Challenges Update: The Final Weeks of Short and Sweet & 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy

Yellow my youthful, yarely Bookbaggers!

Welcome to the really belated 11th (and probably final) update of Short and Sweet and 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy, in which I tell you the outrageous amount of stuff that has happened since my last update just before semester break that I have been itching to tell you!

I am determined to finally fill you in on the challenges, since in essence I have now polished them both off, however, I don’t want to bore my beloved Bookbaggers, old and new (I was flabbergasted that I gained a few new followers while I have been virtually silent, so thanks and welcome to the Bookbagger newbies 🙂 ) so I will keep it as short as my rambling mind and wandering fingers can manage, utilising the Mighty Numbered List and keeping to challenge-based stuff…mostly 😛

Ok, lets kick off the epic, shall we?

Short and Sweet challenge badgeThe MNL (Mighty Numbered List) will be getting a workout with this update, as in the four six weeks since my last update (jeez I had to check to confirm it had been that long!) I have finished all the remaining books in the challenge, a few of the short stories from my zombie anthology, and have tweaked something related to the challenge:

  1. I started Horn by Peter M Ball the weekend after my last update (along with Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins and The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman) and by the time I fell sick on Wednesday I had read the majority of it. Then from Thursday to Sunday I was at home with nothing to do but drink lots of fluids and feel sorry for myself, so I of course read the shit out of everything and by Friday I had already polished off Horn and Deadly Beloved. Horn was another novella centered around cop-turned-murderer-turned-private-dick Miriam Aster, who I was introduced to in Bleed, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much (perhaps because I read Bleed first or perhaps because I had the order backwards, as while they’re not technically a series Horn was published a year or two before) but it was still a fun, exciting read that gave me some more insight into the character and Ball’s version of the Fey. If he writes more in this world following Aster, I will be a happy chicken 🙂 horn
  2. I had also been reading a lot of Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins before catching the bug, as It was a surprisingly witty and interesting pulpy-noir-style mystery with some funny, smart characterisation (especially the star of the show Ms Tree who takes shit from no one, has a fire-arm ready at all times, is unashamed of her sexuality and won’t shy away from confronting colleagues, lovers and crooks alike) and a solid story that kept me guessing. I actually enjoyed it more than many of the crime books I have read previously, including some which were “proper” crime noir published in the 1940’s, so not bad for a book I picked up at Coles for five bucks! I have since passed it on to my friend Scott, who has read the comic book series it’s based on, so I hope he enjoys it as much as I did 🙂 deadly beloved
  3. Since there was only one book left in the challenge – The Illustrated Eric by Terry Pratchett (writer) and Josh Kirby (artist) – I got stuck into that pretty much right away, and I finished it the next weekend. Being a Discworld novel it was of course hilarious, bursting with strange magics and altered laws of nature, but as this was a special illustrated novella it was also quite fast-paced and Josh Kirby’s colourful, mad-cap illustrations spilled from their usual place on the outside covers and popped up throughout the text or in stunning two-page spreads. After the last two Discworld novels (Pyramids and Guards! Guards!) it was nice to catch-up with the bumbling wizard Rincewind and his menacing walking Luggage, which were the stars of several of the earlier books. I also liked that the usual sinister bureaucracy of the wizards was mostly absent in this instalment, replaced by a sinister bureaucratic King of Hell who has forced his underlings to move away from the fire-and-brimstone style of damnation and onto the method of torture by mind-numbing boredom. eric
  4. Since Eric was the only under-200 pages contender left, when I finished Deadly Beloved I was back to picking from one of my original piles (one of two Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read piles as I already had a couple of Borrowed-From-Others and a library book on the go) so I asked my mum to do the honours and she chose Un Lun Dun by China Miéville 😀 I started it early the following week and have been loving it ever since! Unlike Kraken – which is the only Miéville novel I’ve read previously – Un Lun Dun is YA, so not quite as mind-bending, yet it is full to bursting with Miéville’s highly imaginative creations, enhanced by his quirky, detailed illustrations which are scattered through the text. Before I even reached the half-way point I had already pre-emptively put it on my list of Top 10 Books of 2014, so expect more blabbing on about it in the near future!ChinaMieville-UnLunDun
  5. Then when I finished Eric I picked another book from one of the Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile – one with books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, since Un Lun Dun came from the newer acquisitions pile – which was Dead in the Family (Book 10 of the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood/Southern Vampire Mysteries series) by Charlaine Harris! I was pleased about the choice because I read the last book way back in 2012 and even though I have heard from fans that the latter books have lost their glow a little, I enjoyed Book 9 and either way I am determined to finish the series now I’m so close! So far I am about half-way through and I am enjoying it still – they aren’t the highest form of literature, but Charlaine Harris can weave an interesting supernatural tale with plenty of funny bits as well as some mystery, which occasionally is all I want (especially after reading A Clockwork Orange and I Am Legend recently)$2 plus $6.95 p&h!!! Gotta love eBay :)
  6. Finally, since the last update I have read 3 more stories out of the The Living Dead zombie anthology: “In Beauty, Like the Night” by Norman Partridge, which was about a media mogul similar to Hugh Hefner who hides away on his private island when the zombie plague hits, obsessively watching the zombified girls from his calendar shoot which became stranded/infected on the island; “Prairie” by Brian Evenson, which was only 4 pages long but was a really disturbing and unsettling tale of an expedition across the prairie during a zombie infection; and “Everything is Better With Zombies” by Hannah Wolf Bowen, which didn’t feature actual zombies, but was a touching story of friendship between a girl and a boy approaching adolescence and their game of chasing imagined zombies through the local cemetery. I read the last one the weekend before last and then I haven’t dived back into zombies since because I’ve been so caught up with my other reads, but I may read a story or two this weekendA bunch of different zombie stories by different authors? What's not to love?
  7. Lastly, I realised when approaching the end of the challenge that I didn’t have any more books under 200 pages to contribute, but I did have a fair amount of short story collections in various piles, so I’ve decided to make a completely new pile and when I finish The Living Dead I’ll pick a new collection 🙂 This means the Short and Sweet challenge still has some life in it, but it will be more like my Comic Companions challenge of last year, so won’t be updated once a week. Since I don’t want this post to be too epically long and boring I won’t list all the collections in the pile, but will save that for its own post sometime before I finish The Living Dead

Now onto the other challenge which also had major action:

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badgeWhile I was sick and during my holidays I got fully sucked into the end of Brisingr leading to this happy result:

The Sending:

Maruman on the cover of The Sending0 Pages – Finished 😀

Pages remaining: 0

Brisingr:

Brisingr197 Pages
(67 pages one week; the remaining 128 the next)

Pages remaining: 0! 😀

Total:

197 Pages

Pages remaining: 0

I now know why my bro was so insistent I read this book as Paolini’s skill as a writer has improved immensely from the first book – and even from the second – and I found myself hunched in my seat gripping the book, eyes wide, while gasps and yes, even tears burst forth from me inexplicably at various points. I know that if I hadn’t done this challenge I likely would’ve been even slower with this huge fantasy epic (as it was I still had it on the go for over 8 months!) so I am very happy I challenged myself.

I was then finally able to pick a new book from the Borrowed-From-Others pile and I picked one that I borrowed from Sarah a while back and have been wanting to read ever since she told me about it – Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey. I started it around the same time as Un Lun Dun and I have been loving it just as much. In fact it also got pre-emptively added to the Top 10 Books of 2014 list before I was even half-way, so I really have some great books on the go at the moment 😀

BlackFeathers

I think I’ll leave it there Bookbaggers so I can finally post this really belated update! I also read a few comics, but I’ll save that for another post and leave you with a few words.

Like many of you, this week I have been trying to come to terms with the shocking death of Robin Williams. As I’m 27, Robin was a pivotal figure in memorable films from my childhood, such as Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook, Patch Adams, and Aladdin and it has been hard even fathoming that he is no longer in this world. I have tried to stay positive (as I usually try to do in most situations anyway) and think that at least where ever he may be he is no longer suffering and perhaps his death helped others contemplating suicide or suffering silently from depression.

This is not a cheery way to end the long-awaited update, but I couldn’t put something up this week without saying something and sharing with you a video which not only shows Robin’s talent, but pays tribute to him in a positive way:

Robin – we never have had a friend like you before and probably never will again. You will be truly missed by a big percentage of the world, and I hope that you are at peace.

On that note its goodbye for now Bookbaggers – until next time:

genie and carpet

Challenge Update: A Highly Successful Week 10 of Short and Sweet & 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy!

Welcome my wacky, whimsical Bookbaggers!

Your eyes do gaze upon the 10th update of Short and Sweet and 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy which may be the most successful week yet for both challenges, which is good since unlike the last update, I have nothing else of interest to share with you!

As always let’s get started with the first challenge:

Short and Sweet challenge badgeSince I finished both Short & Sweet books I was reading and picked two new ones, this update definitely deserves a MNL (Mighty Numbered List):

  1. I have been reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (as well as I Am Legend by Richard Matheson) pretty much every chance I get this week, as both books were reaching their climax, so I finished A Clockwork Orange on Tuesday afternoon. I have already given my thoughts on the book a little as I went, so I’ll keep my final comments brief: it was absolutely brilliant. The use of the Nadsat slang was so immersive that after a few chapters I didn’t feel like I was lost without a glossary and I think if I had one in my edition (like the edition my mum read in her youth) it would’ve torn me out of the story too much constantly looking up words. In fact, not having a glossary actually worked in my favour because when I asked Stefan of Stefan’s Books (who on a previous visit had shown he was an avid fan by quoting the first line verbatim when I mentioned I was reading it) why my copy wouldn’t have one he said that originally two different versions were published – one with a glossary, and one with no glossary but an extra chapter at the end – and as it turns out that added chapter completed changed the overall ending, so I’m glad I got the version I did! A Clockwork Orange is absolutely going to be on my Top 10 Books of 2014 list, and I am also glad I bought rather than borrowed a copy because I think it will become a favourite to re-read over my lifetimea clockwork orange
  2. I also have been reading I Am Legend by Richard Matheson a lot this week, especially after finishing A Clockwork Orange, so I reached the end yesterday afternoon. Again, I’ll try to be brief as I’ve talked it up already: it was also absolutely brilliant. Never have I read a book which marries the horror and science fiction genres so well, with some solid scientific explanations for vampirism that were fascinating, and a form of the popular horror monster which was unique and terrifying, but in a subtle way. But, it was the parts which didn’t necessarily fit with either genre which really made this book memorable – the human element, the various stages one man goes through when facing such complete loneliness and day-to-day survival. Robert Neville was wonderfully developed and along the way I felt his frustration, desperation, and sorrow which transitioned into fierce determination and a necessary detachment from emotion. This is definitely the best “vampire” novel I have read, another no-brainer for the Top 10 Books of 2014 and a book I am glad I own so I can share it with others and re-read.i am legend
  3. On Tuesday when I finished A Clockwork Orange I asked Sarah to pick me a new book from the tiny pool of remaining contenders, and she picked Horn by Peter M Ball, which is pretty fitting as she had read it pretty recently (just like when she picked the other Peter M Ball novella for me, funnily enough). I haven’t started it yet, but I am eager to do so ASAP 😀horn
  4. Then because I was only a few chapters away from finishing I Am Legend I asked my mum to pick another from the two remaining contenders, and she picked Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins. I haven’t started it either, but I think it’s going to be great fun, and afterwards my friend Scott has asked to borrow it so i’ll have someone to talk about it with 🙂deadly beloved
  5. Lastly, last night I read another story from The Living Dead zombie anthology, by another author I have read – “Those Who Seek Forgiveness” by Laurell K. Hamilton, which is the first story she wrote about her long-running character, Anita Blake. I have only read the first in the Anita Blake series so far, despite Sarah and our other friend Luke being big fans in high-school, but I have heard from many fans that at a point the series drifted away from the supernatural crime into melodramatic soft-core porn (a bit of a pattern for Hamilton as her other series, Merry Gentry, often turned into sex scenes connected by fragments of plot). Apparently the series has gone back to its roots now, but I have still been hesitant to go much further as once I’m into a series I like to see it through to the end, however it was good to see where Anita started and it was a really great short story actually. Perhaps I need to jump back on the Anita Blake bandwagon and see how far I can get before I’m thrown off 😛A bunch of different zombie stories by different authors? What's not to love?

I am really getting to the pointy end of this challenge now because there is a lone contender left:

ericThe Illustrated Eric by Terry Pratchett (writer) and Josh Kirby (artist)

So when I finish one of my new picks I’ll simply go onto The Illustrated Eric and then the challenge will be finito!

Now onto the other challenge which had a very exciting development this week:

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badgeSince I read none of The Sending last week and I had a normal, lazy Sunday, I got stuck right in, and also made a substantial dent in Brisingr:

The Sending:

Maruman on the cover of The Sending64 pages (2 chapters + epilogue)

Pages remaining: 0! 😀

Brisingr:

Brisingr79 Pages (6 chapters)

Pages remaining: 197

Total:

143 Pages

Pages remaining: 197

That’s right – I finally finished The Sending you guys!! Once I started there was no way I was stopping until the end because it was pretty intense and surprise, surprise there was quite a big cliff-hanger and now I need to wait until the next book comes out, which is apparently this year, but I don’t know when 😦 Anyway, it took me a couple of years to even get to The Sending after it was published, and then when I finished and checked my book journal (or really not the last one I filled, but the one before that, which should be telling) I realised it’s taken me over a year and a month to read it! At least this challenge has helped immensely or otherwise I may never have reached the exciting end!

Because I finished something I chose a new book of course, and since I hadn’t chosen a library book for a while I thought it only fair that they get included and randomly picked The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman which I have borrowed, returned and re-borrowed multiple times since finishing the previous book in the series 3 years ago! I also haven’t started it yet, but as I have a week of holidays coming up, I will have plenty of quality reading time 🙂

cover_tiger_in_the_well

Since the last update I also read  The Walking Dead Volume #1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman (creator, writer), Tony Moore(creator, artist) and Cliff Rathburn (colourist…or additional gray-scale-ist) which was excellent and much move fast-paced then I was expecting after watching a bit of the TV series! It was a first volume which definitely impressed me so I promptly returned it to the library and requested volume 2 😛walking dead vol 1

I also read one of my Free Comic Book Day comics that I picked last week –  Defend Comics – which was a series of short stories about censorship in comics and banned books (with a random snippet of story chucked it for good measure). I found it really interesting and a great way to get comic readers to think about these issues and possibly support causes (such as the CBLDF – Comic Book Legal Defense Fund which produced the comic) which fight censorship and protect the rights of comic creators.defend comics

That’s all for now I think my beloved Bookbaggers 🙂

I would say stay tuned for the next update, but I’m not sure I’ll be about the next two weeks as it is semester break, next week I’ll be working in a different location as my campus is shut, and the week after I have off. This may mean I pop in to update you on things, but more likely I will be too busy enjoying myself and reading up a storm 😛

At the very least I’ll try to post a Notable Quotable or two since I have a few I’ve been stock-piling, but if I don’t get around to it I humbly apologise in advance and I will see you in a couple of weeks with a bumper update 🙂

Until then goodbye from your loyal Book Polygamist and some of my favourite lads:

capn jack sparrow farewell

cheshire-goodbye

beatles waving

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

The 2011 Book Polygamist Awards!

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the 1st Annual Book Polygamist Awards! (insert applause and cheering here)

Every year I look back at the books I have read and assign awards to those that have stood out in some way. Before now that acknowledgement has been for my eyes only in my treasured reading journals so I am happy to make them public for the first time!

The awards will be in two parts: the Annual Awards which are ones that I have given to books every year and will likely continue to do so; and the Special Awards which are awards that I have created especially for this years contenders.

I hope you enjoy 🙂

Annual Awards

Shortest Read:

The Bro Code by Barney Stinson with Matt Kuhn, at around an hour

Honorable Mentions:

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, at 1 day

Eddie Dickens Trilogy (Awful End; Dreadful Acts and Terrible Times) at 2 days for all three.

Longest Read:

Monster Blood Tattoo Book Two: Lamplighter by D M Cornish, at 27 weeks and 3 days! O.o

Honorable Mentions:

Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker, at 25 weeks, 3 days!

The Books of Blood: vol 1-3 by Clive Barker at 30 weeks and counting!!

Most Books Read by a Single Author:

 

4 by Kerry Greenwood (Urn Burial; Heavenly Pleasures; Devil’s Food; Trick or Treat)

Honorable Mentions:

3 by Charlaine Harris (Definitely Dead; All Together Dead; From Dead to Worse)

3 by Philip Ardagh (Awful End; Dreadful Acts;Terrible Times)

Best “New” Author Award:

Every year I make a list of authors I have discovered and who I want to read more of, so this year I thought I’d give an award to the author that I was the most impressed with and have since researched several other books of theirs that I’m interested in as well as a few other authors that get honorable mentions.

William Gay (Twilight)

Honorable Mentions:

Marianne de Pierres (Nylon Angel – Book 1 Parrish Plessis series)

Andrew Nicoll (The Good Mayor)

Kathryn Lasky (Guardians of Ga’Hoole: The Capture)

Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)

Catherine Webb (The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle)

Special Awards

The Best End to a Series Award:

Destiny (Trinity trilogy) by Fiona McIntosh

Honorable Mention:

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman

The Best Start to a Series Award:

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle (Horatio Lyle series) by Catherine Webb

Honorable Mention:

The Capture (Guardians of Ga’Hoole series) by Kathryn Lasky

The Longest and Strangest Title Award:

The Travelling Death and Resurrection Show by Ariel Gore

Honorable Mention:

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

The “Graphic Novels are a Legitimate Genre” Award:

This is the first year I have read Graphic Novels and actually treated them like real books (i.e. included them in my book journal; wrote reviews etc.) so I thought the two fabulous Graphic Novels deserve their very own award 🙂

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons AND V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

The Short but Sweet Award:

This year has included a few short-story anthologies, a format I don’t generally read a lot so I have chosen the best short-story collection as well as the best individual stories.

Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead by Various

Best stories: Family Business by Jonathan Maberry; The Zombie Who Fell from the Sky by M. B. Homler; The Storm Door by Tad Williams; Second Wind by Mike Carey; Weaponized by David Wellington.

The BRAAIINNS! Award:

This year stood out as the year I started to love zombie stories! It wasn’t the first time I read anything with zombies (in 2010 I read Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner which is about a zombie detective; the first Anita Blake book by Laurell K Hamilton, Guilty Pleasures, which involves zombie raising, and right before the dawn of 2011 I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan which is set in a zombie-apocalyptic world) but after Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead  I was hooked so the BRAAIINNS Award goes to:

Zombie: an Anthology of the Undead by Various

with an honorable mention to Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carrol and Nickolas Cook 😛

The Revisited Award:

This is a new award I came up with, given to a book I re-read and still loved in 2011:

Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn

The About Time! Award:

This award goes to a book that I had been meaning to read for a long time:

Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

Honorable Mention:

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

The Best Cover Art Award:

The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

Honorable Mentions:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll

The Misleading Cover Award:

Yearn: Tales of Lust and Longing by Tobsha Learner

(to find out why this cover is misleading see my review)

The “They’ve Still Got It!” Award:

This is another new one that I created purely to highlight two of my favourite authors whose newest releases I read this year and loved just as much (if not more) than previous favourites:

Joanne Harris for Blueeyedboy AND Tracy Chevalier for Remarkable Creatures

2011 has been a fabulous year for me, not just for reading but in many aspects of my life, and I hope for even more great reads and wonderful events now that its 2012!

I hope you all also read some novels in 2011 that deserve awards and you have an amazing 2012 🙂

Top 10 Reads of 2011!

I have been making a list of my fave books of the year for a while now, but before now they have only been chronicled in my reading journals or on Facebook last year, so its pretty sweet to have it out in the blogosphere for the first time 🙂

1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman 

This was the first book I started in 2011 (on the 1st of January and all!) and was also one of a few books I read around that time that were the final instalments in major trilogies I had been reading for a while (the others are Destiny by Fiona McIntosh which is also in this list, and The Reawakened by Jeri Smith-Ready that I finished on January 1st so it missed out being on this list :P). I read the first two of the His Dark Materials series, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass) and The Subtle Knife in 2009 and late 2010 respectively and each one was more gripping and imaginative as the story went on culminating with The Amber Spyglass which was just amazing. Philip Pullman brought everything to light and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed throughout the series and although many of these conclusions were heart-breaking, the ending felt right. I was left with a sense of awe at Pullman’s abilities and it certainly opened up my year of reading with a bang.

2. Destiny by Fiona McIntosh 

Destiny was another wonderful conclusion to a gripping series, but one that I had been invested in for much longer. As I have said before there was a big gap between starting the Trinity trilogy and finishing it as I read the first book, Betrayal way back in 2008, then the second book, Revenge a couple of months later but was unable to acquire Destiny until early 2011! It was lucky that I re-read the first two books before finding it but even still it was at least a year between the end of Revenge (which was quite a cliffhanger) and the beginning of Destiny so it took me a while to understand what was going on. However once I was caught up this final instalment certainly didn’t disappoint with more twists and turns then  the most intense rollercoaster and countless moments that made me gasp in shock or burst into tears. There were so many satisfying conclusions to conflicts that had carried through the whole trilogy and the final ending was very emotional and riveting, showing Fiona McIntosh’s ability to weave a great ending that doesn’t shy away from harsh realities and fall into the “happily ever after” trap.

3. The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll 

This was a beautiful, quirky, charming little novel which was a surprise highlight of my year. Andrew Nicoll described the fictional Baltic town of Dot as well as all the unique characters inhabiting it with loving detail that made me eager to read for hours on end. The story was quite simple – a forbidden love story between the Mayor of the town and his married assistant – but it was the execution of it that was so addictive to me, the dancing around the two did, never admitting their feelings for each other and by the end I was quite frustrated with them both (which made me want to read even more just to see if they’d ever get their act together!). Even ‘tho it took a really strange turn at its climax this only made me like the book more as it was so unexpected. A great read for someone who loves a good RomCom but one that’s a tad odd 🙂

4. Blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one was a big surprise because as I am a huge fan of Joanne Harris and am use to her usual fare of magic, food and small town politics (or other tight-knit communities like a college or nunnery), or as in her earlier works gothic styled historical novels with a touch of mystery and Blueeyedboy certainly doesn’t fit into those categories. Well and truly in the modern age, this novel tells its story exclusively through LiveJournal posts which gave it a creepy atmosphere of confession and mind games. It was a frightening, disturbing and unsettling book where the lines between fiction and reality and between online and offline personas was very blurred and I was constantly changing my mind about who was the “monster” and who was the victim. The twists were often very unexpected and sudden, so I found myself reeling through most of it, but by the end I was left impressed by Joanne Harris’ talent (to create a fantastic psychological thriller so different from her usual style) and even that early on in the year (I read it over a week in February) I knew it would be on this list as I stayed with me long after the last word.

5. Twilight by William Gay

I almost didn’t read this fantastically atmospheric book because of its title, but I am so glad a bunch of glittery vampires didn’t put me off as it was a fantastic, if quite confusing read. This is the first of my Top Reads that I have reviewed on this blog, and that review can be found here. Since I went into why this book was so amazing in that review I won’t go into it much here, but will just say that this book showed some of the finest writing of my readings this year as well as being one of the more creepy and vividly described novels I read in 2011. Not for the faint hearted or easily confused, but for lovers of language and spooky imagery this is a real treat.

6. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This is another book I reviewed this year so I won’t go into too much detail, but as soon as I finished it I knew it would be on this list as it certainly made an impact on me. This is one of those novels that grew on me (like my friend Sarah would say, like a fungus :)) and the second half was read in huge devouring sessions as opposed to the snail’s pace of the first half. If any of you decide to give this little french gem a shot I would highly recommend that you watch the movie adaptation afterwards as it cleverly takes the story from page to screen and was a lovely little film in its own right 🙂

7. Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker

This one is definitely not for those light of heart (or stomach!) as it is a classic Barker tale filled with gruesome creatures, violent sexuality and lots of gore. I have yet to review it, even ‘tho I reached the end on the 20th of October (naughty naughty!) as it has been hard to find the right words to explain it. It is a blend of absolute horror in the craziest supernatural form that Clive Barker excels at, and a tale of the underbelly of Hollywood from its Golden Age of ageless movie starlets in glorious black and white and blissful silence, to the modern age of plastic idols. Not one I would recommend as an introduction to Clive Barker (it would likely scare many away) but once readers are used to his work (maybe starting with lighter novels like Abarat and then moving on to his crazier stuff like Sacrament?) this is an excellent example of his expansive and very warped imagination. He’s a freak but I love ‘im 🙂

8. The Secrets of the Chess Machine by Robert Löhr

This was a more light-hearted read of 2011. Although there was some murder mystery elements and other dark parts It was always easy and fun to read as opposed to some on this list which I dipped into less often. I love a good Historical Saga, especially one that is based on real events rather than just a certain time or place in history, and this little beauty was exactly what I was looking for. More details can be found in my review but be warned, this one may be a bit difficult to find. I was lucky enough to find it at my local library, but since reading and reviewing it a friend and fellow Library student has been trying to find it in bookstores to no avail. My best bet would be an online bookstore such as Book Depository or second-hand and rare book supplier Abe Books.

9. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This book was a fairly recent read (I finished it on the 8th of December) but I knew from a few chapters in that it would be a highlight of 2011. I first heard about it from my mum who saw it reviewed on Australian morning show The Circle and thought I would like it as before my Library studies I was a floral assistant and I have always been intrigued by the Victorian custom of courting lovers communicating through flowers. She then bought it from me as part of my amazingly generous birthday presents and I was lucky enough to choose it out of my To Read pile at the beginning of November. I have yet to review it (I’ll get there I promise!) but it was a beautifully touching story with an interesting and solid background in the meaning of flowers and the effect the foster child/adoption system has on children even into adulthood.

10. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier 

This last book almost didn’t make it on the list as when I started it on the 9th of December, even ‘tho I loved it from the first chapter I didn’t think I would finish it before the start of the new year. But thanks to some marathon reading, mostly due to the fantastic writing skills of Tracy Chevalier and my ardent wish to include it in my Top Reads I finished it the day before New Years Eve 🙂 This was a very interesting and touching novel that amerses you in a historical time and place perfectly. Tracy Chevalier is wonderful at capturing a time and place and inventing believable details surrounding a pivotal artistic (or in this case scientific) movement. I have loved every book she has ever released from the moment I read The Virgin Blue as they were all sound Historical novels with a backbone of facts and a great deal of heart. This one is based on the true story of Mary Anning, a working class girl in 19th century England who discovers the first aquatic dinosaurs and sets the scientific world alight with talk of extinction and the age of the earth, but it is also about the friendship between two women (Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot) who are from a different class and background and two decades apart in age but share a love of fossil hunting. I promise I’ll do a proper review as soon as I get through the 8 that are still backed up 😛

Stay tuned for my other highlights of the year in the form of my 2011 Book Polygamist Awards! which I will post within the next couple of days, and I hope to see all my usual Bookbaggers as well as lots of new faces throughout 2012 🙂

In case you weren’t aware 2012 is The National Year of Reading in Australia, which libraries around the country are getting involved in with special activities and programs as well as extra storytime sessions, displays and the like, so expect some extra little tidbits this year 🙂

One idea I had was to post a small quote from one of the books I’m reading every day as part of Project 365 but what with my last semester of study being this year as well as continuing casual work at libraries, and hopefully some form of social life, I don’t see myself keeping that up for longer than a few weeks, so maybe I’ll make it something more achievable like a quote once a week?

Let me know what you guys think in the comments and as always, HAPPY READING!!!! (in caps for added New Years emphasis :P)

Top 10 Books that made me Cry

Before I start I should tell you all that I am a giant softie. I cry at movies (both sad ones and happy ones, even cartoons), TV shows (including the Simpsons a couple of times) and of course, books. I guess I’m just a sensitive soul 🙂 So, while these 10 books are ones that made me cry (amongst others) that doesn’t mean that any of my loyal Bookbaggers would tear up. Also, the reason these books have made me cry is normally some shockingly sad event which would be a huge spoiler, so while I will try not to mention the event, sometimes it will be vital to do so. So, just in case *Spoiler alert!*

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I touched on how much this book affected me in my Top 10 Books of All Time post, and how it made me cry and gasp many times because I became so involved in the characters’ stories. What I didn’t say was that at a certain point near the end of the book (in fact over the last couple of chapters) I didn’t just cry a couple of elegant tears but did what Oprah calls “the ugly cry” (I’m not a huge Oprah fan but I love that description!). I spluttered, I made little gulping noises, there was some snot action, the whole ugly cry show was in full effect. The reason I cried that much was that there was a very traumatic event that involved the main character, and while I had been warned that it was coming (at the end of a chapter when I was meeting people for lunch and so couldn’t read on!) it was still a big shock. The tears then turned to those of relief and happiness when the following chapters turned the event into a satisfying and happy conclusion. I won’t say anymore, but if you want a read that really connects you to the characters and draws you in to a beautiful world of its own then I’d recommend The Shadow of the Wind. it would also make a great Book Club book 🙂

Winner of the Ugliest Cry award

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It’s easily to see that a book set in Nazi Germany whose main character is a little orphaned girl would be a sad one, but it was not so much the subject matter that made me cry during this book but the way this subject matter was conveyed. As I have said previously the narrator of this book is Death and it is a very fitting voice for that time and place in history. At many points during the book I found myself close to tears because of the fear and death that hung over the small village that the story is set in, but it wasn’t til the end, when there was a series of dramatic and sad events that I actually burst into tears. A beautiful book that made me grateful to be alive and that I didn’t live through World War II.

Because Nazi Germany is so damn cheery!

3. Mister God This is Anna by Fynn

I praised this book in a review a while back and most likely it will pop up again as it is one of my favourite books, but it was one of the first books that came to mind when compiling this list, coz oh boy did I cry! This was another one that warned me about the sad ending – in the first paragraph and all! – but it was still such a shock that I started to sob on the train (how embarrassing :S). Possibly it could’ve been that I was already going through a hard time, or possibly it was the way the ending happened, but either way it was like a floodgate had opened, and at the time I didn’t even care that I was on the train (tho I was in an almost empty car so it wasn’t that bad). If the possibility of crying puts you off a book I can assure you that even ‘tho Mister God This is Anna does have a heartbreaking ending, it is also very hopeful and uplifting throughout and does end ultimately in that way.

4. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I only read and reviewed this book recently, so it was fresh in my mind when I started to make this list. I won’t go into it that much because I have already reviewed it, but I will just say that this was another time I cried on the train but I was much more restrained as there was more people. Even with restraint a few tears did manage to escape as I read the end of this book that was a complete surprise and was one of those endings where you keep thinking “no no! It’ll change at the last moment right?…..right?”. I won’t spoil it, but even ‘tho It was a sad and tragic ending, it did wrap up the story in a more natural and poignant way so in the end I was glad for it to finish that way, even if it did make me the crying chick on the train again!

5. Charlotte’s Web by E B White

We’re now getting into the tear-jerkers from my childhood, when I was a fledgling softie 🙂 I read Charlotte’s Web when I was in Year 3 as part of a school project we were doing. The project involved reading excerpts from the book (which I then found and read completely); doing activities based on the book; watching the movie (the original not the one with Dakota Fanning); and then putting on a play/musical number based on a scene from the movie for the school assembly. If you haven’t read this children’s classic then be warned, I am going to spoil the ending because It’s too tricky to explain otherwise. I cried twice during this book. First when Wilbur had to be given to the Zuckerman farm, because as an animal loving kid it broke my heart to think of having to give away a beloved pet. And then at the end when Charlotte died 😥
Even ‘tho this book made me cry (and probably still would now) I still think it is such a beautiful little book that teaches kids about life and death and the truth behind farm animals, as well as teaching them to be whatever they want to be and follow their dreams.

6.  Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

This is another book that we read at primary school and them performed at assembly, but it is about a much sadder subject – the bombing in Hiroshima. The basic plot of the book is based on a true story of a young girl called Sadako who develops leukemia after the bombings. She is hospitalised and spends her time folding origami paper cranes because it is said that if you fold a thousand cranes you are granted a wish. Unfortunately, after folding 644 cranes Sadako becomes too weak and dies shortly after. Her friends and family fold the remaining cranes and Sadako is buried with the full thousand, and a statue of her is erected in Hiroshima Peace Park. Understandably this story brought tears to the eyes of most of the children in class and the teacher when she read it to us, and I also struggled to maintain composure when we performed it at assembly because I was one of the kids that narrated Sadako’s tragic tale. Even ‘tho it’s so sad  it is a wonderful book for kids to read, especially for new generations that may not know much about Hiroshima or the effect of nuclear bombs.

I like to think that since Sadako was buried with a thousand cranes she still got her wish and is having a beautiful afterlife 🙂

7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This book had many moments that had me close to tears because it is told through the eyes of a teenage girl who was brutally raped and murdered and is watching her friends and family from “heaven” as they deal with their grief. This makes for a very contemplative and melancholy story, but it was the scene where the main character is killed (which happens quite early on) that really made me cry, mostly out of shock and anger. Despite making me cry and get pretty angry, The Lovely Bones was a great book, and I also keep meaning to see the movie (which I’ve heard mixed reviews about).

8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling

Yes, I cried at a Harry Potter book – I told you I cry at everything! – and actually I cried at the last one as well, but this one made me cry more and the reason….Dumbledore 😦 I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one because this spoiler has been spreading around since before the book came out, and now that the books and movies are finished I think its well and truly out there. However, If you somehow have missed the spoiler and you plan to read the book or see the movie in the future, then just close your eyes and scroll down for a few lines and everything will be fine. So…Dumbledore dies. In fact Dumbledore doesn’t just die but is murdered right in front of Harry. So yeah, I shed a couple of tears, and yeah, I sat there for a while in shock convincing myself that in the next book it would turn out ok and he wouldn’t be dead. Don’t judge me 😛

NO!! Not Dumbledore!!!!

9. The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

This was another one that involved a shocking event at the end, and it was so upsetting (especially because it was right after everything coming together really nicely, as all the tricksty writers/moviemakers love to do!) that I laid awake for a couple of hours, not sleeping and feeling a tad maudlin and I have yet to read the next book in the series because I’m afraid that it’ll be too sad. However, the event would not have been so upsetting if Philip Pullman hadn’t developed the characters and setting so well so you care about their well-being, so props to him….even tho at the time I wasn’t so understanding.

Damn you Philip Pullman for writing such likable characters!

10. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Oh my gosh! I had forgotten how sad this book was and how much it made me cry when I was little, until my brother gave me the movie on DVD for Christmas a few years ago. My brother hadn’t seen it before or read the book, and I had forgotten the plot so at a certain point (which I won’t say) we both blubbered away like little girls. Bridge to Terabithia is a lovely tale of friendship and childhood imagination, but be warned if you want to give it to your kids – at some point near the end they will probably come to you crying or looking shocked and ask some awkward questions. Just so you know.

There you go folks, the Top 10 books that really made me blubber. Sorry it wasn’t up right after the Top 10 Books that made me Laugh as planned, my Internet cut out halfway through writing it and I was only able to get it back today :/ Join me next month for my Top 10 Book to Screen Adaptations and the Top 10 Books I would like to see Adapted for the Screen, and in the meantime I will review The Secrets of the Chess Machine and probably lots of other Book Polygamist stuff 🙂

Happy Reading!

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