Top 10 Books that made me Laugh

Welcome to the first Top 10 post voted for by you, my loyal Bookbaggers! The poll was really close all the way through and in the end I even had to vote myself because there was a tie on the closing day. The theme that tied with this one was Book to Screen Adaptations and since I had already announced this theme as the winner in my last post I thought I should stick with it. To be fair I will be doing the screen adaptations one next month and afterwards will post another poll with the remaining themes so you guys will have the power for a while 🙂 Also it should be noted many of these are not single books but series’ that made me laugh because I found it too hard, and not fair to choose just one from each series.

Now sit back and enjoy my Top 10 Books that made me Laugh.

1. Discworld series By Terry Pratchett

(The Colour of Magic; The Light Fantastic; Equal Rites; Mort; Sourcery; Wyrd Sisters)

The books I have read of this fantastic humor/fantasy series (listed above) have done their part to make me look like a giggling moron on a bus 🙂 They are the perfect public transport buddy as they are compact, easy to get into and make riding on the bus or train surrounded by strangers a pleasant experience. Normally when I’m reading I try not to laugh out loud unless I’m at home, but with the Discworld novels I don’t have much choice. Not only have I giggled inanely I have even snorted on occasion and burst out with an explosive “HA!”. The way that Terry Pratchett writes creates moments for jokes to sneak up on you – sometimes it is just a line that is so ridiculous or witty or unexpected that laughter just bubbles up and can’t be stopped. One of my favourite funny non-sensical bits was from Sourcery:

It looked like a piano sounds shortly after being dropped down a well. It tasted yellow and felt paisley. It smelled like a total eclipse of the moon. Of course, nearer to the tower it got really weird.

If you want to appear totally sane in public then maybe save these for the comfort of your own home, but if like me you don’t give two hoots about people staring at you then read away!

My Discworld collection...so far 😉

2. Good Omens  by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

This book combines the comic and fantastical genius of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman into a hilarious apocalyptic saga. The characters, the dialogue and the situations in general had me giggling and hooting with laughter all the way through and the plot was also pretty gripping. If you like the Discworld novels or Neil Gaiman, or even if you like the humor of Discworld but find it a bit too fantasy based and you want a bit of dark humor then I urge you to pick up this book! Pratchett and Gaiman work so well together and it really shows in this little gem of hilarity – truly a work that is greater than the sum of its parts and one of my fave reads of last year.

The matching Crowley and Aziraphale covers that were a more recent printing of the novel. I have the Crowley one 🙂

3. The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

I think I have encountered this classic tale in almost all its guises – I have read all the books of course (including the end of the series that was written my Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl books, after Douglas Adams’ death); I have listened to the radio series that was broadcast through BBC Radio 4 (a recording of the broadcast not when it was originally played as I wasn’t born yet when it first aired in 1978); I have watched the TV series ;and the movie. The only forms I haven’t encountered yet are the video game; the stage productions; the DC comics and the definitive form: the towels that feature text from the first novel. And why are the towels the definitive form? Because a towel is the most useful item an intergalactic traveller can have with them and one should always know where there towel is! Fans of the series have even gone so far as creating Towel Day where they carry around a towel on the 25th of May to show their love for Douglas Adams and the Hitchhikers series (I have yet to celebrate Towel Day, but now that I know about it I will be ready with my towel on the 25th of May!).

Douglas Adams was a extremely funny and gifted writer and the Hitchhikers Guide will always be on my list of funniest books. If you haven’t read them yet and you love a good, silly, intergalactic laugh then go find them – and don’t forget your towel!

The trilogy of four

4. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

I wish that books like these were around when I was a kid! I discovered the Series of Unfortunate Events books when I was in my late teens and borrowed the first one – The Bad Beginning – because it was short and looked like a really different kids novel. And boy are they different! The series is a blend of mystery, adventure and humor with some really funny quirks such as the author/narrator constantly urging the reader to put the book down and find something more cheery, and wonderfully hilarious definitions of difficult words used throughout. From the first page I was hooked and went on to devour the following twelve in the series whenever I could find them (mainly waiting anxiously for the one I wanted to return to the library). This is a great series that doesn’t patronize children by dumbing things down or wrapping events up nicely with a happy ending, which I think is why they have been so popular. But don’t think that they’re not for you just because they’re in the children’s section of your local bookstore or library! These are books that make you feel like a kid again and give you a good laugh for a couple of hours, and isn’t that what we all want sometimes after a long week in the adult world?

Oh, how I wish I had this box set!

5. Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy

This is another “children’s” series that most adults won’t think to read but should be reading. I started it because my brother owned the first couple and recommended them and I have had a ball through every moment of the last 5 books. Not only is this series filled to the brim with action and magic, but it also has a plethora of hilarious dialogue moments between the characters that surprise you in some of the darker moments. If you like your humor dark and witty and your detectives to be straight out of a Noir film but a bit more skeletal then you would love Skulduggery Pleasant. I personally am bursting with excitement because I bought the newest book – Death Bringer – for my bro which I’m presenting to him this afternoon, and because I know he devours this series quicker than a shoal of piranha on a buffalo, I will get to read it very soon 😀 YAY!

The new book

6. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

As I have said before I saw the Hayao Miyazaki anime based on this book before I even knew that there was a book! The movie was spectacular and had amusing moments but isn’t particularly a funny movie so I was expecting the same from the book, but once I started I realised that Miyazaki had focused on and enhanced the fantasy elements of the book and added his own brand of humor to it, but the real charm of the story came from the laugh-out-loud little nuances, mainly between the characters. Sophie was surprisingly funny character whose wry comments and thoughts on Wizard Howl and the situations he got himself in were classic. I still love the movie, and think it was a great adaptation that stayed true to the book, but it was Diana Wynne Jones’ words that really entertained me. The sequel – The Castle in the Air – was also really entertaining and funny but I chose Howl’s Moving Castle rather than the series as a whole because while I was reading it at my ex girlfriends house I had to stop every few minutes and explain to her what was so funny that I had burst out laughing.

7. Anything and everything by Roald Dahl

It was too hard to pick a single Roald Dahl book for this list as I have loved (and laughed at) every one I’ve read since I was a little girl. As a kid Roald Dahl books were like a special secret world we had away from grown ups, where crazy, disgusting and cheeky stuff happened and we could giggle away without our parents being any the wiser. I remember getting this rush every time I read one of his stories because often there would be stuff in them that felt naughty but you were allowed to read it because it was Roald Dahl, which all parents saw as perfectly acceptable reading material. I especially remember Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts which I read over and over, delighting in the gross re-imaginings of classic fairy tales and disgustingly hilarious animals stories. I even borrowed an audio recording from the library and made a cassette copy (yes cassette!) and listened to that so many times that I pretty much knew every one by heart and would laugh pre-emptively when it came up to the best bits (to my immature self that was when ‘slut’ was said during Cinderella, and when Red Ridding Hood’s knickers were mentioned :P).

Other favourites included: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator; James and the Giant Peach; The Twits; The BFG; Esio Trot; The Witches; Matilda and Roald Dahl’s autobiography, Boy. I didn’t outgrow Roald Dahl either. A few years ago at the age of 19 or 20 I asked for The Roald Dahl Treasury for Christmas and had a grand time reading all the funny little snippets from his books and tittering away to myself 🙂

8.  The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin

I had never even heard of Robert Rankin before my friend Sarah passed this book on to me along with a bunch of other old books she didn’t want anymore many years ago. It was the title that got me at first because I couldn’t think of anything less likely to cause the apocalypse then hollow chocolate bunnies and with a title like that It was bound to be a good laugh. The book is set in Toy City, a place that is inhabited by toys and characters from Nursery Rhymes. But it isn’t a happy carefree kind of place that you would imagine, instead it is very like an ordinary seedy City with crime families, prostitution and serial killers. The plot revolves around the bizarre murders of famous Nursery Rhyme characters such as Little Jack Horner, Jack Spratt and Mother Goose and it’s these murders that provide the comic element. There is something so wrong but satisfying about reading the gruesome deaths of characters from Nursery Rhymes that you find yourself laughing for the sheer audacity of it. I haven’t read any other books by Rankin since, but he has a large range of books in a similar vein that I would love to get to one day.

Help! Chocolate bunnies!!

9. Awful End/Dreadful Acts  by Philip Ardagh

Awful End and Dreadful Acts are the first two books in the Eddie Dickens Trilogy. I have only included those two rather than the whole trilogy because when I was reading the series (around age 13) I couldn’t find the third book anywhere and so made do by reading the first two books over and over again. In the space of about a year I must’ve read both books 5 or 6 times including a couple of times where me and my friend/neighbour who was a couple of years younger than me read them out loud to each other pausing throughout as we fell down on my bed in fits of laughter. What makes Awful End and Dreadful Acts so funny is the language used. For example, they are filled with nonsense lines and literal interpretations of common sayings (such as a character suggesting that another take a seat and then demanding that they return it when the seat of the carriage is torn out). One of my favourite parts was the explanation of the illness that the main character’s parents are afflicted with, which is how Awful End begins:

When Eddie Dickens was eleven years old, both his parents caught some awful disease that made them turn yellow, go a bit crinkly round the edges, and smell of old hot water bottles.

From that moment on I was a goner, falling into fits of laughter every few lines. The hilarity was enhanced by strange little illustrations by David Roberts  that were at the start of each chapter and at random points throughout. I have such fond memories of reading about poor Eddie Dickens’ adventures that while writing this post I looked up the third book – Terrible Times – on the Joondalup Libraries catalogue, requested it and found out today that its waiting for me at Joondalup. I also found out that Philip Ardagh wrote a follow-up trilogy about Eddie Dickens, so I’ll probably find those too and enjoy some very light, and very funny holiday reading 🙂

10. Love Bites: 101 Tips for Dating Guys with Fangs by Claire Hooper AND The Bro Code by Barney Stinson with Matt Kuhn

I know, I cheated. These books aren’t a series, in fact they aren’t even remotely related but I’ve done that before so it’s not that much of a surprise. I chose both of these books because I obtained and read them around the same time (Christmas/new years 2010) and couldn’t decide which made me laugh more and I thought it would be good to include some non-fiction in the list (‘tho the non-fiction link is quite tenuous here).

Love Bites: 101 Tips for Dating Guys with Fangs kind of speaks for itself. It’s a how-to guide for girls dating vampires that is a satirical look at dating guides and the recent fad of vampire romance novels/shows/movies etc. The book is a humourous mix of actual fan-girldom and poking fun at the girls/phenomenon that the book appears to be aimed at. On top of this its done quite cleverly with the tips really being things girls would have to think about when dating the undead, such as telling your parents, moving in with your vamp bf and how to be safe if you break up. Hooper is a very funny Australian comedienne that seems adorable and cheery and then says something really cutting and unexpected which is evident in the book and made it a very funny read on a lazy Boxing Day afternoon.

The Bro Code is a totally different kettle of fish. It is a guide for men (or bros) to live by and maintain the sacred rules of brodom. If you have seen the sitcom How I met Your Mother then you may remember Barney Stinson referencing The Bro Code, and this book is basically that code on paper with accompanying tips, graphs and diagrams to illustrate the various rules of brodom as well as violations of the code. I giggled most of the way through this book because I’m a fan of the show, and especially Barney and it was so well done that it really could have been made by Barney himself. A short note of warning: The Bro Code is meant to be funny, not gospel that you actually live your life by so I urge you, if you have a feminist streak don’t take it too seriously!

Well there you go, the 10 books (or more :P) that made me laugh the most. Stay tuned tomorrow when I’ll post the second part of this theme – the Top 10 Books that made me Cry.

Library Polygamist

If you have been following my recent adventures you will know that I have been doing work experience at Joondalup Library as part of my Library & Information Services Diploma. This means that I have gone from being loyal to my local library to having 3 library cards in my purse: my original City of Bayswater one; one for City of Joondalup; and one for the State Library of Western Australia (mainly acquired so I could use their vast collection of databases for study).

As I have mentioned in a previous post I have tried to be restrained at Joondalup by not borrowing too many books that caught my eye while working amongst them, and have done pretty well by only borrowing 4 so far (out of a maximum of 10!) …. that was until my last day yesterday.

I won't let you slip away this time!

Firstly I knew a book I requested was waiting for me because I got a friendly email a few days ago. The book was the new Flavia de Luce mystery, A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley which I borrowed a while ago at the new Maylands Library with glee but sadly had to return a couple of weeks ago because someone in Bayswater had requested it 😦 The Joondalup catalogue came to the rescue, saying one of their libraries had the book but it was out, so I placed a request and ta da! it was there waiting for me on the self-serve request shelf a week or two later 🙂

Then, when I was shelving in the mystery/thriller/crime section (Joondalup arranges resources by genre then call number) I spotted two books that looked like my cup of tea and promptly stashed them at the bottom of my trolley to be borrowed when I was done:

A couple of mysterious tidbits

These three new books from Joondalup along with a new one I picked up at Maylands when I was last there (Neil Gaiman’s American Gods) has made my “from the library” (or libraries now) pile look like a scary leaning tower of Pisa:

TIMBER!

Since I am now on mid-semester holidays (JOY!) I expect I will be reading a lot more so once I’ve finished one of my current books (most likely The Secrets of the Chess Machine as I’m nearing the end) I am going to start one of the ones on this pile (probably A Red Herring Without Mustard as I don’t want to risk someone stealing it off me again!) and maybe even take my next few from there as well to make it a bit less perilous.

Because of my holidays all you loyal Bookbaggers and new visitors can expect a bit more action from me so stay tuned!

In other news the poll for the next Top 10 theme will be closed by Monday and then I will start the posts for the winning theme, which unless there is a flood of votes in the next couple of days will be (drumroll please!):

Top 10 Book that made me Laugh/Top 10 Books that made me Cry

I’m looking forward to it 🙂

My first library conference

On Wednesday the 14th from 7.30am – 12.30pm I was a student volunteer at the 2011 ALIA National Library & Information Technicians Conference. This on its own is an excellent opportunity for a Library Studies student, but on top of this I was also free to attend sessions for free once my shift was finished which was pretty cool 🙂

I was pretty nervous beforehand because I had no idea what a professional conference involved (previously I had only been to a Science Fiction con and Supernova, a Pop Culture expo 😛 ) and I was worried that I wouldn’t be up to the task, but once I started I found the people (organisers, delegates and speakers alike) were really lovely and the work was pretty straightforward. basically my responsibilities involved greeting delegates and speakers when they came to the registration desk, giving them their name badge and a bag of goodies, directing them to rooms/toilets etc., and telling them when certain sessions start and where they’re held. I did have a couple of added tasks such as putting reserved signs on seats for speakers and ushering in an Aboriginal dance troupe that opened the days proceedings (that was a particularly fun job :))

What with the easier-than-expected jobs, lovely people to work with and the stunning venue my shift went by very quickly and then I was free to have a wonderfully fancy (free!) lunch, network with lecturers and fellow students who were in attendance and go to whatever afternoon sessions that tickled my fancy.

While at the registration desk I could hear some pretty exuberant laughter coming from the Golden Ballroom where keynote speaker, Rachel Green was speaking so I thought her afternoon session, Networking conversations guaranteed – meet, greet and speak with ease, would be a good start. It was one of the most amusing and entertaining professional development sessions I had ever been too – a rarity in an area that is often very bland and to the point. Rachel has a unique way of speaking that is very engaging and instead of just talking about networking she actually put it in practice, getting us all to get up from our seats and sit next to someone we had never met – 3 times! Because of this I got to meet individuals working in the industry who gave me insight into the world of Library Technicians and advice on my career path. I left the session feeling more confident and ready to mingle over afternoon tea with people who I didn’t know – which I went through with, chatting to a WA Library Tech as well as four from the eastern states, and Rachel Green herself!

I then wanted to go to a session called Taking the scenic route – seeking diverse experiences and undertaking further study to improve skills and fulfil aspirations, followed by one called Getting the job you want: tips and tricks. However when I went to the room that the first session was being held it was already full so I decided to hang around until it finished and the next one begun.
While waiting I got to talking with another lovely stranger from Tasmania who was enjoying the Perth weather (funnily enough the next day or two we got rain!). She was waiting for the next Rachel Green session, Mindfulness – The easy way to peace and calm in a stressful world, and when the time came I couldn’t resist skipping the tips to getting a job one and going to hers. And boy am I glad I made that decision! The mindfulness session was also amusing and entertaining but was much more relaxing than the networking one, with periods of guided meditation – the perfect end to a lovely day 🙂

I’m so glad I filled in the form to volunteer for the conference – I gained some once in a lifetime experience in a beautiful hotel, met some interesting people already in the industry, ate some amazing free food and even was given a free meditation DVD by Rachel Green. All I can say to anyone out there is this – if a similar opportunity comes up for you, don’t hesitate, you won’t regret it!

More information on the fabulous Rachel Green can be found on her website.

REVIEW: Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook

I’m gonna keep this review short and sweet, because that’s what the book was like….well maybe not sweet.

Alice in Zombieland pretty much explains itself – in essence it is the full text of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (which is why he shares authorship) but altered so that Wonderland is actually Zombieland and is infested by flesh-eating Zombies. The other changes include:

  1. Instead of Alice following a white rabbit down a rabbit hole she follows a black rat down an open grave
  2. Instead of the pool of tears that Alice creates when she is stuck in the room with the tiny door, she bleeds a pool of blood from a head wound she received falling down the grave tunnel
  3. Well known characters like the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter are all dead and in stages of decay
  4. The Red Queen controls a Zombie army through jewelled collars and a mysterious box that she keeps on her person
  5. Alice herself is turning into the undead and has unsettling thoughts of chowing down on everyone she encounters

I was really impressed with how Cook integrated the horror element of zombies into this classic tale, and was a bit unnerved by how well it fit. Cook changes enough to make it a new story but not enough to drastically alter the feel of the original tale, which in my opinion was pretty freaky already! Another nice touch was the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter – they’re the original drawings by Sir John Tenniel artfully changed by comic artist Brent Cardillo into grotesque etchings.

One of the illustrations

This newfound genre of horror/classics mash-ups is huge at the moment what with the highly popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith being released in 2009, which was quickly followed by Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters by Ben H. Winters and an avalanche of others since. I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters because I’m not really a Jane Austen fan, but I am intrigued by the concept of these mash-ups and I certainly enjoyed Alice in Zombieland, so much so that I finished it within a week of borrowing it from the library. A fun, gross read but not one to give to your kid because they like the original!

I give Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook:

4 / 5 stars

REVIEW: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I finished this novel nearly a month ago, but have been too busy to give it the full review that it deserves – before now. Before I start it should be known that it took me nearly 4 months to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a book of a mere 359 pages, and in fact I have started and finished 5 books in that time. The main reason for this is I didn’t really like The Elegance of the Hedgehog in the beginning and found it a bit grueling to read, especially compared to the others I was reading at the same time. The reason I found it grueling is that it is a very intellectual book with many literary references and words that were unfamiliar to me. Now, if you have been reading my blog for a while, or you know me, you will know that while I do enjoy a great work of literature I also enjoy a variety of more low-brow fiction and so am not as widely read as I would like (I try plus I’m still young! plenty of time yet to get to all those classics!), so at the start of this book I was forever stopping to refer to my trusty dictionary, or google something which left me feeling quite the dunce 😦

I don’t really enjoy feeling stupid while reading (who does?) , so I often found myself putting this one aside for days or weeks on end after one session. This was until I started to take it in my bag to classes and prac, a strategy I use on books I’m avoiding because the time on the bus and train forces me to give them a try. This strategy certainly worked on this little number and I found my feelings toward it quickly changed.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a french book that was originally published in 2006 under the title L’élégance du hérisson then translated into English in 2008. The book revolves around a central location – 7 Rue de Grenelle, a swanky apartment building in Paris – and only a handful of events happen anywhere else. The narrative is told through two main characters and narrators: Madame Renee Michel, the middle-aged concierge; and Paloma Josse, the 12-year-old daughter of one of the wealthy families that resides in the building. Madame Michel is a 54-year-old widow who has worked at 7 Rue de Grenelle for 27 years, and she is a self-confessed autodidact (yes this was one of the words I had to look up :S) in areas of literature (namely Tolstoy), art, music and film. However, she has kept the secret of her cultured self for all these years and played the part of the simple concierge as she fears loosing her job or being condemned by the uppity residents of the building. On the other hand Paloma Josse is disgusted by the bourgeois lifestyle of her family and others in the building and feels there is nothing to look forward to in adulthood. Therefore she has decided to kill herself and set fire to the building on her 13th birthday to avoid the future of the adults around her. However, Paloma is an incredibly intelligent and  logical young lady, so in the time leading up to her suicide she has decided to keep records of things in the world around her that may be worth living for – titled “Journal of the Movement of the World” and “Profound Thoughts” – and it is through these journal entries that her sections are narrated.

The story starts out kind of bleak, with both main characters feeling pretty melancholy about their lives, but everything changes when a distinguished Japanese gentleman moves into the building. It was at this point that my interest accelerated because the plot really started to develop when previously the chapters were mainly character development. The groundwork that Barbery had laid down in the earlier chapters meant that I was emotionally attached to Renee and Paloma by the time their stories and characters grew and I wanted to know more. The addition of the Japanese gentleman – Kakuro Ozu – also lightened the story a fair bit because he is a very kind and deep person that appreciates the same art and culture as Renee. Ultimately this book explores a lot of themes, but mainly it explores the philosophies of life and how people find comfort in the world and people arround them, and that really appealed to me. However, it wasn’t all serious cultural references and philosophy, in fact there was some real laugh out loud moments, especially the times when Renee is having tea with Manuela, a maid who cleans many of the building’s apartments and always brings delicious pastries.

I became so entrenched in the story and characters of The Elegance of the Hedgehog that by the end (when an event happens that I won’t spoil) I was struggling not to burst into tears on the train, and I failed a tad. This is a real gem of french literature and would make a great book club book for a group that isn’t afraid to read something so peppered with references, because it provides a lot of fuel for discussions. Despite the fact that it took me forever to read, I’m glad I persevered with The Elegance of the Hedgehog and it is sure to be on the list of my favourite reads of 2011. I also have borrowed the film that was based on the book – The Hedgehog – and look forward to watching it soon. Who knows, it may even make an appearance in a future Top 10 on book to screen adaptations 😉

I give The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery:

4 ½ / 5 stars

Top 10 Fantasy Realms

1. Middle Earth

The Hobbit (Lord of the Rings trilogy) by J. R. R. Tolkien

A list of great Fantasy realms could not be made without mentioning possibly the most famous realm of them all. Despite the fact that I have not, as yet, read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Middle Earth was the first realm that came to mind when I started compiling. I read The Hobbit when I was about 11 and loved how much detail Tolkien went into when describing Middle Earth. It was as if Tolkien secretly travelled back in time, and to another dimension (Tolkien repeatedly wrote that Middle Earth was an imaginary representation of Earth in the past), spent years there studying the landscape, races and various languages/cultures and then masqueraded his findings as works of fiction because he knew no one would believe the truth. Whether J. R. R. Tolkien’s work is your cup of tea or not the man should be commended for the size of his imagination and the sheer amount of effort he put into his creations. I will read Lord of the Rings eventually, I swear!

Land of the Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and of course, the humble Hobbit

2. Narnia

Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

I don’t know whether C. S. Lewis would have been pleased to be on this list right after Tolkien or furious, because the two were close friends as well as fierce rivals (in this day and age they would’ve been dubbed “frenemies”), but despite the controversy surrounding Lewis’ work I think Narnia is a wonderful creation. As a child I didn’t notice the religious overtones of the books, or the apparent sexism and racism, I was just entranced by a world you could step into through a wardrobe that was filled with talking animals, mythical beasts and witches.

Just a wardrobe away...

3. The realm of the Mulefa

The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman

All the different dimensions in the His Dark Materials trilogy were really well crafted and unique, but It was the unnamed dimension where Mary Malone travels that really stuck in my head. The reason this realm is so memorable is not so much the land itself but the creatures that inhabit it – namely the Mulefa (or zalif for an individual) and the Tualapi. The Mulefa are an intelligent race that sort of adopt Mary. They are a bit like a cross between an elephant and an antelope except they have evolved a diamond-shaped skeletal structure (as have most of the creatures in this realm) with a leg protruding from the front and back of the body and two others either side (i.e. one leg from each point of the diamond). They have an intricate language which consists of a combination of sounds and signing with their trunks and a unique way of moving around – they use spurs on their front and back feet to hold circular seed pods and roll around at high speeds like a motorcycle. The Tualapi are the Mulefa’s only threat in this beautiful world. They are massive white birds whose wings resemble sails when seen from a distance, and they maliciously destroy Mulefa dwellings and the precious seed pods with no apparent motive, but they do appear to also be intelligent. Hail Philip Pullman for coming up with such crazy creatures!

Mulefa from Amber Spyglass © 3djinn - found on Deviantart

4. The Half Continent

Monster Blood Tattoo series by D. M. Cornish 

The worldbuilding D. M. Cornish has done in the Monster Blood Tattoo books is perhaps the most impressive I’ve seen in what is meant to be a children’s series. The map at the beginning of each book is incredibly detailed as is the content of the books, with an entire area at the end (called the Explicarium) which covers The 16-month calendar of the Half-Continent; the days of the week and vigils (days of observance); an extensive glossary of terms; and several illustrations of important machinery or people. But it is the little details that really make what Cornish has created amazing – especially the sheer volume of words he has invented, the complicated costumes worn by various classes of people and the host of strange monsters. If you’re prepared to tackle a children’s/Young Adult trilogy which packs a lot of punch then I would defiantly recommend them (even ‘tho I’m currently only about halfway through the second book).

Surely made by a master mapmaker!

5. Tallinor

Trinity trilogy by Fiona McIntosh 

Tallinor is the setting of the fabulous Trinity trilogy that I talked about in my last Top 10. It is not very different from countries on Earth, containing the same plants, animals and weather and having a culture similar to Europe in the middle ages which makes it very relatable and believable. While Tallinor may not have been as intricately developed as some of the realms in this list, the almost recognizable setting makes a perfect backdrop for a very strong and action-packed story and this really works for this series. I think if Tallinor had been too complicated and different from Earth then it would have detracted from what was really great in this series – the plot and the characters. If only there was a map available on the net and I didn’t have to settle for a dodgy phone pic from the front of Betrayal :/

apologies for the fuzziness

6. Tortall/Divine Realm

Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce 

Tortall is the country that the Immortals is mainly set in, but the universe that the books are set in (as well as other series’ by Tamora Pierce) is often refered to as the Tortallan Universe, so this is what I will be taking about in this post. Also, the last book Realm of the Gods is almost entirely set in the Divine Realm and I feel that world is just as pivotal in this series as Tortall.
The Tortallan Universe covers several countries besides Tortall, which is like Middle Ages Europe (like Tallinor) in geography and culture, but the main one that is covered in the Immortals series is Carthak. Carthak is reminiscent of Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, with a hotter, drier climate and a culture which prides opulence and worships a range of Gods.
The Divine Realm sort of speaks for itself – it is the Realm that houses all the Gods of the various cultures including animal Gods (or Gods of Wild Magic which the main character Daine is gifted with) as well as a secluded society of dragons. When I read the series I was very impressed with what Pierce achieved with her worldbuilding – a series of countries and realms with unique geography, societies, and in the case of the Divine Realms, unique natural laws while still making them relatable to real countries that kids would be learning about.

Tortall and surrounding countries (Divine Realm not pictured :P)

7. Deltora

Deltora series by Emily Rodda 

Deltora is the perfect created world for the age group these books are aimed at. The places, people and creatures of Deltora are bursting with magic and adventure which kids just lap up, but the realm isn’t too complicated which can be boring for kids. Emily Rodda has also been very clever in naming key locations of Deltora – locations like The Forests of Silence, The Lake of Tears, City of the Rats, The Shifting Sands, Dread Mountain, The Maze of the Beast, and The Valley of the Lost are also titles of book in the first series and are quite enticing. I loved these books when I was younger because it was clear from the title where each book was heading, and each book was a mini journey to get the next gem of Deltora so It was like a series of small adventures wrapped up in one big one. I talk about all three series’ set in Deltora in my last Top 10 so if you’re interested in introducing these books to your kids (or reading them yourself!) then check it out. Recently an anime has also been made based on the Deltora Quest series and from what I’ve seen so far it is quite faithful to the original story.

This map is featured at the front of each of the books with a journey route gradually forming from book to book

8. Alagaesia

Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini 

I didn’t include this series in my Top 10 Fantasy series because I have only read book 1 (Eragon) and book 2 (Eldest) and also I didn’t enjoy it as much as others vying for a spot on the list. However, I was very impressed with the worldbuiding achieved by Chistopher Paolini, mainly because he started writing the series when he was still in highschool! The continent of Alagaesia is similar to Scandinavia around the time of Vikings, but mostly in language and culture as the geography isn’t particularly Scandinavian. The geography of the vast continent varies from mountainous forested regions in the north, flats and mountains in the south and a desert that dominates the centre of the land. Paolini’s world is inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, Urgals (a brutal somewhat humanoid race) and of course Dragons, and overall this creates a rich fantasy which has proved very popular with children, teens and adults.
Online this series has been plagued with some criticism, mainly claiming that the story is just a repackaging of other famous tales, namely Star Wars but I think that is rubbish. Anyone who is knowledgeable about mythology, folklore, fairy tales and the works of Shakespeare knows that the same archetypal stories have been told countless times, and saying that the Inheritance Cycle is a rip-off of Star Wars just because it involves a young man who is orphaned, discovers his latent powers and is trained by a mentor, is ridiculous. I think a lot of this criticism is simply jealousy or tall poppy syndrome  towards this talented young man, because really how many of us can claim to have written a bestselling series in their teens? I know I can’t!

Hats off to Master Paolini

9. Conjurors′ Realm

The Strangest Adventures series by Alexandra Adornetto

Alexandra Adornetto is another highly successful young person, starting her bestselling novel The Shadow Thief, when she was at the tender age of 13. The series continued with The Lampo Circus and it is this book that features the highly imaginative Conjurors’ Realm, ‘tho it is mentioned in The Shadow Thief and the last book Von Gobstopper’s Arcade. The main characters of the series, Milli and Ernest,  end up in the Conjurors’ Realm when they are kidnapped (along with other children of their town) by the evil Conjuror Lord Aldor (who is the villain of the series) through a fake circus troupe. At first the only part of the realm the children see is a camp where they are being trained up as gladiators for an unnamed battle. When the children find out they are to be weapons in a war Lord Aldor is waging against the land of Mirth (a version of Faerie) they escape the camp and make the long journey to Mirth to warn the Queen. Along the way the Conjurors’ Realm presents unique challenges such as the creepy Grin Bandits that seek to extract the teeth of anyone who cross their path; and a life-size game of Monopoly. Mirth itself is a beautiful creation filled with song, dance and laughter, described wonderfully by Adordetto.

Book 2 of The Strangest Adventures

10. Discworld

Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

No surprise there! I have already stated before that I think the Discworld is one of the most imaginative ideas in literature, because come on, a flat world that is atop four elephants and swims through space on a giant turtle? That has to be the definition of awesome 🙂 But it is not just the shape of the world that makes it gloriously unique – Pratchett has also created a whole new system of Physics (mixed liberally with magic) that the universe (sometimes) confirms to; filled it with a range of known and unknown magical creatures and plant life; developed a calendar complete with different holidays (such as Hogswatch); and several languages. And on top of this Pratchett has created a series that is both magical and hilarious, rather than unbearably serious like some fantasy novels. It will be a sad, sad day for both fantasy and humourous literature when the great man is finally visited by Death, but possibly an interesting day for Pratchett when he is visited by his own creation!

Discworld from above

Introducing: Horatio Lyle!

This little post is mainly for mm’s benefit – lookit what I borrowed at Joondalup Library  yesterday:

Right up my alley 🙂

Here is a blurb of the book:

In Victorian London at the height of the industrial revolution, Horatio Lyle is a former Special Constable with a passion for science and invention. He’s also an occasional, but reluctant, sleuth. The truth is that he’d rather be in his lab tinkering with dangerous chemicals and odd machinery than running around the cobbled streets of London trying to track down stolen goods. But when Her Majesty’s Government calls, Horatio swaps his microscope for a magnifying glass, fills his pockets with things that explode and sallies forth to unravel a mystery of a singularly extraordinary nature. Thrown together with a reformed (i.e. ‘caught’) pickpocket called Tess, and a rebellious (within reason) young gentleman called Thomas, Lyle and his faithful hound, Tate, find themselves pursuing an ancient Chinese plate, a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of polite society and a dangerous enemy who may not even be human. Solving the crime will be hard enough – surviving would be a bonus…

Should be fun 🙂