Tag Archives: fantasy

Xmas book gift ideas for a geek girl

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Here are some nice book gift ideas for a girl who is into fantasy, science-fiction or just creepy things in general.  Obviously, the best way to think of a gift idea of your own is to know what the geek girl you are buying for likes.  Alternatively,  here are some general ideas.

1. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien.  The second movie in the series comes out in December, so a tie in book would also be an interesting idea such as ‘Chronicles: Art and Design (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)’

2. The Walking Dead.  This show is pretty big at the moment, which is based on a series of graphic novels so it would be the perfect gift this Christmas.  You get her the shows box set, or the first volume in the graphic novel series or, the game.

3. If your geek girl is more into paranormal romance and urban fantasy, then chances are she likes True Blood the TV show.  Obviously, you could get the DVD, but alternatively, you could get the omnibus version of the first three books.  Or another option would be to get the Harper Connelly Omnibus another series by the author of True Blood, Charlaine Harris.

4. On the same note there are lots of other urban fantasy series out there.  A personal favourite of mine is the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong, which begins with Bitten.

5. Comic books/ graphic novels are huge now.  There are the Avengers series of films, plus the new Man of Steel which comes out in early December on DVD.   There are lots of comic books available, such as ‘Avengers – Volume One: Avengers World’    

6. In terms of less mainstream comics, the Sandman Library by Neil Gaiman is amazing and is beautifully illustrated by a host of different artists.  It begins with’ Preludes and Nocturnes’ 

December To Be Read

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Yesterday I posted my November Wrap-Up, so today I am posting what I would like to read in December.  I would like to finish ‘A Song for Arbonne’ by Guy Gavriel Kay, ‘Dagon and other Macabre Tales’ by H P Lovecraft and ‘Royal Assassin’ by Robin Hobb.  I would also like to read Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb and ‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey.

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November Wrap-UP and Blogmas

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I am probably going to regret typing this but I have decided to do blogmas – basically blogging every day of December.  I am going to try my best, but I have never really done anything like this before.

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Okay, so back on track.  In November I read ‘Assassin’s Apprentice’ by Robin Hobb and started ‘A Song For Arbonne’ by Guy Gavriel Kay.  I also started the sequel to ‘Assassin’s Apprentice’ called ‘Royal Assassin’ and the ‘H P Lovecraft omnibus two Dagon and other macabre tales’.

October Wrap-Up

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Here are the books that I read, started or finished in October:

 I started and finished The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo and The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett.  I also finished The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice on the seventeenth.  I started the Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simmons and Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice.

My favourite book of the month was the Vampire Lestat and my least favourite was The Fifth Elephant.

Three reasons why you should read the Wheel of Time

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Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is perhaps one of the most hotly debated fantasy series of the past twenty years.  All over the internet you can read about the ups and downs of the series and why is/isn’t worth anyones time.  Since my last post I have read and enjoyed all fourteen of the books in the series.  I was initially on the fence, but now I am a total fan girl.  So, without further ado, here are my reasons why everyone should read the Wheel of Time:

1. Hope – It took me a while to realise this, but the Wheel of Time is a story about hope.  It is kind of like the opposite to GRRM’s A Song of Ice a Fire in this respect.  It raises your spirits as you read the story of Rand and his constant battle before the battle within himself.  Like real life, it isn’t easy for any of the characters and all they have to keep them going is hope.

2. Complexity – Bad guys are not always one hundred percent bad.  Demandred in ‘A Memory of Light’ is not just despicable because of his actions, but because you can see that somewhere deep, deep down this man is fundamentally redeemable.  He could be a hero in another life.  Also, just because the characters dislike some people doesn’t mean that those people are automatically bad guys.

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3.  Characters – there are just so many, but you end feeling for most of them.  Even the most ‘annoying’ ones.  Also, there are strong women in this series, which is always a plus and pretty much ever character (even the more minor ones) goes through some sort of journey.  This is not all that surprising though, because there is something like eleven thousand pages in the entire series.  There is also a lot of humour in the series.

These are just three of the reasons why you should give the Wheel of Time a shot.  Personally, I read all of the books in the series (some people skip certain books) and overall I enjoyed it – but at times I had a love/hate relationship with it.  What are your reasons for reading your favourite series?  Let me know in the comments below.

Book Review: The Pillars of the World (Tir Alainn #1) by Anne Bishop

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Goodreads synopsis:

 The youngest in a long line of witches, Ari senses things are changing for the worse. For generations, her kin have tended the Old Places, keeping the land safe and fertile. Now, she finds herself torn between the world of mortals and the world of Fae, who ignore what occurs in the mortal world, for the roads between the two lands are vanishing into thin air.

I began ‘The Pillars of the World’ with an open mind because many fans of the Black Jewels series online pointed out that Tir Alainn wasn’t as good and Tir Alainn fans claim that you have to be open to it.  I didn’t really know what to expect and I did enjoy the book, especially at first.  I found it a light read but as time wore on, my views on it changed a bit.  I’m going to start with what I liked about it first though.

I adored Ari.  I thought that she was a great lead character and she was well-developed. I really did feel for her, alone in her cottage.  The big bad of the series – Adolfo – was given a point of view early on which made him much more menacing than any other villain I had read by Bishop.  Seriously, he was a great villain and he was reasonably well-developed too so the reader knows why he is the way he is.  Many of his scenes and thought processes are disturbing to read and are graphic, so I wouldn’t recommend this to the lighthearted.  Another point of view that I thought was brilliant in this book was Morag.  She is Death’s Mistress and can kill people at will.  She became my favourite character of the entire series.

Now onto the bad.  The love triangle was predictable, and became more and more predictable as the book went on.  I also didn’t like what I call the petty evilness of certain characters in this book (and the rest of the series for that matter) – I would have liked to have seen some character growth, but this isn’t a spoiler review so I’m not going to name names.

Despite the predictable resolution to the love triangle, the ending of the book is actually quite good.  I did kind of predict that it would happen, but like what happens to Janelle at the end of Daughter of the Blood in the Black Jewels Series, the end is better because you see it coming.  You spend most of the book dreading it.  The end provides some great set up for the next book in the series and a secret is revealed that makes the treatment of witches by society and the fae even more awful.

Book Reaction: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

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Yesterday I did a review on this book, so I’m not going to go into any explanation of the premise or the synopsis here.  Furthermore, if the title isn’t obvious enough, this is a spoiler review.  So you have been warned.

I picked up ‘Tigana’ because as a history student I liked how it was based on themes from real history.  The concept of a nation being not only conquered, but also made to feel ashamed of itself and forgotten intrigued me.  I think the afterword at the end of the book was a great add-on because a lot of the influences that Guy Gavriel Kay mentions are interesting.  In my opinion the book does examine the consequences of Brandin of Ygarth’s rule really well.  Many of the people who remembered Tigana wanted to forget it because they felt that it was wrong that they were still alive while so many others weren’t.  Baerd’s and Catriana’s storylines were the biggest ones that stand out in respect to this.  I thought that was interesting because it was something that I didn’t expect to feature in a story like this – the guilt that they felt for being too young, or for the actions of their fathers.  They weren’t just angry at Brandin, but at themselves and at their country fellows.

In my review I mentioned a couple of problems that I had with the book.  The one that I want to talk about here is the romance.  I hated how Catriana was relegated to Allesan’s love interest in the last hundred or so pages in the book.  Before that I’d liked her, because she was willing to do anything for her country, like all the others.  Then all of a sudden we have this ‘love confession’ where both characters realise their undying love for each other (in the space of a chapter) and she realises she has done everything for Allesan.

‘We do with our hands, our eyes, what we are afraid to say’.  She surprised herself; she hadn’t known she knew any such thing. (P 719)

I think the scene was over the top and cheapened everything that she had done.  And his lines were so cheesy… I’m shuddering just remembering them.  Devin’s love story bored me.  Baerd’s happened really quick, but it was bearable.  The exception was of course Dianora and Bradin – I hated him, but I could feel the love between them.  She gave up her foretold destiny because she couldn’t bear to leave him.

This leads me to the part of the book that to me was the best.  The ending was great.  I thought it was heartbreaking that Prince Valentin was Brandin’s Fool.  It was like the ultimate torture – Brandin not only took away the Prince’s family and his country, but he also faked his death after a year of torturing him and mutilated him so much that his own son didn’t recognise him.  Surprisingly, I didn’t hate Brandin by the end of the book – his intense love for his loved ones compared to Alberico didn’t make him the most evil man in the world.  He was bad but he wasn’t a traditional 2-D bad guy.  I could on some level feel for him.  When Valentin was revealed I was shocked, but I think the saddest part of that scene was that he didn’t hate Dianora.  Despite it all, and despite Dianora’s deep-seated fear that if anyone who knew her knew what she had become they would reject her, Valentin didn’t look down on her.

The Prince of Tigana, on the ground beside them, was looking at her with so much compassion in his newly clear eyes.  Which was a thing she could not possibly endure.  Not from him: not with what he had suffered and what she was, what she herself had done.  (P 771)

I thought that was touching.  I think that it was a very clever way to end the book, because it made sense that Valentin would kill Bradin, but it also wasn’t something that a reader could predict.  I expected Allesan to do it.   I wasn’t surprised when Dianora killed herself.  Before the big reveal I had wondered how she was going to go on or would she be allowed a normal life or would she escape.  I think it was a satisfying ending because like Valentin, it made sense.  Dianora wouldn’t have be able to live without Brandin, and she didn’t want to.

The other ending of the book was… different.  At first I thought it was going to be too happy ever after, and after poor Dianora’s end I wasn’t really in the mood for that.  I loved that the ending showed that the time ‘Tigana’ covered was not the entirety of the characters lives.  The riselka was a fantastic twist, because we know that Devin, Baerd and Sandre are not going to take the significance of the matter lightly.  One of them will have a change of path, the other will die and the third will be blessed.  Personally I think it should go like this:  Baerd has a change of path, Devin will die and Sandre will be blessed.  I think that is the most interesting outcome, because if Devin had the change of path, Sandre died and Baerd was blessed it would be way too predictable – I mean Sandre is old, Devin doesn’t want to settle down and Baerd being blessed already happened.  Baerd dying, Sandre changing and Devin being blessed would be interesting too.

The combination is completely up to the reader though because there will be no sequel.  I find that refreshing, because it is a very rare thing with a successful book, especially in fantasy.  I will be reading more Guy Gavriel Kay in the future.

Book Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Synopsis:

Tigana is the internationally celebrated epic of a beleaguered country struggling to be free.  It is the tale of a people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the tyrant kind Brandin that even the very name of their once beautiful home cannot be spoken or remembered.  But, years after their homeland’s devastation, a handful of men and women set in motion a dangerous crusade – to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the world the lost brightness of an obliterated name: Tigana. 

Against the magnificently realised backdrop of a world both sensuous and brutal, this masterful novel of a passionate people pursuing their dream is breathtaking in its vision, and changes forever the boundaries of fantasy fiction. 

Hi

If you have any experience of the fantasy reader community online you have read about ‘Tigana’.  It is one of those books that people see as revolutionary and a highlight of the genre.  It is up there with ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson’s ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series in terms of critical reception.  I think the synopsis provides a decent summary of the story-arch of the novel.  The premise is rather genius but very simple to understand – Tigana has been forgotten by all but those who were born there before the change occurred.    The book itself tells the story of two sets of characters – Alessan and his band of revolutionary heroes and Dianora, a woman who is one of the top two in Brandin of Ygarth’s harem.

My reading experience of the book was a mix.  I didn’t like the first part at all – it was really slow and confusing.  By confusing I mean that certain things happened that made it harder for me to get into the book – for instance there is a prologue told through a one-off perspective (which is okay in itself) and then the first chapter is from the perspective of a man who has no relevance to the plot and we never see him again.  Together they were quite long and the first proper chapter with Devin (the main narrator alongside Dianora) doesn’t happen until forty or fifty pages into the book.  By the time that happened I thought he wasn’t going to stick either.  Also I found the first part a bit too predictable for my liking – it is obvious from the start who Alessan is and his level of importance in the story but there are continuous hints that become boring after a while.  However once Dianora is introduced the book gets exciting.  I’m going to post a reaction//spoiler review tomorrow, so I won’t go into details here, but let me just say that she makes the book.  Her story is complex and beautifully flawed.  I would have preferred it if it had been Dianora’s story all the way, because by comparison the ‘heroes’ were just boring.  Devin is an irritating narrator, and the romance that awful.  I’m mentioning this because ‘Tigana’ wants to be an epic tale with a lot of romance put in, and there is only one that works in the entire book.  The rest is just rushed together or cringe inducing (or both).

But, and it is a big but, I loved the book.  I’m not going to say that I couldn’t put it down.  At times I did out of frustration. ‘Tigana’ is a great story underneath it all.  It is thought-provoking and most importantly it is entertaining.  It is action-packed and has perhaps the most perfect ending in a book that I have ever read.  It was equal parts bittersweet and satisfying.  The twist in Dianora’s storyline is just so brilliant that it makes up for the flaws of the book that seem minor after you have read it.  It is similar to the show ‘Dr Who’ in that it is so clever you feel like you should have seen it all along, but you didn’t and you are happy you didn’t and you want to re-read it the minute you finish it to see how the author pulled it off so seamlessly.   It just makes sense.  The ending of the book for Devin and the ‘heroes’ is good too, because you don’t expect it.

I recommend this to fans of books that are more than just cliché, people who know a bit about history, and fans of Dr. Who and Sherlock who like seeing clever tricks being pulled off before their eyes.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day Thirty – Favourite Coffee Table Book

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I can’t believe that this is the final post in this challenge!  I’m going to assume that a ‘coffee table book’ is a book that you would leave out and hope that someone who was visiting would want to talk about.  This is a difficult question for me, because I don’t do that.

If I did do it I’d probably put something like ‘A Game of Thrones’ by George R. R. Martin on the table, or any other book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.  Why?  Firstly, because the books are now huge due to the success of the show.  Chances are that a guest would have at least heard of the TV series and it wouldn’t be a complete blank slate.  Secondly, the books are though provoking – I have lots of conversations about them.  George R. R. Martin incorporates a lot of realistic things into his books – and you can compare some events to real history, so it makes for a good conversation.  Finally, I think it would be a bit too personal to put a political or controversal book out to talk to guests about – you don’t want the conversation to become too deep and heavy, or end in a fight.

Maybe I’ve misinterpreted the question and a ‘coffee table book’ is a book with a pretty cover that makes your table look better.  I don’t really admire book covers though – I like some of them, but as long as the book is good I’m usually okay with a less than beautiful cover.  But I think that the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ books have lovely covers anyways, so they kind of double.

Book Review: Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

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Book Synopsis:

Mightily Oats has not picked a good time to be a priest.  He thought he’d come to Lancre for a simple ceremony.  Now he’s caught up in a war between vampires and witches. 

There’s Young Anges, who is really in two minds about everything.  Magrat, who is trying to combine witchcraft and nappies.  Nanny Ogg… and Granny Weatherwax, who is big trouble. 

And the vampires are intelligent.  They’ve got style and fancy waistcoats.  They’re out of the casket, and want a bite of the future.  Mightily Oats knows he has a prayer, but he wishes for an axe. 

Carpe Jugulum is what I suppose you would call the last proper Witches book in the Discworld series.  After this we read about the Witches mainly through Tiffany Aching’s perspective, which is still brilliant, but different.  It is a change from the earlier instalments in some ways because there are four witches instead of three and Granny Weatherwax is having a meltdown.  We don’t see a lot of her in this book.

I think any true Discworld fan knows the gist of the end here.  I mean (forgive me for spoiling) Granny Weatherwax always wins.  The story is always more about the how, and there is a good answer put forward here.  It was, as per usual, very clever.  The humour was good – not the best but good.  Here’s my favourite funny bit:

 Steam was rising from under the blanket they’d pulled over Granny Weatherwax. As Agnes looked down Granny’s eyes sprang open and swiveled from side to side. Her mouth moved once or twice. ‘And how are you, Miss Weatherwax?’ said Mightily Oats, in a cheerful voice.  ‘She was bitten by a vampire! What sort of question is that?’ Anges hissed.  ‘One that’s better than “what are you?”’ Oats whispered.”                      

                                     Carpe Jugulum also made a lot of interesting points on religious differences and how just because someone doesn’t have your beliefs (or any at all) it doesn’t make them the enemy.  I think that people could learn a lot from that.  This novel also provided an insight into how things change over time – how sometimes being too modern is a bad thing, because you can make choices that aren’t for the best if you forget the past.

To sum up, this was a good Discworld novel.  It was entertaining and thought-provoking.  It lacked the something that makes some Discworld novels amazing, but it was a book that always had me grinning or laughing.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, to any Nac Mac Feegle fans – this is their introduction into the series and the only person who can understand them is Nanny Ogg 🙂