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Fantasy is a genre that uses magic and paranormal elements to build its story. The story is peopled with such beings as giants and fairies; Ghosts and wraiths; witches and vampires; trolls and elves, talking dogs, cats and mice – anything that is unbelievable. In fact, in a fantasy book most of the main characters do not exist except in the author’s mind, or in mythology, and humans are commonly in the minority.

Fantasy stands hand in hand with horror and science fiction and many stories do overlap these element. As a rule fantasy stands apart as there is no technology as we know it, and the spooky elements are not quite as macabre as full blown horror.

Because of the similarities between these three genres they are usually collectively known as Speculative Fiction. Other people also throw in dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history into the speculative Fiction umbrella as well. I can’t see the point myself – but this is becoming more

common. I mean to say, yes I suppose you could have a flesh eating monster stalking the corridors of a spaceship eating all the elves – but it is rare – and if you know of such a book then let me know.

Fantasy isn’t bound by convention – it is utterly make believe – so the world and its inhabitants can be anything that enters the author’s mind. A tree gets in the way of a character’s progress? Then being fantasy the character can snap his fingers, or will have a fellow traveller to do it, and poof – the tree disappears. If this happened in the real world there would be so many forms to fill out that the character would just give up and go home. Magic is an extremely useful tool in fantasy.

So why would you read fantasy? Well, so much of reality is uninteresting and unexciting – it is lovely to slip into a fantasy book, where nothing is real, and let your imagination run free? Don’t get me wrong, life can certainly be grim for the fantasy characters – I mean the journey of the hobbit and friends in the Lord of the Rings was no picnic – and those orcs were quite revolting – but in the end and the sun came back and evil was apparently vanquished. In real life this does not always occur.

 

So if it is all made-up why should we read fantasy? Alan Nicholas, self-described Attorney, avid reader, sometime writer thinks he has the answer in this long article: https://www.quora.com/Why-read-fantasy-books

He thinks fantasy readers are solely into escapism, its very reason for being is that nothing is real so it really is another time and another place and can’t possibly happen in our world. With science fiction there is an element of maybe it could happen – aliens could land – humans could go into space and live on other plants – so it is not pure escapism. Even horror can make you the reader stop and think, could this happen – could there be a Freddie Kruger out there coming to get you? When reading fantasy you know it is not true, and have a fair idea that a horrible troll is not going to come marching down the high street. Well I hope one won’t anyway.

Now, if your interest is piqued to try the Fantasy genre – here are some links to some recommended books:

Something for everyone – 100 fantasy books

Ten Must-Read Magical Books That Aren’t Harry Potter (although if you haven’t read the Harry Potter books – you should)

Fantasy books usually come in series – 30 of the best fantasy series  gives a plethora of fantasy reading ideas

 

You can also find this post over on Book Charmers

You can also find this post over on Book Charmers

Title: The Girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making

Author: Catherynne M Valente

Genre: YA Fantasy

Opens: Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.

Blurb: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went away to fight in a war and her mother started working long hours to support the family. Now September is bored. Until one day as she does the dishes she is visited by The Green Wind and The Leopard Of Little Breezes who asks her to come with him to save Fairyland. The leader of Fairyland – the Marquess – is not a very nice person and there is something she wants but can’t get herself. That’s where September comes in she is ordered to fetch it otherwise Fairyland will become even more impossible to live in – September has a quest.

My Thoughts: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN is the first book in the fairyland series which is getting rave reviews across the world. However, I just didn’t get it, in fact I found it extremely difficult to get into the imaginative, but very odd, story and, importantly, none of the characters actually drew me in and demanded I stay. The closest character I came to like was the book-loving Wyvern called A-Through-L, and he was loquacious and boring.

Look, there was SO much going on in the story, often all at once, with lots of mentions of other past and future adventures being thrown into the mix every few paragraphs, making story was hard to track. Then on top of that there were lots of characters being thrown at me one after the other without me being given the chance to bond with any of them. But wait there’s more! The main problem was I didn’t even bond with the strange child who is the centre of the story, September. For me to really enjoy a story I need to have feelings about, or be able to relate to, the main character – even if it is a severe dislike – the character needs to evoke some sort of emotion from me. But author Catherynne M Valente aroused no emotions from me for September; in fact even September didn’t seem to care about what happened to September. So if the main character is apathetic to her own fate – why should I care whether she gets eaten by river monsters, or killed by a witch? Don’t get me wrong Valente obviously has superb mastery of the English language – but it was if she put so much effort into her words, and waxed lyrical about every little thing, that the story got lost amongst the descriptions. The world building was absolutely amazing – but then it was peopled with characters that remained as flat as the pages I was reading.

As I said, THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN has got rave reviews, so I am clearly in the minority here. It is listed for readers aged 10+, this stuns me as it would have to be a very advanced 10 year old who could read this. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 15. A lot of this is to do with the style in which it is written, not the concept of adventures in fairyland.

I kept think of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz – all bizarre stories if you think about them logically, but full of wonderful characters and words which pull you in – not leave you leaping for the dictionary every few minutes. In fact there is even mention made of a wardrobe that connects you to other worlds, so the author must be familiar with these works. Her version of a magical adventure just didn’t work for me – but as I have already mentioned it as lots of good reviews from other readers – so just but not my cup of tea

For more about the author – Click Here

D – Average – it was OK, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish.

Title: April’s Glow

Author: Juliet Madison

Genre: Romance

Opens: If there was anything worse for April Vedora than being stood up, it was being stood up on April Fools’ Day

Blurb: Distracting herself from a string of bad luck and a disastrous love life, bubbly April Vedora throws herself into her new business – April’s Glow, a candle store in seaside Tarrin’s Bay. The enchanting scents and colourful atmosphere provide a safe haven, but outside business hours she’s clueless about her personal life.

When a mysterious loner moves in next door, she can’t help but become intrigued, and ex-soldier Zac Masterson is equally fascinated by April. But both have sworn off relationships, and while April avoids her emotions by keeping busy and sociable, Zac hides away from the world – and his past.

My Thoughts: APRIL’S GLOW is the 4th book in the Tarrin’s Bay series and as you would expect for a book set in April – Anzac day and a returned service man are woven into the story.

Both April and Zac are wounded spiritually – they need time to heal their hurts, but they also need to learn that they can move on with their lives – that it is alright to move on. When Zac moved next door, they both started to bounce off each other as they each recognised hurt in the other. The story is told from both perspectives – so the reader learns what issues each of the two neighbours are struggling with before they do. They firstly connect by talking – at all hours of the day and night:

You’re up, I’m up. Might as well talk.

April wrote: Why not just talk over the fence?

Zac replied: Because I’m naked."

Gradually, even though their initial impressions of each other are less than favourable, comes the realisation that maybe they do have things in common after all, followed by attraction so strong that the two of them are both terrified of allowing themselves to become vulnerable. Can a candle maker and an ex-service man make it as a couple? What do they need to do to make it happen?

I loved April, in one sense she is very like me in that she sometimes says what’s on her mind not realising she’s said it aloud. Her relationships with her parents, however, are not like mine – especially the one with her father. Sometimes your personal experience can affect your outlook on life, and her relationship with Zac was certainly influenced by her relationship with her father. I loved how this thread played out, and the message that it gave – was very well done. I couldn’t imagine myself dealing with some of the issues that these two faced – but deal they did – and being a romance the reader knows that (well hopes they know that) a happy ending will eventually arrive. What kept me riveted to the pages was to find out if they would make it, and how on earth they surmounted their challenges to get there.

APRIL’S GLOW is a 5 star read – I loved the story, I loved the characters and I loved the two furry minor characters, Romeo and Juliet :)"

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

 

My favourite book links

 

I thought I would share a few of my ‘Bookie’ links with you this month. Where I go to get inspired to read – a few of my sources of information

FANTASTIC FICTION is a wonderful source – having information on over 30,000 authors and 350,000 books. There are also list about new authors, new books, books coming soon, most Popular and top authors. A favourite of mine are the countries list (want to read a book set in Eritrea or Montserrat – they’re on the list) the years list (need an author who was born or died in 1943 – it’s on the list) and the awards (which includes a list of most awarded books). The site is just information and there is no forum or chit chat – but you will spend hours wandering through it.
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/

GOODREADS is the place to go if you want to talk about books with other people. Not only will you find reviews about books – you can make friends, discover which of your friends are already there and if you like chatting books then you will find a group to suit just about every reading scenario you would like. Within the groups are reading related games, reading challenges (oh be still my beating heart) and there are even some giveaways and lists of books. You like dragons – search Listopia and there will be dragon book suggestions coming out of your ears!!! It is free to join and you can track your books on your own set of shelves – and there is an Apple application so you can tell at a glance what books you already own so there is no double ups when you’re in a book shop. I belong to a few groups and I am kept very busy reading and discussing books and off topic subjects.
https://www.goodreads.com/

STOP YOU’RE KILLING ME – if you like reading mysteries the ‘Stop You’re Killing Me’ is my favourite go to page. There is a list of authors each with a chronological list of their books which covers both their series and stand-alones. There are also indexes to help you find characters who live in particular countries (a PI from Mexico maybe) or by occupations (an investigator who is a dancer – or an Interior decorator maybe) there is even an area to search for elderly people or Amish; historical era (Ancient Egyptian mystery anyone?) as well as type of mystery – cosy, hard boiled, vampire, physiological Triller. This site will certainly fill up your notebook with new suggestions to follow up on.
http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/

PACK A BOOK – Are you an armchair traveller? Then Pack-a-book is the site for you. Pick a country – click on the link and you will get a list of books set in that country – both fiction and non-fiction. They also have a face book page and have one country one book email travel sessions, which sound interesting but I’ve never taken a plunge – maybe this year:

If you were to join us right now you would be standing at the natural harbor in the town of Poole on England’s south-coast, ready to begin the journey. Your bags are packed, mainly with books of course, and your spirits high, as you prepare to board the ferry that will take you across the ocean.

But where will the first stop be? Well – we’re not giving out any secrets here. To find out – you’ll have to take the plunge and join us.
http://www.packabook.com/

You can also find this post over on Book Charmers

Reading why you should and when it is alright to stop.

A group of us were having a discussion the other day about books we wouldn’t read and why. As conversation are inclined to do it then meandered off onto a few tangents one of which was the fact that there are those who read books to the bitter end, even if they are not enjoying the experience, and then there are others, like me, who can easily put a book down if the author hasn’t managed to engage them and move onto the next one.

So why won’t people even attempt to read a particular book or even (hold onto your hats this is radical) not finish it at all because, in their opinion, it’s a waste of time!! This is hard to answer so I won’t even try it’s just the way things are. However a few ‘finishers’ told me they had to finish a book because it would upset the author. So I wrote to a few well-known internationally published Australian authors I know and asked what their thoughts were when a book is rejected deemed unfit to read by a reader did they mind were they wounded. I promised anonymity with their replies!

The first one wrote: “…I never pay any attention! I haven’t got time to go and check people’s reading progress. It’s never occurred to me to do so. And if someone told me they’d been unable to finish one of my books, I’d think that’s a shame but obviously the book was not for them. I certainly don’t expect everyone to like what I do! That’d be impossible…”

The next author responded: “…If someone marks my book as DNF, of course it hurts. If there is feedback, I’ll read it to see if there’s anything I should take on board…I don’t like everything I read, so I can’t expect others to…Getting good AND bad reviews and the occasional DNF is just part of being an author…constructive criticism is one thing, but abuse is not acceptable…”

Finally the third author said: “…Life is too short to finish a book you’re not enjoying…if I’m not enjoying the book I am reading the lure of another on my bedside table is too strong…don’t feel guilty…”

Their replies certainly contrast with another unnamed Australian writer who messaged me through Goodreads and demanded to know why I didn’t finish reading his/her book and then proceeded to lecture me as to how horrible I was and how much effort he/she had put into their work and how dare I reject it! Needless to say I have not picked up anymore of their books, which is one reason why people, well me anyway, won’t pick up particular books. The other reason is if a book is in a genre that the reader doesn’t like. For instance I won’t read anything in the horror genre a close friend would have her nails removed rather than read romance.

The conversation continued and I was asked how come I average 140 books a year (one of the others managed over 200) did this mean I was indiscriminate in my reading? Was there actually anything I wouldn’t read because in their opinion there were books on my ‘to read’ shelf on Goodreads that they personally wouldn’t dream of picking up.

That was scary do I read books that are so ghastly that at least one person couldn’t bear to read it? What does that say about me? Well nothing we can’t all like the same things and thank goodness there are enough authors in the world all writing in a myriad of genre to keep we readers happy.

So why do we read what we read?

In her article 10 benefits why you should read everyday, Lana Winter-Hébert says we should read because it’s good for our health!!! I like Lana, I must be the healthiest person ever!!! She writes:

…But not all books are for everyone. A book might be a best-seller, but maybe you can’t stand the writing. Or maybe it’s not the right time to read a book

So don’t read a book just because it is popular, or it’s won an award so it must be good, or even because it is a classic and people will think I’m dumb if I haven’t read it. Read a book because YOU like the sound of it, not because you’re influenced by what people think about your reading choices. And while you’re reading a book you’re getting healthy, de-stressing and exercising your mind how cool is that?

…A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold…

Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

This book is a treasure; I did not suspect it would be so good when I picked it up, but now I can feel the printed words seeping through my skin and into my veins, rushing to my heart and marking it forever. I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again

Laura Nowlin, If He Had Been with Me

The following quote is about awarding a ‘star’ to a book – she thinks the same way I do

I am shocked to find that some people think a 2 star ‘I liked it’ rating is a bad rating. What? I liked it. I LIKED it! That means I read the whole thing, to the last page, in spite of my life raining comets on me. It’s a good book that survives the reading process with me. If a book is so-so, it ends up under the bed somewhere, or maybe under a stinky judo bag in the back of the van. So a 2 star from me means,yes, I liked the book, and I’d loan it to a friend and it went everywhere in my jacket pocket or purse until I finished it. A 3 star means that I’ve ignored friends to finish it and my sink is full of dirty dishes. A 4 star means I’m probably in trouble with my editor for missing a deadline because I was reading this book. But I want you to know . . . I don’t finish books I don’t like. There’s too many good ones out there waiting to be found.

Robin Hobb, author

If the book you’re reading doesn’t make you feel these emotions then please go and find one that does.

So if reading is good for us when we are reading a book of our choice that makes us happy in my opinion this translates to it’s doing us harm if we insist on finishing a book that is not making us happy but for some reason feel bound to not giving up. By golly, by gosh I will grit my teeth and keep on reading!

Sadie L. Trombetta gives us 10 signs that you should give up on the book you’re in the middle of no really she gives 10 of them!!! And while you will certainly laugh when you read her article you have to think very seriously about the message.

So, how can you know if you will like a book? Well it’s not always easy to know. Certainly if you love an author’s work, or a particular genre then chances are higher that you may enjoy it. I get my books from reading reviews written by people who have similar likes to me, Reading reviews in magazines, looking at book blurbs in bookshop catalogues. I certainly have tried and true authors so I am highly confident I will enjoy their work. Sometimes yes I judge a book by its cover! Especially when I am in the library or book store I pull a book off the shelf if it catches my eye and if I like the picture then I’ll read the blurb and if the two seem appealing I’ll borrow/buy the book.

Or you can let serendipity guide you – there are places on the web that will recommend books for you here are three, but there are many more:

Which book?This page lets you pick 4 things you want from a book to test it out I picked happy, lots of sex, bleak and gentle the recommended book? Boys and Girls by Joseph Connolly the blurb says Susan wants another husband. Which comes as a shock to the current one.

Next test was happy, safe, beautiful and gentle resulted in Companions of Paradise by Thalassa Ali the blurb for this is Mariana Givens, a brave, beautiful Englishwoman must face the repercussions of her marriage to a Punjabi Muslim, and choose between the people she calls her own—and the life that owns her heart.

What should I read next? – With this page you start by typing in your favourite author’s name I typed in Enid Blyton it then comes up with a list of a few of her books for you to choose from I clicked on one of her ‘Famous Five’ titles and the web page suggests I might like Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo the blurb for this is When orphaned Arthur Hobhouse is shipped to Australia after WW II he loses his sister, his country and everything he knows. Actually I have taken note of this one sounds pretty good!

The literature map is another one I use a lot using Enid Blyton as my chosen author for this one it comes up with a pageful of suggested authors I might like to read as well not sure about some of the connections Jackie Collins, Monty Python for example!!!!

Another idea for finding books you’ll enjoy is to find your favourite authors facebook page, or blog, and see what they are reading .

In the end immersing yourself in a book that takes you away from the world for a few hours is one of the greatest pleasures in this world. Add a glass of wine and life is indeed good!

Of course there is also the added bonus of annoying a librarian:

“…The Librarian considered matters for a while. So…a dwarf and a troll. He preferred both species to humans. For one thing, neither of them were great readers. The Librarian was, of course, very much in favour of reading in general, but readers in particular got on his nerves. There was something, well, sacrilegious about the way they kept taking books off the shelves and wearing out the words by reading them. He liked people who loved and respected books, and the best way to do that, in the Librarian’s opinion, was to leave them on the shelves where Nature intended them to be…”

Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

You can also find this post over on Book Charmers

Title: Big Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarty

Genre: Mystery

Opens:

Blurb: Pirriwee Public is a beautiful little beachside primary school where children are taught that ‘sharing is caring.’ So how has the annual School Trivia Night ended in full-blown riot? Sirens are wailing. People are screaming. The principal is mortified. And one parent is dead.

Was it a murder, a tragic accident or just good parents gone bad? As the parents at Pirriwee Public are about to discover, sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. Big little lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, school-yard scandal, and the big little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

My Thoughts: As the blurb states, when the story opens the reader learns one main thing – someone has died at a noisy school fund raising night! That is all we’re told – we don’t know who has died, or how they’ve died, or who caused the death to happen. So for me the mystery of the story is not just finding out who did it – but who had it done to them. Whilst the delight of the story is not only finding out what lead to the events of that night – but spending the time trying to figure out who was going to be the victim, and who was going to be the killer, and hoping beyond hope that neither of them was one of my favourites.

The three main characters, Celeste, Jane and Maddie are all very different women, but I loved each of them. Maddie and Celeste are married, Jane is a single mum. Maddie is with her second husband and they have two young children, she also has her teen daughter living with them from her first marriage. Her ex-husband and his alternative lifestyle wife have recently moved into the area with their youngster. Celeste is very well off, drop dead gorgeous and her husband that makes all the other ladies swoon when he appears; they have twin boys. Finally the single mum, Jane, has just moved into the area with her little boy called Ziggy. The three women meet at the Pirriwee Public Kindergarten orientation day, where the story kicks off with little Ziggy being accused of bulling one of the girls. The girl’s high-powered mother takes it on herself to punish Ziggy, and his mother, for his sin – accusing him of lying when he denies he bullied the girl. Yes you’ve guessed it Helicopter parents play a large part in the story; a mummy war quickly breaks out along with the alliances, side taking, gossiping and cattiness begins.

It took me a while to get into BIG LITTLE LIES, to get used to the writing style author Liane Moriarty used. I have read books that are written for more than one point of view before, but this is different because on top of the three main characters taking their turn in narrating there are also a multitude of snappy little one-liners from many supporting characters that appear between the main narratives. Each of these voices (let’s call them the Greek chorus) are trying to say what they think happened, what they heard happened, their opinion on why something happened and what caused it to happen – but like the main story at no point is the victim named, or who is accused, if anyone – no names are named. This chorus of voices provided a commentary on what was going in – filled in some of the gaps – or related utter untruths – exactly how a gossiping crowd of helicopter parents would act once they start hunting in a pack.

Once I realised the role they had to play I really, really enjoyed the experience. While the subjects covered are quite dark at times – the story rings with humour as the nice school gate chit chat is slowly stripped away and the underlying nastiness is revealed. When the truth comes out at the horrific climax that was oh so perfect to the story, it leaves many of the characters shaken and shame-faced as none of them were entirely blameless. While the mums and dads were battling it out – the kids involved just got on with it, quarrels forgotten within a day or two as they struggle to understand why their parents are doing what they are doing.

The conversations were so perfect, I have heard mothers and fathers talking like this, I have had my children attend ordinary schools like this with all these procedures in place that just don’t work in some cases. Teachers doing the best they can as parents use the system against them. There is the frustration from both parents and the teachers, which is balanced by total oblivion of the situation from the kids. But rarely does it end in death as it did in Pirriwee Public on that fateful night.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

Books around the web – Children’s/YA

There are lots of references to children’s literary matters on the web, but the word ‘children’ describes literature that ranges from Picture Books for the very little, through primary and middle school and on to teens, or YA, readers.

Legally a person is not considered an adult until they turn 18 – so regardless of what your 17-year-old is currently reading, books aimed at him, or her, are classed as Children’s literature.

Learning to read starts before a child can even read for themselves – the best start a child can have is for someone to read to them – and the reader gets as much pleasure as the readee!

Last year the blog ‘For Reading Addicts’ conducted a poll on the subject of what books their followers loved to read to their children. They got more than 1000 responses naming more than 300 books. Here are their top 20 favourite books.

So why should we read to our very young children and grandchildren? Well here are two views as to why picture books are useful and why we should read to the very small, as well as the not so small:

1. Picture books are important – What your child, and you, gets out of reading them

2. Getting the most out of picture books – a couple of hints to encourage your child to interact

I use to read to my kids, and now my kids are reading to my grandchildren, and I still read children’s literature and re-read old favourites – Charlotte’s Web and Harry Potter anyone?

My admission of reading Children’s literature brings up a very divisive topic on the various media outlets – Should adults be reading Children’s books at all?

Here is an argument for NO – Apparently I should feel embarrassed when what I’m reading is written for Children! Hmmm, Okay! (Carefully – I push my current book, written by Enid Blyton, out of view).

Fortunately there are sensible people out on the internet who think that reading children’s literature is not embarrassing and that children’s literature is never just for children! (yaaaay – my Enid Blyton Book is back out front and centre)

And while we are talking about the reading Nazis, the word killjoys, – if you have a child that is struggling to read – then maybe one way to get them started is by introducing comic books/graphic novels. At this point you may get a teacher who will throw up their hands in horror – it’s not real reading you see – apparently. My take on this when it happened to me and someone decided they knew better about my child reading was that children should be allowed to read comics – it is the written word in a freed-up context and as far as I am concerned they can read a cornflake packet if it means they’re reading. I am not alone in this opinion and here are ten reasons why children should be allowed to read comic books.

Finally – here is a huge list of Children’s Literary reading links

And – a list of Blogs dealing with Children’s literature to watch out for

This post can also be found over on the Book Charmers blog

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