The Micro Reviews From Planet Procrastination: The Soulless OWL Thieves from the Pyramid Galaxy of Howzat!!!

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Last time on The Micro Reviews From Planet Procrastination:

Our curious adventurers were fleeing for their lives from a deadly beast on an alien planet covered in the blue dust of its previous victims. While they were not certain that the scream that sounded behind them moments before the fleeing was in fact the Bloodthirsty Giraffe from the Hunger Games Nebula (or its unfortunate prey) after the horrifying description of the beast by their Chief Cultural Advisor, they weren’t going to waste what could be the final moments of their lives debating about it.

If someone were to be placed conveniently above the blue planet, say, in a spaceship, one equipped with a large viewing window, for example, they would see a very peculiar and terrifying sight. Since the rest of the crew was in fact not-so conveniently placed haphazardly upon the surface of the blue planet, in a somewhat dented spaceship, peering through a large, dusty, viewing window at the terrain in front of them and the figures of their comrades in the distance, the sight they were seeing was even more peculiar and terrifying. As the hull of the ship, though crumpled slightly, was sound proof, the crew within didn’t hear the scream that could make ones blood separate into curds as if it were a dairy product. All they saw was a collection of silver-clad dots that was their exploration team go in one moment from a cluster that seemed to be having a pleasant chat, to a flailing stampede of limbs and blue dust coming toward them. It was another few moments before the cause of their sudden flailing came into sight, heralded by the Commander’s grumbled question (“What in Flerk’s name are they doing?”) metamorphosing into a gargle of fear and profanities in several alien languages.

Meanwhile, at the site of the fleeing, Chief Cultural Advisor Daydream McDillydally was expending most of his energy in running, while using the rest to quash his academic curiosity which was irritatingly telling him to look behind him. His brain – which was usually quite logical but also housed this academic curiosity – was having a debate with itself. On the affirmative team the speaker argued that as Chief Cultural Advisor he couldn’t waste this opportunity to view a rare beast, and gain some bragging rights to use against his Hunger Games Nebula “expert” colleague. On the negative team the speaker made a very sound point of “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR HRAKING MIND!!!” which was one of the best rebuttals he had ever encountered. As it turns out the debate was decided suddenly when one of McDillydally’s mutinous feet stepped upon one of his brethren and flung him over and flat on his back in the cold, blue death-dust. Before McDillydally could even comprehend that he was no longer running but was in fact in a very vulnerable and embarrassing position, he heard a strange CLONK noise and what sounded like an angry, warbled war cry. As neither of these sounds were similar to the scream of before, his curiosity annoyingly piped up again and he propped himself up on four elbows, and hurriedly cleaned his spectacles with his other two to see what was going on.

A large, glowing white shape loomed in front of him and before he could even lash out in self-defense (or more likely, cower in a quivering ball of pathetic-ness) the shape grew an arm with a big hand attached (or more likely it already had said appendage and simply brought it forward) and grasping him by the shoulder pulled him back to his traitorous feet. The white-clad beast then inexplicably turned his back on the flustered Cultural Advisor, took up a strange defensive stance, and yelled over his shoulder at him. As he was wearing his Wireless Universal Translator (WUT) McDillydally understood the strangers shouted words, but still only comprehended some of them. The words that came to him in perfectly translated Procrasti was this: “Run you daft bugger! I’ll hold off the blighter with me bat, you get yerselves onto yer ship and tell the captain to haul out of here! Ours is parked just outta orbit – tell ‘im to fly inta our hold. The beast’ll rip your ship to smithereens but ours has a field that stops the bastard! Go!”

With the main points of the white, yelling alien ringing in his head (RUN. BEAST. SHIP. GO.) McDillydally ran faster than his feet could even envision as another loud CLONK sounded behind him. To his surprise and the surprise of his feet, he reached the rest of the team (who were oblivious to his trip and his alien rescuer) and yelled out a few choice words of the message. As these words were RUN, BEAST, SHIP, and GO there was no resistance from the others and as one they sprinted the rest of the way to the ship’s waiting landing ramp, trying desperately the ignore the screams, yells and CLONKs behind them. When they were safely inside McDillydally didn’t need to ask the Commander to take off as it was raring to go as soon as the hatch closed, but he did hasten to the control room anyway to attempt to pass on the message of his white-clothed protector. As was to be expected the Commander wanted an immediate explanation of what had occurred and was still occurring below, but knowing there was no time for long status reports McDillydally was uncharacteristically abrupt and relayed to the Commander the most important points:

1. That there was a deadly beast down there that desired to turn them all into a fine dust.

2. That the glowy white beings (now they were above the surface he could see that there was not one but about half a dozen) somehow could fight the beast and they obviously couldn’t.

3. One of the beings had said (he thought) that the Micro Reviews ship was no protection from the beast, but theirs had some kind of protective force field.

4. They had to get their ship into their hold as soon as possible or they’d be eaten horribly.

In a similar uncharacteristically decisive moment the Commander ordered the gathering crew to fire up all shields (which could barely protect the ship from a slight breeze at that point, but it reassured him a tad just saying it), scan the surrounds for a waiting ship and head for it as fast as their dented engines could go. While the flimsy shields were creating a parody of protection and the ship was trundling toward the only craft near the blue planet – a strange, but quite intimidating giant dusty red orb with white stitches encircling its grand circumference – McDillydally rubbed some of the blue dust from the viewing window still facing the planet (somewhat unsuccessfully as to do so he employed the exterior wipers which were encrusted with even more disintegrated ex-inhabitant dust), adjusted the zoom on his spectacles to its highest setting and peered down at the scene below with equal parts inconsolable terror, guilty relief and intellectual joy.

Several of the  brave white beings were gathered in the same half-turned, splayed leg stance as his rescuer and were swinging their arms behind themselves and then toward the main reason for his terror, guilt and joy. The description he had given the team of the Bloodthirsty Giraffe from The Hunger Games Nebula was fairly accurate. A towering form that if it was next to their humble ship would dwarf/swallow it – check! Sickening serpentine neck that waved like a rabid python – check! A grossly cavernous mouth virtually crawling with an infestation of yellow, needle-sharp teeth glistening with a sickening silvery ooze that he didn’t want to think about too carefully – check! A collection of kicking, windmilling legs which didn’t stop flailing long enough to count but could easily equal in the hundreds – check! A mottled hide with the sickly, colourless look of a creature thought into existence (or rather the leftover excrement of thought) that had focused all energy on nightmare-ish weapons and had let any attempt at normal textures and appearance fall by the wayside? Well, that point hadn’t been relayed to him but it was so unsettling yet fascinating that he thought it deserved a check anyway.

As he teared his sextet of eyes (get your mind out of the gutter! It’s just a fancy word for six of something!) away from the beast he saw a single white-clad hero take a long run up, walking slowly at first and then gaining momentum as he neared his comrades. The crazed run up ended with a bizarre wide-legged step with a frantic overarm motion and a ball of dusty red light flew from his gloved hand, struck the blue ground with a bounce that sent dust everywhere and barreled straight into one of the beast’s blurred legs. In the next moment several of the others performed their stationary wide-legged arm-swing war dance and McDillydally saw identical dusty red orbs erupt from below their white gloves somehow connected to a long, oblong flash of light. All the orbs hit the same leg (or at least a blur that may have been around where the other blur was), the beast started to lose its balance and before its collective legs could get their bearings once more it toppled to the ground in a huge plume of blue dust. Despite being deaf to the sounds below McDillydally could tell that the white-clad energy-ball emitting warriors were performing some kind of victorious ritual complete with chants at the sight of their toppled foe, in the same way that he knew those odd CLONKS he had heard whilst on the planet had come from the red balls they somehow created, but from his vantage point it looked akin to a bunch of Boringball players carrying on after getting a Glor.

Before McDillydally could see if the beast recovered from its fall and attacked the celebrating warriors, two things happened almost simultaneously. Firstly the viewing window went dark and McDillydally realised that they were now contained inside the hull of the strange ball-shaped ship. Secondly a stunned hush went over the gathered crew who were out of ideas now that they were out of immediate danger and within the dark confines of an alien ship whose owners were absent and possible hostile. This palpable silence was broken by a loud outburst of “Right! This looks like a case for Shamrock House!” accompanied by the donning of an incredibly ugly hat and brandishing of a ridiculously large magnifying glass in one hand and a spiral notebook and pen in two of the others. The outburst, hat, magnifying glass, notebook and pen all came from one of the most useless, yet inexplicably arrogant crew members, a Mr Loafer Idleston who had adopted the name Shamrock House after their trip to the United Kingdom, Earth. The name was an homage to fictional detective Sherlock Holmes but had been mangled into nonsense after Idleston had sampled a local beverage, “whiskey” in the Kingdom’s smaller island, Ireland. Since adopting the name he had insisted on solving any strange happening that occurred, and since so far that had been limited to the case of who stole so-and-so’s protein pods out of the Food Containment Unit, the mystery of the salt in the sugar dispenser, and the scandal that was who wrote “Shamrock House is a dingbat!” across the self-proclaimed detectives ugly hat, the happenings on the Blue Planet was the most exciting case yet!

While Shamrock flitted around gathering statements from the exploration team, the Commander went on with the much more vital business of lighting their surroundings whilst pretending he was in complete control and being encased in a foreign ship was totally standard. Shamrock was just approaching McDillydally, notebook and pen poised, when there was a knock at the ships departure hatch. As one the crew froze and looked at the hatch and then at their Commander who was finding his fake look of control quite taxing to maintain. He approached the hatch with what he hoped was an air of command, and said a trifle squeakily “Whose there? Ah…I mean as Commander of this vessel I ah…demand you state your name and intentions!”. He was quite pleased with how official he sounded until the slightly muffled answer came from the other side. “It’s the guys that saved your asses, ya daft blighters! Open up so we can get ye into the craft proper and get the hell outta here!” Despite understanding only about half of what they said, the Commander gave the order to open the hatch and moments later they were face to face with six figures that by the amount of blue dust spoiling the clean white of their suits and helmets were probably the team that McDillydally had just seen toppling the Bloodthirsty Giraffe.

With a brisk “Follow us” the white-suited aliens turned and walked back through the hatch leaving the flustered Commander no choice but to lead his crew in a trail behind them. They went down into a dank holding space filled with crates and boxes, lit only by a glowing white orb held by the white figure leading the procession, then into the stark white interior of the ship. The crew looked around in awe as they followed the bare spiralling passages dotted with tall rounded doors and flashing panels, until they finally stopped at a dead-end with a huge and very shiny double door. As their white-clad leaders marched proudly into the massive room beyond, our overwhelmed crew shuffled awkwardly behind, every mouth hanging open and every neck craning to take in the sights.

The room was obviously the main control room, but it was so large and impressive it made their own control room look like a child’s cubby house. Everything was impossibly white and polished, from the clean, smooth floor, to the sparkling screens that covered almost every wall, shaped to fit the curved surfaces, to the dozen elegant, rounded white chairs. The only colour in the room came from more flashing lights that filled a large, round control panel in the centre, and a massive dusty red ball matching the ships interior which rose from the control panel on a flawless white pole. As they approached the control panel the twelve chairs swiveled toward them revealing twelve more aliens wearing spotless white uniforms, more sleek and authoritative then their blue-dusted escorts, and with two stripes of dusty red adorning wrists, waists and v-shaped collars. The seated aliens were also not wearing the white-domed helmets the others still hadn’t removed (which Commander Distraction thought was very rude and not the proper way to treat a man of his standing!) showing their round, dusty red heads complete with stitch-marks identical to the outside of the ship and the ball suspended on the pole, . Chief Cultural Advisor McDillydally had a moment of wondering whether they had modelled their ship and the ball on their own heads, or somehow vice versa before the alien sitting in the biggest and centralist chair rose and walked toward them.

If Commander Distraction hadn’t already guessed that this individual was their leader from the size of his chair and the intricate crest he wore on his uniform, he would’ve known from the way he strode with such purpose and authority, and he was instantly and irritatingly jealous. When he reached them the away team all removed their helmets, tucked them under one arm and gave their leader a short, respectful salute, making Commander Distraction even more jealous. “Captain,” The lead escort said. “We have subdued the beast but it won’t stay that way for long. No sign of survivors down there except this lot. Their craft is stowed in the hold and they’re obviously not armed. Wrong place at the wrong time by the looks of it.”

The Captain nodded once without even glancing at the bewildered Micro Reviews awkwardly gathered behind his crew members. “Right. Good job men. Lets get as far away from that damn planet while we still can eh?” the Captain said before turning toward the seated crew with a loud series of incomprehensible orders. The Micro Reviews looked at each other in confusion. What were they meant to do now? Was the Captain of these intimidating creatures going to even acknowledge their existence? Before the Commander could gather his thoughts, swallow his jealously, embarrassment and growing rage and address this too-perfect Captain, Shamrock House piped up. “Wait a minute! I think we all have a right to know what’s going on here! Who are you people? Why were you on that planet? And did you know that beast was there? We need answers!” The Commander was torn between outrage that that stupid fake detective had broken the silence when it should be him doing the liaising with these aliens, and relief that he had asked the hard questions so he didn’t have to.

Suddenly all the harsh dark eyes of the aliens were locked on Shamrock, wide with surprise. The Captain stopped his barrage of orders and walked calmly over until he loomed over the ridiculous detective and his ridiculous hat. “Are you their leader or something?” he said with disbelief. “Ah…No” said Shamrock, his bravado faltering a bit. “I’m a Detective!” (said in a way that clearly emphasised the capital D), “Detective Shamrock House, genius investigative mind!”. The Captain barely suppressed a smirk and chuckles could be heard from other members of the crew. “Well, Detective House, who is your leader then?”. Commander Distraction stepped forward, drawing himself up to full-height (even if it was a good couple of feet shorter than any of the white-clad beings) and sucking in his substantial gut. “I am. Commander Whatzat Distraction, Second Class Commander of the Micro Review Fleet, Inter-dimensional and Universal Travel Division of the Grand Conglomeration of Procrasti of the Planet Procrastination”. The Micro Reviews all looked highly impressed that their Commander had stated his full title without messing up once, and the Commander felt as if he had gained a bit more height with the accomplishment. “Hmmm…I see,” said the Captain looking a smidgen impressed. “I’ve never heard of the Procrasti but that all sounded very….official. I am Captian Beamer Twelveman, Captain and Head Bowler of Team 14387.13, Planet 8 in the 13th System, Twelve Tier of the Pyramid Galaxy of Howzat. Our reasons for exploring that planet are classified and we were not aware that the Thought-Beast colloquially known as he Bloodthirsty Giraffe from the Hunger Games Nebula had invaded it and decimated its inhabitants, otherwise we wouldn’t have sent a bloody exploration team down there! Thought-Beasts can’t break our hull because we have a force field which interferes with their patterns so once we’ve put some distance between us it’ll be safe to release your ship. In the meantime you could remain on our vessel, our of the way of our operations, or you can go back to your ship and wait for an update. Any more questions, perhaps from your ahem…detective?”

This time the Captain didn’t even bother suppressing his smirk, and he joined in on the crew’s chuckling. Commander Distraction felt his face start to colour from green to the bright aqua of shame. He hardly understood what this Captain Twelveman had said, but he knew that it made him, his motley crew, and maybe even the Grand Conglomeration of Procrasti sound small and foolish in comparison. He didn’t want to spend another second with these proud, successful, and superior beings so he gave a curt nod and decided to take the coward’s way out. “Ahem…Thank you Captain for accommodating us. If it weren’t for your men down there my exploration team, and likely my whole crew would have been nothing more than dust. We will retire to our ship and await your instructions.” And with that he strode with as much purpose and authority as his bruised pride could muster, out of the control room and back into the spiralling white corridors, his crew trailing meekly behind him. As the corridors had no corners and simply led back to the hold in one long, shining coil the crew had no trouble making their way back, and they respectfully didn’t question the Commander’s decision – not even Shamrock. He did however linger at the back and when the crew entered the hold he snuck back into the corridor and turned into the first door on the right. He didn’t know what he was looking for, but he knew something was up with these people and their “classified” mission, and as the ship’s genius investigative mind it was his duty to solve the case!

The room he entered was as stark as the corridors and control room, with just a simple white chair, some dials and lights attached to a round console and a smallish rounded screen on the wall in front of him. Shamrock took out his over-sized magnifying glass and peered at all the details of the room, but he couldn’t even understand what the dials, lights and screen were let alone how they could be used to find clues. He sat at the console in the white chair (which was made for a much taller and leaner figure and not equipped for more than one set of limbs, so a bit awkward) and got out his notepad and pen to document his findings so far. To get into a more comfortable position he stood on the chair with his six feet as close together as possible and leaned several of his elbows on the console while he wrote. Unfortunately the console was so clean and slippery that two of his elbows slipped and he fell face-first onto dozens of buttons, narrowly avoided a lever to the eye and ended up with a large dial shoved in his mouth. As a result the screen suddenly came to life and started scrolling through pages and pages of text before settling on a single entry.

As the text was likely in their native tongue it looked like mindless scribblings to Shamrock so he turned a tiny dial on the side of his magnifying glass (it was good for something beyond being comically giant!) and viewed the text through its lens, neatly translated in Procrasti. To his amazement the text was some kind of Captain’s log and if he was not mistaken the date at the top (formatted according to the Council of Universal Dates for Interplanetary and Inter-dimensional Travel) was very recent. He skimmed the page skipping boring accounts of the day-to-day running of a ship until he found something that made his detective senses tingle:

“We have information from a trusted source that what we seek may be found in the Azure system 158 light years from our current location. We have set course for the nearest planet in the system immediately.” Shamrock located what he thought was a tracking pad and tentatively scrolled down to the following entry:

“After a rather harrowing warp we arrived at the first planet in the Azure system, a underdeveloped rock called Biz inhabited by a dim-witted amphibious race who call themselves the Bizii. From our limited and frustrating communications with the Bizii we have gleaned that their neighbour planet Boz has recently received a gift from an alien race which sound identical to ours. We are heading to Boz to see if their mysterious gift was in fact OWLs.” The plot thickens! Thought Shamrock triumphantly. I wonder why they would have any interest is nocturnal bird-life…I didn’t think owls were even found anywhere other than Earth… He scrolled down to the next entry:

“We met with the Bozoo, who were even more difficult to communicate with than the Bizii! Eventually we discovered that something had been lost in gossip and conjecture – the planet that had been visited by the alien race (that I am almost certain were a Team from another Tier) was not Boz but the most distant planet in the system, Byz. As all the species of this system are primitive at best and have proved useless at providing accurate information we will be exploring the other three planets in the system before reaching Byz and if the gift is more than a rumor and it is in fact OWLs, we will stop at nothing to find them and take them by force if needed.”

Shamrock furiously wrote down this last find and went to scroll to the next entry when a shadow fell across the page.

“Well, well, well what have we here?”…

And now for the reviews:

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless_by_Gail_Carriger

An absolute cracker of a read! Set in Victorian London but in an alternative (and wonderfully steampunk) Victorian London where Vampires and Werewolves (and ghosts) are real, out in the open, and highly involved in politics and high society. I giggled most of the way through as the main characters are so proper (especially the vampires) and any impropriety is met with scandalised gasps and fanning, and the main characters have some spectacular strings of one-liners. Alexia Tarrabotti (the heroine) is an absolute hoot! Funny, spirited and certainly no simpering Victorian wallflower – I can tell that as this series goes on she will become one of my fave characters – and am so happy it is a series and not simply a one-off 😀

The Journey by Kathryn Lasky

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 2: The Journey by Kathryn Lasky

An action-packed second installment of this lovely children’s fantasy series where owls are the stars. This book introduced a whole host of new characters, settings and conflicts, paving the way for book 3. I loved the descriptions of the Ga’Hoole tree and the structure of the owls’ society, and I was impressed by how much factual information Kathryn Lasky weaves into her tales. I wish this series was around when I was a kid 🙂

Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood

death before wicket

Another fantastic Phyrne book, this time set in Sydney instead of Melbourne. Phryne has promised her assistant, Dot, that her little sojourn to the harbour city will be a quiet holiday of relaxing and watching cricket – one free of murder and danger. However when a couple of college boys beg her services to clear their friend’s name after the university’s safe is burgled she can’t resist. Throw in some new age magic, ancient Egyptian curses, blackmail, deception, prostitution, abduction and a search for Dot’s lost sister, and her holiday becomes a lot more than a few quiet afternoons of cricket!

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

the thief of always

A wonderfully imaginative children’s horror/fantasy fable which has some genuine scares and a solid moral behind it which is honest and not just a thinly veiled preach masquerading as a fun story. A good introductory course in the twisted mind of Clive Barker 🙂

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

pyramids

Another fantastic Discworld novel – this time delving into the ancient kingdom of Djelibeybi, a place of sand, camels, Gods, and of course, pyramids. As can be expected Djelibeybi is a Discworld version of Ancient Egypt (and a neighbouring kingdom is similar to ancient Greece or Rome) which means the story is filled with hilarious situations, stories and dialogue which pokes fun at some of the more ridiculous facets of ancient civilizations. This may not be my fave Discworld book so far, but it certainly provided plenty of chuckles 🙂

Well there you go my wonderful, persevering Bookbaggers! Finally the third installment of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination! This one was tricky to keep short (which is why it isn’t….) but I hope you enjoy it anyway 🙂

Stay tuned for the next installment in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future 😀

Happy Reading (and investigating)!

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Top 10 Villains

Wow its been a while between Top 10 posts huh?

My humble apologies oh beloved Bookbaggers of mine! This was meant to be a companion piece to the Top 10 Heroes post, but at the time I got so distracted that it remained forgotten in my drafts – until now! And how fitting is it for a list of villains to rise again after lulling everyone into a false sense of security where they were content to live with the assumption that those dastardly devils had vanished for good?

Well I’m sticking with that convenient theory anyway.

1. Goth

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

I couldn’t have Torkyn Gynt on my Top 10 Heroes list without having his polar opposite in the villains category. Despite the fact that Goth is not the official grand-supreme-bad-guy which usually features in fantasy sagas (that title goes to Orlac, a God who Tor is destined to defeat should he escape imprisonment and wreak havoc on all mankind) he stands out as the most despicable and disgusting character in the trilogy. From the start of the first book, Betrayal, Goth establishes himself as a hate-able character as the Chief Inquisitor, a powerful individual elected by the king to inflict his brand of  cruel ‘justice’ on suspected Sentients (people with heightened mental powers like telepathy). He then further earned his villain stripes by brutally raping one of the main characters (also in the first book) and from then on kept topping himself with even more dastardly, deplorable deeds. A character that made me cheer when he finally got what was coming to him!

Goth looking mighty evil atop a pissed off horse

2.  Inspector Fumero

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Inspector Fumero is one of those villains who is so awful because he isn’t some crazy caricature of a baddie, he’s an example of someone who could very well exist – a corrupt, sadistic cop. Some of the most unsettling and painful moments in this beautiful book were the responsibility of Fumero and I very quickly started to hate him. But sometimes doesn’t that make a book more interesting? Books would be pretty boring without someone truly rotten to hate, and Fumero certainly met The Shadow of the Wind‘s rotten bastard quota.

I couldn’t find anything to represent Inspector Fumero so here’s a cover of The Shadow of the Wind that I don’t think I’ve posted before

3. Gorgrael

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Gorgrael is the perfect fantasy saga grand-supreme-bad-guy. Firstly he is the hero’s half-brother. Secondly he is also called the Destroyer, a powerful evil that Axis (the hero) is destined to defeat. This alone would make him a classic villain but since the first book of the trilogy (Battleaxe AKA The Wayfarer Redemption) starts with him being born by eating his way out of his mother’s womb, he goes straight to the upper tiers of evilness. Also he’s all horned and demon-looking which always helps when identifying a villain.

Since I couldn’t find a picture of Gorgrael, here’s another one of his nemesis Axis rocking yellow

4. Voldemort

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

Just like HP had to be on the Top 10 Heroes list so does his arch nemesis – and for very similar reasons. While Harry is a hero because at a tender age he faces the big bad over and over and over, Voldemort deserves the title of Big Bad because he just keeps coming back! Not only did he kill countless powerful witches and wizards and terrorise the entire magical world before Harry was even born, but when he meets his match he drags himself virtually back from the dead to kill an terrorise all over again! This is a man so evil that from his teen years he splits his soul into pieces to ensure that he’ll never truly die; lives off unicorn blood to stay somewhat alive; inhabits the back of another guys head and gets him to do his bidding; gets another minion to kidnap a couple of teenage boys so that he can reclaim his old form; forces another teen boy to kill his headmaster; and otherwise tries to bloody murder the crap out of as many people as possible. And he’s damn creepy to boot.

Ralph Fiennes is way too good at being creepy

5. The White Witch

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

The terrifying White Witch that terrorised the inhabitants of Narnia and plunged the realm into perpetual winter is one of the first villains that really gave me the creeps. Ever since I was a kid I always kind of pitied and rooted for the baddies in Disney films (I loved Ursula, Maleficent, and the Queen in Snow White), but there was something instantly hate-able about the White Witch. I remember reading the book and listening to the audio tape at my friend’s house, and shivering inside a little every time she popped up. Maybe it was how she used Edmund against the other children by innocently offering him Turkish Delight and cocoa (similar to the witch in Hansel and Gretel), or how she could turn people into statues that she grotesquely displayed, or just that she was so cold and heartless, she just seemed so evil and I couldn’t find a shred of pity. And it certainly didn’t help when I saw the film adaptation – Tilda Swinton played her way too well O.o

Tilda Swinton portrayed the perfect cold-hearted White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

6. The Queen of Hearts

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

My love of Alice related things has already been well established, so there is no way that this list could exist without a nod to the furious Queen with an obsession for beheading! I think turning a simple Queen of Hearts in a deck of cards into an insane tyrant is a fantastic idea (kudos Mr Carroll/Dodgson) and thanks to the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the outrageous monarch has been re-imagined in many terrifying forms. My favourites include Kathy Bates’ quietly seething majesty in the mini-series, Alice (2009) ; the fat, pompous, bad-tempered old  tyrant in the Disney film; the sinister Redd Heart from The Looking-Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor; and, even though I was slightly disappointed with Tim Burton’s 2010 movie, Helena Bonham Carter’s big-headed Queen was a hoot!

There are so many incarnations of the Queen of Hearts/Red Queen that I just couldn’t decide and went with somethin a bit different – Redd Heart from The Looking Glass Wars – truly terrifying!

7. Bill Sikes

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

When I said that the White Witch was probably the first villain that creeped me out as a kid, Bill Sikes would be the other contender. I’m not sure which one I encountered first, but as a child (heck, even now) if I was in a dark alley faced with the White Witch at one end and Sikes at the other, I very well might pick the Witch (maybe she’d make me one of her minions?). The scary thing about Sikes is that he’s so real. Unlike most of the characters on this list, in the time that Oliver Twist was written there was plenty of men (and women) like him – and there’s plenty today. Bill Sikes used young orphans and street urchins as portable burglary tools, and unlike their master, Fagin, he didn’t care a jot what happened to them. The clincher for me was when Sikes killed his lady, Nancy, the kind-hearted prostitute/bar-maid who is the only soul who truly loves him – especially because she was my favourite character 😥

Oliver Reed as Sikes in the 1968 adaptation, Oliver! That stare just… *shudder*

8. blueeyedboy/Gloria Green

blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one is tricky because I can’t really explain why I listed both without completely giving away the ending of the book O.O I almost didn’t include them because of this, but the book left such a huge impression on me because of the “villains” that I couldn’t leave them out. What I can say is that throughout blueeyedboy your mind is in a constant state of confusion over what is “real” (as in real within the story) and fiction, and who is the real villain of the piece. I can’t say any more but I would urge anyone who is intrigued by this to go read it – It’s a great book!

You wouldn’t think this little boy would be on a list of villains O.O

9. Big Brother

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Big Brother is a unique villain because he is so prominent in the book, without actually being physically present – in fact Big Brother may not even be a real person, but instead the face of the controlling Party. Nineteen Eighty Four and Big Brother has spawned so much pop culture since its publication, that were it not for George Orwell, the world today would be a very different place. On the one hand this would be good – I don’t think Orwell would be happy with the deluge of reality TV, especially not the insipid show named after Big Brother, and the ways our society is constantly monitored by CCTV, phone and online bugging and other technologies probably would chill him to the bone. On the other hand, his book has helped create a similar flood of post-apocalyptic and dystopic fiction which makes people question our current ways, which may have given Orwell some hope. Anyway, the whole concept of Big Brother is damn creepy…

10. Count Olaf

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Ah Count Olaf. He is probably the most ridiculous villain in this list, but nevertheless he is quite the crafty fiend! Through 13 books Olaf concocts a multitude of intricate and bizarre plans, complete with increasingly clever disguises, so he can get to the Baudelaire fortune (with most of the plans revolving around killing the Baudelaire children, aged between infancy and 14). While I of course despised Count Olaf and sympathised with the Baudelaire children, I did enjoy Olaf’s ridiculous antics and the series would’ve been much less fun if he wasn’t so villainous 🙂 Despite the film adaptation being a bit lacking (I would’ve liked to see each book explored more and squishing the first three into a film and ignoring the other 10 just didn’t satisfy) I thought Jim Carrey was spot on!

The adoptive parent from hell

Well, I hope the really, really, ridiculously long wait was worth it! I do plan on doing more Top 10 lists because I have plenty more ideas, but I think in 2013 I won’t attempt to do a pair each month as it just doesn’t happen. Fear not! They are not gone for good, and I will try and post at least one half of a pair (or a stand alone) more often, and perhaps after a while I will be able to do them at the end/beginning of each month once again 🙂

Until then, feel free to share your own favourite baddies in the comments, and as always:

Happy Reading!

Revenge of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!!

In this day and age a simple one-off book, movie or game has become old-hat, and a single sequel? Well that’s just passé! Why create just one or two works when you could release a grand Trilogy, Saga or Franchise into the world to wow generations and collect some extra coin? Sure the second sequel isn’t always a hit and with every new installment your original vision is watered down until it resembles a thin gruel, but on the other hand you may hit the magic point where a sequel surpasses its parent!

On that note, it is my pleasure to introduce a hopefully successful and non-gruely installment of the Micro Reviews Saga:

Revenge of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!!

Monster Blood Tattoo Book 2: Lamplighter By D M Cornish

Took me ages to finish as the story is so involved and the world is so intricate, but if you persevere it is a great second installment to a very unique trilogy. A good trilogy for children and young adults that enjoy fantasy worlds that they can really sink their teeth into, but would probably only hold the attention of kids that like a lot of detail. Prepare yourself for endless checking of the glossary and other appendices.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

A graphic novel that exceeds the form and a super hero comic which is unlike any super hero comic (or at least any I’ve read). Complex, intense and brilliant. Possibly not the best Graphic Novel to test the waters of the format (just like V for Vendetta) but one that will please Graphic Novel lovers.

Trick or Treat By Kerry Greenwood

Another fun Corinna Chapmen book. This one had Earthly Delights, Corrina’s beloved bakery, almost closing down, people drugged/poisoned with cakes, a Nazi Gold mystery and some suspicious witches. Not my fave so far, but still a treat, not a trick.

Adultery By Richard B Wright

Not exactly what I expected (certainly not a Mystery like the library spine label suggested) but a good read nonetheless. An exploration of grief and the consequences of ones choices – in this case the consequences of adultery is not simply hurting a spouse and loosing their trust, but the loss of a life and having to endure media attention and the grief of a family. There was so much more I wanted to know about the aftermath of the murder in this story, but it was still a cleverly simple book that was quite engaging.

The Girl Who Played With Fire By Stieg Larsson

As with the first Millennium book, this was hard to get into but once I did it was a wild ride! I was a bit disappointed with the ending as it didn’t wrap everything up like the ending of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but I guess that’s because it continues into the next book. I can’t say much without giving important plot points away, but this series is worth a read if you enjoy a fast-paced thriller with complex, interesting characters.

So the Micro Reviews have had their sweet, sweet revenge! Will they be back once again?! Well all I can say is I only have one more planned (which finishes off the pile of Forgotten Reviews) but if there is enough demand I may make it a regular feature, kind of “reviews lite” for people who want to have a quick look at my recent reviews before (or instead of) reading the full-length ones.

What do you think? Do you Bookbaggers enjoy the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination or do you prefer just the regular reviews? Feel free to sound off in the comments 🙂

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Heroes

1. Axis Rivkahson SunSoar

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Axis is the epitome of a fantasy hero – strong, brave, willing to do anything to protect his loved ones and his country/land, surprised and humble about his heroics and of course very handsome with a mane of golden hair, strong features and a muscular form. He was the first hero I thought of when compiling this list because he was the first hero I read about that really made me go “wow, what can’t this guy do?”. Before reading the Axis trilogy (also called the Wayfarer trilogy) I had only encountered the “unlikely hero” (as seen farther down this list) and this was the first really meaty, adult fantasy series I read where the hero knew he had to step up and fulfil his duties. While there were moments in the series where Axis didn’t want to be the saviour of all the land (fair enough) ultimately he stepped up to the plate and lived his destiny. After all he was the subject of a prophecy – why fight it? 😛

Axis on the cover of Enchanter, the second book in the series (he’s the non-female one in the back rocking yellow :))

2. Torkyn Gynt

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

Tor is another classic handsome/brave/strong hero but unlike Axis he must hide the main thing that makes him heroic – his Sentient powers (telepathic and related powers of the mind) – because they are forbidden. Because of this he has a level of caution and humility about him paired with the ego of a man with vast abilities. He embraces his destiny (as The One – an individual destined to defeat the mighty Orlac, a powerful sentient who is close to breaking free of his imprisonment) quite readily and goes to some pretty extreme measures (such as being stoned to death and nearly dying another half-dozen or so times) to fulfil it as well as to save and/or protect his one true love Alyssa. He also manages to attract a bevy of gorgeous ladies (when he is not with Alyssa of course); use his wit and cunning to get out of some sticky situations and come up with some great one-liners.

Tor cutting a fine heroic silhouette on the cover of Betrayal, first book of the trilogy

3. Lyra Belacqua AKA Lyra Silvertongue AND Will Parry

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

I couldn’t choose between these two pre-pubescent heroes as they are equally heroic in the last two books of His Dark Materials (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) so I thought I’d cheat and choose both 😛 Through several dimensions Lyra and Will face endless perils from soul-eating Specters to Harpies in the Underworld, to deadly Angels as well as several full-grown adults trying to kill them and take what the possess. In the process Lyra almost has her daemon (an animal companion that every person in her dimension has and are deeply connected to) taken from her; Will looses two fingers and is forced to kill a man; and they both must die to enter the Underworld. Pretty heavy stuff for a couple of 12-year-olds but throughout it all they are brave and determined to do what is right – go Lyra and Will!

Lyra and Will on an old cover of The Subtle Knife

4. Bilbo Baggins

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

Bilbo had to be included in this list as he is the ultimate reluctant hero. He doesn’t want to travel with a bunch of dwarves to face a dragon miles from his home just because a wizard tricked him into it. He’d much prefer to stay in his cozy hobbit  hole, enjoying plentiful teas throughout the day. But despite his reluctance he still goes and survives giant spiders, a creepy cave-dwelling riddle master and a dragon to get the job done, and return triumphant. I can’t wait to see the upcoming movie 🙂

Martin Freeman as Bilbo in the upcoming movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

5. Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

I know HP related stuff pops up a lot in these Top

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern

I wasn’t really into circuses when I was growing up. I can’t remember ever going to one – something about the combination of animals being made to perform weird feats, creepy looking clowns and too many sweaty, loud people in one small space didn’t appeal to the quiet, odd bookworm kid that I was and so I never even asked to go when they came to town. As I got older I showed some interest in the new generation of circuses ala Cirque du Solei, but due to finances enjoyed it only on television, and I also grew to love old carnivals as portrayed in shows like Carnivàle, but alas these don’t really exist any more. However, if the Le Cirque des Rêves (the magical circus that is at the heart of The Night Circus) did exist I would gladly be amongst its loyal followers, the Rêveurs.

The Night Circus is one of those rare books where the setting has been developed into a vivid character in its own right, one to be loved or hated; one to fear or one to fear for; one to follow until the very end of the story, whatever that may hold. Because of the way the story progressed my feelings for the circus changed, just as they would with a complicated protagonist but throughout our tumultuous relationship I never lost my sense of wonder at what lay beyond its gates and I doubt that I would if I could actually walk its grounds.

The Night Circus begins long before Le Cirque des Rêves’ conception, in New York, 1873 when Prospero the Enchanter (or Hector Bowen when he’s off stage) receives an unexpected visitor – a child called Celia who is in fact his daughter left by her mother for him to raise. It becomes apparent quite quickly that Celia possesses magic just like her father, for though he pretends to be simply an illusionist on stage he in fact performs real magical acts masquerading as parlour magic. Early on in his paternal and mentoring relationship with Celia (which is at times cruel and often cold and emotionless) an old rival who he addresses as Alexander, pays him a visit and upon seeing the child’s abilities the two strike up a mysterious wager. Alexander (also known as Mr A.H- and “the man in the gray suit” throughout the book) then goes about choosing his own protegé by scouring orphanages and testing potential children. His choice is a young boy who is uncertain why he has been adopted by the mysterious stranger who barely speaks to him and instructs him to choose a name for himself.  The boy names himself Marco Alisdair and begins a long apprenticeship with his master which mainly consists of travel and reading, a far cry from Celia’s demanding and increasingly violent training under her father.

It is not until the  two children reach adulthood that the circus is dreamed up, seemingly by theatrical producer and eccentric Chandresh Christophe Lefevre who takes Marco as an assistant once he’s of work age. Chandresh, who is fond of lavish and unusual events, invites a collection of friends and acquaintances to a midnight dinner to discuss his idea for a unique circus and enlist their skills to make it a reality. His guests are an ex Prima Ballerina and fashion designer Mme. Padva, who will design the intricate costumes worn by the performers; period fashionistas Tara and Lainie Burgess, who will design details of the circus such as the material of the tents and general atmosphere; architect and engineer Ethan W. Barris who will take care of the circus’ structural elements; and the mysterious Mr A.H- who appears to have little impact on the circus’ creation but whose true involvement is revealed as the story unfolds. The concept  is simple but innovative: a circus which appears at its destination without warning; only opens at sunset and closes when the sun rises;  is decked out in a colour scheme of black and white rather than the usual bright circus colours; and which will feature acts never seen or scarcely imagined before. This circus will be called Le Cirque des Rêves – The Circus of Dreams.

As the circus is constructed and the performers hired (starting with the alluring tattooed contortionist, Tsukiko) the true purpose of it becomes clear – it is arena in which the protegés of Prospero and Mr A.H- will play “the game”, the mysterious event that their training has been leading to. Neither Celia or Marco  know what “the game” is meant to consist of, the outcome they are playing toward or initially who their opponent is, but they have both been told (albeit in a rather cryptic manner) that the circus is the setting and that they must both showcase their skills. Celia performs for Chandresh and his associates and is promptly hired as Le Cirque des Rêves’ Illusionist, but in doing so attracts the attention of Marco who recognises that her magic is no illusion and thus she must be his opponent. Marco is unable to conceive a reason for him to travel with the circus and so enlists his lover Isobel Martin to work as the circus’ Tarot reader and spy on Miss Bowen for him.

Thus begins a mystical back and forth between the magicians akin to a grand game of chess, in which they take turns in creating wondrous feats of imagination to showcase at the circus. In one move a tent of origami animals that fly around the tent including a paper dragon that breathes fire; in the next a beautiful forest where every detail is crafted out of delicate ice crystals. On and on the opponents try to out-do each other and along the way create a circus of mythical proportions which attracts crowds of wide-eyed visitors every night. When one devoted circus-goer by the name of Herr Fredrick Thiessen (who also helped create the circus by designing and making the extravagant clock that stands at its gates) begins to write about his treasured experiences at Le Cirque des Rêves he receives correspondence from other like-minded individuals around the world and The Rêveurs are born, a group of Le Cirque des Rêves devotees who distinguish themselves but wearing the circus’ palette of black and white with one accessory of bright scarlet, such as a scarf of handkerchief.

Unbeknownst to the circus folk and their loyal Rêveurs, the artisans of the circus, Celia and Marco are not creating the wonders for them, and as time has gone by they are no longer making them as moves of “the game” – they are creating for each other. Along the way Celia has also discovered the identity of her opponent and while the two of them should be competing, they can not fight the attraction between them and soon the exhibits transform from pieces on a chess board to secret tokens of love. But the lovers are unaware of the insidious intricacies of “the game” and how entwined everyone involved in Le Cirque des Rêves has become. No longer is the circus simply a magical wonderland where they can create to their heart’s content, there are countless lives at stake and one day “the game” will come to its deadly conclusion.

The Night Circus is a stunning creation on a very grand scale and I can barely fathom that it’s a debut novel. Every moment of it was an absolute delight, even the scenes that were heartbreaking. Even though the subject matter is in the realms of fantasy there is some themes that carry on into the realm of reality: how every war has innocent victims; the duality of life; natural talent (as shown in Celia) versus learnt skills (as shown by Marco); and of course the tried and true star-crossed lovers archetype (although it is told quite uniquely here). It also is a very sound historical novel, leading us from 1873 to 1903 and through England, America, Germany, France, Vienna, Spain and other steps in between with beautifully described fashions, buildings and social occasions and fabulous dialogue. Each character is crafted to perfection, especially the main ones, and they elicit an emotional response and connection very early on. But the real triumph of this novel is Morgenstern’s explosive, expansive, breathtaking imagination. The fact that she could come up with even one or two of the features of the circus is impressive enough, but the novel is fit to bursting with so many wonders, each one more magical than the one before it. I found myself gasping aloud at many moments as well as crying at some (I’m a sap!) and constantly longing that the circus was real. Plus it has the most stunning cover art, both inside and out and you know how I’m a sucker for a pretty cover 🙂

In researching this book online I have seen it being compared to Harry Potter and Twilight which I think is frankly ridiculous, but I guess that is because there has been a lot of hype and when you think literary hype those two series come to mind. If I was to compare it to anything it would be the movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus as they both involve a dangerous wager and a travelling troupe which offers a unique and magical experience, but beyond that I have never encountered anything quite like it. I have kept my synopsis brief (…ish) because there is so much in this story and so much that can be spoilt, so if I have piqued your interest, just go read it – it is truly amazing.

Also when I was researching I found that there is a game online where you can explore the circus (kind of like a ‘choose your own adventure’ story) and I will certainly have a play there as it’s as close as I’ll ever get to experiencing Le Cirque des Rêves….besides reading it again ;P Oh! AND I also found that there has been some buzz about a movie being made!! Apparently it is in development by Summit Entertainment and according to IMDb its due to be released next year – I hope they do it justice.

I give The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern:

4 ½ / 5 Stars

A rest from murder and gore in a City of Bones and a Night Circus?

I realised at the dawn of the new year that a frightening theme had emerged in the books I was reading – they were either about murder or death in some way or were violent horror! O.o

  1. I was still reading The Books of Blood vol 1-3 by Clive Barker which are so twisted, disturbing and disgusting that I can not read more than one in one sitting because I can almost feel them turning my brain into demented jelly;
  2. I also took The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson with me into the new year, which revolves around a series of murders and which has a violent and action-packed second half;
  3. On top of those I started Adultery by Richard B Wright which is about the backlash a married man has to deal with when his mistress is kidnapped and killed on their dirty weekend;
  4. And Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris which is about a young woman named Harper Connolly who can “sense” dead people and so helps the police by finding murder victims.

Cheery stuff huh?

Suffice to say, when I finally finished The Girl Who Played with Fire last night I was hoping for a new book with a slightly lighter subject matter. Luckily there were not too many gory or murder-filled offerings amongst the 16 books on my Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile, and after my usual process (which I had to do twice!) I ended up with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, one of the books I got for my birthday and I’ve been hangin’ out to read 🙂

Love the cover art of this one!

As well as The Night Circus I also chose a book from the pile of books I borrowed off my little bro, since the other day I borrowed the third Monster Blood Tattoo novel and the entire The Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare ,and after a much quicker eeny meeny miny moe (there was only 3 books to choose from) I chose The City of Bones, book 1 of The Mortal Instruments.

Supernatural creatures covered in tattoos - this ones gonna be fun 🙂

Neither of these are murder mystery/thriller/horror books so now at least if the death gets to be too much for me I can hide away in a city full of supernatural creatures or a magical circus 🙂

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.