, I do kind of wish I had read her earlier books and it is something that I intend to rectify as soon as I have some space in my reading schedule!

Half Moon Bay opens with Ellie Wilding heading back to war torn Afghanistan where she works as a photojournalist alongside her journalist sister Nina. When Nina isn't there to meet her at the airport Ellie becomes concerned, with good reason as it turns out.

Fast forward two years, and Ellie is asked to do a favour for friends who believe that their local city council mayor is corrupt and they want Ellie's help to prove it. In the two years since Afghanistan, Ellie has been wandering around the world somewhat aimlessly, running from her grief, but now she is back in her home town and she is a woman on a mission. The mayor has sold off a parcel of land to a property developer that was specifically left to the town to build a community centre. It turns out though that there is much more than shonky property deals going on here. There are international drug dealers with ties in Asia but also leading back to Afghanistan, and to the story that Nina was working on when she was killed.

One of the people that Ellie comes into contact with in the course of the community opposition is engineer Nicholas Lawson who has been employed by the property developer and is in Half Moon Bay trying to convince the population that the development will be good for the town. Ellie does not remember him, but in Nicholas' former life in the army he met her on the night that her sister was killed, and he feels somewhat guilty about her death. And he remembers Ellie from that terrible night. He remembers and her determination and resourcefulness to do everything she could to try and save her sister. He admired her then and he is attracted to the woman that she is now, shaped as she is by the tragic events in her past.

For Ellie, the fact that she is attracted to someone from the other side is very problematic. She can't quite work Nicholas out. She knows that there is something that doesn't quite add up about him. What she doesn't know is that he is investigating the same drug rings as she is, and he knows that Nina getting too close to the truth is what got her killed.

As the pressure is turned up on on the major players, the danger that Ellie and her friends face also increases. Some of the time she feels as though she can trust Nicholas, but will they be able to work together to put all the pieces of the puzzle together before yet more tragedy hits the good people of Half Moon Bay, especially once she find out exactly who he is, and how he was connected with Nina's death.

I don't read a huge amount of romantic suspense. I don't dislike it, but I find it problematic when an author puts their characters in dangerous situations and then expects to develop the romantic relationship in that situation of duress. I therefore prefer straight contemporary romance, although a fair portion of those books have suspense subplots running through them. Young manages to balance the romance, which is quite a slow burning build and the rising tension associated with the suspense plot and tells a ripping good story and I am not the only one to think so. This book was recently named as the Favourite Romantic Suspense for 2013 at the Australian Romance Readers Association Awards.

Now I just need to find that first book so I can read my way through Helene Young's backlist. Lucky for me, she also has a new book that just came out. Maybe I should start there.

Rating 4/5


Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon Bay call for help she knows it’s finally time to return home. As an international photojournalist, she’s used to violence in war zones, but she’s shocked when it erupts in the sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.

Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business. In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him. He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie’s sister, Nina, was shot and killed. Ellie’s been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn’t remember him…

As a storm rages and floodwaters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community. But who can she trust? Nick Lawson, the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who’s never let her down?

A compelling story of danger and desire by the award-winning author of Burning Lies.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Sandman, Volumes 1 and 2 - Preludes and Nocturne and The Dolls House by Neil Gaiman

A month or so ago I read Preludes and Nocturnes, the first volume in  The Sandman series of graphic novels. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the experience which surprised me as I had heard so many good things about the series. Actually, that is probably underplaying it bit. I didn't really like it much at all. I thought it was too dark, too gruesome and too disjointed for me. However, I was determined to keep reading, at least for another couple of volumes for several reasons. One is that this series is so well received that there has to be something good about them. Two is that it is Gaiman, who I have a bit of a hit and miss reaction to and three, my library has all of this series* so I don't have to keep on requesting them via interlibrary loans like I do for the Fables series.

Today, I am planning to blog about both volume 1 and 2.

In Preludes and Nocturnes, we were introduced to the Master of Dreams also known as Morpheus or The Sandman. He has been captured and imprisoned for 70 years, which has caused various reactions around the world. There are some people who have never awoken from sleep but never dreaming and there are others who have tried to take his place using his powerful artifacts to various ends.

In the first episode/instalment/whatever I should call them, Sleep of the Just, we see how it is that Sandman came to be captured, what the implications were and how he escapes. We meet some of the characters that I now know will appear in future episodes, including in the second collection.

In Imperfect Hosts, Sandman has to try and rebuild his strength and so retreats to the dream world but he must also try and recover the three artifacts that he has created in order to rule over his realm. The three artifacts have been scattered over the world and Sandman must track them down and recover them before he will be anywhere near as strong as he was previously. Not everyone will be prepared to give them up willingly though.

In the next three episodes (Dream a Little Dream of Me, A Hope in Hell and Passengers) Sandman searches for the artifacts - a sand filled pouch, his helm and the Ruby of Dreams - taking him literally to hell and back where he has to fight to regain his helm. We also what the effect of owning these artifacts has had on the humans who have become the owners of these items - sufficed to say it isn't good!

The most disturbing of the instalments for me was 24 Hours, where John Dee (the man who was in possession of the ruby) takes control of 6 people who just happen to have all been inside a diner. At first, I thought this was going to be a pretty harmless chapter but how wrong could I be. Dee forces these people to endure much including depravity, deceit, violence and more. Having said that, when one of the people in this instalment was referenced in the next book I knew exactly who they were and what had happened to them, so you definitely can't say that it wasn't memorable.

I can't necessarily say the same about the final two episodes, Sound and Fury and The Sound of Her Wings. I do remember feeling some sense of vague hope in the way this volume ended.

I ended up giving this book a rating of 2.5/5

Right from the first episode in The Doll's House (volume 2), I felt as though I was going to enjoy this book more and so it proved to be. Maybe I was just in a more receptive mind set now than I was a few weeks ago or maybe this volume is a better representation of the series as a whole. Who knows! I guess I will just have to keep reading to see.

There are two stories that I absolutely loved in this collection, and the first story, Tales in the Sand, is one of those so it was a great way to hook the reader into the story.

The Sandman team take us far away from all the places we have been previously and instead of the dark and gloomy world most of the stories are set in we are in the African desert. Here an African man takes his grandson out into the desert in order to perform the rites of initiation that will make him a man. After performing circumcision, the boy is told the story of the forefathers, of a life in a beautiful and prosperous city which was ruled by Queen Nada. However, Nada fell in love with one of the Endless, a love that could not be allowed much like the love that we see between humans and gods in Greek mythology. As a result, the city is reduced to dust and the people have been forced to live in the desert ever since. At one point the old man tells the boy that this is the man's version of the story and that he has no doubt that the women tell their own version as part of their initiation but they can never know each others version. Made me wonder what the other version was!

In The Doll's House, we meet Rose Walker who is the main character in this collection other than The Sandman himself. She and her mother have been summonsed to England to meet a woman named Ursula they have never heard of and they don't know why.  It turns out that she is a vortex, an anomaly that has been caused as a result of Sandman's absence and by the fact that four of the major arcana in his realm are off doing their own things. We also learn that Rose's family history, specifically the fact that her young brother Jed has been missing for many years.

In the next episode, which is titled Moving In, Rose returns to America in order to search for her brother leaving her mother in the UK to look after Ursula. The house that she moves into has a very unusual set f residents and we get to know them as Rose does.We also find out what has been happening to Jed over the years.

In Playing House, we find out what two of the missing characters of the arcana have been up to in Sandman's absence, which is in effect creating their own superhero version of the Sandman, which doesn't please him in the slightest. We see events through the eyes of the wife of Hector (the fake) who has been living in what seems to be a timeless void for a couple of years, with nothing changing around her, not even her pregnancy.

The next episode, Men of Good Fortune, is my other favourite in this collection. It moves away from the main story arc. We are taking back to a medieval pub where a man sits telling his friends about how he is going to choose not to die. Sandman takes him up on this and promises to meet Hob again in the same pub in one hundred years time and this continues on through the following centuries. Some times Hob is doing well for himself, and other times he is down on his luck but he is always at that pub on the exact day. I loved how you could quite clearly identify where in time we were with just a few words, or by the secondary characters (for example, Chaucer and Shakespeare). I just realised that my two favourite stories were actually outside the main story arc. Not sure what that says about me.

Back to the main story arc and Rose is on the trail of her brother in Collectors. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances she finds herself staying in the same hotel as a serial killer convention. This is a dark chapter, but it is fun as Gaiman and co poke fun at the convention scene in lots of ways.

After returning from the convention hotel, we are back in Rose's room in Into the Night. Despite being very tired she cannot sleep without dreaming, but the same is true of the other occupants of the house. We see into their dreams, their true desire dreams. Most of them were pretty much as you would imagine but one that I loved was that of Chantal who has fallen in love with a sentence, but now she cannot read it. So out there!

In the final story, Lost Hearts, we get to the final scenes between Sandman and Rose. He knows that he must destroy the vortex in order to save the world from destruction and that means that Rose must die. He doesn't believe that there is any other way despite the best efforts of one of the other arcana and Ursula. We also find out why Rose has become the vortex in the first place.

Overall, this collection was much, much better for me. There was a better balance between the dark and gloomy parts and the other parts. I will be interested to see if I continue to like the asides more than the main stories. Maybe part of the reason for that is that those stories need to be more fully contained in each individual issue rather than being able to finish them off in later issues.

I gave this a rating of 4/5

*Turns out volume 3 was declared 'lost' a month ago so I have had to request that one via ILL. Hopefully all the rest will be there for me.

Other artists for Preludes and Nocturnes include Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Todd Klein and Karen Berger.

Other artists for The Doll's House include Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Steve Parkhouse, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli and Todd Klein


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