Posts Tagged With: fantasy

Miss Felicity Beadle’s The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett

World of PooTitle: Miss Felicity Beadle’s The World of Poo
Author: Terry Pratchett
ISBN: 978-0857521217
Publisher: Doubleday
First Published: June 2012 (hardback/Kindle/audio)
No .of pages: 128

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
From Snuff: ‘Vimes’ prompt arrival got a nod of approval from Sybil, who gingerly handed him a new book to read to Young Sam. Vimes looked at the cover. The title was The World of Poo. When his wife was out of eyeshot he carefully leafed through it. Well, okay, you had to accept that the world had moved on and these days fairy stories were probably not going to be about twinkly little things with wings. As he turned page after page, it dawned on him that whoever had written this book, they certainly knew what would make kids like Young Sam laugh until they were nearly sick. The bit about sailing down the river almost made him smile. But interspersed with the scatology was actually quite interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog muck helped make the very best leather, and other things that you never thought you would need to know, but once heard somehow lodged in your mind.’

Review:
The books that are released to accompany the main Discworld novels are always fun, and this is no exception. This is a delightful little tale of a young boy named Geoffrey who, while visiting his Grand-mama in Ankh-Morpork, develops an interest in all kinds of poo – so much so that he creates a poo museum in the shed – and meets some very interesting people who work with waste of all kinds.

As would  be expected, it’s filled with interesting little footnotes of fascinating facts about faeces, other bodily waste, its uses, and the people who remove it, as well as the industries that flourish because of it.

Adult fans of the Discworld series will chuckle knowingly as they enjoy it, but those who are parents may also find they decide to read it to their young children who must surely appreciate a good story about poo, and will love the little black and white line drawings – just don’t be surprised if you open it one day to find your little darlings have coloured in all the pictures!!

A must-have addition to any Discworld fan’s collection!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Replica by Lexi Revellian

Title: Replica
Author: Lexi Revellian
ISBN: 978-0956642240
Publisher: Hoxton Press
First Published: June 2011
No .of pages: 290

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Beth Chandler, bright, attractive but unassertive, is accidentally replicated in a flawed experiment at the government research institute where she works. A second Beth comes into being, complete with all her memories. To Sir Peter Ellis, MI5 chief, the replica is an embarrassment that must be hushed up and disposed of. Overhearing him, Beth Two goes on the run. With no official existence, homeless, penniless and pursued by Sir Peter’s agents, she has to find the inner strength and aggression to survive on icy London streets. Meanwhile the original Beth, unaware of what has happened, becomes romantically involved with Nick Cavanagh, the spec op she believes is there to protect her. In fact, he’s hunting her double. Nick refuses to face his moral doubts about Beth Two – as far as he’s concerned, it’s not his problem. As events unfold, and the situation grows more complicated, he has to decide whose side he is on.

Review:
Two years ago, I read and reviewed an earlier novel by Lexi Revellian called Remix. I loved it, so when I was offered the chance to review a second novel, Replica, I jumped at it.

I wasn’t disappointed!

Plunging straight into the action seems to be something of a Revellian trait, as Replica doesn’t hang around. By page 8, major events have already occurred and we’re having to deal with the aftermath of some pretty earth-shattering revelations very soon afterwards. Suspension of disbelief can be a major hang-up of mine if the subject matter isn’t handled well, but Lexi is a real pro – with everyone aware of science’s progress with cloning the notion of replication is an unnervingly real prospect, and the lack of overly scientific jargon to explain everything away (which might have hampered proceedings, making them seem contrived and unrealistic while bogging the reader down in “facts” they do not need) adds to that sense of realism – we just accept it as a matter of fact and run with it.

The writing is ludicrously easy to read – honestly, I have very rarely come across a writer whose words seem so effortless to read and it’s a real joy to get into the story and characters so quickly it feels like one has known them for years. Even with two Beths who start out essentially the same person, but through their very different experiences after the replication, rapidly become completely separate and instantly recognisable, it never becomes even remotely confusing – one is always acutely aware of who is who.

In the hands of a lesser writer, this could have been a real mess, but Revellian takes a nifty idea and writes it so neatly that when we reach the shocking conclusion, there are aspects which one honestly didn’t see coming, but afterwards one realises it couldn’t have happened any other way.

On the back of enjoying this novel (and the previous one) so much, I can hardly wait to read Ice Diaries!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Huntress by Malinda Lo

Title: Huntress
Author: Malinda Lo
ISBN: 978-1907411090
Publisher: Atom
First Published: April 2011
No .of pages: 384

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

Review:
Last year I read Ash and was pretty much blown away by the daring retelling of Cinderella. When I came to the end, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the prequel, but it took till now to get round to reading it. The action takes place in the same world as Ash but is set centuries earlier.

To be honest, although I enjoyed Huntress, I was still a little disappointed, because it fell short of living up to the previous novel. I’m not sure if it’s because Ash had a familiar story and this didn’t, but I just didn’t feel I engaged with the characters or plot quite as well this time round. It felt a bit drawn out and meandering, and didn’t seem to have any real purpose unless to set the scene for another novel. Nothing felt resolved.

That’s not to say Huntress is not an entertaining read – on the contrary, the concept is interesting and the characters neatly packaged – it’s just not as good as the novel that came before. to be fair, though, those were big shoes to fill.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games (Hunger Games 1)
Author: Suzanne Collins
ISBN: 978-1407109084
Publisher: Scholastic
First Published: January 2009
No .of pages: 464

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

Review:
Oh. My. Gods!

How on earth did I manage to wait so long before picking up the first in this trilogy? I mean, the hype was all over the place, and then the film came out (which I rather enjoyed), but perhaps it was the hype that kept me away. Anyway, I finally succumbed and I am SO glad I did!

From the very first page, I was absolutely hooked. Katniss is such a wonderfully flawed character that we can all see a little of ourselves in her, both good and bad; the situation, which is almost like a teenaged version of  The Running Man, is edge-of-the-seat stuff; and the writing is so good it’s incredibly difficult to put the book down. Although there is some quite horrific violence and death involved, the descriptions are not so graphic that it would make it inappropriate for  younger ten readers – it really is handled superbly so that readers of almost any age can enjoy it.

I got so into it that even though I’m enjoying my current book, I find myself wishing I was was still reading The Hunger Games and I look forward to getting hold of the sequels so I can continue following Katniss – I’m just dying to find out what happens next. My favourite character, however, has to be Peeta – I think I fell in love with him just a little bit. Although Katniss is obviously very close to Gale, I just couldn’t warm to him in quite the same way, but that’s possibly because we don’t get to spend as much tie with him. Perhaps that will change as I get further into the trilogy. Either way, I’ll be reading them very soon!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Royal Street (Sentinels #1) by Suzanne Johnson

Title: Royal Street (Sentinels #1)
Author: Suzanne Johnson
ISBN: 978-0755397655
Publisher: Headline
First Published: 27 September 2012
No .of pages: 432

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing than sniffing out supernatural bad guys. DJ’s mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that slips over from the preternatural beyond. Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. Now the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering soldiers sent to help the city recover. To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and an undead pirate wants to make her walk his plank. DJ will learn the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice… and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

Review:
I tend to enjoy fiction with a paranormal / supernatural slant, but in recent years there seems to have been something of a glut of them, all of a very similar ilk.

This one’s different.

Royal Street, the first in the new Sentinels series, is set in New Orleans and focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The big “What if?” here is “What if a natural disaster happens in a place where the veil between the worlds is already very thin and rips open the borders, leaving our world open to those from the Other Side?” In such a disaster, there is a tragic loss of life, but when you add a supernatural element to some of the deaths, you need someone who is trained in dealing with those from The Beyond and make sure the death toll doesn’t continue to rise.

Dru Jaco is a feisty character and her will they / wont they working relationship with her Enforcer partner and his cousin is a lot of fun. There’s also an unusual mix of the usual preternatural creatures (vampires, werewolves, wizards, fairies, etc) with the wonderful addition of the “Historic Dead” which can include anyone of note who has passed on. Let me lay it out for you. We get pirates! How cool is that? Never did I think I’d ever see the day when pirates, wizards and voodoo Gods would all be included in the same plot line.

It’s an exciting start to what promises to be a series that can proudly stand up beside the likes of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series and still stand out form the crowd.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Fate by L R Fredericks

Title: Fate (Time and Light #2)
Author: L R Fredericks
ISBN: 978-1848543317
Publisher: John Murray
First Published: 5 July 2012
No .of pages: 528

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from dust jacket flap):
What am I?

Not a ghost, though that is what most people believe. I am, and it looks like I shall forever be, Lord Francis Peter George St John Damory. I was born more than two hundred years ago and although I am not strictly speaking alive, I am obviously not dead. My appearance is as I choose, though usually I resemble my old self. I was a handsome man; I enjoyed it then and I enjoy it now. I am not beyond vanity, nor any other trick or trap od earthly existence. My body is a simulacrum, as is my study, my fire, brandy, pen, paper.

I am an artist of the æther.

Review:
If you enjoy elegant characters in an eloquently told tale of mystery, magic and timelessness, then this is the novel for you!

The pace is necessarily slow and reflective, yet the plot unfurls in a deceptively swift manner, so that one never feels bogged down or sluggish. The characters are at once mysterious, complex and simple, which helps ground this fantastic tale with a sense of realism, and the blend of magic and science in the setting of the 1700s makes for a sensationally engrossing read that never dumbs down for the readers’ benefit, but assumes a certain level of intelligence on our behalf without becoming lofty and grand in approach.

This is actually the sequel to the earlier novel, Farundel, but I never once felt lost or confused whilst reading Fate, and might never have guessed it was anything other than a stand-alone novel if I hadn’t already known that, so even if you have never read the first book in the Time and Light series, don’t let it put you off picking up this sublimely enjoyable book that will leave you filled with wonder and thinking about it long after you have closed the cover.

Review by Kell Smurthwaite

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Dead Reckoning (Soouthern Vampires 11) by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead Reckoning (Southern Vampires 11)
Author: Charlaine Harris
ASIN: 978-0575096523
Publisher: Gollancz
First Published: May 2011
No .of pages: 336

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
There’s a reckoning on the way . . .  and Sookie has a knack for being in trouble’s way; not least when she witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte’s, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is known to be two-natured, suspicion immediately falls on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but before she can investigate something else – something even more dangerous – comes up. Sookie’s lover Eric Northman and his ‘child’ Pam are plotting something in secret. Whatever it is, they seem determined to keep Sookie out of it; almost as determined as Sookie is to find out what’s going on. She can’t sit on the sidelines when both her work and her love life under threat – but as she’s gradually drawn into their plans Sookie finds the situation is deadlier than she could ever have imagined.

Review:
After the last two books, I was afraid the series was going a little off the boil, but Dead Reckoning seems to be bringing things right back on track. There’s still a little too much “fairy stuff” for my taste, but this one focuses mostly on vampire business, which is exactly where I want things to be.

To my great surprise, I find myself liking Bill an awful lot more than I have previously (from the very start, I wasn’t all that keen on him). Conversely, Alcide really annoyed me in this episode, when I’d liked him before – he just seemed to act completely out of character, especially for one who is now Pack Alpha. Eric, well he’s Eric and I’ve always liked him; and Sookie is just as fresh as a daisy and the ultimate girl-next-door with a spark of something extra that sets her apart from the rest. Ideally, I would have liked to see a little more of Sam (he’s always been a favourite of mine) and his complex friendship with Sookie, but perhaps that will crop up in Deadlocked.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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The Golden Acorn by Catherine Cooper

Title: The Golden Acorn
Author: Catherine Cooper
ASIN: B004EHZDBQ
Publisher: Infinitie Ideas
First Published: August 2010
File Size: 2825 KB (Kindle edition)

Rating: 3/5

At the time of this review, The Golden Acorn is available as a FREE Kindle e-book download. You can also purchase it in paperback format.

Synopsis (from Amazon):
When Jack Brenin finds a golden acorn lying in the grass, little does he know that it is the beginning of a thrilling and magical adventure. Just an ordinary boy, Jack has been chosen for a hugely important task, and enters a world he believed only existed in legend. Full of twists and turns, talking ravens and mischievous Spriggans, ‘The Golden Acorn’ is a hugely entertaining and exciting tale from a very talented new author. Your kids will love it, and so will you! This brilliant story deservedly won the Brit Writers’ Awards 2010 for unpublished writers. Jack’s adventures continue in ‘Glasruhen Gate’ and ‘Silver Hill’.

Review:
This is more than a little “Harry Potter-ish” in that the main character is a young lad who discovers he is “The One” and suddenly has to get to grips with a whole magical world he never knew existed, but the twist here is that it’s not just the fantasy-style magic these kinds of novels usually feature; instead it’s based on Celtic and Druidic lore. Yes, there are still magic wands and transfigurations, but it’s nice to have a different background for it all. I would have liked it more if the history had been explored a little more, but perhaps that’s a little much to ask from the first book in the series.

There are beautiful little ink line drawings at the start of each chapter to illustrate the main plot points without giving the game away, and a charming little map of the area in the same style which serve the story well and give a little taste of things to come.

The problems that occurred in the story seemed to be overcome quite easily and whatever peril they encountered was swiftly resolved with very little in the way of real and present danger – it was almost all just a step removed. There’s nothing hugely original here – it borrows heavily from other young adult fantasy novels of the same ilk – but neither is it a carbon copy. It’s a breeze to read and the characters are refreshing and fun, especially Camelin (the raven), as he is so brash and bold, yet improves himself over the course of the story, even if it is for his own secretive agenda.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles 1)
Author: Marissa Meyer
ISBN: 978-0141340135
Publisher: Puffin
No. of pages: 400

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague.
Earth’s fate hinges on one girl . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

Review:
A cyborg Cinderella? Count me in! This is one of the most innovative twists on the Cinderella story I’ve encountered so far. I was intrigued by the cover when I saw it on a blog and reading the reviews confirmed it as something that would most likely appeal to me – it certainly lived up to its promise!

I absolutely loved the character of Cinder – her mix of cool machine and emotional person made for a great combination and she was both believable and sympathetic.

The setting could have been anywhere, if I’m brutally honest, as there was very little in the way of actual description or mention of traditions in New Beijing that might link it to old Beijing, but I get the feeling it’s a set up for the rest of the series, so I’m more than willing to let that slide ni the hopes that it’s developed further in the subsequent novels. I’ll certainly be looking out for the next book when it’s published.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll (Transworld Book Group)

Title: Black Swan Rising (Black Swan Rising Book 1)
Author:
Lee Carroll
ISBN:
978-0553825572
Publisher:
Bantam
First Published:
2010
No. of pages:400

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (Amazon):
New York jeweller Garet James has her fair share of problems: money, an elderly father, a struggling business. One day she comes across an antiques shop she’d never noticed before. The owner possesses an old silver box that’s been sealed shut. Would she help an old man and open it, perhaps? She does…and that night strange things begin to happen. It’s as if her world – our world – has shifted slightly, revealing another, parallel place that co-exists without our knowledge: the world of the Fey…

Garet learns that one of her ancestors was ‘the Watchtower’: an immortal chosen to stand guard over the human and the fey worlds – a role that she has, it seems, inherited from her mother. But the equilibrium between these two existences is under threat. The 16th-century magician and necromancer Dr John Dee has returned, the box has been opened and the demons of Despair and Discord released. In a race against time and impending apocalypse, it is Garet who must find Dee… and close the box.

Review:
I desperately wanted to like this more than I did. I love dark urban fantasies, especially where vampires are involved, but I found I wanted this to be darker and edgier than it was.

That’s not to say it’s not good – it is good. There’s a fascinating blend of fact and fiction, with real historical figures borrowed from their own times to lend credence to those from folklore and legend. And the characters are pretty solidly written too. I really liked Garet she’s fallible and real – but there was something missing for me. She just didn’t come across as a take-the-reigns kind of girl and I wanted her to be more forceful.

Garet’s training also seemed to happen very quickly with not much happening as a result of it, which is a shame, because I felt it was a trick missed. Perhaps (and I can only hope I’m right) her newfound skills will come into play a bit more in the sequel.

Overall, Black Swan Rising is a nice bit of escapism and if you like urban fantasy, this could be just the ticket for you. There’s certainly enough to keep one entertained and maybe just enough to hook you for the second installment.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

You can find out more about the Transworld Book Group HERE.

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