Tag Archives: magic adventure

Friday Faceoff – Happy Easter!

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is Easter, so I’ve chosen The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones.

 

This cover, produced by HarperCollins Children’s Books in April 2007 is a delight. It is stylish and quirky with an attractive colour palette and filled with images directly attributable to the book. As for the font – I think it is wonderful. Diana Wynne Jones wrote books unlike any other and this twirling font manages to evoke the sheer difference of her writing. A wonderful effort and my favourite by a whisker.

 

 

This Finnish edition, produced by WSOY in May 2011 is another beautiful design that runs the above offering a very, very close second. It is so cleverly done, with all sorts of allusions to the magical story popping up around the main font and a lovely ethereal landscape as the background. These are both two outstanding covers and do full justice to the book, in my opinion.

 

 

This cover, once again, is closely aligned to the book and its content – the main protagonists feature right in the forefront and the artwork is well done. The egg looks amazing and I don’t think you could look at this book and have any doubt that it is a fantasy story about a magical egg. The cover design is also very well balanced – the main reason why this one isn’t my favourite is because I envisaged Chrestomanci looking just a little less saturnine and a little more kind, which is an entirely personal reaction.

 

This is the cover design, produced by Harper Collins in 2006, that features on the book we own. Again, it’s a solidly good design – featuring Diana Wynne Jones name so prominently is a good marketing ploy as catching sight of that had me swooping down on this one from across the bookshop and plucking it off the shelves. But while it is far simpler than the other offerings, it still makes it quite clear this is a book featuring a magical egg.

All these eggy covers are well designed, with thought and care for the book’s genre and all are attractive, but which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Magic in the City by Heather Dyer

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I would like to claim that I requested this one from Netgalley because I was mindful that it was one of my yearly targets to extend my reading of children’s fiction – but it wouldn’t be true. I picked it out because I liked the cover. So would this most shallow of reasons pay off?

Brothers Jake and Simon Grubb are not happy they have to leave their home in Canada to move in with their cousin Hannah and her family in England. But things get interesting for the boys when, on the way there, they encounter a retiring magician at a highway rest stop who presents them with three gifts he claims have magical properties: a carpet, a camera and a stopwatch. Unfortunately, the magician doesn’t provide them with any instructions. So when the boys and Hannah find themselves being swept away on a wild adventure fueled by the magic in these curious objects, they have to learn as they go. But who cares when it’s this exciting!

I found the three child protagonists all appealing and believable. The boys, in particular, I thought were done well. I also very much liked the way Dyer handled the major life event that brought the boys and their mother across to resettle in Britain – I had assumed one thing was the problem, but it turned out to be something quite different. And I also liked the way Jake’s mind worked in his attempts to fix things – it was such a childlike way of looking at how to deal with it. Dyer has clearly spent time around children of this age and manages to depict them in crisis without assuming they will behave as adults do – they don’t. She also managed to show the depth of their trauma without telling us, so if the readers don’t know what they are looking at, they’ll likely miss it. Which is just fine as far as I’m concerned. Young readers without this sort of damage in their lives won’t necessarily pick up the extent of their suffering.

Dyer also serves up a fair dollop of humour along with the chaos and excitement. I love the depiction of the Queen – whether or not it’s correct, I thought it was a delight. Overall, this is a charming, enjoyable book that delivers an engrossing magical adventure with some hefty family issues wrapped up in the story that will speak to the many fatherless children out there. Recommended for independent readers between eight and eleven years old, depending on maturity.

While I obtained the arc of Magic in the City from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook A Darker Shade of Magic – Book 1 of the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab

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This is another book that’s been tucked away in my TBR pile for far too long – so I gave myself a treat and dusted it off for a train journey to London. Would it keep me suitably engrossed?

adarkershadeofmagicKell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

That is most of the rather chatty blurb, which gives an idea of the intriguing backdrop to the mayhem. I  love the idea of the parallel worlds that have been influenced by an escape of magic, which is both sentient and hungry. If magic-wielders aren’t sufficiently powerful, or too dark, then the magic turns carnivorous with some nasty consequences.

When one of the most powerful magic-users in the land, used as a courier to hop between worlds, goes on indulging in some risky behaviour, he finally finds sufficient danger to satisfy him. Indeed, he finds more than he can cope with… Schwab’s characters are well depicted. Kell’s smuggling is depicted such that I found myself completely sympathising with him – and I generally have little sympathy with rule-breakers and rebels as protagonists. And I plain fell in love with Lila – madcap adrenaline junkie and dreamer who’d rather go out in a blaze of glory than continue trudging in gritted misery to make ends meet.

This grimdark fantasy quickly hooked my attention and as the body count started to rise and an evil plot was uncovered, I was hoping the train journey wouldn’t end too soon – not normally my attitude at the end of a packed day in London. The pace quickly picked up and the plot cantered along at a clip. While I generally don’t enjoy antagonists who revel in their wickedness – most people simply aren’t like that – there are occasions when a thoroughly psychotic villain does tick the box. In this book, there are a pair of them and it is a testament to Schwab’s imaginative ingenuity that she manages to give us a very powerful magic-user and then provides two terrifying characters who are capable of overwhelming him.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to getting caught up in the next slice of the adventure where this well thought out magic system prevails. If you haven’t yet encountered this one, then get hold of it – the magical laws and characters are a delight.
9/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – August Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. During August, I managed to read 3 Discovery Challenge books, which takes my yearly total so far to 25 books read by women I haven’t previously encountered.

Across the Universe – Book 1 of Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and acrosstheuniverseexpects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone—one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship —tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

This YA generational ship adventure manages to evoke a real sense of claustrophobia as Amy views with increasing horror the way society has evolved during her long sleep. The shocking ending means that I hope to be able to revisit this entertaining series before too long.

 

The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
the1000thfloorWelcome to Manhattan, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose. Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched. Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart. Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one? Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies. And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

We’ve all seen the plot device on CSI – the episode starts with one of main characters in a burning building/being shot/another horrible situation, and then the narrative jumps back in time to lead up to that particular point… And this is exactly what McGee has done with her debut novel. The book opens with a beautiful young girl plummeting to her death from the top of the tallest building in New York – and then the narration jumps back two months to introduce us to a cast of characters whose lives intertwine in a variety of ways.

 

The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat
Izzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange thingsthechangelings start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door. Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.

Soontornvat’s pacing is nicely judged throughout in this children’s fantasy adventure. Layers of information unpeel along the way, as we need to know about it, rather than enduring any semi-omniscient info dumps so often occurring in children’s books. An entertaining read for the age group who are ready for Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men.

 

Tackling my TBR
This is in response to my habit of continually gathering up new books – and not reading them. I want try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, so I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them. Except that during August, I was so busy reading Netgalley arcs and other review copies, I only managed one book – Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

Sunday Post – 4th September

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Sunday PostThis is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Firstly, a massive thank you for all the kind encouraging messages I received last week. I was blown away by everyone’s kindness. As for the situation – it isn’t going to sort itself out in a hurry, but at least I now don’t feel quite so overwhelmed. Regarding my mega-rewrite, I managed to complete the first draft in the early hours of Monday morning. I haven’t yet returned to look at it in detail – I need to get some distance from the words before I start the editing round – but my sense is that the book is tighter and sharper. I shed 12,000 words from the manuscript, so it is certainly leaner. In the meantime, I’m cracking on with my course notes for the beginning of term later this month.

My summer break is definitely over. I attended a training session at Northbrook College on Tuesday afternoon and my wonderful friend, Mhairi, came over for the day on Wednesday, offering tea and sympathy on industrial quantities. We even managed to get some work done.

This week-end I’m back in granny mode as the grandchildren have come to stay for the last time before they restart school, along with my niece so we have a houseful. Lovely! Now all we need is the rain to stop…

This week I’ve only managed to read:
League of Dragons – Book 9 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
The deadly campaign in Russia has cost both Napoleon and those allied against him. Napoleon has been leagueofdragonsdenied his victory…but at a terrible price. Lawrence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the fleeing French army back west, but are demoralized when Napoleon makes it back to Paris unscathed. Worse, they soon learn that the French have stolen Termeraire and Iskierka’s egg. Now, it is do or die, as our heroes not only need to save Temeraire’s offspring but also to stop Napoleon for good!

I’ve loved this Napoleonic alternate history series, where dragons are pressed into service in the battle between the French and British armies as troop carriers and bombers. In League of Dragons Novik has brought Temeraire’s adventures back full circle to the European theatre of war and finished the dragon’s story arc in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this series, it comes highly recommended.

 

 

The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat
thechangelingsIzzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange things start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door. Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.

This entertaining children’s offering is a delight, with a strong fast-paced story, appealing protagonist and sufficient twists to keep me reading far later than I should to discover what happens. I shall be reviewing this book in the coming week.

 

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 28th August

Review of League of Dragons – Book 9 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

Teaser Tuesday – featuring The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep

Friday Faceoff – Hell is Empty and All the Demons Are Here… featuring The Amulet of Samarkand – Book 1 of The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud

The Versatile Blogger Award

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Harry Potter Month (30) https://lynns-books.com/2016/08/30/harry-potter-month-30/
Lynn has unearthed this very amusing piece of nonsense which had me giggling…

10 x 10 + 1 = The 101th Dalmation – Give it a sniff –
http://marelithalkink.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/10-x-10-1-101th-dalmation-give-it-sniff.html?spref=tw This amusing and accomplished post by Mareli was to celebrate her 100th blog post. With material like this, no wonder her blog is growing so fast…

Calling All Applicants – http://writerunboxed.com/2016/08/30/calling-all-applicants/
Steven James writes a wry article about the joys of writing..

How to Plan Your Glacier National Park Family Vacation Including the Best Hikes for YOU, Camping and Relaxing – https://roamwildandfree.com/2016/08/31/how-to-plan-your-glacier-national-park-family-vacation-including-the-best-hikes-for-you-camping-and-relaxing/ Yes – I’ll grant you the title doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but once more Becca and Alex demonstrate their experience and common sense approach to travelling – along with breathtaking pics…

Presumptions https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/09/01/presumptions/ Jean writes an honest, unsentimental account suffused with love on the challenges she faces bringing up a daughter and twin boys. And the writing is wonderful, too…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Teaser Tuesday – 21st June, 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
6%: He zooms forward so quickly I lose sight of him. I stumble back from the magicbitterwoods’ edge, my heart in my throat as he appears before me, his face close to mine. His hands jut forward as though to grab my shoulders, but he is as ephemeral as a spectre, and they pass right through me.
“Your name!” he shouts, breathless. “Your name, tell me your name!”

BLURB: Maire is a baker with an extraordinary gift: she can infuse her treats with emotions and abilities, which are then passed on to those who eat them. She doesn’t know why she can do this and remembers nothing of who she is or where she came from. And then this ghostly winged man starts to appear to her – and nothing is the same, again…

I’ve significantly tweaked the blurb, because once again, it insists on telling one of the major plotpoints in the narrative that I think is far better experienced as a reader. This book is an interesting approach to the slew of fairytale retellings we’ve seen appear – a story that weaves a path between a number of them… It is a tale of loss and longing and Maire’s struggle to recall who she is and what has happened to her. I’ve really enjoyed reading it and my review will be appearing shortly.

Review of The Witches Revenge – Book 2 of the Beaver Towers series by Nigel Hinton

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Oscar and I completed Beaver Towers and immediately he wanted to continue with Philip’s adventures, so we went straight onto The Witches Revenge. Would he find it just as exciting?

witchesrevengeSomeone is following Philip – someone who wants revenge. He must get back to Beaver Towers, where his animal friends can help him. But are they strong enough to fight the evil magic of the witch?

This book starts with a bang. We discover that Philip has been having a rough time of it since he returned home after an absence of three days, as no one believes his tale of having been whisked away by a magic kite into a land where animals talk and a wicked witch is threatening their lives. He ends up being forbidden to mention his silly stories – so when he feels sure he spots Oyen, the shape-shifting witch in the street, there is no one who he can turn to for help. The scene in the house, where he is alone and terrified, is genuinely frightening and reads really well.

The antics of Baby B, the small beaver who befriended Philip, are something of a relief from all the tension. Until Oyen follows Philip back to the magic island, that is… Hinton has an easy, unfussy writing style that covers a lot of ground in a relatively short space of time – a real advantage when writing for newly independent readers.

While the climax in the last book was a tad rushed, the scene that provides the finale to this adventure is far better paced and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. All in all, this second book is an excellent addition to the series, providing plenty of action and excitement, with lots of humour and the sense that Philip isn’t going to come to any lasting harm.
9/10

Review of the KINDLE Ebook The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice – Book 1 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash

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I read The Lost Child longer ago than I care to recall and loved it, so when I went online and found this recent offering, I snapped it up. Would Ash’s ability to spin a great story and interesting world still hold me?

theflooddragonTwo rival clans. Two sacred pearls, the Tide Jewels, that can summon the Tide Dragons to protect the empire. Two young men, Kaito and Naoki, one a Black Crane healer, the other a Red Kite shinobi, are sucked into an ancient, unresolved conflict between the gods of land and sea, when the exiled Red Kites steal the Tide Jewels and re-ignite a bitter clan war. Kaito must find a way to restore the emperor’s jewels – but how can it be done without betraying his own clan or angering the gods?

The magic persists. I was immediately pulled into this engrossing, beautifully depicted world that is clearly based upon the closed society of Japan, as the book starts with a bang and the pace doesn’t let up. This epic story cris-crosses the country as the main characters Kaito and Naoki find themselves pitch-forked right into the middle of a family feud, with devastating consequences for all concerned… The story is told in multiple pov, as others also become embroiled in this clan war.

This isn’t a simple good versus evil conflict, where some shadowy nasty villain lurks whose motives are as murky as his scheming, for we are taken into the heads of sympathetic protagonists on both sides of this vendetta. I cared about all the people in the story and could see where they were coming from – even the wilful, high-handed Naoki.

The other dynamic I thoroughly enjoyed is how things are not as they initially appear. So while we are presented with what seems to be the facts at the start of the book, as the plot progresses, we begin to realise that there are other forces at play. Done well, this tactic never fails to have me humming with pleasure as I delve ever deeper into the world, absolutely hooked and wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery. And this deftly balanced plot pulled me along to the climax, with me reading waaay longer than I should to find out what happens next.

The initial storyline is all wrapped up satisfactorily – but there are a whole lot of dangling plotpoints and I’m fervently hoping the second book in the series is on the verge of being released – because I need to know what happens next! I’ll be buying more of Ash’s books – and if you are looking for a really strong, exciting fantasy story with plenty going on, that doesn’t descend into too much gore, then give it a go.
9/10

Review of Beaver Towers – Book 1 of the Beaver Towers series by Nigel Hinton

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I’d bought this series for Frankie when the first book was read to her at school and she was desperate to discover what would happen next. And now, I’ve just finished reading it to her younger brother – was he as entranced by Philip and Baby B?

beavertowersPhilip notices a small dark cloud as he starts to fly the mysterious dragon kite he discovers in the corner of his room – but he could not imagine what happens as the wind picks up. And where he ends up…

And no – that isn’t the original blurb, which manages to give all the main plot points in this slim volume, except the finale. Hinton’s prose is economical with plenty of repetitive words for those newly independent readers, but the strength of this story is the layers of characterisation he manages to pack into his amusing dialogue. There is plenty of humour in this adventure story – we all laughed at Baby B and some of the misunderstandings that arise between the absent-minded Mr Edgar and dear old Mrs Badger. But set against the chuckles, there are also some genuinely creepy moments, when young Philip is in real danger.

I’ll forgive Hinton the rather rapid denouement, as the story is deftly continued in the sequel, which we are currently reading, as Oscar was every bit as entranced with the story as Frankie. He is far less inclined to sit still and listen as carefully, so it is a testament to the power of this pacey, enjoyable story with its cast of memorable characters. As for me – this was a second time I’d read it aloud. Did I enjoy it as much the second time around?

Oh yes. The prose is well written and I always enjoy providing various voices for strong characters. If you have some youngsters in your life of 6 or 7, who enjoy being read to and you want a slice of fantastic adventure to offer them, then you could do a lot worse than track down this engaging book.
9/10

Blades of the Old Empire – Book 1 of The Majat Code by Anna Kashina

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bladesoftheoldempireThis is another book that has been languishing on my TBR pile far too long. So in last days of 2015, I decided to give it a whirl and see if I wanted to read it, half expecting to discard it after the first few pages. I didn’t. In fact, I stayed awake reading far later than I’d intended…

Kara is a mercenary – a Diamond warrior, the best of the best. When her tenure as protector to Prince Kythar comes to an end, he accompanies her back to the Guild, as a new threat suddenly strikes the kingdom. But events take a darker turn when the Guild’s rules are turned against Kara in a bid to neutralise her unique abilities in a fight for the soul of the kingdom, itself…

The slightly altered blurb gives some idea of this entertaining swords and sorcery adventure, where a dark religion thought to be consigned to the pages of history makes a sudden unwelcome reappearance. And, yes, you’re right – this is cosily familiar Fantasy fare. A royal family suddenly in danger from a nasty dark force, with the insanely brave and skilful elite guards in the middle of the gathering violence.

This plot-driven adventure nevertheless drives forward with plenty of energy and verve. I particularly enjoyed the nasty, smirking villain Nimos who tries very hard to smarm our protagonists into falling in with his evil schemes – before using far less pleasant methods. The protagonists are all likeable and if they don’t have the depth and complexity of some Fantasy heroes, they are still more than capable of holding the plot together and driving it forward.

The world is deftly drawn, and as the story expands as our heroes journey in different directions seeking help, the increasing pace drew me in. I particularly enjoyed the storyline of young Ellah, who is suddenly pulled into the adventure when it is discovered that she has an unusual talent. The super-warriors Kara and Mai are niftily neutralised by circumstances and magic, which successfully up the stakes. And while I wasn’t completely convinced by Kara’s all-round awesomeness, there were plenty of other characters to appreciate. I particularly enjoyed Ayalla and her dress of living spiders…

The story steadily builds to a climactic conclusion, where all the main storylines in this slice of the adventure are satisfyingly tied up, leaving one large dangling plotline that is doubtless the main narrative arc throughout the series. All in all, this is a really engrossing read – and my only regret is that I left it so long to enjoy it.
8/10