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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pyrajane’s #29: Troll’s Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales edited by Ellen Datlow &Terri Windling

 

I love retold tales and I’m thrilled whenever Ellen Datlow &Terri Windling have a new collection.  Their move into young adult does not disappoint.

Come visit my page for more about the book.

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Samantha’s CBRIII Review #30 – Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire

It took a lot of work to get through Wicked. I’ve kind of been badmouthing it for the weeks it took me to read it, and I sometimes stop and wonder whether or not I’m being too hard on it, but mostly, I don’t think I am. How such an interesting idea and premise, with a fair amount of interesting execution could be so colorless is somewhat beyond me.

Wicked is the story of Elphaba, who grows up to be the evil green lady we all know as the Wicked Witch of the West. It follows her from her somewhat prophetic birth, through her formative years at university and later, mysterious, adult life to her eventual demise at the hands of the little lost girl from Kansas. Along the way, we get a taste of the true climate of the land of Oz: one of political turmoil, xenophobia, and religious tension. Elphaba and her counterparts (Galinda and Nessarose) are, naturally, caught up in all of the intrigue. But are they real players, only pawns, or mere victims? It’s hard to say.

In Maguire’s mind, Oz is actually an extremely adult place, and that’s disappointing, because it’s such a great idea. The world he creates has the potential to be truly fascinating, but instead it’s just boring. I can’t even pinpoint why, exactly, but the way I’ve described it to several people is that it’s as though Mr. Maguire didn’t have any fun writing the novel, and so the reader doesn’t have any fun reading it. There’s no love in it. The language is good, the writing is descriptive, but it’s just missing any kind of spark, for the most part.

What spark there is comes in the form of Elphaba herself. I nearly put the book down half a dozen times, and the reason I didn’t is because she’s a great character. She’s intellectual and prickly, but deep down very caring. I suppose I should give some credit to Maguire for the fact that, until about three-fourths of the way through the novel, I forgot that Elphaba was ultimately doomed, and then when I finally remembered, I wanted to finish the book even less. I suppose that Maguire tries to help his reader along with those feelings by completely ruining the character in the last chapters of the book. Elphaba descends into paranoia and possible madness in the end. Worse than her eventual death is the complete discrediting of her character in the end. The reader is left to wonder whether or not her view of the situation in Oz was, in fact, correct at all, and whether or not it was all a paranoid delusion.

Perhaps that’s the brilliance of the novel? Ultimately … I just don’t care. I know it’s very popular, even spawning a (completely different, apparently) musical, and Maguire has repeated the formula with other works, but I will not be reading them. I found something about his style and treatment extremely off-putting, despite some great ideas and good character work. To his each own, eh? I wonder what L. Frank Baum would think …

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effcubed’s CBR-III #13 The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Whatever review I read positioned this book a possibility for “the next Harry Potter,” something no one should probably ever do, because how can anything be the next Harry Potter? It’ll be hard for anything ever to compare with over $500mil in book sales, and well over a billion dollars for the movie franchise. Plus, from a storytelling standpoint, it’s a very tall order for anyone to live up to the complete world building and beloved characters created by JK Rowling. So, unreasonable expectations aside, what does John Stephens give us in book one of his Books of Beginning trilogy?

He gives us a trio of siblings, Kate, Michael and Emma, whose parents disappeared 10 years before we meet them. Since then, they’ve skipped from orphanage to orphanage. Kate is the only one who remembers them, and she’s the leader and the one who keeps her two younger siblings in line. Michael is the middle child, and unlike a typical middle child, is nerdy, wears glasses and obsesses with dwarves. Baby sister Emma is the spitfire, ready to take on everyone around her. The trio are unable to get themselves adopted by a swan-obsessed rich woman, so they are sent to an orphanage in a town no one’s ever heard of.

There, the orphanage appears to be abandoned except for a cranky, old cook/housekeeper and a lanky man of all work. Then they find the proprietor Dr. Pym’s old study, or something, in the basement of the house. In the study, they find an old book with blank pages. Touching an old photograph to a page of the book transports them through time to when the old house was inhabited by an evil countess who has taken the children of the village captive, forcing their fathers to dig in the mines under the town and leaving the mothers alone.

Aside from what feel like flat (or at least unexplained so far) secondary characters, it’s an interesting story and I’ll be interested to see where Stephens takes the next two books in the trilogy. Probably not the next Harry Potter, but enjoyable anyway.

(Library book)

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