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Aug 25

The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 in Fantasy, Humour, Mystery/Cop, Reviews, Science Fiction

I always intended to review these two books (I’ll do them together, since it’s series), but I had a feeling I hadn’t done it yet and I was right.

So, here goes.

I love this series of books, even though I have only read the first two books so far. Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to read more.

This ‘universe’ is absolutely wonderful. I’ll just mention a few fantastic aspects of it:

Literature, books and authors are taken very seriously. There are gangs that clash because they favour two different authors, like football hooligans. The police has a special department (a huge one) that deals with literary fraud. Classic theatre is also huge – they have fan plays, played by fans who love the play and the shows run for years on end.

There’s time travel and the plots deal with time paradoxes.

Some lucky people can enter a book (the plot, not merely the physical copy) and visit or live out their lives in between the major plot points.

However, there are few things that I don’t love quite as much. For instance, there are vampires and werewolves. Not my thing at all.

The main character, Tuesday Next, is – well, to be honest, before I really got into the book, I automatically assumed she was a guy. She doesn’t come across as a female character.

Not that any of this takes away from the enjoyment of the books.

Some people find it hard to classify exactly what genre these books belong to. To some it seems to be a weird sort of mystery, others see it as fantasy or science fiction. I was a bit concerned about the style – in some cases, where books are very hyped and seem to belong to a special or different sort of genre, I have actually hated the writing – such as the Lemony Snicket series. But this, really works. Even though there’s a sort of literary or fandom-related reference in almost every sentence, it never bothers the flow of the plot. If I get it (I don’t get all of them, I think) I love them. But the plot still moves at a fast pace.

My advice is that if you think you might enjoy this type of book, try to read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever you usually buy your books. If you like the first chapter, you’ll love the rest of it too. I imagine that most book lovers would, but it’s actually quite hard to tell. Since I joined the specific book sites online, I’ve come across many people who love books as much as I do, but still love completely different genres or writing styles, so apparently there’s a huge difference between one book lover and another.

In any case, I love these books, so if you have liked my other reviews, you might enjoy this series too, that’s my best guess.

Aug 24

The Archon by Catherine Fisher

Posted on Monday, August 24, 2015 in Fantasy, Reviews, Teen books

This is the second book in the Oracle Prophesies series by Catherine Fisher. It’s set in a world that is the same mix of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece as in the first book (The Oracle). I liked the first book so much that I wanted to read the second in the series and I haven’t regretted that decision.

However, just as I may have said in my review of the first book, I see very little of Greece in the book’s cultural setting (some names, basically). To me, it’s mainly Egypt, but there’s also a confusing goddess that seems to be more inspired by Native American or perhaps (I’m not that knowledgeable when it comes to the latter) Polynesian or African culture. Of course, that in no way ruins the enjoyment of the book.

I like the main character, Mirany, who is a priestess, enough to be able to relate to a her. The other characters are interesting too and the setting and the plot are well written. I don’t know what else to say except that I can recommend this to people who like fantasy that isn’t ‘the usual’. It’s not that different, but different enough, I suppose I should say.

Aug 22

Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Posted on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Fantasy, Reviews

It’s not that long ago that I read the first book, The Masque of the Red Death. Normally I’m not into dystopic, post-apocalyptic books, but this is primarily fantasy. The world is similar to our late 19th century, early 20th century world and might actually be meant to be our world, though I’d say the differences hint at another world.

A plague is spreading, and civilisation is crumbling. There’s even talk about a new, worse contagion spreading. Between the different faction, the spread of the disease and Araby not being sure who she can trust, the situation is definitely deteriorating. Her best friend is dying, her mother is a prisoner of an evil ruler. It seems Araby’s father is somehow involved in everything that’s happened. Can things get any worse?

I found this book well written and fascinating. The characters are well developed and engaging. I found it a little hard to relate to Araby, but that didn’t matter. The story pulled me in anyway.

I would recommend this story to anyone who likes dystopic fantasy (with a little bit of steampunk thrown in, I think – actually it seems no story is actually all steampunk, it’s always just a bit, isn’t it?).

Aug 20

Feyland: The Twilight Kingdom

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult Books

I found these books on Wattpad and read the first two titles in the series (and also a sort of prequel). Then I discovered there was a good price for all three books in print, and I got them, because generally, I like to own all my favorite books in print.

Just like the first books in the series, this one was great. Well written and fascinating. The characters felt real and they were likeable (though I do find it just a little bit annoying that Jennet is so perfect). As I’ve mentioned before I really like Marny a lot better.

The relatively dystopian future setting works well. I’m not usually a fan of the new dystopian subgenre. Just like the ‘new’ urban fantasy isn’t to my taste either. In this book, the setting works. It’s not a ‘total’ dystopy, just the sort of society we’re already seeing the first traces of, in slum areas and rural areas all over the world. There’s advanced technology, but also vast areas where people live in poverty in crumbling buildings with threatening criminal gangs taking over.

In this book, we get to see a bit more of other characters, but again, not nearly enough of Marny. I think she should have been more included in the plot and it would have been great if a love interest could have been found for her.

If you’ve read my reviews of the earlier books in the series, you already know about my feelings about this series, so I don’t have much more to add, other than that I can really recommend them to anyone who loves fantasy, but also those who like modern YA books. There may not be vampires, werewolves and zombies, but it feels ‘modern’ in the writing style and the description of characters and in this context, it’s all positive.

Apr 24

A storybook adventure…

Posted on Friday, April 24, 2015 in Books, Children's books, Fantasy

Giggleswick: The Amadán Map by Matthew Mainster

It’s a natural phenomenon — a small country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean hidden from the rest of the world by a circle of unnavigable fog.  It’s called Giggleswick, and twelve-year old Elliot Bisby has never heard of it, that is until he and his family are approached by an unusual man and asked to move there.

I found this story funny and quite light-hearted, just the way I like (some) books. It’s also well written and is based on a very interesting idea. What if there could actually be a secret, ‘magical’ country hidden away somewhere in the world? Like Dinotopia…

I liked the characters. Most of them were very nice and sweet, except for the villains, of course. The only thing I didn’t really like, was what seemed to me to be a dated way of looking at women. The female lead character, a twelve-year-old girl, is depicted ok. She seems equal to the male lead character, Elliot Bisby. On the other hand, Elliot’s mom has very little life outside the house. All she seems to be good for is being pretty and kind and a good housekeeper. Maybe I’m being unfair. I suppose it’s easy to just assume that moms are great and so on, and not give them any real personality, unless you actively try to give every character some individuality.

All in all, this is an enjoyable read for anyone maybe nine and up, or for anyone who’s young at heart.

Apr 12

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Posted on Sunday, April 12, 2015 in Books, Children's books, Fantasy, Reviews, Young Adult Books

“When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late.”

This book was a little creepy, as the author herself puts it, but it never gets too scary for the age group it’s intended for (that I imagine might be about 9-12 and of course, all the rest of us who are young at heart). Despite all the weird details you learn about Triss, you find yourself being sympathetic to her. She is in a very frightening situation and as she uncovers more and more about the secret of what’s happened to her, things go from bad to worse. Fortunately, she manages to find a few (to begin with) reluctant allies along the way.

Frances Hardinge turns out to be quite a versatile author. She showed up just in time, for me to discover her books, when Diana Wynne Jones passed away. Not that I’ve stopped loving her books and will continue to read them, but sadly now there won’t be any more from her. Hardinge’s books remind me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones’ books. I’ve been quite surprised at how varied Hardinge’s stories are, especially when it comes to the setting. They’re all quite ‘serious’ and dark, but not too much so. Fortunately there’s always a happy ending, at least to some extent.

If I’m going to mention something that didn’t quite work out, it’s the fact that the atmosphere in the story didn’t ‘feel’ like the 1920’s – at first I couldn’t guess what time the story was set in – anytime before the 1970’s? I also have a bit of a question – did the newspapers really publish photos of missing people back then? It seems a bit too modern, but then I’m hardly an expert.

This book, that I initially thought might be a bit too dark to be a real favorite for me, actually turned out to be among my very favorites, among Hardinge’s books. In fact, I love them all, though I found the last book I read (Face of Glass) a little too bleak and depressing. As for Cuckoo Song, I can recommend it to anyone who likes low fantasy YA books. I rate it 4 out of 5.

Apr 10

The Third Uncle by Stephen Beifuss

Posted on Friday, April 10, 2015 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews

A while back, I finished reading The Third Uncle by Stephen Beifuss, on Wattpad.

“Francesca is a headstrong teen from small town Italy who has been sent to summer with her uncles in Napoleon’s Paris.  Francesca is bored. Her uncles are tiresome, not very bright, and determined to keep her out of trouble. Fortunately for her, adventure is around the corner, and she soon discovers her uncles are working against the French, and with the help of an enchanted mirror, two cats, a young thief, a dead saint and a Queen determined to remove Napoleon from his throne, a dull summer becomes anything but!”

This story was a nice surprise compared to what I usually find on Wattpad. Sure, I’ve found a few stories I’ve loved, but I’ve also found a lot that felt – not quite ready for publication – if you know what I mean.

The Third Uncle is what I’d call ‘alternate history’ fantasy. In this world, Napoleon defeated the English and occupied, not only the European Continent but also the UK. It also seems to be a bit steampunk. People are travelling on airships. There’s also a bit of magic. There’s time travel, or at least time travel is of interest in the story.

I don’t have any particular favorites among the characters, except perhaps the ‘young thief’, who turns out to be a charming young man, with a dark past, but they’re all interesting and/or funny. The uncles are a lot of fun, the cats are adorable, and in some ways, very useful to a certain mode of travel.

I’m looking forward to seeing this book published as a ‘real’ book. The author lives in Spain (slightly confusingly, since his name either evokes English or American origins or possibly a German one. However, in the story, he seems to be quite knowledgeable, not only in English, but also in French and Italian. Oh, well. This is a funny, fascinating, magical story, that takes a twisting turn around Europe, then finally ends mostly happily (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler?):

Mar 24

The Mosque Hill Fortune (The Sons of Masguard, Book One) by Vivienne Mathews

Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 in Books, Children's books, Fantasy, Reviews

I just read this really great fantasy book, The Mosque Hill Fortune, by Vivienne Mathews on Wattpad.

A haunting mist sits on the harbor beneath Secora Tor….

Heroic Captain Marshall is called upon to save his country from the sinister mist and the even more sinister creatures it’s hiding. With the help of his faithful crew and a ragtag band of pirates he sets out to fight evil, forging an uneasy truce along the way.

Exciting swashbuckling adventure set in a fantasy world. Even though you sometimes forget about it, all the characters are animals. Since I love animals, adventure and fantasy, this was a very pleasant surprise. The only problem is that I’m really sensitive and tend to cry a lot when anyone gets hurt, especially an animal. Despite that, I would like to recommend this book to anyone who like me, likes animals and fantasy. The book is well-written, fascinating and filled with endearing characters that you can’t help but love.

Another nice surprise was that Book 2 in the series, Guardian’s Rise is also available for free.

You can find out more about the author and her books on her author webpage, on Wattpad and on Smashwords.

Feb 13

Feyland: The Bright Court

Posted on Friday, February 13, 2015 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews

First I’ll just mention the prequel, Feyland: The First Adventure. I hadn’t seen it before I read Feyland: The Dark Realm, which is really the first book in the trilogy, and only just discovered it when I was looking for the sequel. So I read the prequel first. I must say it didn’t really contribute much to the storyline. What happened in that short story, wasn’t really new, just a bit more fleshed out than in the sort of flashback, or intro, so in a way, I might as well just have skipped it entirely. Then again, since I wanted more from the Feyland Trilogy, it was fun to get just that. Maybe it would have been better to just add the intro to The Dark Realm, but I’m not complaining.

The Bright Court begins more or less right after The Dark Realm ended. It feels a lot like the second part of the same book. I don’t really have much to add to my first review of this trilogy, but just for the record: I loved this book as much as the first.

This time, you get to see more of Tam Lin’s old friend Marny, who in my opinion is a very cool, rather underused character. Maybe it would be unfair to say that she’s a more interesting character than Jennet, but there, I’ve said it. On the other hand, Jennet has matured a lot from the prequel to the second book.

The situation at the end of the first book is pretty much unchanged when The Bright Court begins. The same threats exist, except at the moment, Marny is the one in most danger. Why that is, you’ll have to read the book to find out. Even when she’s in danger, she’s a pretty resourceful person, so she’s not totally helpless, but at the moment, she needs a bit of help and her friends are ready to risk entering Feyland again to give her that help.

It’s a very good book. If you love fantasy, Faerie and computer games you should read it. I only wish Book 3 would be available for free. On the one hand, I’m prepared to buy the whole series in print, but on the other, I’d prefer to know what I’m buying. Someone told me there’s a second trilogy by the same author, set in the same ‘universe’. If it’s as good as this trilogy, I’d love to read it too.

Jan 28

Feyland: The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp

Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 in Books, Fantasy, Reviews

I just finished reading another fascinating and well written book on Wattpad, Feyland: The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp. It’s a modern (actually futuristic) take on the Tam Lin legend and the one about Thomas the Rhymer. In this story, the maiden is a girl playing a very advanced 3D computer game. She discovers to her cost that her game has a connection with Faerie. To return to Feyland, to regain what she’s lost, she needs a champion and finds it in the form of a boy at her new school. He gladly accepts her plea for help, because he’s impressed with the pretty girl and because he loves playing computer games. His personal life is complicated and at first this offer seems very attractive. After a while, he realizes the seriousness of his undertaking but accepts it anyway.

I found both characters quite easy to relate to and like, and the same goes for the boy’s other friend, a girl I don’t think is based on any character from one of the legends. In fact, all characters seem interesting, although the villain is naturally neither pleasant nor likeable. If I have any complaint about this book, it’s mainly that it could have been longer and even more developped, but that’s a minor complaint. I’m just greedy. :)

The author sketches a realistic and depressing dystopia (the real world setting). I imagine it’s supposed to be a relatively near future (twenty-thirty years ahead maybe, though that’s just a guess).

This mix between fantasy and a future setting with advanced technology is something I really enjoy. Somehow they go well together.

Fortunately, there’s a prequel and a second book in what looks to be a trilogy about Feyland. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. If you like fantasy and technology you’ll probably enjoy it too. The books are available for purchase in several online bookstores, for instance Amazon and Smashwords, as well as for free on Wattpad.

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