Happy 2nd Blogiversary to me and all my Bookbaggers! :D

Salutations one and all! Welcome to  a very special event: Book Polygamist’s 2nd Blogiversary!!

To celebrate I will be doing my first giveaway competition where one of you will get the book of their choice off my Top 10 Reads of 2012 list plus a bookmark, and two runner-ups will also get a bookmark!! YAY! Bookmarks are fun!!

According to The Wedding Anniversary site the traditional gift for a 2nd anniversary is cotton/straw and the modern one is china O.O hmmm seems like this competition would’ve been more suited to the 1st anniversary (since the traditional gift is paper) but oh well.

In case you haven’t read my Top 10 Reads of 2012 the choices are:

1. The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

2. American Gods by Neil GaimanAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

3. The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadderravens heart

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Leeto-kill-a-mockingbird-by-harper-lee

5. Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbinsstill life with woodpecker

6. Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjaliansecrets-of-eden

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collinshungergames

8. Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCover - Catching Fire

9. Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsMOCKINGJAY-jacket

10. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groffmonstersoftempleton

How to enter/how this will go down:

1. First off if you don’t already follow Book Polygamist please do so 🙂 If you’re a WordPresser then just click the “Follow” button at the top of the page. If not you can follow me on Networked Blogs (via Facebook) by clicking on the widget at the side of the page, or by email subscription (also at the side of the page). You’re also welcome (AKA encouraged; pressured; sad-pleading-puppy-dog-eyed) to Like me on my brand spanking new Facebook page, or subscribe to my RSS feed

2.  Like this post so I know exactly who has entered at a glance

3.  In the comments (or if you’d prefer email me at bookpolygamist(AT)gmail(DOT)com) tell me how you follow me (so you’re easy to find 🙂 ); the book off my Top 10 that you want; the reason you want to read/own that book; and a vague subject matter for the bookmark (i.e. I like fairies; something a bit badass; I hate those zodiac ones/I love those zodiac ones [I’m a Leo] etc. etc.). Please include your prefered email address with your comment as once I have announced the winners I will contact them via email to acquire delivery info

4.  Inspired by Natalie Dee of STUFF I PUT ON MYSELF: a make-up blog I will be assigning every entrant a number starting at 01, in the order of receiving/reading your comment or email. I’ll then put the numbers through a random number generator with the first generated number being the grand prize winner and the next two being the runner-ups. I thought this was a nice and fair system rather than just picking the ones I liked the most (pretty darn biased) or putting your names in a hat (pretty out-dated and easy to cheat). If the first winner is chosen again for one of the runner-ups I will generate a new number. Even if its random it’s not fair if one Bookbagger gets all the goods

5.  You have from the moment this post goes up until the end of the month to enter. On the 1st of April (according to the Perth, Western Australia timezone) I will not accept anymore entries. The numbers will then be crunched and I will announce the winners in a follow-up post as soon as possible

6.  The books will come from bookdepository.co.uk for a few reasons:
A. I love Book Depository
B. They’re cheap but of good quality
C. They deliver really quickly so I can receive your book and send it out to you nice and swift

7.  All books will be paperback and will have the cover shown above, except for Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian because I couldn’t find that cover on book depository. The cover I chose for Secrets of Eden is this. As you all know I am finickity when it comes to covers, and I totally understand if you are too, so If you desire a different cover from the one shown let me know in the comment/email (along with a picture of your desired cover) and I will endeavour to get that one instead

8.  Once I have announced the winners I will contact them via email and ask for their best delivery address to send the prize(s) to and they will be sent out ASAP. Estimated delivery times will be discussed, but keep in mind I’ve never done a competition before so I’m just kind of flailing around during this process

So there you go!

I hope that all of that made sense and I look forward to reading your entries 😀

If you have any questions/queries/concerns/grumbles/funny animal pictures feel free to send me an email at bookpolygamist(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Happy Competition Entering!!!

Top 10 “Classics”

I am somewhat ashamed to say as a book blogger, avid reader and Library studies student/library staff member that I have not read that many Classics in my 25 years. This is partly because my last few years of high school were pretty traumatic and unconventional (I caught Glandular fever in year nine which made me very ill leading many absences and transferring to an alternative school) so I “missed out” on all the enforced Classical Literature; partly because I have always found something new to read and so have neglected the Classics; and partly because I didn’t enjoy the Classics I was made to read (such as Pride and Prejudice) so was hesitant to seek out other books in the genre.

However, even with my limited experience with Classical Literature I have read a few wonderful books that I think of as classics. The Classics genre is a tricky one to define as it is changing all the time. Books that are widely regarded as Classics today, 100 years ago were comparatively modern and new, and books we now consider Modern Classics will one day be a new generation of Classical Literature. Dictionary.com defines a Classic as “an author or a literary work of the first rank, especially one of demonstrably enduring quality.” This is a pretty fitting definition in my mind, but for the purposes of this list (and the reason why it is Top 10 “Classics”) the Classics will be defined by my own criteria:

  1. They have to be reasonably old – not necessarily works from the 1800s or early 1900s but at least novels that are older than I am!;
  2. They have to be works that made an impact on me; and
  3. They have to be works that have stood the test of time and will be influential for generations to come.

I hope you enjoy my list and feel free to list your own Classic favourites in the comments 🙂

1. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

This is the first book that came to mind when I was compiling this list, because when I read it (at around age 18) It shook me to my core. The Australian version of Big Brother had already been running for a few years and I was curious to see where the idea originally came from so borrowed a battered old copy from a friend of my mum’s. Firstly I was amazed at George Orwell’s vision of the future, writing in 1948 and prophesying what 1984 (a far off future at the time) would be like if the politics and totalitarianism he saw around him was to continue and worsen. The fact that 1984 was two years before I was born but was a futuristic far-off year to Orwell was amazing to my young self and drew me right into the bleak and frightening story. Orwell’s writing is very readable and the plot and character structure is timeless enough to intrigue generations of readers, and especially in this time of reality television, and free-speech being a luxury that Western cultures take for granted it is a Classic that is gaining potency with every passing year.

I am thankful 1984 did not end up like this as I was born two years later and that would've been a sucky world to be born into!

2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I saw the movie adaptation (the 1990 version) well before I read the book because we watched it in my Government and Law class in year 9 and I picked up a second-hand copy of the novel when I was about 19, so I was somewhat prepared for a troubling read, but it was still sickening, distressing and very memorable. I know that this has been required reading in schools for a while and I am in two minds about that. On one hand It is a pretty intense and frightening book for children to read and could be a bit traumatizing (hell, I was traumatized at 19!) but on the other hand it is a cautionary tale for children (especially boys) that illuminated humankind’s primal instincts and how quickly we can revert back to them. Golding’s tale was first published in 1954 and has been a cult favourite ever since, and I think it will continue to have an impact for many years to come.

Bunch of pubescent boys left to turn wild = disturbing

3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I found All Quiet on the Western Front at the same school fête as Lord of the Flies and read it the same year, but I had been meaning to read it ever since my mum told me it was a must read (it was required reading when she was in high school). At school we had studied the first and second World War in some form every year since about year 4 or 5 and in year 9 English we read excerpts of different novels that explored war, but I had never read a wartime novel with the unique point of view that All Quiet on the Western Front has. It broke my heart to read the day-to-day trials of the young soldiers – boys who were my age or younger living through a time that could cripple the bodies and minds of men many years their senior. I think it is a novel that should be read by teens of this generation and ones to come because as we move further away from the time of WWI, it’s tragedies and horrors could be forgotten by people too young to even fathom that far in the past and knowing what boys just like them once went through would cast a light of perspective on the privilege they now have.

A beautiful but incredibly sad war novel

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

This one wouldn’t be a surprise at all to regular readers as I have flown my Alice fan-flag high many a time 🙂 From the first time I read Alice in Wonderland (around 7 years old I think) I have been enraptured by the crazy, bizarre and awesome world of Wonderland and all the unique and quirky characters that dwell there. Lewis Carroll wrote his masterpiece of absurdist Children’s Literature way back in 1865, followed by Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There in 1871, and after almost 150 years the story he created is still being recreated and beloved the world over. I know I will always be an Alice fan and I always like to see how it is being reimagined and how it has affected modern literature and cinema. Long live Alice! 😀

Curiouser and curiouser...

5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

As I’ve stated before The Wind in the Willows is the first chapter book I remember being read as a child and I still have fond memories of snuggling up while mum read me the antics of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad of Toadhall. Kenneth Grahame wrote the classic children’s story in 1908, and the characters were so beloved that they were revisited by William Horwood when he wrote a series of sequels from 1993 to 1998 (The Willows in WinterToad Triumphant;  The Willows and Beyond; and The Willows at Christmas) as well as a spin-off Willows in Winter series. Even ‘tho the book is set in the early 20th Century, complete with well-dressed gentlemen (albeit gentlemen that are actually woodland creatures) steamboats and early motor cars, its appeal is timeless and I hope that children will continue to treasure it for centuries.

My first "Classic" 🙂

6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I was lucky enough to be given a huge volume of Children’s Classics when I was very young, contained Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and Oliver Twist, otherwise I may never have read this great, if quite bleak little tale by Charles Dickens. The first time I remember reading it all the way through, I was 10 and at a Christmas family gathering down south. I had been a fan of the musical Oliver! a couple of years already and was quite eager to read the original story (even if it was devoid of songs and dance numbers!). While the story was a bit heavier and more depressing than the musical (surprise, surprise) I loved how it showed the dark underbelly of London in the early 19th Century which I knew little about at that age. Oliver Twist was originally published under the title Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress in 1838 and was Dickens second novel (following The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club aka The Pickwick Papers).

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

In hindsight I was probably too young to read this book when I did (around age 12 I think), and I was also probably too young to watch the movie adaptation which led me to the book in the first place, but in my Nana’s defence (as she borrowed the video from the library or video store while I was visiting) the film looked like a harmless children’s cartoon and not a retelling of Orwell’s tale of fascism in a farmyard. Even ‘tho seeing the movie and reading the book at a tender age may have been a tad inappropriate at the time, I don’t regret it because it led me to a great Classic. Written a few years before Nineteen Eighty-Four (in 1945) Animal Farm explores a similar theme – totalitarianism – but was specifically a satire on the dangers of Stalinism with common farm animals overthrowing the farmer and creating their own societal structure. While I wouldn’t recommend the book or movie to kids, as images of happy little pigs revolting against people and then lording over the other animals may be a bit upsetting, but once they reach an appropriate age I think it is a great way to explain other forms of government that make democracy seem like a walk in the park!

8. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

This is one of the few books (or play really in this case) on this list which actually was required reading when I was in high school. We had to read in for English Literature in year 12 and I was actually pretty pleased because we also got to watch the musical based on the play, My Fair Lady which I have loved since I was a child. It was great to read the story as it originally was meant to be enjoyed  when George Bernard Shaw wrote it in 1913 (as a humorous drama) and I would urge any fans of  My Fair Lady to find a copy, and if you’re dramatically inclined read it aloud with some friends 🙂

9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I have discussed this fantastic book before in Top 10 lists, and at first I wasn’t certain whether to include it or not as I wasn’t sure if it was a true Classic. Written in 1966 this is the newest book on the list, but even if it hasn’t been beloved for 100 plus years It fits my criteria in that it is older than I am; made a big impact on me; and is timeless. While Flowers for Algernon is not as widely read as most of the other books on this list, it should be as it is a touching and unique story with an evocative writing style. This is the other book which was required reading while I was at school, but unlike Pygmalion it was read to us (us being all senior students, from year 8 or 9 to year 12). This detracted from the impact of the book a little as we couldn’t see how the writing style, spelling and grammar evolved throughout, but I was able to appreciate this technique when I read it a second time a few years ago.

10. Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling

Many years ago my Poppy lent me a beautiful leather-bound first pocket edition of this collection of stories published in 1910, along with an old book of Victorian poetry because I had shown interest in the two little books out of his collection of fat novels. I had never read Kipling before and instantly fell in love with his funny little fantasy tales and witty narrative voice. I loved it so much that Poppy let me keep it, saying that he was going to leave most of his old books to me anyway. While some of Kipling’s works are much more famous (The Jungle Book; Kim; Just So Stories) this was my first pass into the world of Kipling and so will always have a place in my heart 🙂

A fine likeness of my copy 🙂

Top 10 Books I Think Everyone Should Read

This was on one hand a really fun list to make as I had to think of the books that I thought were must-read material and on the other hand a really hard one to compile as I have read a lot of really great books!

Eventually I went with ones that I felt added to the reading experience in some way or were important life experiences for me.

Hopefully you guys will enjoy my choices and feel free to share your own must-reads in the comments 🙂

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams 

It won’t be a surprise to regular readers that I think everyone should read this book, because I’ve certainly raved about it enough! The reason this is the first book I think everyone should read at least once isn’t just because Its one of my favourites, the story is classic or I have read it 4 or 5 times already (although those are all good reasons to recommend it!). The reason its a must-read is that although it is a seemingly simple children’s tale about rabbits, it actually is quite a complex examination of society in general. It explores family and community bonds; societal structure from its starting point to more complex societies and even fascism; and important issues that arise in society such as power, security, organisation of a vast number of individuals, governing, language and even war. It even introduces such concepts as immigration, mental illness and the cycle of life and death to children. And since I have read it as an adult and as a child I can vouch for it as a satisfying read at any age 🙂

More than just fluffy bunnies

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry 

This is another one I read as a child and then again as an adult (there is a few of those on this list!) and although I did understand some of its significant themes as a 12 year-old I understood the deeper layers of meaning when I was older. The Giver is a classic children’s book that I think should still be in primary school curriculum as it gives kids some real perspective on the freedom they take for granted. Especially in this age of technology where it is so easy for kids to find out info on almost any subject at the strike of a keyboard, the press of a button and the swipe of a finger, a book like this where the characters are so sheltered and controlled and one boy learns all the world have to offer, is such a gift. When I reread this book not that long ago the themes hit me a lot harder and I felt quite ill in certain parts. It really is like 1984 for kids and just like 1984 it is a chilling look at what society could become and so in my opinion is a must-read.

A touching little book that stays with you long after the last page

3. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell 

This wonderful book was the inspiration for reality TV, in particular the Big Brother concept that has incarnations all over the globe, but in this case the imitation doesn’t do the original justice. If Big Brother had been true to Orwell’s bleak and claustrophobic vision of the future it would not have been legal or ethical for it to be televised – I’m shocked at what they get away with on reality TV as it is! Even ‘tho Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty Four over sixty years ago (in 1948) and the year it was meant to be set in is now over twenty years past, it is still a scary glimpse into where society is heading, and to some extent where we are now. The world has become a much more monitored place in those sixty odd years, what with CCTV in virtually all public places; telephones being taped for illegal activity; and personal details being freely accessible online. This book is a huge eye-opener, especially to young-adults and is a fantastically gripping read.

Big Brother IS watching

4. Mister God This is Anna by Fynn

This will not come as a surprise to regular readers as I’m a bit of a cheerleader for this beautiful little novel (as seen in ALL these posts :P) The reason this is a must-read in my opinion is it is filled to the brim with philosophical tidbits that will really exercise your mind and make you think beyond your sphere of understanding. And the philosophies aren’t purely religious or spiritual but are a blend of religion/spirituality and science/mathematics which examine huge ideas such as the meaning of life; why the world works like it does and other mysteries that only a child would question. But the main reason I would recommend it is that it ignites that childlike curiosity in you and makes you ask that big question: why? Which I think people are afraid to do after a certain age.

Why? Because. But why? Because I say so 😛

5. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This is a book I would mainly recommend to women, or men who aren’t too squeamish about menstruation (Period/”That time of the month”/Aunt Irma :P) as with a title like The Red Tent you can probably gather that it will be mentioned a fair bit. For those that can get beyond the fact of biblical age women congregating in a tent for a few days every month, as well as some fairly graphic ancient midwifery, this book is a really interesting look at the background of key bible characters such as Jacob, but also highlights lesser characters such as his daughter Dinah and the traditions of the time. It is also a fine example of possible alternative endings to bible stories, which pop up in literature a lot. While having a knowledge of bible stories or actually reading the Bible would help with understanding what is behind this story and many other allusions in literature I personally can’t tell you all to read The Bible as I have never gotten through the whole thing, and I’m Pagan so quite a bit of it makes me uncomfortable, but as a book it is the biggest influence to modern literature (followed closely by the works of Shakespeare, which I have also left out as I haven’t read all of his plays, just a selection of ones that I came across :)).

Don’t let the image deter you – its worth it!

6. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss 

This one may be a surprise to you all as it is not a grand piece of literature, but it is one of the most inspirational books that I’ve ever read and a perfect send-off gift to kids/young adults/adults entering a new phase of their lives such as a graduation. It promotes a “The World is Your Oyster!” mentality for any individual who has started a new path in life with Dr Seuss’ catchy whimsical rhymes enthusiastically announcing all the wonders the world can offer while not hiding the darker times in life.

And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

7. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

I was given this by a friend of the family who insisted I had to read it and without her and this book (as well as other contributing factors) I wouldn’t have struggled through a difficult time in my life as quickly as I did. The book explores a few key spiritual and philosophical ideas that have been ingrained in the religious and mythological ideals of many civilisations for generations. While it is obvious that the book was written to illustrate these key ideals and so the plot isn’t that strong on its own (kind of like Dan Browns books but in a different way) It is a much more palatable format to learn about these ideas then in a classic New Age or Self Help book. While I didn’t agree with every aspect of the ideals, there is some sound concepts there that make a lot of philosophical, spiritual, psychological and even scientific sense. I wouldn’t recommend it to strict sceptics (except those rare ones that really want to open their minds to new things) but I would to anyone that has even the slightest interest in ancient beliefs and self-improvement. The book has been expanded into a series with two sequels published a while back ( The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision (1996) and The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight (1999)) and a third (The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision) released this year, but I haven’t read any of those as I was quite content with the general idea I received in the original (especially as I was already somewhat aware of the ideas from my love of mythology and world religions).

Not gospel but definitely worth a look-see

8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I have talked about this wonderful book in the past and I will probably talk about it again in the future as It has made an impact on me both times I’ve read it (at school and a couple of years ago). I think this is a must-read especially for intelligent literary types who may take basic abilities such as being able to read, write and understand the world around them for granted, or may act superior because of their intelligence. The protagonist of Flowers for Algernon, Charlie Gorden puts a lot of this in perspective as we follow him from blissful ignorance through frustration, elation and finally depression at the world at large and helplessness as he reverts back to his original IQ. It is a heartbreaking and insightful book that is timeless and also warns us against the ramifications of “playing God” with scientific developments. Overall a pivotal read that I would recommend to anyone.

9. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

This is another influential childhood read of mine that won’t come as a surprise to regular readers (past posts mentioning it can be found here). This is a great little book that makes you think about what you would do in survival situation, no matter what your age, but I think it’s a must-read especially for pre-teens that are wrapped up in all the conveniences of the modern world. Theres no use for an iPod, a Smartphone, Facebook or video games when you’re stuck in the Canadian wilderness with no food or shelter and I think kids these days need to get some perspective on what life use to be like before technology and learn about the basic skills people need to survive. I know that makes me sound like a nana (kids these days with their rock and roll music!) but it is important and in this book (and the sequels to a lesser extent) the message is hidden in a really entertaining adventure story so kids won’t feel like its being forced down their throats. I’ve read it at several points over my 25 years and I can say it still is the same great read (if a little quicker :P) at 20-odd as it was at 12 🙂

10. Mythology/Fables/Fairy Tales by Various

(namely Greek Mythology, Aesop’s Fables, Brothers Grimm)

This is not so much a book as a general recommendation of mine to read mythology, fables and fairy tales from all over the world as they are the basis of so many literary ideas. Every story is a retelling of an old one (at least in part) and the oldest archetypal stories and plot devices come from ancient Mythology, fables and fairy stories from the basics of good vs evil to ideas on creation and the underworld to morals and thinly veiled life lessons. I have loved Mythology, fables and fairy tales as long as I can remember and I am instantly drawn to any book that is a re-imagining of a classic tale. To narrow it down I have highlighted Greek Mythology, Aesop’s Fables and fairy tales by the Brother’s Grimm as these are the ones I have seen referenced the most.

Greek Mythology has always fascinated me because the Gods were described as flawed and often cruel characters with a complicated and convoluted family hierarchy and an endless stream of fantastical beasts and events. Other Mythology that I think is really interesting and has been referenced in literature is Norse, Celtic, Native American, Eastern (especially from Japan and India) and Eastern European but I would encourage anyone to look into Mythology from all over the world as it is an insight into another culture and the similarities between different Gods and creation myths really shows how a culture is affected by many others and the parallels that occur between very different races.

One example of the plethora of books on Greek Mythology in print

I love a good fable because they are the essence of a good story: clear, simple characters and settings that are usually symbols for more thorough concepts; a clear beginning, middle and end; and a moral to tie it all together. My mum introduced me to Aesop’s fables and other fables from the Middle Ages very early on, integrated with classic fairy tales and I loved them so much that I use to come up with my own that mum dutifully transcribed while I provided the scribbled illustrations. Fables along with mythological stories perfectly illustrate how storytelling began: simple tales that people used to explain the world around them and why things were they way they were, that could easily be passed down from generation to generation and I think us modern readers need to be reminded of the origins of stories sometimes.

A beautiful old volume of Aesop’s Fables

Fairy tales are the next progression of Mythology and fables, and in turn they have created some of the most recognizable archetypal characters and plot devices in the literary landscape. The Grimm Brothers (Jacob and Wilheim) were the creative minds behind classic fairy tales such as Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin (one of my personal favourites) and were responsible for taking them from folklore and popularising them all over the world. There is a immense collection of other fantastic fairy tales out there, but the Brother’s Grimm collected some of the greatest (and often the scariest and downright distressing) folklore stories out there that are now a huge part of popular culture.

One of countless Grimm’s Fairy Tales books out there in Bookworld 🙂

So there you go Bookbaggers – a nice full list of recommendations from me to you 🙂 Hopefully there’s something in there for everyone for a bit of holiday reading.

In the new year I will take a break from themed Top 10s to do my top reads of 2011 as well as some book awards that I always do so that should be fun, and then the next one will be Top 10 “Classics” and Top 10 Classics I Want to Read as that received the next highest number of votes 🙂

Happy Reading and I hope you all had a wonderful festive season and have an excellent 2012 to come!

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.

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

Top 10 Fantasy Series’

This month for my Top 10s I thought I’d honour one of my favourite genres: Fantasy. So first I will be chronicling my Top 10 Fantasy Series’ and then tomorrow will be the Top 10 Fantasy Realms 🙂 May all you heroes, villains, maidens, witches and wizards enjoy!

1. Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

I bought the Axis trilogy (which consists of Battleaxe; Enchanter and Starman) at the annual Cat Haven fête when I was 15, for 50 cents a piece! They were in a box of bric-a-brac and at the time I had never heard of Sara Douglass (a prominent Australian fantasy writer) but I was interested in starting a nice meaty fantasy series and at 50 cents each how could I lose? I took book 1 – Battleaxe – to one of the school camps my school held every term and the first chapter blew me away. So much so that I couldn’t sleep and instead recounted the whole thing to one of my best friends who was in the bunk next to me and we even talked about it the next day over dodgy camp breakfast (this may have been because the chapter described the violent birth of the demonic baddy of the series and we were joking that it was just like the birth of another friend of ours, but still).
The series follows a young man called Axis (surprise, surprise) and his journey to find and kill his polar opposite, Gorgrael the Destroyer as it is prophesied. Along the way he also seeks to find his “true love”, Faraday who has been forced into marrying Axis’ cruel half-brother; and is trained by the Icarii, a wise long-lived race of winged people. Because the Axis Trilogy was the first adult fantasy series I read, it is the benchmark I measure all others by, and it’s a mighty series to live up to as all three books were nominated for Best Fantasy Novel in the Aurealis Awards and Enchanter and StarMan both won the award in their respective
years. If you’re a fan of classic fantasy or are looking for a place to start in this sometimes daunting genre, then the Axis Trilogy is a quality read to look for, filled with all the important fantasy elements: a brave hero; a creepy bad guy; epic battles; tragic love stories; large-scale magical events and a well-formed world.

The one that started it all - and at 50c!

2. Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh 

I talked about this series a bit when I did my Top 10 Animal Characters, especially the trials I went through to find the second two books: Revenge and Destiny and there was no doubt that they would be on this list. The series is classic fantasy (battles of good and evil; magic powers etc. etc.) but is also a little different. Fiona McIntosh doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of (imagined) life in the Trinity Trilogy, with some truly horrific things happening to key characters throughout, and this was one of the aspects of this series I really loved, because fantasy novels can sometimes succumb to nicely wrapped up “happily-ever-afters” where all the main characters are alive and happy, which is a little hollow. Like the Axis Trilogy the main theme of this series is a journey leading to the predestined fate of a main character, but unlike the Axis Trilogy the hero, Tor, is not the only focus and his love interest, Alyssa, is often given just as much page time. The Trinity Trilogy also has a bit more humor in it that the Axis Trilogy which was quite a serious affair, and it is really needed it to balance out the darker parts.

A quality trilogy

3. Aspect of Crow series by Jeri Smith-Ready 

I read this series pretty recently, starting with Eyes of Crow in late 2009, then Voice of Crow midway through 2010 and ending with The Reawakened early this year, and they have been some of the most enjoyable reads of those years. I initially borrowed Eyes of Crow from the library and had no idea it was the first of a series as the other books weren’t mentioned anywhere on or in the book and it worked very well as a stand alone. Then I was looking for a different book one day and spotted the spine of Voice of Crow – it must have been out when I borrowed the first book so I didn’t see it, and it was one of the most exciting library discoveries I’ve ever had! Amazingly, Voice of Crow was just as good as it’s predecessor – filled with the same intricate mythology, complex characters and relationships as well as a neat blend of humor and drama – in fact, it may have been even better. Unfortunately the library didn’t have the third and final book, but that didn’t stop me – I just found it and bought it on Amazon 🙂
This series is a refreshing detour from the traditional medieval-swords-and-maidans style of fantasy, so if you like some elements of the fantasy genre but are a bit sick of all those epic battles and dragon stuff, then this series could be for you. I especially loved the take on Native American culture and mythology, revolving around Spirit Animals. Great stuff.

I'm so glad this wasn't a one off 🙂

4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman 

It took me years to get to this controversal but highly praised series, but I had wanted to read them since I was in my early teens. It was just after the movie The Golden Compass that I was finally prompted to read them, when my little bro got the box set for xmas and didn’t show much interest – swoop! I was surprised by how involved the story was for what is defined as a children’s series – and how violent! There has been a lot of criticism of this series, mainly claiming that it is anti-christian and promotes this to children. I can see how people could get this idea, as the Church in the world of His Dark Materials is a quite evil organisation and there is a secret plot to kill its version of God – “The Authority”, but I don’t think that they strive to condemn christianity to children or that children hate the church or God after reading them. It is a very deep but also very exciting and fun series, and I think anything that makes kids read is a good thing. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Controversy shontroversy

5. Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody 

I have shown my fangirl status when it comes to this series before and I will probably continue to sing its praises long after Isobelle Carmody (finally!) releases the last book. The Obernewtyn Chronicles is the longest series in this list so far with five books published and two more due. In the US and Canada book 5, The Stone Key was split into two volumes, The Stone Key and Wavesong, which I understand because the books got bigger and bigger and The Stone Key was around 1000 pages long and felt like a couple of books rolled into one, but it can be a bit confusing when looking for the books online.
There are a few elements that make this series really great, in my opinion. Firstly it is a classic children’s fantasy idea, with children/young adults who have special abilities rising up against the cruel adult rulers of The Land. Secondly, the books have  really poignant messages behind them – 1. that it doesn’t matter if you are different, everyone is special in their own way and can do great things; and 2. that we need to care for our environment, as the books are set in a post-apocalyptic future where much of The Land is poisoned.

The US/CA covers (last two are yet to be released)

6. Deltora Quest series’ (Deltora Quest; Deltora Shadowlands; Dragons of Deltora) by Emily Rodda 

I have included the three series’ by Emily Rodda that are set in Deltora because they are a continuation of the same story, with the same characters, and also I loved them all so much I couldn’t choose 🙂 I read the first Deltora Quest series (which consists of 8 short novels) several times over my tweens/early teens, often devouring whole books in a couple of hours. The series is about a young boy called Lief who is on a journey to complete the legendary Belt of Deltora with his gruff mentor, Barda and wild orphan girl Jasmine. Each book chronicles their travels to key areas of Deltora where the various gems that make up the belt can be found, and along the way there are a range of trials, battles and puzzles they have to solve. The best thing is, the reader also gets to solve the riddles and puzzles because they are introduced gradually as if you are right there with Lief, Barda and Jasmine and the books are filled with little pictures to help you along. The second series is three books long and follows Lief, Barda and Jasmine as they travel beneath Deltora to reunite the three pieces of an ancient pipe that suppresses the evil of the Shadowlands and was also really interactive and action-packed even tho it was a lot shorter. The whole Deltora saga then concludes with the Dragons of Deltora series, where the gang must track down the Four Sisters, creators of the evil Shadowlord, and kill them using the legendary Dragons of Deltora. Quality reading for even the most reluctant readers.

The 8 books in the original Deltora Quest series

7. Rowan of Rin series by Emily Rodda

The Rowan of Rin series is in a similar vein to the Deltora books (which is understandable as they’re both by Emily Rodda) but the Rowan books are a little more simple and each book is a stand alone story. They all revolve around Rowan, a quiet boy in the small village of Rin who herds the Bukshah, a kind of cattle native to the area, but who keeps getting caught up in vague prophecies foretold by the villages creepy recluse, Sheba. There are five books in the series: Rowan of Rin; Rowan and the Travellers; Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal; Rowan and the Zebak; and Rowan of the Bukshah and each of them follow a simple but effective path: the set-up, where everything in Rin is fine and dandy; something kind of odd starts to happen; Sheba makes a prophetic announcement that features Rowan in some way; Rowan and often other people of the village go on an epic journey to rectify the strange happenings which includes lots of puzzles and problem-solving; Rowan saves the day. Just like the Deltora books, this series is great fantastical fun for reluctant readers and has some hidden morals to boot. All the books have been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year, which I discussed in a recent post and Rowan of Rin won the year it was shortlisted.

Poor sweet Rowan - everything happens to him!

8. The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I also talked a bit about this series in a Top 10 because it’s a pretty memorable one. Unlike most fantasy series out there the “hero” of these books isn’t a strong young man but a scruffy little girl with no real skills at fighting (at least at first) who is slow to develop her latent powers. It is this gradual growth of the main character, and the layers of her powers and background that unravel through the books that really attracted me – it felt more natural than some examples of the genre. It’s a great series for young adults, especially those that love animals.

Wild magic = awesome 🙂

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling 

I really couldn’t have done a list of fantasy series’ without mentioning Harry Potter, even if I wasn’t a huge HP fan because there isn’t many fantasy series’ that have made as much of an impact on pop culture and children’s reading habits. There is a reason the Harry Potter books are among some of the highest selling books of all time – they may not be the most well-crafted novels but they are filled with action, emotion and magic of course! and that is a recipe for a hit (or series of hits) with the young set, and with plenty of adults too. I think I’ve read the first four books four or five times each (mostly while I was waiting for the last three to come out) and most likely I’ll read them all again, and again in my lifetime. There’s just something about the tale of an unwanted, underappreciated boy who finds out he’s a wizard and goes to a magical school that’s so enjoyable and addictive to read. HP forever! 🙂

Accio Harry Potter box set!

10. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Even ‘tho i’ve only read the first 6 of this 39 book strong series there is no way I could forget it because even in those 6 books I have fallen in love with Pratchett’s quirky writing style, the hilarious characters and the wonderful world on the Disc. Many people might find the sheer number of books in the series too daunting to dive into, but beleive me if you like quality fantasy that’s a bit tounge in cheek and oddball it’s worth it. And the good thing is, they mainly make sense as individual books so you don’t nessesarily have to read all of them or in order.  Of the once I’ve read I would recomend Mort the most, mainly because as I’ve said before I love Pratchett’s personification of Death 🙂

A Grim Reaper that's almost cuddly

Top 10 Animal Characters

1. Cloot

Trinity series  by Fiona McIntosh 

I bought the first book in the Trinity series, Betrayal, randomly at an op-shop years ago, because I thought it looked and sounded interesting. Once I started it I was totally hooked, but couldn’t find the second book, Revenge no matter how hard I looked and had actually read Betrayal several times before I finally found Revenge in a second-hand bookstore. The third book, Destiny, was even more of a battle and there was actually a gap of a couple of years between reading Revenge and Destiny, which is very confusing with a fantasy trilogy! One of the reasons I persevered was the quality of characters such as Cloot. Cloot was originally a crippled man who the hero of the books, Torkyn Gynt, rescues from a pack of men torturing him. When Tor and Cloot travel to the Heartwood, Tor finds out his true destiny and the significance of Cloot appearing in his life, and  Cloot is transformed into a Peregrine Falcon. Cloot is a great character both as a man and as a falcon (tho he’s much more majestic as a falcon). He’s like Tor’s conscience because he’s always at his side giving advice and stopping him from getting a big head or loosing his temper, especially because he can only talk inside Tor’s head. He also has some of the best one-liners!

Cloot in the flesh 🙂

2. Fiver

Watership Down  by Richard Adams

The character of Fiver was what drew me into Watership Down at the beginning. As a weird little kid I loved that he was the runt (the fifth in the litter) and that he ‘knew’ things that the other didn’t. I rooted for the little guy all the way through, and was thrilled whenever Hazel (the main character in the book and Fiver’s brother) stood up for Fiver or helped him go on and he grew stronger as the tale went on. Also to this day whenever I think of Watership Down I see Fiver’s poor little face from the very dramatic (and at the age I was, traumatic!) scene in the movie when he has a violent prophetic episode 😦 poor Fiver!

Oh Fiver, you adorable little weirdo 🙂

3. Warren

Rhubarb and The World According to Warren by Craig Silvey

Warren the golden lab provides a healthy dose of humour in Rhubarb, a book that could easily become depressing, and he must have been universally popular because shortly after Rhubarb Craig Silvey’s publishers produced a picture book all his own 🙂 I haven’t found The World According to Warren yet, but I’m sure it is very cute because Warren is such a unique character. For a guide-dog he’s kind of lazy and easily distracted, but his devotion and love for Eleanor is so clear from the start and he has a definite pride in his work.

I would love to see the world through his eyes

4. Horatio

Corinna Chapman series by Kerry Greenwood 

It was hard to pick a singular pet from this series as the books are filled with a host of colourful cat characters, from Belladonna the elegant companion to resident witch Meroe; to the insane ginger kitten, Lucifer who is quickly running out of nine lives; to the Mouse Police, Heckle and Jeckle who diligently catch vermin in the bakery in exchange for noms. But I just couldn’t go past Corinna’s tabby and white tom, Horatio, who quietly rules the whole lot of them, including all humans 🙂 Horatio is the quintessential princely cat. His perfect day would consist of waking to a dish of milk lovingly poured by his mistress, followed by a leisurely morning of snoozing and fur maintenance until his adoring public started to flow through the bakery, at which point he takes his place by the cash register to receive sufficient worship, and then ending by retiring to the roof as his mistress sips a G & T and strokes him to blissful slumber. Oh! and exquisite fish for dinner of course!

I imagine Horatio to look something like this 🙂

5. Hedwig

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Weirdly enough it wasn’t all the cool magic and flying on broomsticks and stuff I envied in the Harry Potter books or movies it was the fact that owls brought their mail!! If I was going to Hogwarts I totally would’ve gotten an owl rather than a toad or rat (didn’t work out so well for Ron!) or cat (even tho I love cats) because, come on, when else can you have an owl except when you’re a witch/wizard?! Hedwig is (was :() such a beautiful owl and even tho she couldn’t speak and wasn’t involved in much action, she played a very important part and is one of the most memorable parts of the books to me.

I want a goddamn owl!

6. Maruman

Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody 

Maruman is the grumpy, one-eyed and somewhat insane feline companion of Elspeth Gordie, the main character in the fabulous Obernewtyn Chronicles. From the first book (Obernewtyn) Maruman is by Elspeth’s side communicating with her telepathically and cryptically predicting her future. As the books go on it is also revealed that Maruman is the Moonwatcher and as such is destined to protect Elspeth on the dreamtrails. Maruman is a very ancient, often cantankerous and quite loony cat, and that is why I like him 🙂 I don’t think the Obernewtyn Chronicles would be the same without him. I am still waiting for the next  book in the series – The Sending – whose release keeps being delayed 😦 The latest date that has been announced is November 2011, but I’m not holding out hope that this is correct as there has been many dates announced before, but even still I will be waiting with bated breath until it is released.

Come on already!

7. The Doorman

The Messenger by Markus Zusak 

The Doorman is the faithful companion of Ed, the protagonist in The Messenger. He is a huge, old and smelly Rottweiler, German Shepard cross that enjoys a good long snooze and sharing a coffee with his master. The Doorman is the comic relief in The Messenger, providing Ed with perspective as he lives through some very strange happenings. He is non-judgemental and almost immobile most of the time but he has a quiet, unashamed dignity. He doesn’t care that he stinks to high heavens and is surprisingly unfazed when Ed’s mate has to kiss him after loosing a bet. But most of all he is a loving, loyal dog – the classic man’s best friend 🙂

A fine likeness of The Doorman

8. The Librarian

Discworld series by Terry Pratchett 

The Librarian is an interesting character to be on this list as when he is introduced in the first Discworld novel – The Colour of Magic – he is human, and only becomes an Orang Utan in the second book – The Light Fantastic – when the powerful magical book, the Octavo, erupted with a beam of magic. Despite being an Orang Utan the Librarian remains at his post caring for the unpredictable and sometimes volatile spell books at the Unseen University and actually finds that his new form is perfectly suited to climbing the high shelves. The Librarian’s vocabulary consists of the single syllable – Ook – (with the occasional Eek! at times of panic or anger) but it is amazing how many emotions or phrases can be conveyed in that syllable and most of the wizards at the University have no problem understanding him or are phased but the fact that an ape is running the library.

I would certainly welcome an Orang Utan Librarian 🙂

9. Gylfie

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky 

Gylfie was one of my favourite characters in book one of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series – The Capture – and in the movie. She has so much spunk and bravery for such a small and young owl and she always seems to know how to put the main character, Soren, in his place. She is very sharp and intelligent in both the books and movie as well as having a dry sense of humour, but she is not tolerant to jokes about her size and can be quite self-conscious. Plus, being an Elf Owl she is very adorable!

Gylfie in the movie - Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

10. The Great A’Tuin

Discworld  series by Terry Pratchett

The Great A’Tuin, Sky Turtle, is much more than an animal character as she carries the whole Discworld (perched on four elephants) through space on the back of her shell. When the series begins it is made clear that the sex of the Great A’Tuin is not known but many adventurers and scientists have tried to discover it by venturing over the edge of the Disc, with unsuccessful results. However it is discovered that the Sky Turtle is female (or at least assumed so) at the end of The Light Fantastic when A’Tuin travels to the hatching site of her eggs which all contain little Sky Turtles with their own elephants and Disc. I personally think that having a Disc-shaped world on the back of four giant elephants who in turn stand on the shell of a gigantic turtle swimming through space, is one of the most unusual and creative ideas in literature and is a real testament to Terry Pratchett’s imagination.

"Great A'Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters."