Archive | February 2016

Wolf Tower by Tanith Lee

WolfTower

4starrating

Title: Wolf Tower

Author: Tanith Lee

review

I’m a trifle mixed on this book… But on the whole, it was an enjoyable, unique fantasy adventure.

It’s the journal of the heroine, Claidi, and one of its high points is the conversational and often quite funny tone of the narrative. I really loved that!

Because of the journal setup, we get a very limited outlook on what’s going on, which makes for an interesting read. Claidi herself was an odd combination of feisty/daring and yet oddly naive about a lot of things. She starts out as a servant at a very proper House, which seems reminiscent of somewhere in Asia or India, perhaps?

This whole story, which takes place in a variety of places all different than each other, has none of the usual pseudo-English/European fantasy setting about it (which I love, incidentally, but this IS a change, I suppose). It’s very diverse in its settings/lands and peoples and cultures, so for anyone looking for a different sort of fantasy, this is definitely that!

The general feeling is like a usual semi-medieval fantasy tale, and yet it’s at times more advanced, more like Victorian? There are clocks and things, and a general touch of something almost steampunk, what with the hot air balloon near the start, and the city with clockwork soldiers later on, and some sort of surveillance thing mixed in, almost sci-fi? Near the end it even felt like a touch of dystopian. o.o Anyways, it was definitely an intriguing mix! I enjoyed the fresh, different feel of it. πŸ™‚

Okay, so now we get to what I didn’t like as much, which… um… I really can’t talk about BECAUSE SPOILERS. But let’s just say that there was a character who I wanted to like and wished something had turned out differently and it DIDN’T but it’s probably all for the best (there was a sort of almost love triangle involved; cue more squirming) and it turned out as well as could be expected I suppose. BUT GAAHH I STILL WANTED SOMETHING DIFFERENT MAYBE? I don’t even know. All of this made me drop it from a potential five-star to 4 stars, because I really DID enjoy the book and liked it, but it just… gaahh, the stress. *flails*

For those who are wondering, a certain person named Argul is fantastic, and the-other-person-we-don’t-talk-about was sometimes and I wanted said person to be… um… something else, but then… THAT HAPPENED. *pouts* …But I was suspecting it early on and worried about it and then it WAS and just sllsjkdflj. Sorry, I’m a mite bit incoherent about this whole thing. BUT SPOILERS. (It might just be me, though. Don’t mind me all curled up in a corner rocking back and forth and babbling incoherent “BUT ALKSDJLK WHAT EVEN JUST WHY” sounds.)

I’ve heard that there are three books after this one, but I don’t think I’ll read them…? I really liked the ending of this one (for the most part), and I don’t really want to go through all of that again. -_-

Not a ginormously fabulous book, but by no means a bad one, either! Definitely fun and worth a read if it sounds interesting. And I’m very much looking forward to reading more by the author (since I happen to have “Piratica” on my shelf, watching me, waiting…).

All in all, Wolf Tower was an at times quite funny (I LOVE HUMOR!), unique fantasy read, which I enjoyed a good deal, except for that-thing-about-said-person-we-don’t-talk-about. AHEM.

summary

From Goodreads:

All her life, Claidi has endured hardship in the House, where she must obey a spoiled princess. Then a golden stranger arrives, living proof of a world beyond the House walls. Claidi risks all to free the charming prisoner and accompanies him across the Waste toward his faraway home. It is a difficult yet marvelous journey, and all the while Claidi is at the side of a man she could come to love. That is, until they reach his home . . . and the Wolf Tower.

factoids

Genre/Category: Fantasy, with a touch of Steampunk?

Age Group: Young Adult

Published: 1998

Pages: 223 paperback

Series?: Book 1 of the Claidi Journals (followed by Wolf Star, Wolf Queen, Wolf Wing)

When Read: February 19, 2016

Favorite Character: Argul. And Nemian (sometimes. *squirms*)

Other Notes: Read for the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge hosted by Grace @ Fictionally.


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

The Ordinary Princess (Fantasy Love Feb. Challenge 4)

FantasyLoveFebruaryReadingChallenge

And now for the 4th and final blog mini challenge for the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge, which is to reread or rewatch a fantasy favorite movie or book, and share in a blog post what’s so fantastic about it that made you want to re-adventure with it.

I picked . . .

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye

“You shall be ordinary.” So proclaimed the fairy Crustacea at the christening of Her Serene Royal Highness, Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne. And ordinary she was. With mousy brown hair, a turned-up nose and freckles, Princess Amy was nothing like her six blond, beautiful princess sisters. She was so ordinary, in fact, that no prince could be found to marry her. But that didn’t bother Amy. Who wanted to marry a stuffy old prince, anyway? Amy had other ideas about how to spend her life. Like running off to the forest . . . and an enchanting adventure all her own.

–Summary from the back

5starrating

I first read The Ordinary Princess in April last year, and fell in love with it instantly. ❀ I was so tempted to reread it the moment I finished it, but refrained… and now this was a perfect chance to pick it up again.

So last night I did, and devoured it all over again in an hour and a half. It’s a short read, but oh so lovely!

How can I even DESCRIBE it? It’s probably my favorite little fairytale-esque story ever. Yes, it’s THAT good.

It just has this perfect fairytale feel — it’s like an original fairytale with some nods to a few classic ones, such as starting out with a Sleeping Beauty-esque christening with fairy gifts etc. (The king even makes a reference to his great-great-something-grandmother, who evidently WAS Sleeping Beauty! Isn’t that perfect? <3) And something like the song Cinderella sings in the new Cinderella movie, and a few other things.

It has all the classic fairytale feel, and yet it’s a totally original fairytale, turning many of the old plot devices on their heads! To say much more would be to spoil the marvelous tale, but be assured that whether you like new or old tales, it will satisfy you either way.

In the author’s note, she says she wrote it one spring in an apple orchard in blossom in Kent, England, and that it practically wrote itself. All of this makes perfect sense. It’s exactly the sort of beautiful little tale that would be perfect to be made in a blooming apple orchard in England! It just FEELS like that.

It has this fabulous writing style, like many old fairytales and yet even better somehow, which is simultaneously beautiful and hilarious (don’t ask how. It just is). I don’t even know how the author did it, but it just has this perfect FEEL. There’s not a single thing I dislike about it.

And the illustrations!! It was also illustrated by the author, and they’re just the most darling, beautiful, yet simplistic and perfect drawings ever! ❀ They perfectly capture these lovely medieval fairytale kingdoms and characters. (It’s just the sort of setting I love the most in books!)

ordinaryprincessillustrationMMKaye

Then the characters, all of whom are fabulous. Even the side characters have a lot of spirit to them, from the myriad councilors and ministers of two different kingdoms, to the king and queen, to the adorable animal friends of Amy, a red squirrel (one Mr Pemberthy) and a crow (Peter Aurelious), to the fairy Crustacea, the old fairy of the waters with hornrimmed spectacles who tends to drip and be somewhat cranky when she’s held up in traffic trying to reach the christening. (Seriously, the whole thing is fabulous like that.)

The heroine, (Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne; a.k.a. “Amy”), the Ordinary Princess herself, is quite fun, and then the eventual hero, Peregrine! Oh my goodness, Peregrine was so wonderful! His lines, so British and fantastic, and only he would be met eating ice cream in the middle of the night in the midst of the leftovers of a banquet! So much wonderful. And they two of them together are just perfect and sweet and funny. I love them so much. ❀

The story itself is simply a rollick. The perfect fairytale mix of whimsical, fun, lovely, and slightly worried hoping everything will turn out all right, but being fairly sure it will, with a few twists which are absolutely perfect. (I know I keep using that word, but I will not apologize — I can’t think of a better one.)

The writing, style, setting, humor, sweetness, illustrations, characters, story, dialog — it’s just all so fantabulous, I can’t get over it!! *flails around*

I simply can’t describe how perfect it is, and the only thing for it is for you to read it yourself.

If you love fairytales new and old, fun little books, a touch of adorable sweet romance, a bit of “English” feeling and wonderful dialog and humor, and just an all around lovely read, you simply MUST read The Ordinary Princess! It’s sweet, adorable, lovely, gorgeous, hilarious, and just all-around PERFECT.

ordinaryprincess

…There is my fangirl gushing for the day. πŸ˜‰

It was just the perfect thing to read for this reading challenge, and February Fantasy Month and all! ^_^

***

I must say, I’ve been very much enjoying the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge, and all the little challenges, and everything, and will be sad to see its end. But enormous thanks to Grace @ Fictionally for hosting it! I’ve been having a blast! πŸ™‚

And although I sadly did not read all of the fantasy books I’d PLANNED to read, due to acquiring some different fantasy-ish books and reading them instead, I still have a few reviews to come in the next day or two! Since I did read The Castle Corona, Wolf Tower, and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, hopefully I’ll review those soon!

***

So how about you? Have you read The Ordinary Princess? What did you think? If not, then what are you waiting for, my good bookworms? Do not delay!

(But seriously though, READ THE ORDINARY PRINCESS. It’s so good. <3)

February-Fantasy-Month-Banner

Series Review: Jackaby, Beastly Bones, The Map, by William Ritter

jackaby1and2

Series: Jackaby

Titles: Jackaby (#1), Beastly Bones (#2), The Map (#1.5)

Author: William Ritter

review

Overall Thoughts

jkbybb

Okay, where do I even start? I’m addicted? I think I did overhype it to myself, so I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would? But I still enjoyed it a ton.

This is basically what would happen if a Sherlock Holmes type person could see supernatural/fantastical things and had a female assistant instead of Watson, and was in late 1800s America instead of England. I’ll admit that I’m addicted primarily because of Jackaby himself, since he’s the sort of character that I like to read, especially the bickerings between him and the heroine, Abigail, through whose eyes the story is told.

I’m also torn on the fact that Jackaby and Abigail aren’t a romantic item. There’s… ahem… someone else for Abigail. And while she and said person are admittedly adorable together, some little part of me still kind of almost wants her and Jackaby to be a thing, especially with the other little part of me that wonders if Jackaby kinda-sorta-likes-her even if he would obviously never notice/admit it. But that’s not a big deal. Their friendship/partnership is still great as-is, and in a way it makes it better, I suppose, since romance isn’t tangled in between. So I can get on board with that, I guess. And the vague romance bits are a very minor sideplot — these are mostly about the mysteries, which was kind of refreshing in a sense. πŸ™‚

Thoughts by Book

jackaby

Jackaby (#1)

5starrating

I loved the “feel” of this one. Despite the touch of American stuff, which gives it just enough of a different kind of flavor, it feels almost like Holmesian London, which was fantastic. You get a sort of dark, shadowy, cobblestone street at night under a moon and gas streetlamps sort of feeling, where there could be a murderer or a creature from fantasy legend (or both) lurking in every shadow or towering building, and it’s fantastic.

The mystery is intriguing, with just the right amount of hints and evidence and mystery, with the ordinary police force thinking it’s ordinary, and Jackaby insisting it was unnatural. I just loved it! It’s kind of creepy, but in that way that I like (normally I don’t like creepy stuff, but this felt just right, somehow, so I didn’t mind; it wasn’t terrifying, just eerie).

I guessed the main parts of the mystery. Which was fantastic. One likes to feel smart, you know? Though there were, of course, a couple things that made me go “OH, of course I should have gotten that!” But the main things… totally had it. (Or at least variations. Which is fun too, because there’s so many things it COULD be, all your various guesses, and then you’re like “ohhhh, it was THAT one!”) I’m kind of addicted to mysteries, suddenly… I must read more!

Also, can I just say, the supernatural/fantasy aspect with the legendary creatures bits and so on, was a lot of fun. Especially with a banshee and… well… the other certain creatures of Celtic and other folklore, which I will not give away in this review. πŸ˜‰ But suffice it to say, it was really cool reading about it and going “oh, yes, I know about those legends!” It makes one feel connected.

jkbybb2The dialog was fabulous, of course. Jackaby and Abigail and their interactions are just my favorite thing about it. And Jackaby’s weird house/office and his laboratory and weird mix of science and fantasy, and the duck, and the pond on the third floor, and Jenny is interesting, and I love how Jackaby accidentally blows things up and stuff when he’s trying to cook. (Paprika, not gunpowder, Jackaby!) It’s just kind of a glorious mess and I love it. ❀ So that part, with all the quirkiness of him and his life, was definitely far from a disappointment! I think Abigail handles it all rather well. XD

It’s also pretty hilarious/awesome his interactions with the actual police/detectives. They’re kind of wary and weary of him, and he’s just all chipper and “yep, let me just wander into the crime scene and poke around and it’s obviously a sinister creature who did this, by the way.” And the Inspector fellow is just like ready to strangle him. It’s awesome. Oh, and Charlie was a great character too! I guessed his twist too (or most of it) and… yes. Bwahaha. I really like his character. πŸ™‚ All the great characters!

Though I do wish we’d learn more about Jackaby himself! Since it’s all from Abigail’s point of view, we get little hints about him and his past and various things, but not nearly enough! I want backstory and reasons and his NAME and all the things about him being a seer and his history and everything and slkjdlkjdlkjl I just want to know about all the Jackaby things, please! *waits on the edge of my seat for book 3*

All in all, really enjoyed “Jackaby”!

beastlybones

Beastly Bones (#2)

4starrating

So even though this sequel kept me more hooked and turning pages faster than even the first one, I didn’t enjoy it as much as “Jackaby.” Possibly partly because of that… I don’t like being really stressed out by books? It went into a more creepy feeling than the first one, maybe? Other people might like this one even better, because it’s more “original” than the first book, but sometimes I prefer familiar to “original.”

It’s kind of hard to explain my thoughts on the book without giving major spoilers about the plot… but I’ll try.

I’m giving this one 4 stars primarily for Jackaby himself, of course, and how much I in general enjoyed his and Abigail’s and Charlie’s interactions with each other. As a sequel, I’m already immensely attached to this trio, so it was great to see them again and that’s the main reason. Part of the 4 stars is also, yes, for a couple of brilliant things in the plot, and for the fact that I couldn’t put it down, and for the humor/awesome dialog.

So if it had just been those things? Instant 5 star. As it was, I had complaints about this one, which might otherwise have dipped it into the three-star territory; and they’re probably all petty and inconsequential, but oh well. Also, I think that most of my complaints will be things in its favor from others’ points of view, because I’m an odd duck. πŸ˜› (My name is not Douglas, though. …Yes, I went there.)

For one thing, the setting was totally different than the first. I really enjoyed the London-esque feeling in the first, whereas this one was out in the American countryside and felt like it was trying and failing a bit, to be more like a western or… something? That was odd to me, and didn’t seem to fit the feel of the first one. (Like I said, others might find this cool/original.)

jkbybb3Then there was the fantastical/supernatural/fantasy element. In the first one, I really enjoyed the mentioned creatures/legends, because I felt like I knew them, and they were familiar. In this one, though, there were a bunch of weird random things, clever, yes, but some of them kind of creeped me out. So except for an eventual twist which did bring a fantasy creature I’m used to (and is a total spoiler but was kind of awesome and also terrible at the same time), I just felt… disconnected from the fantasy elements.

Also, in the first one, I could relate to Abigail pretty well most of the time, trying to find her way in a new place and deal with Jackaby. But in this one, it was all about her obsession with dinosaur bones and her wondering about being an independent woman. Now, no offense to anyone, but dinosaur bones bore me to death. I was just like can we please have something interesting now, please? And I think she was doing an okay job at being “independent” as a woman in the first one, without being stuck-up about it like these kinds of “strong women” do in books. In this one, there was this reporter lady who was feeding Abigail all these lines about such things, and I think Abigail did fine on her own before this lady came along. Ugh. So anyway, no to the dinosaur bones, until the twist in the plot (which I’d begun to predict–points for me! Though they really should have figured it out way earlier. EVIDENCE, peoples!) later in the story, which made it become interesting again. So that was kind of awesome. πŸ˜€ I won’t say anything more about it, but you’ll know when you read it. Fabulous. ❀

And then the characters. I didn’t like any of them.

…Okay, that may be harsh.

Obviously I still adore Jackaby, and also Charlie, and Abigail SOMETIMES… (we’ll get into that), and I have nothing against the old farmer, poor fellow. But everyone else I pretty much disliked, felt “meh” about, or loathed. Which is not good when I think you’re not supposed to? I’m sorry! I don’t usually rant, but pardon me for a moment while I rant about some characters, and I apologize to anyone who liked them.

Both the excavating fellows (forgot their names, sorry; I read this from the library and sent it back, so I don’t have the references for names or quotes — which is killing me because ALL THE AWESOME QUOTES WHICH I DON’T OWN) were awful — the younger one because I kept suspecting him of things because he was young/handsome/slightly slimy and very goodmannered, and the other because he was a total JERK who is simply painful to read about because he’s going around being grouchy and bullying everyone through contracts. I’ll admit he wasn’t so bad eventually, simply because the other characters wouldn’t play his game, but still. Bleh. It was awful with these dinosaur bone people treading all over this poor farmer guy’s rights and acting like they’re in charge. I hated that. They made me want to throw the book. Sometimes it’s just really hard to read things like that, for me at least.

The trapper fellow who was Jackaby’s friend was okay, but I never got into him. His accent was supposed to be some sort of mountain-man/western/southern/rural drawl thing, I think? Which I’ve never been into in print — it comes across as annoying to me, all the “ya’s” and… I don’t know, it doesn’t read well, somehow, and almost is demeaning because it’s almost like it’s being made fun of. I LIKE trappers/mountainmen/western/southern/rural people/places, but I don’t like when they seem backward. I don’t have anything against him, per se, I just didn’t click with him and thought it was weird that he and Jackaby were friends. The twist about HIM, I felt should have been all… “wow”? But I was just kind of “…um, okay then.” about it.

And then the reporter lady. UGH. I simply loathed her. And she’s supposed to be a likeable character, I think! But she just had this annoying “I do whatever I want” thing going and was always quipping things (kind of like Irene Adler in the Robert Downey Jr. movies, but without anything likeable about her) and annoying me over being a “strong heroine” sort of person who despises men and kept getting in the way and leading Abigail astray about poor Charlie (gaaahh.) and just… I loathed her. (And I don’t CARE what happened at the end, I still don’t like her and it can’t make me, and I suppose I should feel bad but I don’t.) She made me want to throw the book again. (I didn’t. It’s a library book. And I wouldn’t actually throw books because that would be wrong because books are still precious things even when one does loathe characters in them. But still.)

And I was annoyed at Abigail a good bit in this one. I liked her fine in the first book, and occasionally in this, but sometimes I just wanted to smack her in the back of the head with a noodle and go ABIGAIL COME ON. It’s petty, I suppose, but I wanted her to dislike the nasty characters as much as I did, but she was too patient with them. Okay, so that’s not good reason; I must be a horrible person. But really, did she have to put up with them?? And the bone obsession, which like I said, I just couldn’t understand. Mostly, though, her pigheadedness about Charlie through most of it. JUST MARRY HIM ALREADY, WOMAN. (Okay, so I have a slight uncertainty about that too because I kind of like the idea of her and Jackaby, too. Oh well. I apparently can’t decide. But still.) Though I must admit that a lot of this made for some really excellent scenes, where she was half getting romantic advice from Jackaby on the subject and he was just like “oh my goodness please no do not involve me seriously why are you doing this to me just stop” but at the same time giving her almost advice and it was hilarious and awesome. XD And then the ending… yes. All of the yes. With the train and all. πŸ˜€ *cackles*

But my goodness, I didn’t mean to turn this into a bashing party. I’m sorry! The book is actually quite good, I couldn’t stop reading it, it was very absorbing, and I really loved lots of it! It just wasn’t quite as amazing as the first one, to me. Like I said, though, I bet that all of the things I disliked about it, will probably not be a problem to other readers, so don’t let me stop you from reading/loving this book. It’s definitely an intriguing book, and I’m not going to stop reading Jackaby things because like I said, I’m addicted… I guess I just feel strongly about this book in many ways, which is actually a good thing!

And I can’t really be too mad at any of the problems, because then along comes Jackaby and some of the banter and I’m just “yep, I love this so much.” So.

BOOK THREE RIGHT NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

themap

The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)

5starrating

Oh my word, this story! GAH. *huggles it* Okay, so it’s a short story/novella type thing, which is free on Kindle, set between Jackaby and Beastly Bones. It’s a short, fun read, and has an even different feel than the other two, but I simply LOVED it.

It’s Abigail’s birthday, and Jackaby takes her on a treasure hunt with an old map and fantastical things ensue. But get this: it’s entirely based around trying to find the treasure from the Irish song “Whiskey in the Jar.” This kind of totally made my day!!! Just… the idea of it. I suppose for anyone who reads it who’s not familiar with the song, they’d just be like “whaaat?” but since I grew up on old Irish songs and always loved that one, it was simply fabulous.

I hardly have anything to say on this one because I don’t want to ruin any of the plot, but it was just a rollick and I loved it. It had its share of perils and such, but mostly it was just an excuse for Jackaby and Abigail to go on an adventure together and interact, which was just so much FUN! I think sometimes, some of my favorite character pairings/groups could just do NOTHING plot-wise and I’d still enjoy it. In a way, big scary mysteries/adventures/problems which constitute “plot” can even take away from the fun of simple character interaction which is my favorite part of some things.

(Like in Avengers 2, my favorite part is when they’re hanging out together trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, just bickering and having fun. It’s the BEST! I’d watch a whole movie about them hanging out; it’s almost not as fun when they have to go do PLOT things… So, just an example.)

Anyways, it’s so worth it just to see them interact, but the rest of the plot is fun too, and the hints from the song (some of which I guessed), and the touch of almost-steampunk with an airship and all, and the goblins with their semi-Scottish accents which was so fun to read, and THAT ENDING. So much. ❀

Basically, READ IT. It’s just fabulous and I adore it to bits.

summary

From Goodreads:

Jackaby (#1)

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Beastly Bones (#2)

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gad’s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)

Abigail hopes that her birthday will slip by unnoticed and uncelebrated, but her employer, detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby, has other plans. Using magical party crackers that teleport the pair to unknown destinations in time and space and a cryptic map that may lead to a forgotten treasure, Jackaby intends to give Abigail what he considers to be the best gift of all–adventure.

Abigail and Jackaby must tame an enormous (and carnivorous) rabbit, defend a castle, and master a dirigible if they want to find the treasure and get back to New Fiddleham alive.

factoids

Genre/Category: Mystery, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy (also The Map had a touch of possibly Steampunk?)

Age Group: Young Adult (From my memory, they’re quite clean, which made me happy!)

Published: 2014, 2015, 2015, respectively

Pages: 299 hardcover (Jackaby), 295 hardcover (Beastly Bones), 57 kindle (The Map) (651 pages total, so far)

Series: Jackaby series list on Goodreads. These 2 and a half will be followed by a 3rd novel, Ghostly Echoes, releasing August 23, 2016 (I NEED IT YESTERDAY OH MY GOODNESS)

When Read: February 7-8, February 10, and February 12, respectively

Favorite Character: JACKABY (I’ll be honest, Charlie is also awesome)

Other Notes: Got the novels from the library, and the novella free on Kindle!

Cupcake awards to anyone who made it through reading this whole post.

(I should probably rethink my idea of doing a “series review” when I actually have a lot to say about each of the books… But I just like this idea of doing it all at once, so I did it anyway. :P)


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

Series Review: The Snow Spider, Emlyn’s Moon, The Chestnut Soldier, by Jenny Nimmo

mgcntrilogy

Series: The Magician Trilogy

Titles: The Snow Spider (#1), Emlyn’s Moon (#2), The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

Author: Jenny Nimmo

review

Overall Thoughts

These were slim books, each of which I read in a sitting, and I was in the mood for some short reads, so that was nice. I’m not sure what I think of them overall? I mean… I enjoyed them okay, some of the writing was lovely, and it’s obvious that they’re not meant to be taken too seriously — just fun adventures written for kids.

They follow a modern Welsh boy (Gwyn) from age eight to thirteen, as he discovers he’s the seventh descendant from the last magician in his family line — which has a magician every seven generations since a Welsh magician of legend named Gwydion. So Gwyn has inherited his ancestor’s magic in his blood, and he has to learn responsibility for it and how to look out for his friends and occasionally fight fantastical things, while trying to keep it all from the various relations/neighbors who, due to the modern setting, don’t understand these things. The usual. πŸ˜‰

I did really like the Welsh setting. I’ve read a few books, now, set in semi-modern-day Wales (these particular ones were from the 1980s) and they all had a similar “feel,” so I found that to be neat. The ancient craggy hills, the wild wind, the old legends creeping into modern day, the sort of almost-lilt of the slightly-odd way they talk even in English, and the occasional smattering of Welsh words dropped here or there.

It may just be the shortness of the books, but I did often feel like things were rushed or not explained well enough. Some of it was super vague and I was confused about what was going on a lot. But like I said, they don’t seem like they’re supposed to be super in-depth. Still, a bit more of explaining things might have been nice. Some of the characters seemed to change randomly, which was weird? But that might have been just me. Sometimes it just felt oddly… unfinished.

One thing that I didn’t like so much, and is a common problem in contemporary novels (one of the reasons I avoid them generally) was the dysfunctional/not getting along of families. Though at least these each tended to focus on one family/problem per book, and generally sorted out most of it by the end, so that was good. I do like seeing repaired families. πŸ™‚ Still, it’s rather difficult for me to get through the stuff before, in order to get there. I just… don’t enjoy reading that stuff. (Some people call it “conflict” and insist that books need that sort of thing. I believe there can be plenty of “conflict” without that sort of uncomfortable mess.) So, one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” sort of things for these books and me.

I quite loved the scraps of Celtic legend thrown in here and there, weaving into the story. That was great! I’m trying to remember specific things it mentioned that I knew about… But anyway, I feel like there were a few things I’d read of before, and even if I hadn’t, it felt… comfortable. In that eerie, mysterious Celtic way, you know. I’m just used to such myths and legends and it feels quite natural to have them built in like this. So that was enjoyable for me.

Oh, and something that really annoyed me (I know it’s inconsequential, sorry) was the excessive use of exclamation marks after dialog. I think it was just an ’80s thing and/or a children’s-book thing, but it felt like they were always quipping or yelling, even though they weren’t supposed to be, and it felt kind of condescending. But that’s just a minor issue and I eventually got mostly used to it. Still, thought I’d mention it.

So… I don’t know, a bit of a mixed bag. There were a few things I really enjoyed about it, but a lot of the overall feeling was one of incomplete meh-ness… but I dunno. By the end of the trilogy I did realize I’d become somewhat attached to the setting and some of the characters. It just felt kind of homey. I think I’ve figured out that happens to me for most things I spend three books in. πŸ˜‰

I’m not sure I particularly recommend them? But some people who like modern fantasy, and don’t mind small books about very young kids written for a younger age, might enjoy them. I’m not sorry I read them, or anything, and found some enjoyment for myself, they’re just not 100% my “thing” and I don’t know if they’d be others’ either.

Additional Notes on Each Book

snowspider

The Snow Spider (#1)

3starrating

I remember starting this out, accidentally, late one night, and then staying up to finish it. I was thinking, near the end, of possibly giving it 4 stars, since it was rather intriguing and some of the writing was pretty, and I tend to be fairly generous in my star-ratings. Then the ending was a little flat for me, so I settled on 3 stars. It’s not a bad book, it was just… okay for me. I wished a few things had turned out slightly different, and some of it wasn’t well explained. But I did enjoy it okay and it kept me interested, and the Welsh setting/legends were fantastic. (It’s also quite appropriate how Gwyn’s birthday/when people disappear and all, is on Samhain.)

emlynsmoon

Emlyn’s Moon (#2)

3starrating

This was mostly from the POV of Nia, a girl minorly mentioned in the first book. I think I wasn’t expecting that. This one actually reminded me a lot of the Julia Redfern books by Eleanor Cameron (just add a little magic). About a very young, very reckless/hotheaded girl who gets into scrapes, though her continued lying got to me a little, especially since half the time I really understood it, and half the time I… didn’t. I also loved Nia’s art school project part of the plot — quite lovely (though with some misfortunes along the way. *wince*). It was also quite interesting to see the hero of the first book, Gwyn, from another perspective! And then there was Gwyn’s cousin, Emlyn. There could have been more to his story, but I enjoyed his part of it all the same. He was a great addition (I’m sorry, I can never resist the golden eyed/slightly troubled boys).

chestnutsoldier

The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

4starrating

I don’t really do half-stars but… this one might be 3.5? I think I overall liked it better than the first two, but I’m not sure if it quite reaches 4 star distinction? I don’t know. The plot was much more interesting to me though, the whole mystery/legend surrounding Evan, the strange distant “cousin” (he’s not actually) of Nia who comes to stay at their village. The fascinating question of who he was, when, and all, kept me quite interested. I did wish that Emlyn had been in it more — he barely showed up, it seemed to me. This one was rather scarier than the first two, perhaps, but it also had more of the Welsh things instead of just the silvery people from the first two. All in all, my favorite of the trilogy. By this time I’d become rather attached, methinks. Anyways, it had its problems, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit and was pretty satisfied, I think, with how it all turned out. πŸ™‚

summary

From Goodreads:

The Snow Spider (#1)

1snspOn Gwyn’s 9th birthday, his grandmother tells him he may be a magician, like his Welsh ancestors. She gives him five gifts to help him–a brooch, a piece of dried seaweed, a tin whistle, a scarf, and a broken toy horse. One blustery day, unsure what to do with his newfound magic, Gwyn throws the brooch to the wind and receives a silvery snow spider in return. Will he be able to use this special spider to bring his missing sister, Bethan, home? THE SNOW SPIDER spins an icy, sparkly web of mystical intrigue that sets the stage for the next two books in this outstanding trilogy.

Emlyn’sΒ  Moon (#2)

2emmnYoung magician Gywn and his friend Nia have been warned to stay away from Emlyn Llewelyn, the strange boy who claims his mother lives on the moon. And yet, a mysterious magic continues to draw them to him. But why? It’s up to Gwyn and Nia to solve the mystery, with the help of Arianwen, the Snow Spider. Readers will race along with Gwyn in this fantastic magical adventure to rescue Emlyn and his family before it’s too late.

The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

3chsdrGwyn can feel danger coming in the wind. Somehow he knows the warnings have to do with the broken toy horse that holds the evil spirit of a prince who lived long ago. When Gwyn discovers that the prince’s dark soul has escaped from the horse and is seeking revenge Gwyn, Emlyn, and Nia have to figure out how to save the mysterious soldier who claims to be Nia’s distant cousin. With the help of the Snow Spider, can they recapture the prince’s soul without hurting the Chestnut soldier?

factoids

Genre/Category: Contemporary Fantasy

Age Group: Middle Grade

Published: 1986, 1987, 1989

Pages: 128 hardback, 154 hardback, 203 paperback (485 total)

Series: The Magician Trilogy (also called the Snow Spider Trilogy). List on Goodreads.

When Read: February 6, February 20, February 22, respectively (2016)

Favorite Character: Humm… Well, I liked Emlyn in the middle book, and in the final, I’d say Evan (sometimes… whenever he was… ahem… himself).

Other Notes: Book 1 I got from the library; book 2 was given to me; I found book 3 at a library sale.

Read for the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge hosted by Grace @ Fictionally. (This is my first review for the mini-challenge… I will hopefully have a few more coming this week! Don’t worry, there will be some medieval fantasy adventures too. ;))


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

Ten Books I Enjoyed Last Year Outside My Typical Reading Zone

Here’s a list of books I read last year that were not what I typically read, but which I enjoyed all the same… mostly contemporary stuff because I’m not big into the genre but dabbled in it more recently. (Fantasy of a vaguely medieval nature is pretty much my genre, so some things outside it I just consider “weird.)

(Please note that I almost included several Diana Wynne Jones books, because they pretty much defy genre… but Diana Wynne Jones is a distinct category/genre herself in my mind, so that doesn’t count as being outside my typical reading zone, because I’ll read anything with her name on it. So I’m excluding those. We’ve got to be fair to the other poor books…)

The first six are Contemporary, but I’m dividing them into straightforward contemporary fiction, and contemporary fantasy. I don’t know why, but there’s somehow a HUGE difference…

CONTEMPORARY

heist society

Heist Society / Uncommon Criminals / Perfect Scoundrels / Double Crossed (free short story on Kindle) – by Ally Carter

5starratingI know, I’m cheating slightly with a series… But I have to put them all here together in place of one. These were so much fun. YA heist/con-artist books, clean and fun, and well-written — the writing is sort of humorous and just… yes. I quite enjoyed them and wish there were more! Also notable for a certain character, namely Hale, who is awesome. (What is his first name?? We may never know…)

31ThePenderwicksInSpring

The Penderwicks in Spring – Jeanne Birdsall

5starratingI waited so long for this book and was delighted with it. In a sense, I almost SHOULDN’T have liked it because some of it was sad or bittersweet, but it was also so hilarious and awesome and PENDERWICK-y, even though it’s set several years after the other books. Also all of the myriad of characters were so distinct and their storylines were seamlessly juggled and just gaaah, can I sign up somewhere to write this well??

CONTEMPORARY FANTASY

bookofsight

The Book of Sight (5 stars) / The Broken Circle (3 stars) / The Secret Source (4 stars) – by Deborah Dunlevy (On Goodreads)

Again with the contemporary… but I just really enjoyed these, especially the first one. For absolutely no reason. But just… it makes me happy. A group of friends and their interactions with various fantastical creatures/happenings. I’m dying to read the fourth one, still… whyyy have I not found time to read it yet?

whitecat

White Cat / Red Glove / Black Heart (The Curseworkers Trilogy) – by Holly Black

4starratingOh my goodness, how do I even start? Um. These are super dark YA, I don’t even think they should be considered YA? But despite the darkness/content and stuff, I couldn’t help really having a blast with them. (They’re even in first-person-present-tense, which I generally hate? But I just forgot while I was reading.) The hero, Cassel, is just so snarky and hilarious and unfortunate, and the series is… I don’t know. It’s mafia crime family con-artists with magic. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE. The magic is fascinating — like, there’s four or five different “types” and people are born with different kinds, and everyone wears gloves because the magic comes from the touch of hands. These books I feel like could teach me a lot about pacing and stakes and stuff, for my writing, because just everything comes at our poor hero all at once! My goodness. I can’t fully recommend them due to content, but I really enjoyed them aside from that. But yes, definitely outside my genre/comfort zone; but I’m glad I read ’em all the same. I picked up the first one on the sole recommendation of Cait’s review on Goodreads… After I read it, I thought I didn’t need to bother reading the other two. …Then the next day I realized I was really MISSING this world! Ack. So I got the other two from the library as soon as I could, and devoured them both in a day. Sigh. Addiction is bad, isn’t it? *shakes head at self* I really hope the author will write sequels or spinoffs or something, but I doubt she will…

37TheGrimmLegacy

The Grimm Legacy – Polly Shulman

4starratingThere’s a sort of lending library of magical artifacts from fairytales, in modern-day New York… This one was fun, I enjoyed it, though I feel like it had potential to be more, if you know what I mean? But it was good. Also Aaron.

65ScepterOfTheAncients

Scepter of the Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant #1) – Derek Landy

4starratingThis was so bizarre but I adored it all the same, because of the fantastic witty banter/dialog/snark from Skulduggery Pleasant himself. It’s set in modern-day Dublin, which is so cool, and Skulduggery is awesome, even if IS a… erm… skeleton. He’s also a detective and has the best lines and this was just rather fun even though it was also kind of scary.

…STUFF

39Illusionarium

Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

5starratingI’m considering steampunk odd/outside my general reading because I’ve only read a handful. This was my first, and I loved it so so much. (For those who haven’t, you can read my incoherent fangirl babbles on this book on my other blog.) But briefly: steampunk and alternate worlds and science-y/magic-y illusion things and sarcastic footnotes by the narrator, our hero Jonathan who’s wonderful, and then of course my favorite thing about it, the character named Lockwood who is just the best ever.

53Plenilune

Plenilune – Jennifer Freitag

5starratingUm… it’s a historical-fiction 1800s turned epic medieval fantasy on the moon story? That’s… not exactly a genre I read a lot of, since it kind of doesn’t exist. It was way too long and exhausting to read because it was so beautifully written, but a lot of it was brilliant all the same, and I really love one and a half of the characters. (Dammerung is the best ever, okay? And Rupert and I have a complicated relationship. BUT DAMMERUNG. <3)

10SkinMap

The Skin Map – Stephen R. Lawhead

5starratingOh my goodness, so much genre mashing in this one too! It defies category… It starts out Contemporary England, and then becomes some odd mix of sci-fi/fantasy with time-travel and alternate time-lines and it’s a mess and I love it so much. I need to read the rest of this series… Also it’s brilliantly written and at times hilarious and so exciting and edge-of-your seat, and the CHARACTERS are just the best.

20Frederica

Frederica – Georgette Heyer

5starratingI don’t read regency romance that often, but this one was so much fun. The family dynamics in this were the best, it was sort of like E. Nesbit meets Jane Austen sort of thing… But the hero, Lord Alverstoke, was one of those kind of awful characters you love all the same (looking at YOU, Howl…) and he and the heroine and her siblings were just… awwwk, the best. *flails around* There is also a hot air balloon. What is not to love. Shenanigans and romance ensue. It’s fabulous and I need to read more of this author.

Do you have a comfort zone/genre of books that you tend to read? Do you step out of it sometimes and are the results good or bad?

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books and Songs

TopTenTues

The theme of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (a weekly book/list linkup at The Broke and The Bookish) is Books and Music. There are various spins on it being done, and I’m going to do a mix of them.

This is going to be a mixed back of song-ish books I’ve read, want to read, and then some songs at the end which should be books.

On that note, I just know there are tons of awesome songs/ballads I’ve heard, mostly Celtic ones, that would make absolutely fabulous books. But I’m having a really hard time thinking of any just now.

The curious things about songs, though, is that they’re usually already perfect in song form.

And as much as it would be awesome to have some of them as books, it’s never going to equal the awesomeness of the song itself and may in fact take away from it in some ways. Songs and books are quite different forms…

Anyways, on with the varied list…

BOOKS I’VE READ

themap

1. The Map: A Jackaby Story by William Ritter

Oh my word, this story. It’s a shortish, novella-type adventure that goes with the Jackaby series (and it’s free on Kindle!) and I absolutely adored it. It’s not exactly based on a song, but it’s based around a song… which was so much fun. The premise basically is that they’re going after the treasure from the song Whiskey in the Jar. So much awesome. (Hopefully I’ll review the series sometime…)

orphanssong

2. Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams

This has a large music theme (obviously) and I loved it so so much. *hugs book* I’ve always thought that music could go really well with fantasy settings and magic and that sort of thing, and this author pulls that off brilliantly.

fhemlock

3. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Not only is it based on fairytales that were I believe originally ballads (Tam Lin, Thomas the Rhymer), but it also has a lot of music involved since Tom plays the cello and there’s a whole . . . band . . . thing . . . going on. Anyways it’s awesome (and I reviewed it at length so obviously I love it a lot).

BOOKS I’VE NOT READ

SONGKEEPER-FRONT-COVER

4. Songkeeper by Gillian Bronte Adams

…Speaking of Orphan’s Song… I just heard that the sequel, Songkeeper, has a release date! April 15th! That’s definitely a date going on my calendar. I’ve been dying for this book to come out ever since I finished the last page of Orphan’s Song, and it’s coming sooooon!!! I’m so excited. (It will also be very songish, I’m sure.)

hwmn

5. The Highwayman’s Footsteps by Nicola Morgan

I… haven’t read this one yet, so I can speak as to its quality or exact plot, but I hear tell that it’s in some way based on The Highwayman, a fabulous/tragic poem by Alfred Noyes, immortalized, for me, by Loreena McKennitt’s brilliant, gorgeous, haunting sung version of it. I’ve always thought it would make a great book so I’m very much looking forward to this novel inspired by it.

SONGS THAT SHOULD BE BOOKS

(These are probably bad examples… I wish I could think of more…)

6. The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Speaking of Loreena McKennitt… (Listen to parts of the songs I mention in this post, on her website.) She did a great, haunting version of this song. It’s a tragic song, and might better make a tragic backstory for a book than for a book itself? (I’m thinking like… a fantasy book based on it. I know it’s based on historical stuff but it would be funner this way. XD) But it feels like it needs to be involved in a book somehow… even if it would be rather grim.

7. Raglan Road

Again, Loreena sang a great version of this poem by Patrick Kavanagh. There’s just something intriguing about it. I don’t know how much of a story it could make in book form, but there’s an eerie feel to it and it could make a fabulous mystery/fantasy/romance type book similar to Tam Lin, perhaps?

8. Bold Jamie

This is a song by Cara Dillon (one of my favorite singers!) about a young man wrongfully accused of stealing many things, including a man’s daughter. I just think it could make an interesting book, or any of a hundred other fabulous Celtic ballads involving thieves or… things like that.

9. Stolen Child

I believe it was by William Butler Yeats but Loreena McKennitt did a fabulous version of it too. (Yes, she turned a LOT of great book-worth poems into songs, and has some great originals of her own as well. So much good material.)

10. The King of the Fairies (melody)

Aaand I’m just going to throw out there that there should be a book named after The King of the Fairies, which is a fabulous tune.

***

Like I said, I’m having a hard time coming up with songs. I KNOW there are a ton of awesome ones! Oh well… that’s a start, anyhow. πŸ™‚ (Basically LET’S HAVE BOOKS BASED ON ALL THE LOREENA MCKENNITT SONGS AND ALL THE AWESOME CELTIC BALLADS. This should be a genre. *nods seriously*)

…And now I have like half a dozen new plot bunnies that want me to write them. Fabulous. -_- Heehee… Writers lead perilous lives: anything can provide inspiration! πŸ˜‰

Tales of Old (Fantasy Love Feb. Mini-Challenge 3)

FantasyLoveFebruaryReadingChallenge

A brief post today…

The mini-challenge of the third week of the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge is to read an original fairy tale (Grimm… Hans Christian Anderson…) and then to answer the following questions. (Ooh, I like this one. :))

I’ve read most of the “classic” ones, and was at a loss as to which fairy tale to read (especially since I figured I’d be tempted to pick The Twelve Dancing Princesses, as my favorite… but I’ve already read every version of that I can find, so…), but I remembered that awhile back I’d been in the middle of reading through a collection called “The World’s Best Fairy Tales“, and hadn’t finished. So I pulled it from my shelf and opened it where I’d left off…

1. What fairy tale did you read?

The Tinderbox (Hans Christian Anderson; the book said it was from the Andrew Lang collection). It’s the one about the soldier, the tinderbox (naturally), the princess, and the three dogs with the interestingly large eyes… (Teacups, saucers, and millstones or towers were I believe the operative words…) It sort of sticks in your mind once you’ve read it!

2. Did you enjoy it?

I’d say so. It’s kind of odd, as many fairytales are, but I vaguely recall a shortened, illustrated version of it from a collection of children’s tales and verse, which I remember I loved. It has some similarities to a few other fairy tales, like perhaps Aladdin and his lamp, though obviously I — as a person rabidly mildly interested with The Twelve Dancing Princesses — ended up noticing that it has a slight resemblance to that… opening with a soldier meeting an old woman, and having an underground place with an emphasis on three areas and having copper, silver, and gold, and a princess who her parent(s) are worried about going out at night. …Okay, so maybe I’m over-thinking it. πŸ˜‰ Anyways, it’s a short tale, and interesting, with an occasional amusing turn of phrase. I’m not the biggest fan of Anderson, and some of it’s… weird… but still pretty fun. πŸ™‚

3. If there is a movie version of it, which is better? If there’s not a movie version, do you think there should be an adaption?

If there is, I haven’t seen it… πŸ˜› And I think it would make an odd movie! There’s kind of not that much to it? But I supposed all adaptions of fairy tales manage to build more on the story than was originally there…

4. Is this the first original fairy tale you’ve read?

Not at all — I’ve read many others! πŸ™‚

5. Do you want to read any more original tales now?

Yes, I hope to read many more in the future! Fairy tales are fascinating. πŸ™‚

***

In case you can’t tell, I’m having a lot of fun being a part of these Fantasy Love February challenges. πŸ˜€