Tag Archives: Fantasy

genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #31: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

If you’re into Twilight or other angsty teenage supernatural type books, then you’ll probably dig Beautiful Creatures. Now that I’ve mentioned Twilight, some of you die-hard fans (I am not one of them) might want to know which is better…honestly, I’m not sure. I think Twilight fans would still prefer the Twilight books to Beautiful Creatures, but with three books already in the series, Beautiful Creatures may be worth a deeper look.

Okay, now I’m talking to normal people. This book is along the lines of the Twilight series so…possibly an entertaining, brainless read with a cup of annoying and over dramatic mixed in.

Basically, Beautiful Creatures takes place in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where the civil war is still the biggest news of the day. Ethan Wate, a sophomore in high school, has his friends and basketball team. But then Lena Duchannes comes to town. The niece of the town’s mysterious recluse, Lena’s welcome in Gatlin is anything but. Ethan, however, is strangely drawn to Lena. Haunted by a recurring dream, Lena seems to be the clue to Ethan understanding it. As their friendship develops, Ethan learns more and more about Lena’s family and all of its supernatural secrets.

I think this story focuses more on the relationship between Ethan and Lena (read: a love story) as opposed to really exploring and understanding Lena’s supernatural world. In that sense, I found the book lacking. I love being immersed in new worlds but the perspective is Ethan’s so you feel just as in the dark as he does about all the interesting things Lena is privy to. Of course, things are slowly revealed throughout the book, but I still had a lot of questions and wanted to know more. I suppose that’s the point of a series though, isn’t it? Perhaps I’ll read the second book to discover more. But I’m not sure the first book entranced me enough to go to the trouble.

Read The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #30: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I’d seen the Disney cartoon, the Johnny Depp version, and a creepier version on TV back when I was younger…so I thought it appropriate to pick up the actual book and experience Lewis Carroll firsthand.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written by Carroll (a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in 1865. Apparently Carroll was a man of many hats (author, poet, mathematician, logician…is that a word?). And this book showcases all of these hats, although with characters like the mad hatter wearing them, things get a bit…strange. Apparently, according to wikipedia, and I’m sure a host of other web sites, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is rife with literary allusions and symbolism. But it was all lost on me. I suppose this book would be more interesting studied and picked apart in an academic setting than just as a summer read. Because as the latter, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I guess that’s the point, since Carroll specializes in the literary nonsense genre (didn’t make that up).

Alice’s story begins in her garden, where she finds a rabbit hole and falls down into a fantasy world. Each chapter is a new adventure in Wonderland, with new characters and silly situations. A lot of what happens in the book reminds me of a dream. Events are random, don’t make a whole lot of sense, and crazy seems to be the norm. I won’t go into details about the story itself…I think most of you are familiar with Alice in Wonderland in one way or another. I’ll just skip to my impressions. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. In fact, it took me awhile to read – I’d pick it up between reading other books. As silly as the story is, I didn’t find myself that interested in it. I guess a lot of the humor and irony was over my head.

Would I recommend it? Not for a casual read. And definitely not as a children’s book. I think of all the versions I’ve seen, the one that I liked the most was the 1985 Alice in Wonderland movie which also included a sequel, Through the Looking Glass. I just remember they were creepy as all hell and Through the Looking Glass featured one of my favorite poems, Jabberwocky (also written by Carroll). Of course, I was only 6 when the first movie came out, so it’s probably cheesier than a can of whiz. But given the source material, I can’t really say it’s too far off base.

Read The Blist for more book reviews by genericwhitegirl.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR Book #29: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Fairy tales are everywhere. I just got back from Disneyworld where Cinderella Castle stands prominently at center stage. And of course there’s the classic Disney ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures (although I heard the Magic Kingdom in Florida is axing Snow White in a year or two. How sad.).

There is also a more modern emergence of fairly tales on network TV. Shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time peaked my interest, until I started watching them.

So it makes sense that I turned my attention to a different, and more traditional genre for my fairy tale fix, books. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly was written in 2006 and is a departure for the author, who normally writes thriller novels. I’ve read mixed reviews about his experiment and must say, I agree to some extent with everyone.

Our story takes place during WWII in London. David’s mother has died. His father remarries a woman named Rose, and the three move into Rose’s family home. Soon after, Rose gives birth to a son. As David feels more and more isolated and forgotten, his grip on reality slowly slips. He suffers seizures, hears books whispering to him, and begins seeing The Crooked Man. One night, he hears his mother calling to him, and David follows her voice to a sunken garden. As the war rages around him, a German bomber plane goes down, heading for the garden. David hides in a crack in the garden, where is he transported to another world.

In this new world, David begins a quest to find the king, whose Book of Lost Things may hold the key to David’s return home. Along the way, David quickly learns he is in a land where fairy tales are real. But unlike the the sanitized versions Disney would offer, Connolly’s version of our favorite stories is more along the lines of the inspiration followed by the Brother’s Grimm. The stories Connolly tells through David’s adventures deal with issues like bestiality, homosexuality, and murder for sport, to name a few. And they involve familiar characters like Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, and some new ones as well.

So why the mixed reviews? My biggest issue with the book is that there is something in the way Connolly writes that makes The Book of Lost Things seem like a young adult book. Maybe it’s his writing style. Maybe it’s the fact that the main character is a twelve year old boy…I can’t really place my finger on it. But the stories Connolly tells are more suited for an adult audience. There is overt sexuality and violence that wouldn’t have shocked me as much, had I not felt like the book was a YA novel. I was confused by the two voices which clashed, rather than blended.

With that said, it’s a damn interesting book. A little slow in the beginning, but a great fantasy novel. And I’m a sucker for good endings. I can forgive a lot in a book if the ending is satisfying, and this one delivered for me.

So if you like fairy tales, fantasy stories, and a bit of the macabre, it’s a recommend. Oooh, and while we’re on the subject…despite Disney’s abandonment of her, Snow White lives on in theaters next year. I can’t wait to see the two versions coming out! Click here for the trailer of Snow White and the Huntsman with Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, and Chris Hemsworth. And the trailer for the campier looking Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts is here.

Read The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl.

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Samantha’s CBRIII Review #36: Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu

Sometimes, you just need a good YA read. And if it’s based upon a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale (in this case, The Snow Queen), well, so much the better. If this sounds like a win-win situation, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Anne Ursu.

I first came upon Ms. Ursu because she used to write a very excellent blog about my husband’s (and my) baseball team. It was hilarious and quirky, and above all, well-written. When I learned that she was, in fact, a published author, I immediately hit the library to check out her books. They’re quite excellent: the novels The Disapparation of James and Spilling Clarence, and the YA series The Cronus Chronicles are all worth a try. And now, her latest book, Breadcrumbs, advertised for “middle grades,” somehow combines the whimsy and storytelling of her YA fiction with the gravitas of her adult novels.

Hazel is “different.” She likes to read and imagine, and daydream during school hours. Her only friend is Jack, who has the enviable skill of being able to be both “normal” and “different” at the same time. Still, nobody’s life is perfect, and Jack’s home life leaves much to be desired, as does Hazel’s own. One day, thanks to a mischievous goblin and a magic mirror, Jack suddenly turns cold, and disappears. It is Hazel who must gather all her knowledge of heroes and quests and set out to find her best friend so that she can remind him who he is, and bring him home.

Storytelling is what Ursu does best. She has a unique perspective that is at once sad and humorous. Hazel’s experiences, both in the mundane world and in the forest where she seeks Jack, are quietly, yet intensely drawn. The dark environs of the forest are particularly vivid and even a little disturbing, especially considering the age group the book is intended for. Ursu draws on a variety of other stories and references to bring her fantasy world to life, and in so doing, invites her audience along on Hazel’s journey by re-introducing us to characters and events that we’ve all encountered on our own literary travels.

Where Breadcrumbs fails (but only a little bit) is in the characterizations. Everyone is fairly broadly drawn, and while there is some growth for Hazel and Jack, it’s not presented strongly enough to make it really stick. It’s all about the story, here, and the characters are merely conduits. Ursu’s narrative voice has such a lively personality that one almost doesn’t mind the characters’ lack of any real spark, but I could’ve wished for a little bit more from Hazel. I’m having trouble thinking of a good example, so maybe this is where the intended audience comes into play. I can well imagine that a child close to Hazel’s age would see much more of herself in the character, and would probably identify with her much more than I.

If you are a fan of of classic kid’s fantasy, you definitely need to give Breadcrumbs a read. The beautiful writing is reason enough, all on its own. There are no surprises, since we know the source material, but the application of modern themes of childhood really strikes a chord, and the delicate language is a joy to spend time with. If you try it and enjoy it, I strongly recommend that you look into Ms. Ursu’s other work as well. I look forward to whatever comes next from her.

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Malin’s CBR-III Reviews # 78-93

I really suck at updating regularly, so here’s another massive list of my book reviews since last time. I keep promising myself to be better about updating on the group blog, and then it all goes to hell again. 11 books away from my double Cannonball now.

Book 78: Delightful young adult book. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/10/78-folk-keeper-by-franny-billingsley.html 

Book 79: Book 2 in Kate Elliott’s epic fantasy series. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/10/79-cold-fire-by-kate-elliott.html

Book 80: What if Cleopatra became a vampire? http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/10/80-queen-of-kings-by-maria-dahvana.html 

81: Another wonderful book by Franny Billingsley. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/10/81-chime-by-franny-billingsley-read.html 

82: The most recent Discworld novel, starring Sam Vimes. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/82-snuff-by-terry-pratchett-read-thon.html

83: Historical romance from Courtney Milan. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/83-unclaimed-by-courtney-milan-read.html

84: Amazing paranormal fantasy, set partially in Prague. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/84-daugther-of-smoke-and-bone-by-laini.html

85: Young adult fantasy with a slightly unusual heroine. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/10/85-girl-of-fire-and-thorn-by-rae-carson.html

86: A persuasive argument for romance reading, wittily and cleverly written.  http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/86-everything-i-know-about-love-i.html

87: I finally discover Tamora Pierce. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/87-alanna-first-adventure-by-tamora.html 

88: Awesome Steampunk adventure romance. Archeology! Kidnappings! Zombies! http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/88-heart-of-steel-by-meljean-brook.html

89: Alanna grows older and starts noticing boys.  http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/89-in-hand-of-goddess-by-tamora-pierce.html

90: Alanna joins a desert tribe and becomes a shaman. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/90-woman-who-rides-like-man-by-tamora.html

91. Amazing historical romance from Joanna Bourne. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/91-black-hawk-by-joanna-bourne.html

92. Terminator meets My Fair Lady in this sci-fi/fantasy/romance. http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/92-no-proper-lady-by-isabel-cooper.html

93. What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett were rock stars on tour with each other? http://kingmagu.blogspot.com/2011/11/93-fitzwilliam-darcy-rock-star-by.html

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Siege’s CR3 #84: The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin

In which Siege tries to define the fine line between “quirky” and “desperate” and then rank Rankin’s nursery rhyme-based mystery accordingly.

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pyrajane’s #30: The Child Thief by Brom

This book has just entered my Most Favorite Books Of The Last Five Years list.  It is amazing and as close to perfect as an author can get.  Read why here, and then get your face into Brom’s words.

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