Revenge of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!!

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

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

Revenge of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!!

Monster Blood Tattoo Book 2: Lamplighter By D M Cornish

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

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

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

Trick or Treat By Kerry Greenwood

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

Adultery By Richard B Wright

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

The Girl Who Played With Fire By Stieg Larsson

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

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

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

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

Return of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!

I warned you all of their return and as we all know sequels seem to pop up quicker and quicker these days (says grandma Book Polygamist -_-) so make sure you’re sitting comfortably, your popcorn is safely in a hard-to-spill position and your hands are primed to grip the edges of your seat (or the poor soul sitting next to you) as i introduce the second installment in the Micro Review saga:

Return of the Micro Reviews from Planet Procrastination!!

V for Vendetta By Alan Moore and David Lloyd

A unique and highly original Graphic Novel. Very dark, both in content and art style and also quite mysterious with the story being told purely through dialogue and poetic/cryptic monologues. The futuristic setting was really unsettling and prophetic as it was a highly monitored and controlled society. A classic of the Graphic Novel genre but perhaps not one to start off with.

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb

A cracking little mystery set in Victorian London (one of my favourite settings for a mystery) but with a supernatural twist. Action-packed but also filled with great character interaction and funny dialogue. The first of a series that seems very fun and appealing to children, young adults and adults that want a short entertaining read.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A beautiful little read. Very touching and the content on the Victorian meanings of flowers as well as the examination of the foster child system added depth. A bit sad in parts, and also a tad “chick lit” so might not be appealing to all bibliophiles.

Books of Blood Vol 1-3 By Clive Barker

A collection of three volumes of short stories, with each being twisted and disturbing in its own way thanks to the amazing imaginative horror-filled mind of Clive Barker. As with Coldheart Canyon this  certainly is not for those with a weak constitution, and even if you have a strong mind and stomach I wouldn’t recommend reading too many stories in one sitting, but if you love well-crafted horror that is definitely not predictable and definitely is original then the Books of Blood is an amazing read.

Grave Sight By Charlaine Harris

A fun and interesting mix of paranormal fiction and murder mystery with intriguing main characters in sister and brother team Harper and Tolliver. One for fans of Charlaine Harris or lovers of light, supernaturally-based mysteries.

So there we have it!

As sequels go this could either be a complete flop or a bigger success then its predecessor (or a big success because it was a complete flop),  but rest assured lovers of teeny reviews packaged together under a title straight out of the  Z-grade horror bargain bin at the back of a dodgy video store, the Micro reviews will be back for thier revenge!

REVIEW: City Of Bones By Cassandra Clare

 

I have made it quite clear before that I am often guilty of judging a book by its cover – If I like the cover art I am more likely to read the blurb and if the cover art annoys me I will likely not give the book a second glance – but I have not admitted that I also judge a book by the quoted people on its cover. If an author I like or admire has said something glowing about the book I am much more likely to read it, and likewise if an author I dislike is quoted I am more hesitant.

This was the case with City of Bones. On the front and back covers as well as in the page of praise inside, Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame raved about the series, and the cover and blurb have been fashioned to appeal to the same demographic (teenage girls who like girl meets supernatural being styled romances). Now, I have been quite open with my disdain for the Twilight Saga in this blog so it will come as no surprise that I had a few worries about this book, and the series in general. However my brother (who has no interest in Twilight-esque novels and whose taste in YA is similar to my own) greatly recommended The Mortal Instruments series, and I have heard great things about them in general so I suspended my doubts and dove in.

What I found pleasantly surprised me. Yes, there was an element of Forbidden Love that has become such a cliché in YA literature lately, but it was not of the breed that really irks me, and was more true to the reality of puberty so it could easily be forgiven. Besides the Forbidden Love (which was less prevalent than the very brief blurb insinuated) I was quite impressed with what Clare has created. Her world is a clever combination of the real urban environment of New York paired with the hidden world of Downworlders (Werewolves, Vampires, Warlocks and a fascinating array of demons and half-demons) and the Shadowhunters that are trained to kill any Downworlders that break the Accords (a treaty between Downworlders and Shadowhunters). Her descriptions of the  physicality of different demons and locations hidden by glamour were evocative and fit perfectly into the urban setting. The settings are clever with a certain cheeky logic to them: from a diner that serves such delights as locusts with honey, whole raw fish and blood of various beasts, but then had a perfectly normal human menu on the back; to an abandoned building adopted by werewolves as a makeshift hideout with a glamour proclaiming it Jade Wolf Chinese Cuisine that is so complete that sometimes fledgling lycanthropes even deliver the occasional order of mu shu pork.

The plot moves very quickly from the set-up into the full-on action sequences. Clary Fray is the book’s leading lady, an ordinary teenager who knows nothing of the city’s secret underworld until she follows a couple of suspicious looking teens into a back room of the Pandemonium Club because she sees one of them draw a knife. Upon following them she sees a very strange altercation between the group and a blue-haired boy their companion (a gorgeous girl) lured into the room and subsequently witnesses the boy’s murder. When she tries to alert someone she discovers that no one besides her can see the mysterious trio, and at least one of the apparent murderers (a gorgeous boy with tawny hair and golden eyes called Jace) is very interested in her ability to see him. Meanwhile Clary’s mother has been acting cagey and after forbidding her to go out the next night (which she disobeys) calls her in distress, warning her away from their apartment before the line is cut short. When Clary, accompanied by Jace reaches the apartment it has been ransacked, her mother is missing and a monstrous beast attacks her.

From that point onward Clary is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters (or Nephilim) a race of humans with angel blood that use runes inscribed into their skin and enchanted weapons to fight malevolent demons and other Downworlders. From Jace, his companions Alec and Isabelle and their tutor Hodge, Clary learns about the way of the Shadowhunters and her ingrained but forgotten connection to them while they try to uncover the whereabouts of her mother and the evil actions of a rebel Shadowhunter thought to be long dead.

There is plenty to like in this book (and hopefully the rest of the series), especially for teens and lovers of supernatural action, but unlike some tales in the same vein it isn’t simply love and action scenes with some filler masquerading as plot. The characters are well-developed, with true-to-life teen issues of identity, friendship and hormones making them seem more than just attractive teen warriors. The relationships and interactive dialogue between the characters are believable and there are some great witty one liners.

ultimately it’s not an intricate piece of literature, but it is a very well-constructed example of a genre that is growing from strength to strength, and it is highly enjoyable. I hope I enjoy the continuing installments just as much 🙂

I give City of Bones by Cassandra Clare:

4/5 Stars

The first Free Pick – just movin’ on to the next City :)

The other night I finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (review to follow shortly) and was super excited to choose my first book for Free Pick February 🙂

There were way too many to choose from if I took all four piles into account, so to narrow it down I decided to just pick from the pile that City of Bones came from – the books-I-borrowed-from-my-little-bro-pile – and since City of Bones was such an enjoyable and addictive-ly fun read, (and I borrowed the box set of the first three books in the series) without a thought I picked the next installment – City of Ashes.

More supernatural excitement 🙂

I am at the halfway point in another book I’m reading and a fair way into another one so maybe (probably) I’ll finish them before the end of the month and will get to do more Free Picks 🙂

Happy Reading!

Introducing: Horatio Lyle!

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

Right up my alley 🙂

Here is a blurb of the book:

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

Should be fun 🙂

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

REVIEW: The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The Book of Tomorrow

My experience of this book did not start well. I read the first chapter and then put it aside for a week or two, always choosing to read any of the other books rather than this one. Why? Because I couldn’t stand the main character! I thought she was an annoying, stereotypical spoilt-little-rich-girl who only thought of herself. It also didn’t help that she had the same name as an ex of mine – Tamara – a name I use to like, and who knows, I may have been more forgiving of the spoilt-little-rich-girl if I hadn’t had that bad ex experience. However, I did give the spoilt-little-rich-girl/Tamara and The book of tomorrow the benefit of the doubt and forced myself to keep reading and they both taught me not to judge so quickly.

The book of tomorrow may not be the best book I’ve read all year, but after a couple of chapters I found it quite addictive and in fact, my original shunning was turned on its head as i virtually abandoned other books to read this one (especially on the bus- its great bus reading 🙂 )

The book of tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern is narrated by Tamara Goodwin, a 16-year-old girl who lives in Ireland in a giant house with wealthy, distant parents, and engages in drinking and other typical teenager behaviour with a couple of ditzy promiscuous friends and randy teenage boys.  Or at least she use to, before her father downed a bottle of pills with a chaser of booze and Tamara found him dead in his office. Tamara is very blunt about the tragedy and how much it “sucks” that her and her mother now have to sell their house and move in with her hick uncle and aunt in a small Irish town. When Tamara first moves into the gatehouse next to the old burnt-out Kilsaney castle, she sees no upside to the situation and complains about everything. But soon Tamara starts to notice how strange and controlling her aunt Rosaleen is, how silent and non-confrontational her uncle Arthur is and the general secretiveness of the household.

In a chance encounter she meets Marcus, who drives the library book-bus, and while hanging out and flirting with him she spies an interesting book to borrow….one with no title, no author and a lock. Marcus tells her to take it anyway, and after another chance encounter with local nun Sister Ignatius, gets it unlocked, only to find that it’s blank – the book isn’t a novel, it’s a diary. After Sister Ignatius encourages her to write in the diary, Tamara takes it to the old Kilsaney Castle ruins, a place she’s formed an affinity for, and prepares to write her first entry. However, on opening the pages of the book Tamara finds there is already an entry written in her own handwriting and with tomorrow’s date. Confused and curious she reads the entry which details events that will happen that day. When she finishes reading and finds that the day unfolds exactly as it said it would, she is even more confused and despite Sister Ignatius suggesting that she probably wrote it and forgot about it, or wrote in her sleep, Tamara knows she didn’t write the diary. When the next entry appears in the middle of the night as she watches, Tamara believes the entries are appearing for a reason – to warn her of what is to come and help her make different decisions. She uses the diary everyday and slowly unravels the mysteries of her family, Kilsaney Castle and her mother’s worsening condition.

The book of tomorrow is an interesting blend of genres: 1 part YA, 1 part mystery/thriller, 1 part family drama with a dash of fantasy. It covers issues such as grief, family secrets, growing up and fate. It is not the deepest novel, but was more in-depth and emotional then I expected from the first couple of chapters. Not a book that everyone would like, but I would recommend it to people who enjoy novels about skeletons in a family’s closet and how different people deal with death.

I give The book of tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern:

3 ½ / 5 stars