Monday, December 21, 2009

Top Five Reads of 2009

I was hoping that I would have a greater selection to choose from this year. I was on target for 50 books read this year, but then I got a new job and 50 became 35. On the bright side that is 6 more books to choose from than last year.

Without further Ado...

#5 Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

While I do not think that this book is better than his First Law trilogy, 'Best Served Cold' is still an entertaining read. I had very high expectations of this book when it came out and I think that had affected my overall enjoyment of this book which is a shame. The advantage of 'Best Served Cold' is the fact that it is a stand alone book.

The book follows a woman called Monza Murcatto, a once loved and trusted general. However, her paranoid boss betrays her. He sets up a trap, kills her brother, stabs and throws her off a mountain. Yet she survived. While she is recovering from her grievous wounds she has had plenty of time to plan her revenge on the seven men who were involved in her betrayal. Once recovered, she gathers a motley crew: A master poisoner and his apprentice, a Northman (barbarian), an ex-general of the Thousand Swords (mercenaries), an ex-convict and an ex-inquisitor (government lackey). How will she exact revenge? Seven against the resources of a whole nation!

"You know your in for a comedy filled killing spree when Abercrombie is writing" - Sleeping With Books

#4 The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathon Stroud

I have read more young adult (YA) books this year than I have ever had, and time after time I am surprised at how much I enjoy them. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riodian, Candle Man by Glenn Dakin, The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin are just some amazing YA books I have read. However I felt that Stroud's Book 1 of the Bartimaeus Trilogy topped them all. It was funny, clever, fast paced and had that page turner quality you want from a book.

The book follows a young magicians apprentice called Nathaniel, who in his impatience summons a powerful 5000 year old Djinni, Bartimaeus. He charges Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand off a powerful Magician and soon things go terribly wrong for Nathaniel and his Djinni. One rule and really the only rule of being a magician is to never let someone know your 'true name' as your true name grants power over you. Well Nathaniel has slipped up.

Definitely a must read YA book. The chapters with Bartimaeus are written in the first person, while chapters with Nathaniel are written in the third person. This has also made reading a little more interesting because of the different perspectives.

"So refreshing to see a YA book that is different from the rest. Funny, Distinctive and a great read" - Sleeping With Books

#3 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick

I remember watching this film when I was 18...and hated it. If you don't know the film...well that is because the film was re-titled as Blade Runner. Yes, I know that the film was great blah blah, but I was 18 ok! I liked the explosions of the 90's and Blade Runner didn't have any!

So 9 years later I read the book and you know what? It made my top 5 reads of 2009.

It is the year 2019 and human replicants (clones) with artificial intelligence are a possibility. However, like pets, they need to be registered and owned by someone but there replicants who seek freedom and escape. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter whose job is to hunt down these renegades and retire them. Although the replicants have A.I. they lack one very human trait, the ability to be empathetic. This is the key to finding out replicants and real humans.

"'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' is not a simple science-fiction book, Phillip K. Dick delves much deeper, philosophically and psychologically" - Sleeping With Books

#2 Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

While waiting for Martin to actually finish the 5th book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, I began reading more of this other works. Fevre Dream instantly hooked me in and I finished it within several days. The setting, the character depth and the storyline just draw you in. You can really start to appreciate Martin as an absolute genius and that he is not just a one series wonder.

Abner Marsh's dream of racing the Eclipse, the fastest Steamboat on the Mississippi River is destroyed when a storm sinks all but one of his ships. It wasn't long that a stranger named Joshua York meets him in St. Louis and offers him money for half his company. Marsh is an honest man, as honest as he is fat and ugly and refuses to cheat York out of his money. But when York offers to build Marsh a boat fast enough to compete with the Eclipse, Marsh is hooked. The Fevre Dream is built and Marsh could not be happier. However, when Joshua York refuses to come out during the day and makes unscheduled stops that takes up valuable delivering time, Marsh's crew are muttering among themselves and Marsh has questions of his own.

"Interview with a Vampire meets Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" - Sleeping With Books

#1 Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

I read this book in January and it was such a hard book to top and as this shows, nothing did this year. Mistborn is the first book of the trilogy with the same name. The subsequent books being 'The Well of Ascension' and 'The Hero of Ages'. The magic systems used in this world were so unique to me and I liked it very much. Sanderson has a lovely way of introducing characters and making you like them. From this book, one of my favourite ever characters in Sci-Fi or Fantasy was created.

The Lord Ruler has lived for a 1000 years and his empire is split into two factions. Those of nobility, are physically, mentally and financially superior to the Skaa and are a part of the Lord Ruler's upper class. The nobility get to have magnificent balls, trade, plot and generally be happy about their lives. The other faction, the Skaa are a slave race not too different from humans (the nobility) and are considered inferior in every way and are there to be used and abused by the nobility.

During these many years of rule. People have revolted against the Lord Ruler. People have tried to kill him, all of them have failed, but it isn't for a lack of trying. How do you kill a man...no a God, when beheading him is only a minor annoyance?

Kelsier is a Mistborn. A man with special talents, he can manipulate people's emotions, control metal with a thought and gain superhuman strength when called for. He is wants to overthrow the Lord Ruler, but being Mistborn isn't enough, because he is not unique.

I really can't give this book enough justice. It was such a great read and I am looking forward to the day that I reread this series. Brandon Sanderson is also the person the Jordan family selected to ghost write the last three books of 'The Wheel of Time' by Robert Jordan.

"Mistborn is character driven and has amazing plots. Sanderson has captured everything great about fantasy and put it into 3 very enjoyable books" - Sleeping With Books

Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: Candle Man

Three is the magic number. That is how many rooms Theo Saint has ever seen. Three is how many people he knows in his life. Three and Zero and are the amount of minutes he is allowed outside of his designated area per year. Theo has a deadly disease. He wears gloves constantly and is monitored day and night. He has to get treatment in the ‘Mercy Tube’ or the disease gets worse, but one day, someone kidnaps Theo!

I’ve been reading quite a few children/YA books lately and I think I’ve found a recurring theme. A good children/YA fantasy book contains the following: a young boy or girl, they have powers, it is set in a relatively modern world, it is fast paced and it has strange creatures. Candle Man by Glenn Dakin contains all of the above.

A couple of girls in my class said that the book was very good so I put it at the top of my TBR pile and was I in for a great treat. Theo for a boy who has been sheltered from the outside world for all of his life was never dull, never self loathing but took everything in his stride and everything was a great interest to him. This is a testament to Dakin himself. He wrote the story with a few subplots but never did they get in the way of the major story and in the end he tied it all up perfectly.

What I also liked about the story were the creatures that gave the book a fantasy feel to it. Gone are the usual dwarves, orcs and elves; they are replaced with smoglodytes, extinct creatures and the forgotten gargoyles (with a twist).

I can’t wait to see how much attention this book will get because it is right up there in terms of quality with books like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

A young school boy finds out that he is half god but being half god means you have enemies. What has Percy done to deserve enemies? Who are the enemies? And what is the purpose of being half god?

Rick Riordan does a very good job of intergrating the Greek gods into an urban setting. It reminded me very much of Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods' but less mystery and more action. The Greek gods play a very important role in the story but the focus is really on Percy and the other half-bloods in the book. The storyline follows Percy Jackson who is framed for stealing a very important godly item. To accompany him is Annabeth the offspring of Athena, and Grover a Satyr who's job is to protect Percy on his quest.

There was a little bit of hype surrounding this book and I am glad that I wasn't let down. Nothing felt too cliche and the twists of all the minor gods and demons just made the book that much more interesting. The only problem I see is that a lot of greek names are introduced and it could be a little confusing for the younger readers. However, if you have a little inside knowledge you won't even notice the infinite names.

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the Percy Jackson series.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Review: Best Served Cold

*Started my new job a few weeks ago and have been flat out. Here is something I wrote a while back.*

Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. Monza Murcatto a once loved and trusted general was betrayed, stabbed and thrown off a mountain. However one thing the betrayer did not plan was for her to survive. Now Monza is planning her revenge on the seven men that had a hand in the betrayal.

Joe Abercrombie first made fame with the book
The Blade Itself, book 1 of The First Law Trilogy. From this series Abercrombie has gained world wide fans for his witty humour, in depth characters with their monologues, and brutal piece by piece violence.

Best Served Cold unlike the previous series is a Stand Alone book.

For those that have never read Abercrombie, you will not lose any sleep over not having read the previous series because this book is completely self enclosed and requires no prior knowledge to be enjoyed. Best Served Cold employs humour, gore, torture and *cough* romance *cough* all to the extremes. Abercrombie will wow you with great in depth characters that you will fall in love with, wince at the torture scenes when bits of flesh are seared away and be absolutely shocked as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. The other great thing about this book (if you buy the UK version) is the beautiful cover (First Law covers are also beautiful).

For those of you that have read the First Law Trilogy, I think you should take this book with tredipidation. The good things about this book is that Abercrombie has worked on everything he was criticized on for the First Law. Maps have been inserted into the book. Instead of the usual ‘place at the front’ map, it is on the cover of the UK version of the book. The book is also divided into parts, each part is set in a different area. These areas are enlarged and placed before the start of each part (genius!). The creativeness of Abercrombie is also evident in how he rearranges old minor characters into this book. He almost secretly inserts these old characters into completely new characters with new roles; with new importance’s and that was a nice surprise. The other thing I also liked about this book was that it is a stand-alone novel. Too many books out there now are a part of a trilogy or 12 book series and it is refreshing to read a relatively new author produce a stand-alone novel.

The other good or bad thing about this book is besides the main story of vengeance, is that this book is just the First Law squished into 500 pages. The world is the same, the monologues are there, the rough sex, even the types of characters are the same; a barbarian from the north, a poisoner (torturer), a mass murderer, an inquisitor and people you just can’t rely on. The fact that they are all the same (practically) draws attention away from the fact that Abercrombie’s strength is character writing.

However a talented writer is a talented writer and in reality this is a good book. My expectations were just a little high. Go read some Abercrombie.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure

I've gotten a whole lot of books from Egmont publishers recently. Some I will post here and some I will post over at bestfantasybooks.com

One of the books I received from the publishers was a children's picture book. I am a primary school teacher and just love picture books. They bring together many elements of writing and enjoyment that novels just cannot reproduce. They are very eye catching because they usually have great art, the story draws you in and the rhyming enraptures you. This one even has a fantasy feel to it!

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks goes on an adventure with his faithful cat and good grey mare where he meets creepy monsters, fire breathing dragons and a not so wicked witch. Each encounter he faces he is left abandoned by his companions but brave and clever Sir Charlie will know what to do.

Just when I started to wonder where the story was leading, a clever ploy was there to distract me. This book has fold out pages that flow with the story line! "As Charlie pushed open the big wooden door. Up the windy windy staircase marched Sir Charlie Stinky Socks."



























Sir Charlie Stinky Socks by Kristina Stephenson does not disappoint at all, in fact, it probably goes a step beyond. It had great narrative, the art was fantastic and the pop out pages were very well thought out. Young kids should be drawn to this book like moths to a flame.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: Artemis Fowl

His intelligence is well beyond any mortal let alone for his age. For months Artemis has been on the trail to find a fairy (yes, fairies exists) because fairies have a magic book. Why would he want this book? Because he wants to exploit the fairies and get their gold. With a fairy’s magical book he will know all their secrets, how they operate, how they do things and most importantly,  how to make himself rich and doesn't care whether if there is war between Fairy and Man. 


Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer is the bestselling author of a series called Artemis Fowl which the first book is also named after. Eoin has created a world where Fairies, Trolls and Dwarves exist but humans know nothing of (well except the ones that do) and if they happen to mistakenly glimpse them, the fairies have magically imbued technology that allows them to make them forget.

 

Artemis Fowl is a story which details about a boy called Artemis Fowl whose mother is sick and his father has gone missing. He is taken care of by a family called the Butler’s who have looked after (both as nanny and bodyguard) the Fowl family for centuries. The Butlers’ loyalty to the Fowl’s is second to none and they are raised knowing they will be protecting the Fowl family, so when Artemis has an idea about capturing a fairy (which can lead to cross-species war) Butler follows along loyally no questions asked.

 

I found this book to be a very fast paced book. It had lots of planning and scandals and it won’t take you long to finish (because you don’t really want to put it down). Artemis is a very intelligent boy and is portrayed as a villain (because he tries to exploit another race to get gold) yet there is still a 12 year old boy yearning for his mother and father. This is probably where the skills of Eoin Colfer shine, as children can really relate with Artemis on this level. I have been brought up with certain images and understandings of Fairies and Dwarves and if you want to change them, those changes better be good. However, Colfer really changes the way they are in his book, they are definitely unique but the changes aren’t to my liking and I have a suspicion that he changed it for a greater ‘young male’ readership. Although with that said, this book can be enjoyable for ‘young female’ readers as well. One of the main characters in the book is a female fairy called Holly Short who is strong and vibrant which I am sure all girls want to be as well.

 

I will surely pick up the next book Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident as this book was such a lively read.  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: The Tombs of Atuan

‘The Tombs of Atuan’ is the follow up to A Wizard of Earthsea and the second book from the Earthsea series. In this story, we mainly follow a young girl who is taken away from her family at a very age and is made to be the High Priestess of the Nameless ones called Arha. She is taught many things and made to do many horrors in order to keep the order alive. Yet because this is all she knows, she fears escaping but when an intruder is found in the Tombs of Atuan, Arha is intrigued by the intruder and unknowingly changes her fate.

For those not in the know, the Earthsea Trilogy (now a quartet) is a series written by Ursula Le Guin often found in the children’s sections of the library and bookstores. It has a huge fan base in Japan perhaps even more so than in America. Anime, movies and toys have been made of Earthsea and it is this series that Ursula Le Guin is most famous for.

While Tombs of Atuan’s pace and setting is a lot different than A Wizard of Earthsea, I found that I enjoyed the book a lot more. Much like a good horror novel, it is suspense that drives this book forward. The Tombs of Atuan is a place where no light can be emitted because that would anger the Nameless Gods. So we follow Arha, blinded and feeling around with our hands and knees; one false turn, one misremembered turn and Arha is trapped with the Tombs forever, along with the corpses of slaves and the treasures hidden in a room below the Tombs of Atuan.

If you have read A Wizard of Earthsea before, be warned Ged is not the main character and really takes a backseat. I think this is very clever by Le Guin. Not only does it add an extra dimension to the overall story, stopping the book from being about powerful magics but is also self contained and can be read without reading A Wizard of Earthsea.

The most pleasing aspect of this book besides the suspense was the start and the ending. Right at the beginning you are thrust into action where a little girl is about to have her head chopped off. The end is a juicy cliffhanger. However, if there is something bad to say about this book, it is that it is too short. There could have been more depth in the character Arha and more about the order of The Nameless Ones. But that is probably my adult fantasy background talking.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Un Lun Dun

Zanna and Deeba are two ordinary school girls who live next to each other. One day they see something weird outside Deeba’s house during a sleepover and they follow it into a building (much to the dismay of Deeba). When they exited the building, they were no longer in London…

Nothing was what it seemed. Rubbish would chase them, they could see people (if you can call them that) with cushions for heads with pins sticking out of it, water and fish inside a diving suit that could walk around on land and everything weird imaginable (and not) were all around them.

As the girls try to find a way back to London, Zanna shows her 'travel card' and is greeted with awe and joy.

'UnLondon is at war. We’re under attack. And it’s been written, for centuries, that you – you – will come and save us.'

Un Lun Dun is the first book China Miéville has written for children. His previous books The Rat King, The Scar have all had great reviews and praise for his work but it is his book Perdido Street Station that has put him up on a pedestal and changed many minds on how the fantasy genre can be written. So I was excited to read this book of his.

Un Lun Dun is about two girls who get magically transported to the world of UnLondon where they are very confused and only want to go home. The world is full of strange creatures and nothing is what it seems. They soon find out that UnLondon has been under attack by the ‘Smog’ and that once the Smog has had its way with UnLondon, London will be next. Zanna and Deeba also find out that Zanna is the Chosen one, the one that will save them from the Smog and so is greeted by smiling friendly faces…well except for the Smog and his minions who try and dispatch of her before she fulfills her destiny!

Miéville does an excellent job of making up the world of UnLondon. Things are so creative, so strange that you have no idea how he came up with it. Rubbish Bin bodyguards, flying buses and talking prophetic books are just a few things from his strange world. The story starts off a little slowly, which can be a bit of a detractor especially with the younger generation, but really picks up a fifth of the way in and it’s all on. One of Mieville’s strong points is his ability to word play. Making up words to fool you yet has a deeper meaning as part of the story. Character names are something sneakily amazing.

However, the thing about Mieville and I’ve also noticed this in his book Perdido Street Station is the lack of interest you feel for the main character. The Storyline is great and the action is great but you just don’t care for the character. More often than not, it is the supporting characters you want to know about more because they simply feel more interesting.

All in all, this was a good book to read. I think children will enjoy it because they can relate to the children in the book; the chapters are short so attention spans won't go flying out the window and therefore they also make good chapter books to read to your children as bed time stories.

I'll definitely be reading this book to my classroom of 10 year olds!

"The Matrix meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." - Sleeping with Books

p.s. This Month is YA month for me. I've read quite a few YA books recently and look forward to posting them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


There are androids on Earth that help people with their needs, they talk like humans, they look like humans and they act like humans. They are manufactured on the planet Mars and they have Artificial Intelligence. Androids however are not human and therefore do not have the same rights as humans. Every now and then androids escape from Mars and head to Earth illegally and it is the job of bounty hunters to "retire" them. How do these bounty hunters tell androids and humans apart? Androids don't have empathy.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a book by Philip K. Dick who's book was made into a movie called Blade Runner. His story follows a bounty hunter called Rick Deckard and his journey in retiring the newest android models the nexus-6. Dick does not just write a simple science fiction book but delves much deeper philosophically and psychologically. Deckard goes through a lot of information while hunting down the 6 renegade androids. He is paranoid of everyone, because androids and humans look a like he has to administer empathy tests on practically everyone he meets even himself. He starts feeling empathy towards non-living objects and has to deal with all this and make a living.


To my surprise I actually really liked the book. I loved the psychological and philosophical aspects of the book. It wasn't all about action sequences and they actually took a back seat. The ending perhaps was a little anti-climatic because I had all these different endings in my head, but expectation almost always leads to disappointment.




If you have seen the movie Blade Runner and didn't like it, I suggest you read the book because I was in the same boat as you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Review: Elric of Melniboné

Elric is the ruler of the kingdom Melniboné. He has red-eyes, pale skin and milky white hair. Because of a complicated birth, he was born weak of body and sustains himself with arcane drugs which he must take periodically to survive. Melniboné is a kingdom thick on tradition, which includes being ruthless and feasting on the flesh of others. However Elric like his father before him does not conform to tradition. Because of this there are those that think that Elric is not fit to rule, that his actions will anger the gods and put Melniboné in danger, both in trade and war. So when Elric meets treachery that he cannot deny he shows everyone that he is a capable ruler of Melniboné. He orders his enemies to eat the flesh of their own servants, so they may serve them forever!

Cover taken from the RuneQuest Game.

This is the first Michael Moorcock book I have read and I am disappointed that I didn't read some of his works earlier. Moorcock tells us the story of Elric who is an anti-hero. Elric has to make hard decisions that go against his beliefs, that perhaps go against what the world calls moral to make sure that his loved ones and Melniboné are unharmed, even if he has to bargain with the devil...and he does.

The thing I didn't like about this book was the names that he came up with. Elric is fine but almost every other name was a bit hard to pronounce and I am sure a conversation with someone about this book could be met with confusion.
The book is also quite light, but I know that it is the first of many so I look forward to reading the consequent novels. If you like anti-hero's, like characters that have to make hard decisions, like a bit of dark sorcery, then Elric of Melniboné is the book for you!


Friday, June 12, 2009

Updated: Single Elim Book Tourney

The Book Tournament has started! The first round will last for 3 days (excluding weekends). If you want to watch it unfold, go over and take a look. If you want to participate in the voting, then go over, sign up and vote away!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Single Elimination Book Tourney

Over at bestfantasybooks.com they are running the Book Tournament, where members of the forums get to vote for the book they think are better of the two. The Tournament starts off with 64 contestants and 16 of them are seeded (just like a Tennis Tournament). Each 3 days the voting will close for that particular round and the new one starts up shortly. At the moment they are still taking in suggestions for book contestants but the Top 16 have been announced.

If this is something you want to participate in (I'm very excited about it) or even just to follow, go over and check it out.






1. A Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin) 
2. A Sword of Shadows (J.V. Jones) 
3. Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch) 
4. The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) 
5. The Farseer (Robin Hobb)
6. Amber Chronicles (Roger Zelazny) 
7. Dresden Files (Jim Butcher) 
8. Mythago Wood (Robert Holdstock) 
9. Acacia (David Anthony Durham) 
10. Heroes Die (Matthew Woodring Stover ) 
11. Abhorsen Trilogy (Garth Nix) 
12. The Malazan Book of the Fallen (Steven Erikson)
13. American Gods (Neil Gaiman) 
14. Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke) 
15. The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan) 
16. Lord of the Rings (J.R.R Tolkien)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Storm Front

Picture a couple making love. Wait love?...I meant sex...wait I meant completing a business transaction, and where I said a couple...I meant a whore and her client. Next, picture her straddling him. Freeze that picture, then imagine the two with a gaping hole in their chests, ribs sticking outwards with two missing organs where moments before their hearts were beating furiously. Two questions beckon, first, how is it possible for ribs to stick outwards without damaging any other part of the body except at the location of the heart. Secondly how can this "couple" still be in that position? The police certainly don't know and call upon the only wizard in town. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. 

I had heard of The Dresden Files before from TV but have never seen the series, so I had no presumptions when reading this book. Storm Front did not start slowly and we are into the thick of it very soon. Harry is called in by the police to see if he can detect 'magic' on a very weird scene. Why would I quotation mark 'magic'? Well it is a world where people don't believe in magic and if your full time job is a well...a wizard, it also makes it hard to pay the bills on time. This is a very minor problem that Jim Butcher (author) throws at Harry, along they way he encounters a demon, a vampiress that runs a brothel, the local mafia and a couple of girls who want to know Harry better!

It is only until recently that I have discovered that I really enjoy reading Mystery/Fantasy novels. They are exciting and mysterious but have all the elements of fantasy that I like.

While the Dresden Files doesn't have as many fantasy elements as I would like, it makes it up with humour, the mystery and good writing skills from Butcher. Do I want to watch the TV series? I'm not sure, but I definitely want to read the next book in the series: Fool Moon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: War of the Worlds & The Time Machine

War of the Worlds and the Time Machine are two contrasting books. 

War of the Worlds is set in around 1890's and tells the story of alien invaders from Mars. The story is told through a journal written by an unknown author, how he survives attacks, how he manages to stay alive and how the aliens died through his eyes. What is amazing about this story is that he isn't a hero, he is only a survivor yet the story is action packed and captivating.

The Time Machine is a story about a scientists' journey into the future, how he accidentally goes too far and ends up in the year 802701. While many would think that so far into the future technology would have had vast improvements and life would be much better but what if it wasn't like that?

I read these two books back to back because it felt good to do so. I had never previously read any of HG Wells' books except to watch the movie 'The Time Machine' which I thought had a very good first half and a terrible second half.

After reading War of the Worlds I thought about how a contemporary movie of it just wouldn't work and now refuse to see Spielberg's version of the movie.

After reading The Time Machine I thought why wasn't the movie like the book? It was short and fantastic. Instead they absolutely butchered the book and the original meaning of the book.

What does this all tell you? That War of the Worlds and The Time Machine are both fantastic books. They are so imaginative and were so far ahead of their time. I knew that HG Wells was an old school author but it shocked me when these two stories were written over a 100 years ago. Truly HG Wells is one of the fathers of Science Fiction (along with Jules Verne).

Anybody who wants a glimpse of how science fiction was born should pick up either of these books. They are not hard reads nor are they long reads and should be books that are readily accessible to all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bestfantasybooks.com Competition: The Wolverine Files

Over at Bestfantasybooks.com they are running a competition for a new book called The Wolverine Files. The competition is open to any person that has registered to the forums and posts in the competition thread.

The Wolverine Files is the complete story of Wolverine - every aspect of his life from his creation by the WEAPON X project to his interaction with the other members of the X-Men. The book is a gorgeous 160 page Hardcover volume that leaves no part of Wolverine's life left uninspected.
Worth 40USD it is a great book to win!

Click here for more information.







Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Movies Vs. Books

During the last 10 years there have been a lot of books (including comics) that have been made into movies. The simple reason for this is money. The movies make money by ticket sales, DVD sales which in turn becomes a big budget advertisement for books, toys and other merchandise. 

It is a symbiotic relationship. The book/publishers/authors make money from selling the rights. the movie makes money and in return the book makes some more money from selling more copies due to recent exposure. Win-win situation right? 

Yes and No

There are creators/writers, such as Alan Moore of Watchmen/V for Vendetta who refuses to write a script for his own creations, declines to watch them once released and partakes in zero of the profits. People like Alan Moore refuse to be part of the movie industry because they don't believe film makers can make a good movie out of their books and don't believe movies can encompass the spirit of their creations. Is it good that creators are boycotting their own work?

Usually when a book is turned into a movie it is because the book has great popularity and is enjoyed very much by readers. Other benefits of movies is they turn weeks worth of reading into a few hours. There are also people that don't like reading (yes they do exist) and making films exposes them to great entertainment (Lord of the Rings) and sometimes great literature (To Kill a Mocking Bird).

However I am going to use 5 different personal examples of movies vs books to outline when and where a book or a movie is better than the other. 

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

This example is about book I have not read before but have seen the movie. I saw this movie quite soon after its release because I like dragons and because there was a lot of buzz about this young kid with Asperger's Syndrome. I knew nothing about the book so went into the movie with a completely open mind. I think I wanted my money back after 30 minutes. When the film was over, I wanted to forget the movie was ever made (much like the never made Dungeons and Dragons movie). 

I still have not read the book and refuse to read the book. The movie was so damn awful that it has completely destroyed my perspective of Eragon. Which is a darn shame because there are many people who love the series and keep telling me to read the books, but do I need to read another version of Earthsea or Star Wars?

Verdict: The movie industry is bad for books reputation


Watchmen by Alan Moore. Film by Zack Snyder

Another film I watched without first reading the book/comic. I watched it because I watch most comic book adaptations and because one of my friends who has similar book tastes to me wanted me to see it. I absolutely loved it. I couldn't believe such a film could be produced. The characterization was amazing. I loved Rorschach, I hated the Comedian but loved how he was portrayed as the anti-hero. The cheesiness made me laugh and the violence really gave the film some grit. I have yet to read the comics but will do so at the first chance.

Verdict: Made a ton of money. Promoted Watchmen to the greater audience (including myself). Mission completed in my opinion. 

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

A slight difference to Eragon. When the Fellowship of the Ring came out, I had attempted the book, but I found it too difficult to finish and stopped before the hobbits even met Aragon. So I watched the movie and absolutely loved it. Not having read the book again let me see the movie with an open mind. After the movie I picked up the Lord of the Rings again and finished all three before The Two Towers came out. I enjoyed watching The Two Towers + Return of the King but I was always expecting certain things that never transpired. Where was Shelob in the Two Towers? Where was "Battle of Bywater" in Return of the King (perhaps my favourite part in the whole trilogy)? 

Verdict: Both book and movie gave me something that the other wouldn't have. The book gave me more in-depth knowledge and more enjoyment because there were parts not in the movie. The movie gave me the extra motivation to pick up the book again and the extended scenes on the DVD's were great!

Dune by Frank Herbert

A science fiction classic and is at the top of most people's top 10 sci-fi lists. When I read it, I had little sci-fi reading experience but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book. Yes, there were things I didn't like about it but overall I was impressed and those things that I didn't like don't stop me from recommending the book to other people.

Enter David Lynch's movie of Dune. I was so excited when I saw Patrick Stewart as Gurney
Halleck and then the force fields came on and didn't know whether to cry or laugh. Ok it was 1984, so I put it out of my mind. The by the end of the movie the film was still terrible, terrible storytelling, terrible characterization.

Verdict: Not an example from something in the last 10 years but still relevant in my opinion. So glad that I read the book first because I don't think I would have read the book otherwise. Again the movie industry destroys a book's reputation.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A book and series that I have read and absolutely love. While it is not the first fantasy book/series that necessarily recommend to people because of its complexity, it is my favourite. Not too recently HBO signed a deal to make a TV series (yeah not a movie but close enough) of A Game of Thrones. At the moment the series is in casting mode and have already attached Peter Dinklage and Tom McCarthy. Once they have got a cast they can begin filming the pilot which I eagerly await.

Verdict: A series that has a huge fanatical fanbase. A book that makes me really desperately want to see it adapted to TV. Not because I think that the TV series will add something amazing, but I can't get enough of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Although I have only outlined 5 examples here there are sure to be many more but overall it looks like the film industry is a positive for books. It reaches across a greater audience, has ability to let 12 friends do the same thing at the same time, helps make them more money and keeps fans interested and talking. The only people that it really hurts are purist's and sometimes the artist/author (i.e. Alan Moore). You can argue that these are the people whose interests you should look after, but as long as there is a demand and people willing to buy the product, whether it be good or bad, then there will be people making the films.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Review: Reaper Man

DEATH has dutifully done his job for ages but the powers at be have told DEATH that he is now surplus to requirements. They thanked him, gave him severance pay (his horse Binky) and left him with 'time' of his own. However, when you have 'time', it can run out.


Pratchett is another one of those well-known established authors that I am reviewing. I read his Colour of Magic book last year and sad to say that I didn't really enjoy it. I didn't really get it. I subsequently read Good Omens and two of his YA books, 'Only you can save mankind', 'Johnny and the Dead.' 

I always give authors a second chance and so I picked up Reaper Man. I found Reaper Man much more to my liking. It was much more humorous and the characters gave Pratchett more freedom for his satire. The story is shared among two main characters, DEATH and a wizard called Windle Poons. Much like Colour of Magic, I just didn't really like the wizard characters, but to contrast this I really liked DEATH and the characters that were around DEATH. It was well done how Pratchett moulded DEATH, giving him a more human persona and you really felt his (DEATH) awkwardness of adapting to having 'time'.

Picking up one of Pratchett's discworld novels can be much of a lottery (if you haven't read any before) because they contain different characters and not all characters are created equal.

If you haven't read Pratchett before, I suggest you research a tiny bit before picking up one of his discworld books. I have heard that books containing the city guards are the best and I myself might have to pick up another discworld book. Go on....take the gamble and have some laughs!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review: Dragonflight

Dragon's were once protectors of the sky, saving Pern from the Threads, a worm like bacteria that destroys all life if left unchecked. The Threads would enter Pern's atmosphere every 250 years when the Red Star got too close to Pern. However 450 years have passed without the Threads and in that time Dragon's have diminished and when once there were many Queen Dragons there are now none left, except one huge Golden Egg. 

One of the things about being a relatively new reader to fantasy is having to catch up on classics and old school authors. I have heard many a great things about McCaffrey and seen many of her books in either second hand shops and in bookstores. So when I picked up Dragonflight for $1 I had to immediately read it.

I was in for a shock. The first moment you are plunged into pages of politics without really knowing who or what the characters are. You can work out the "good" and "bad" guys but you don't care for them and therefore care not for their goals. The dragons in this series come in many a variety, green, blue, brown bronze and of course the Queen dragons. However, unlike Naomi Novik, McCaffery doesn't give us much detail about the different 'breeds' except that they come in different sizes. I would have liked it if she gave us a bit more detail on the abilities of different dragons and what those dragons would do normally during combat and non-combat times. 

As I read on, I slowly realised that this book was probably the best disguised fantasy book I have ever read. Dragonflight is a sci-fi book in the guise of a fantasy book. Why is it a sci-fi book in disguise? Well as I have said, the planet Pern is under attack from Threads, an alien worm-like bacteria. Dragon's are not merely dragons. I rolled my eyes when I learnt that dragons had telepathy; gasped when they could teleport and had a stroke when they could time travel.....yes...that's right, telepathic, teleporting, time travelling dragons. 

If this was actually a science fiction book I think I would have liked it because it wouldn't have destroyed my embedded concept of what dragons are and do. I would also have the mind set of reading a sci-fi book. 

The overall storyline of the book is actually very well done but it is the characterizations of the characters and the dragons that I found wanting. So I asked myself why a distinguished author and a well known series could, in my eyes be so bad? Now I know McCaffery doesn't need someone like me to come to her defence; Dragonflight has a Hugo award to do that for her but I think that the evolution of fantasy writing has evolved so much since 1969. Authors and books these days focus more on world building and characterization and yet still find space to make sure these things flow with the storyline.

Perhaps I will give McCaffery another go at a later date with a newish book of hers but if you like the idea of telepathic, teleporting, time travelling dragons then you will probably enjoy this book.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bestfantasybooks Review: The Saga of Beowulf


Finished this epic tale and reviewed it for bestfantasybooks.com

The book was pretty big and it is why I haven't reviewed anything for a while. I'll catch up with my reviews these coming weeks with 'Coraline by Neil Gaiman' and 'Un Lun Dun by China Mieville'.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Author Spotlight: Naomi Novik

Artists in general are people that have toiled and toiled and have never tasted any sort of monetary success. Passion fuels them and they will live on 'ends meet' for a long time (find one at your local small art gallery). Occasionally there are some that will hit the big time after a long career in something else (Rowling). 

Novik doesn't fit in either of these groups. There aren't many people who get to do things they love at such an early age and be successful. Geeks all around the world would love to be on a design team for a computer game, let alone a geek's wet dream of Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. 

However, Novik decided that she liked writing more than game designing so she left.

Now this would be a huge risk for anyone. You have a stable well paid job and stop that to toil away at the market of writing. Not just any kind of writing, but fantasy writing. A market that is really under read if you look at what's at the top 10 box office each year and how big the comic book market is. 

It didn't take Novik long to make a splash in the pool though. In 2006 her first book was published called 'His Majesty's Dragon'. This book is the first of the Temeraire series, which is set in an alternate world during the Napoleon war. Dragons are there to mimic aerial attack (think world war 1). In the UK, the book was published as 'Temeraire'.

The book was a huge hit with readers but if that wasn't enough, Peter Jackson (Director of Lord of the Ring Trilogy, The Frightners) also acquired the option for the Temeraire books! In 2008 her fifth book called 'Victory of Eagles' was published to much acclaim and was included in Amazon's 2008 top 10 Sci-fi/Fantasy books of the year.

I personally have liked the Temeraire books, they are fun and entertaining. I would eventually like to read works from her outside of the Temeraire series but at the moment I am content.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review: The Mistborn Trilogy

Ruling a country can be very hard. You have limited resources, limited time and people contradicting and opposing you. 

Now what would happen if you have lived for a 1000 years as a ruler of an empire. Could you not create a perfect system for your citizens to live in? Maybe you don't want to. The Lord Ruler didn't.

The Lord Ruler has lived for a 1000 years and his empire is split into two factions. Those of nobility, are physically, mentally and financially superior to Skaa and are part of the Lord Ruler's upper class. The nobility get to have magnificent balls, trade, plot and generally be happy about their lives. The other faction are the Skaa. A slave race not too different from humans (the nobility) and are considered inferior in every way and are there to be used and abused by the nobility. 

During these many years of rule. People have revolted against the Lord Ruler. People have tried to kill him, all of them have failed, but it isn't for a lack of trying. How do you kill a man...no a God, when beheading him is only a minor annoyance?

Kelsier is a man with special talents. He is a Mistborn. A man with superhuman power (allomancy) who can "burn" 10 different metals in his body. Each metal does something different. Heighten senses, increase strength, manipulate metal, control emotions and see the future! But how does a man like Kelsier attempt to over throw the Lord Ruler when the Lord Ruler himself has a score of 'Inquisitors' who can do the same thing as Kelsier? What does Kelsier know that others do not? What makes him believe in his delusions of grandeur?


I find it is hard to review an entire trilogy because you cannot give anything away. Anything you say while reviewing books 2 and 3 will sometimes spoil the previous books that are unread by you, the readers. So I have to review the 'Trilogy' as a whole and I can tell you that it blew my mind. The books are very character driven and you get to know each of the characters very well. The plot is amazing and Sanderson did a fantastic job of keeping us guessing at what would happen next. The magic in the world is quite unique, besides allomancy, there is also feruchemy. Feruchemy has a lot of the same powers as allomancy, but instead of "burning" metals to induce the powers, you have to store them before hand. To gain speed, you have to store speed beforehand; the consequence being you are slow for a period of time. 

For people who have read my "Author Moments You Love to Hate", I can tell you that there are not many if at all anything you could begrudge Sanderson about. His character names have unique names without being hard to pronounce; they are flawed in a good way; there is a detailed map (that's for you I.J. Parnham!), the books aren't overly long to bog you down and nothing is filler.


Sanderson also succeeds where others have failed; the ending to each book and to the trilogy as a whole. The first book finishes in a way where you could leave it at that and be very content but you would want to read on. The second book has a major cliff-hanger and makes you want to read the next one. The third book finishes with a flurry and satisfyingly I might add. It ties up a lot of loose ends without using too many or too little pages. And it actually finishes the trilogy. No potential cliff hanger and that is what really pleased me. 

Sure, I believe that Sanderson could continue in the Mistborn world but he doesn't have to and his fans (which include me) won't bay for his blood because he has left something unfinished.

Mistborn would now be the one of the first books I would recommend to anyone ages 15+ regardless if they read fantasy or not.

"Mistborn is character driven and has amazing plots. Sanderson has captured everything great about fantasy and put it into 3 very enjoyable books." - Sleeping With Books

Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: Tawny Man Trilogy

Earlier in year I had given a brief introduction to the Farseer Trilogy and wrote up a review about Fool's Errand the first book the of the Tawny Man Trilogy.


Now I will give my thoughts on the trilogy as a whole.

I am not sure if by not reading the Liveship Traders (trilogy after Farseer set in the same world with different characters) it has hindered my thoughts and reading pleasure of Tawny Man.

I'll start off by saying that I loved this series, even more so than the Farseer Trilogy (although out f the 6 books I still find Assassin's Apprentice to be the best). I thought that Hobb delivered a much more well rounded Fitzchivalry and the set up and execution was much better than Farseer.

Fool's Errand was a great introduction back to the world of the Six Duchies, well paced and the slow seeping of new characters helped easy me in.


The Golden Fool is perhaps the weakest of the 3 books but ultimately I think Hobb used it to set up everything she needed to for Fool's Fate. A little less action packed than what I would have liked but still gripping none the less.










Fool's Fate was exciting the moment I picked it up, but just over half way through it, I thought Hobb had made the same mistake as in Assassin's Quest and left herself with too little room to tie up all the loose ends in the story. I am glad that I was proven wrong. I also loved how Hobb did not change Fitz into a character I would have despised by being one who would have solved everything. She told a very fantastic story and the hero to be is not who you would have thought. 

The ending reminded me of Return of the King (Book 3: Lord of the Rings). There were a lot of pages to tie up the story and unlike LOTR, Hobb had 6 books worth of story to tie up. I got a bit emotional during the end of the book as there was a lot of sad moments, funny and happy moments. I also realised that I had followed Fitz from his childhood and that I won't be reading anymore about him.

The only regret I have of these books is that I didn't read them earlier. I had hesitated so long because of the way Assassin's Quest had ended, very anti-climatic (however do leave some time in between series) . One thing I feel strongly about  is that you cannot read Tawny Man without reading Farseer first. There are so many little links between characters that you would not understand and you wouldn't get that emotional understanding (would be like watching Clerks 2 without first watching Clerks).

So read Tawny Man if you've read Farseer already, and if you haven't read Farseer...well don't miss out on one of the best 1st person narratives you will ever read.

You can also visit www.robinhobb.com for more info on her works (plus her site is just cool).