Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Books on my nightstand



The Nightstand


A closer look at the books


Teetering, I really can not add anymore!

Ann and Michael form Books on the Nightstand are hosting a book give away. To enter just post a picture of the books on your nightstand and leave a link. If you haven't already check out their podcast it is great, although my TBR list is growing and growing because of them.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Sunday Salon - Very quick book reviews

I am so behind, I'm catching up by doing one sentence book reviews, harder than it seems!

The Ghost - Robert Harris

A quick, interesting, page turner let down by a anticlimactic ending

I'd tell you I loved you but then I'd have to Kill you - Ally Carter
Cross my heart and hope to spy - Ally Carter

Harry Potter meets Alias, a great concept and a fun read but more character development would be nice, hoping that there will be in the third novel.

The Ivy League Novels - Diana Peterfruend
Secret Society Girl
Under the Rose
Rites of Spring (Break)

A smart, strong, funny, heroine, great supporting characters, a secret society and a romance that is stomach flippingly enjoyable to read about, I loved them!

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

Oh lord it was long and the characters wrote such detailed letters and nothing really happened and by the end I was completely on Dracula's side and it seemed all he wanted them to do was catalogue his library and ZZZZZZZ

Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin

A nice tale which is sweet and funny and moving and quirky but didn't leave me dying to read book two.

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Laugh out loud funny, proves we all have a little bit of angel and a little bit of devil inside us and DEATH is one of my favourite characters ever.

Weekly Geeks 16

This weeks Weekly Geeks challenge was to interview a fellow weekly geek about a book they'd just finished. I teamed up with Jackie from Literary Escapism. Below our my answers to her questions about Breaking Dawn and her answers to some general questions about Urban Fantasy (she was impressively up to date with her revoews!)

Meyer has been receiving some backlash over her final Twilight novel because the story hasn’t lived up to the previous three novels. What is your take on the overall story of Breaking Dawn and do you think all the hype for the novel resulted in the reaction from the fans?

I really loved the first three novels; I thought they were magical and I couldn’t put them down. With Breaking Dawn I could quite easily put it down. A lot of the novel seemed pointless and unnecessary to me. Having said that we needed a conclusion to Bella, Edward and Jacob’s story so I’m glad she wrote it, I just wish it had turned out differently.

As to the reaction from fans she was never going to be able to please everyone and I think it got so big that backlash was unavoidable.

The story is told through two different perspectives - Bellas and Jacobs. What are your feelings on how the story was told by the two different voices and do you think it would have worked without Jacob’s point of view?

I think because of the plot twist you had to have Jacob’s point of view it would never have worked if Bella had been narrating. A lot of Jacob’s chapter did feel like padding to me though because Leah’s story never got a satisfactory conclusion. It was interesting to see Bella and Jacob through someone else’s eyes though.

All four novels have been told through either Bella or Jacob, we’ve never really seen into Edwards head and we were suppose to with the release of Midnight Sun. However, since Meyer has put the whole project on a back burner, do you think we really need to hear Edward’s side of the story?

Although I would have read Midnight Sun I don’t think we really need to hear Edward’s side of the story. I think it’s pretty clear from how he behaves and what he says that his view of himself is different to Bella’s view of him. I don’t think we need to be inside his mind to get that.

The series has been criticized for being sexist and very old fashioned. There are even some that are saying that Meyer is using the novels to force her religious beliefs on her readers. Do you agree or disagree with the critics and why?

I hadn’t noticed any religious beliefs a part from the no sex before marriage but I don’t know a lot about Mormonism so I might be missing something. As too the sexist and old-fashioned comments it’s a fantasy, something to get lost in, an escape from real life.

Also I think there were lots of positive aspects to Bella’s character and it was great to see her come in to her own in Breaking Dawn

How would you recommend this series to someone who doesn’t typically read young adult fiction, or anything relating to the supernatural. What other authors would you recommend?

Well Twilight was the book that got me reading YA fiction so I’d say it’s a good one to begin with. Although there are obviously supernatural elements at heart it’s a love story, which becomes a love triangle in New Moon and Eclipse. I don’t think there’s a word for what it becomes in Breaking Dawn!

Other fantastic YA authors are: John Green, E. Lockhart, Sarah Dessen, Diana Peterfreund


My Questions for Jackie.

Who would you recommend fantasy novels too and why? (Hard I know; I guess what more main stream books that I might be aware of are similar?)

Honestly, I would recommend fantasy novels to anyone. The novels have all the same elements as the classics, except there’s an added twist to the characters and the location of the novel. Instead of taking place in 18th century London or modern day America, the stories take place in a realm where anything is possible. Elves, dwarves, vampires, magic users…they all can exist in these stories and just because they use an element of the fantastical, it doesn’t make the stories any less real.

Depending on the time period you like, most true fantasy novels take place in times similar to the Tolkien universe where there’s not that much electricity or technological advances. There may be some, but nothing like you would find in our world. If you’re looking for something a little more familiar, than I would definitely recommend something out of the Urban Fantasy genre. This is a little different from straight Fantasy in the fact that it takes place in contemporary times and the reader should be able to associate with all of the surroundings.

If I wanted to start reading fantasy novels what book would you recommend I begin with?

For some one first getting into the straight fantasy, then I would definitely recommend Maria Snyder’s Study series: Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study. The novels are excellent and for someone unfamiliar with the genre, this is actually a good start as it sort of eases a person in. In the first novel, Poison Study, the main plot and ideas are a familiar enough that the only thing that’s different is the world it takes place in. You really don’t get too involved in the magic aspect until the second novel, Magic Study. If you want to really jump in, then you could also start with any of the Dungeon and Dragon novels by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. A good novel of theirs to start out with is Dragons of Autumn Twilight. For anyone who likes the Tolkien stories, then they should be able to get behind these as well.

As for an urban fantasy novel, that’s a really hard question to answer because there are so many different types. A lot of it depends on what you feel comfortable starting with. Whenever I try recommend a UF novel to someone, I tend to ask what they like first off. If they like a little comedy in their story, than I would suggest Katie MacAlister’s Aisling Grey series (You Slay Me). A lot of it also depends on what kind of supernatural creature a person wants. For vampires, I would recommend Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (Guilty Pleasures) or Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series (Halfway to the Grave). For werewolves and shapeshifters, then Keri Arthur’s Riley Jensen series (Full Moon Rising) or Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson series (Moon Called). However, in all honesty, it’s hard for me to recommend just one author. I have a bunch that I love and follow, so if you want my entire list of recommendations, then I would check this out.

Does the fantasy genre obey given rules or do different authors change things to suit their story?

I’m not really sure how to answer this question. The idea of fantasy is that it’s all make believe and nothing is actually true. For some of the straight fantasy novels, i.e. the Dungeon and Dragon novels, then I think there are certain rules that the authors follow. I think a lot of the world building is kept pretty constant with maybe a few changes for the story. Definitely the character types are kept the same. Elves, dwarves, drow, etc, they all have the same characteristics across all different stories, but what they do may change.

As for urban fantasy, everything is completely up to the author. Each author gives their own twist to the modern world, so it’ll be hard to find two authors with similar worlds. I don’t think it’s impossible, but everyone has their own idea on how the supernatural would interact with the humans and that greatly influences their writing. Also, while the idea of vampires and werewolves may be common among the various novels, their attributes can be vastly different. In some novels, the vampires are harmed by sunlight and silver and a lot of the other traditional methods; however, in some novels, none of these are particularly harmful. For instance, in LKH’s novels, the vampires can’t go out in daylight and, in fact, they actually die during the day. Only the really old ones can get up. However, in Jeaniene Frost’s novels, the vampires really have no restrictions. Yeah silver hurts them, but wooden stakes are more of a joke. The same goes with werewolves. One interesting take on werewolves is the Riley Jensen series by Keri Arthur. Instead of werewolves been bitten and changed that way, they are actually born as werewolves and it’s just another race of human. They are still tied to the moon, but it’s more of a time of heat for them instead of being monstrous beasts. Each person gives their own twist to the various mythos and they make it work.

What’s the difference between fantasy and urban fantasy?

There’s a lot of debate going on as to what the difference is, but to me, it’s actually really simple. For anything to be considered urban fantasy, it has to take place in a contemporary time, in a place that I can easily associate with. For example, the Katie MacAlister novels take place in various locations around Europe and the Patricia Briggs series take place in west Washington state. The story takes place within my life time and/or shortly in the future. The idea is that vampires live among us and they want to start taking part in society. Basically, in reality, if vampires came on the news tomorrow and said they were real and they want to be recognized, then we would be living in an urban fantasy novel.

Straight fantasy is, again, more along the lines of the Tolkien universe. Where everything takes place in a different world than what we’re used to and it’s more fantastical. I hope that makes sense.

Taken purely on the covers these books look to me like they race along with lots of action but maybe not so much complexity or descriptive writing. Is this true or am I judging unfairly? Is the writing good or do you mainly read them for the story?

If the writing wasn’t good, then the story really wouldn’t be good either. When you get into the fantasy genre, then there is a ton of descriptive writing because the author is introducing you to a whole new world. One that doesn’t exist in reality for the reader. For any story to be good, a person can’t be dumped into the world and expect to know what is going on. Things need to be explained. As for lacking complexity, I don’t think so. Each story goes through the standard story line - introduction, the body, the climax, and the conclusion. Everything that happens is there to build up the tension or the emotion of the reader so that when the final battle begins, they are there rooting for their character. Fantasy is entirely meant for entertainment and has no connection to reality. Nothing about it is real, so yeah there is going to be action, but that adds to the plot and the situations the characters are thrown into.

In a lot of urban fantasy novels, the main heroine is a kick ass demon hunter or vampire killer or some other tough antagonistic chick. It’s not always true, but that’s the reputation that the genre is getting. For instance, the Anita Blake series focuses around Anita who is a vampire executioner as well as a necromancer. Since her job is to take out the vampires that have broken the laws, then they generally don’t want to see her and she ends up in a fight. So she has to be strong. On the other side, in Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer series (another good one - Touch the Dark), the main heroine is a clairvoyant who really hasn’t had to do a lot of fighting and she’s not that strong yet.

Whose your favorite fantasy author and why?

Again, I have so many that it’s hard to say who would be my ultimate favorite. This also changes as I find new authors. The paranormal romance I read was by Linda Lael Miller back in the late 90s. Then a couple of years ago, I found Laurell K Hamilton and was instantly captivated. She’s the one who started my love of the genre. Since her, I’ve gone on the hunt for more novels and new authors so my addiction can be fed. I still love LKH, but one of my favorites at the moment is Jeaniene Frost. Again, if you really want to know all of my favorite authors, then I would check out my recommendation page. Everyone on that list are authors I constantly watch…waiting for something new from them.