Friday, September 24, 2010

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 285
Series : #7 Queen Betsy
Format : Urban Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : Vampire Series Challenge

Betsy is back and still the Queen despite multiple efforts to kill her. This time the Ant turns up which is made more annoying as she is a ghost and only Betsy can see her. Usually she has some task to help the ghost perform before they can move on, but in her usual annoying style the Ant refuses to tell her what that is.

The main story follows the Fiends though. They have gotten out and have become conscious again because Garret has been feeding them his blood secretly. They are not happy bunnies though and blame Betsy for their treatment despite her trying to explain that she has in fact saved their lives multiple times. They want her dead (what’s new) and are powerful and violent enough to possibly pull it off. Also Detective Nick Berry is also not helping by deliberately putting her in danger trying to find some rogue cops who are killing the criminals that have been let off for lack of evidence. Nick wants to catch them by conventional means, rather than murdering them even if they are guilty.

This is the first in a new plot arc and I am still stunned by the ending. Not one but two of my favourite characters seem to be gone and I keep thinking that Betsy can save them but it seems not possible. It was funny, but it did have a lot more depth to it than the previous ones in the series. I’m wondering what scrapes Betsy will get herself into next.

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 236
Series : #8 Queen Betsy
Format : Urban Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : Vampire Series Challenge

After the ending of Undead and Unworthy Betsy and Sinclair need to travel to meet with the werewolves to discuss some political issues. They take baby John with them, but there is a strange vibe with the werewolves. The pack leader doesn’t seem to notice him or be aware of his existence and another seems really angry he is there. Betsy is being held accountable for the events of Undead and Unworthy and has to answer to the werewolf council. This of course doesn’t go as well as planned, but Betsy goes along with it out of a sense of guilt.

Meanwhile back at the mansion, Mark is home alone with Tina until Betsy’s half sister Laura (the daughter of the devil. No really) pretty much moves in. She has always rebelled against her mother by teaching Sunday School etc, but she is predicted to cause the end of the world. Strangers start showing up at the house having followed a star and they want to worship her. Mark tries to help but sets Laura off on a whole new tangent and perhaps the end of the world isn’t so far away now…

The series has begun a new story arc with the last book and in comparison to the first set they are a lot more serious. I’m not sure yet if this is a good or bad thing. What I really loved about the early ones were how funny and frivolous they were. The light hearted elements are still there, but they are fewer now and the focus is more on the storyline than the pithy putdowns and banter. I did like it overall and I will definitely keep reading them, but I do miss the earlier tone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 246
Format : Teenage Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

Rosa is in high school and has moved with her family from Edinburgh town centre out to the surrounding countryside. Her younger brother has asthma and when the traffic increased around their old house their parents decided that the move away was needed. Her brother is a little favoured over her, but as Rosa loves him she doesn’t let it upset her. She tries to put a brave face on things so as not to upset him and tries her best to settle in to the new house.

She explores the area and keeps seeing a strange boy about her age and a strange tumbled down old house that once would have been very grand. She is drawn to him but he seems to keep ignoring her. She also finds a pack of tarot cards when she is unpacking some of her parents boxed for them. Her mother doesn’t believe in fortune telling and goes white when she sees them which makes Rosa very curious indeed. It emerges that her mother has a secret past which Rosa is determined to uncover. Rose also has a gift for reading the cards which both interests and scares her.

This was a fun tale. I liked Rosa, her family and her friend Clara who is very bookish. On the downside the language changed quite a bit with seemingly random Scottish words thrown in a bit inconsistently. I read tarot myself and was a bit disappointed in the way there were portrayed with them ultimately causes upset and unease. Shame really as I really liked the premise of the story and the way it unfolded.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 128
Format : Fairy Tale Non Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

I first came across this book on the recommendation of Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot a couple of years ago. It’s a collection of essays by fairy tale and fantasy author Jane Yolen. It looks at the place of folklore, mythology and fairy tale in the development of children as well as adults. There were a few quotes that really stood out :

“Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.”

Which continues “While an occasional reader manages to get through those early years without contact with a book, most of us who are afflicted by literitis (that’s the medical term) get it early. Its symptoms are an inability to go by a bookstore without stopping in, a passion for late night reading, wrinkled skin from bathtub books, tendonitis from typing, large bottoms from all that sitting, and squinty eyes.”

Yolen also eludes to the beautiful view from the Manhattan apartment she grew up in, but that she never enjoyed it as she was always curled up with a book in her own fantasy world rather than the one outside. Another part of the book I liked was where Yolen compared the different versions of the same story (for example Snow White and Cinderella) in synopsis with the different variations. You get to see the older, more violent versions and see how they have changed over the years, the readership has changed and the effect of Disney. Shame Yolen doesn’t seem to like Disney at all, I like his versions as well as the blood and guys tales. I think it’s ok for both to exist, as long as people don’t just go down the Disney route.

There were a few great recommendations for novels to read which I am looking forward to seeking out. I also really enjoyed Yolen’s style of writing as I haven’t read any of her non fiction before. It felt at times like a conversation with lots of personal anecdotes and stories. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but it made me think and question my beliefs and why I have them which is always good.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 480
Series : #31 Discworld
Format : Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : Series Challenge 2010

This follows on nicely from Going Postal. Moist von Lipwig returns with a new challenge. He has been getting bored running the post office as things are running very smoothly. He has even taking to breaking in when darkness falls! Vertinari gives Moist the chance to work running the bank. He has to defer to a dog though when the former owner dies and the dog has the majority shares. The problem is the members of the great banking family the Lavishes all want to be in charge and Moist is definitely in their way.

Meanwhile Adore Belle Dearheart is off looking for the fabled golden golems and things take a very interesting turn when the results of her diggings arrive in Ankh Morpork. The usual side characters make small cameo’s like Angua, Carrot, CMOT Dibbler and DEATH. It is mostly led by new characters though apart from the wonderful Vetinari who I still think deserves his own novel.

This was lots of fun and sees Pratchett on fine form. I like Moist and Adora as characters and it was good to see someone else besides me want to emulate Vetinari! I loved how Cosmo’s story wrapped up and it will be fun to see which characters are in the next Discworld book. Plus the new Tiffany Aching novel is out soon. I wonder if this will be the next one to be made into a television adaptation.

Rating : 1.5/5
Number of Pages : 480
Series : #32 Discworld
Format : Fantasy Novel
Reason for Reading : Series Challenge 2010

The wizards take centre stage for the part of this tale where the Unseen University has to put together a foot-the-ball team as part of a behest. There are lots of teams around the city and they play by dangerous rules where the crowd gets involved. The Patrician uses his usual manipulating skills to set up his own rules in the end and the university take on a team full of shady characters just out of the tanty (prison) mixed with legitimate players. Ridcully is concerned as the former Dean has joined a new university and claims to be their Archchancellor and as everyone knows there can only be one.

The other storyline revolves around Glenda (a cook in the University who runs the night kitchen), her apprentice Juliet, Trevor Likely and Mr Nutt (work with the candles). Juliet is beautiful and becomes a model of micromail made by the dwarves (she has to wear a fake beard). She defers to Glenda who is like a big sister to her. Trevor’s dad used to be a famous foot-the-ball player and he has sworn never to play despite his talent and he falls hard for Juliet. They support opposing teams though so it’s a little Romeo and Juliet. Mr Nutt is another mystery and is labelled a Gnome but is something completely different it turns out.

I wanted to like this book but I really didn’t. I don’t like football so the general plot didn’t appeal to me. Plus the final match is commentated on kick by kick. Reading it was even more dull than watching a football match. I don’t really like the wizards and the only character I really warmed to was Glenda. The puns were pretty rubbish and I so nearly abandoned finishing it so many times which is nearly unheard of for me. I know there are a lot of die hard fans out there, but this was definitely a miss for me.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

My Gran who I love dearly and is my favourite person in the world has just moved into a nursing home. I'm sad and happy at the same time. Happy as I don't have to worry about her hurting herself alone at home but sad as it's where she will be now until she dies.

Anyway my mum and I have started to sort through her house and began with her books. She has some beautiful ones and my mum bagged a signed Rudyard Kipling first edition with beautiful illustrations as well as a first edition Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens with plates not pictures by the wonderful Arthur Rackham.

I found The Little White bird by JM Barrie which is a lovely second edition. I also discovered Gullivers Travels with Arthur Rackham illustrations. It's not the plates like my mum found but is sill beautiful.

My real treasure was finding a first edition, numbered and signed copy of A Fairy Garland illustrated by Edmund Dulac. It's in amazing condition and is a collection of fairy tales translated from the French. I can't wait to read it and will make sure it stays in the family.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Rating : 5.0/5
Number of Pages : 448
Series : Companion to Oryx and Crake
Format : Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

This novel is set alongside Oryx and Crake with events leading up to the predicted Waterless Flood. Adam One leads the peaceful group The Gardeners who do not eat meat and work for the preservation of the land in a time where science and technology rule. Gene splicing it everywhere and people often get there looks changed as well as creating new animals like liobams (lions that have qualities of lambs). We meet Toby who works for SecretBurger (who knows what meat is in the burgers) looking for an escape from her sadist boss Blanco. Adam One rescues her and although she begins not believing the philosophy of The Gardeners, she makes a life with them and becomes a respected member and teacher (she has a good knowledge of herbs and medicines).

We also meet Ren, a young girl growing up with The Gardeners after her mother ran off with Zeb leaving her father behind in one of the scientific projects. Ren is an innocent little thing and we meet her when she works in Scales and Tails, a high end sex club. We see the paths that both women’s lives took them before and after the flood. We also see Crake before he becomes Crake and Snowman and it was fun figuring out which of the amazing cast of characters they would turn out to be.

Typical Atwood style of writing with the story jumping around in time and alternating between Ren and Toby as storytellers. I cannot tell you how much I loved this book. I got really into Oryx and Crake and thinking back I can’t decide which one of the two I like best. The characters were well rounded and I really wanted things to work out for the two very different women. Ren who manages to stay innocent despite where her life takes her and Toby who stays strong against all adversity. The ending was as annoying as Oryx and Crake with it ending seemingly mid story. I can only hope this means Atwood will come back to it and write a third novel at some point.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 217
Format : Fiction Anthology
Reason for Reading : Short Story Challenge 2010

A fresh collection of short stories from Ali Smith. The first story was definitely my favourite and looked at the form of short stories set with a cancer patient as the backdrop. There is a new expensive drug that could help lots of women, but as it’s expensive is not readily prescribed by doctors. The other one that really stood out was what happens when a woman is shopping in a supermarket and when she turns back to her trolley there is a toddler in it who calls her Mummy and everyone assumes is hers. I love how she deals with the situation.

I like how most of the stories feel like they could actually have happened in Smith’s real life. She is excellent at blending reality with fantasy. Unfortunately they didn’t grab me as much of some of her other collections and stories so I wouldn’t recommend this for your first dip into Ali Smith’s world.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 248
Format : Teenage Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

Tara and Suraj live in a small village with their father and stepmother. Their grandfather was the village healer but he disappeared shortly before a stranger turned up saying has more power than anyone else. Their mother went after their grandfather so their father remarried a cruel woman who treats his children like slaves while he does nothing but watch. The final straw comes when she tries to poison them both so Tara takes her brother and they run away to try and find their missing family members.

People from the village have been going missing and it all seems connected to the stranger. He seems to have an unnatural influence over the people and has a pulsating third eye in the middle of his forehead. He is bent on trying to destroy the siblings as only their bloodline can defeat him. Other people have been going missing from the village and other local places, something sinister is definitely going on.

Tara was a great character and has to undergo a series of trials throughout the novel which she comes through fantastically. I loved the Indian setting which made a change from many teenage fantasy books. It was set up nicely at the end for a sequel and I can definitely see myself spending time back in this world.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 197
Format : Teenage Fiction Novel
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

Sandra is seventeen and is out of control. She has ditched her more stable, hard working friends including her boyfriend and is having casual sex with multiple partners (hence the parental advisory sticker on the front). She’s distancing herself from her family and is still recovering from her dad moving to America and leaving her behind.

One night she is out with a guy when she stumbles into a tramp. He takes a shine to her and when she runs from him, he chases her. Suddenly her whole world is different as she has been changed into a dog. Soon it emerges that this is not the first time the tramp has changed someone into a dog and it happens whenever he gets angry. She meets other humans-turned-dogs who keep trying to get her to forget her humanity and embrace her inner dog. She begins to lose herself until she sees missing posters with her picture on them and decides to go back and visit her family. From there she has a choice to make, will she stay with them or give in to her more animal instincts.

I really liked this novel and I was in two minds whether I wanted her to stay a dog or change back into a human girl. The reader is kept guessing as well as to how it will end and I keep changing my mind if it was the ending I wanted or not! It was told really well and despite the fact that she got turned into a dog it was still somehow completely believable. I will check out some more of his novels, Junk seems to be rated pretty high.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 260
Format : Teenage Fiction, Fairy Tale Novel
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

A look at Beauty and the Beast where the Beast is a Persian Prince. He is making an offering of a camel but she is not pure. He decides to go ahead with the sacrifice anyway as all of the preparations have been made and there are no other camels they can use. As a result he is cursed to be killed by his own father and transformed into a lion.

He first tries to live as a lion and travels to India. He tries to fit in with a couple of different prides but he doesn’t really understand the laws of the lions. He has his own mind but in a different body. He is chased away on more than one occasion and is lucky to still be alive. From there he travels to France and the story becomes more traditionally Beauty and the Beast when a man finds the castle where he has been living and in exchange for his life he promises to being his youngest daughter to live with the Beast.

I wanted to like this but it didn’t really grab me. It was like reading two completely different books that had been sandwiched together. I know it’s a fairy tale, but I still wanted to be able to believe in the story and the characters and I really didn’t. My favourite was the little fox cub who got a very raw deal I felt poor thing. One thing I did like though was all the Persian detail and the glossary at the back of the book. A lot of research clearly went into writing it and it’s a shame it felt so short and glossed over.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 217
Series : #28 Charmed
Format : Teenage Fiction, Witchcraft Novel
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

The three Charmed Sisters are all in need of a holiday and Paige is desperate to get them away from the Manor for a few weeks. She wants to visit Salem and Massachusetts and eventually the Piper and Phoebe agree so they set off with Leo and baby Wyatt as long as they can spend some time on the beach. Of course nothing runs smoothly and when their flights are delayed and they follow some bad directions which leads them to stay the night in a motel in a sleepy little town.

There is a mystery surrounding the town and the motel. The owners granddaughter is prone to fits and something magical seems to be at work. Plus the sisters are not sure that her grandmother is mistreating her. Not one to shy away from a problem they all follow different routes of investigation that lead them to the nearby Mystic Knoll which magnifies power. They find out the truth behind the towns stories about the motel owners which include a bad witch who cursed her daughter and many of the townsfolk before she died. Can the Charmed Ones stop the curse from coming into effect before the granddaughter is lost forever.

Lots of drama and excitement it was nice to have an adventure away from the Manor and San Francisco. It was good to meet a character who didn’t believe in magic despite being literally surrounded by it! I like the play on taking a superstition and making it truly magical and hidden behind a wall of science.

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 152
Series : #29 Charmed
Format : Teenage Fiction, Witchcraft
Reason for Reading : 10 10 10 Challenge

The Charmed Ones are back and this book is set shortly after baby Wyatt is born. Piper is a new mum and wants to have it all. Spend time with her son, run P3 and be the eldest sister of The Charmed Ones. Something is going to have to give though as there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all three. Luckily Paige’s new temp job is at a day care centre so Wyatt can spend some time there and still have his aunt to take care of him leaving Piper some time to go back to work.

When Wyatt comes back from day care he won’t sleep or eat and keeps throwing tantrums. Other parents remove their babies and toddlers from the centre and Paige begins to suspect Piper’s worries about Wyatt might not be paranoid guilt from not spending her time at home with him. Could the babies have been switched and if so why and by who. No one messes with The Charmed Ones and definitely not their children…

This was fun, nothing too exciting but it was good to have one in the series where the bad guy isn’t one of the guys the sisters are dating. It’s so fun seeing how much the sisters have grown. Phoebe is now working as an advice columnist, Paige is focusing on her temp jobs and Piper has completely transformed into the ultimate earth mother. I really miss the show and it’s always fun to revisit with a new story.