Top 5 Friday | Favourite Fantasy Trilogies

They say bad things come in threes, but some novels are proof that very good things can as well. Book trilogies are quite commonplace these days, especially in fantasy. It seems like a three-book arc is simply what’s needed to cover the scope of world-building and character development. Yet, this is not always the case… sometimes they can suffer from ‘Middle Book Syndrome’, which means the second book has no real story of its own and merely serves as a link between the first book and the last.

Well, here are my top 5, which I believe are solid gold the whole way through…
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BOOK REVIEW | Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (3.5 stars)

Howl's moving castleVerdict: Fun, easy and humorous read with an unfortunately vague ending.

Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three, which in Ingary means she’s nothing special. She’ll never go on adventures or achieve greatness but, being shy and humble to a fault, she’s resigned to her fate. Yet, when Sophie falls foul of The Witch of the Waste, her boring future is turned upside down as she’s forced to seek help from the fearsome Wizard Howl.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Children’s stand-alone novels

Last Sunday was International Children’s Book Day, so this week’s Top 10 Tuesday is, of course, about children’s books. There are lots of excellent series out there for children but sometimes stand-alone novels get left in the dust. Several publishers and editors have commented on the difficulty of selling a stand-alone novel due to lack of ‘shelf-presence’, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less worthwhile.

Here are ten of my stand-alone recommendations for children: Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW | Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (3 stars)Book Review, Books, reading, fiction

SkulduggeryVerdict: Fun and well-written, but doesn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Stephanie Edgeley attends the funeral of her Uncle Gordon and meets a strange man called Skulduggery Pleasant. From then on, things get a bit crazy.

I know there’ll be a lynch mob waiting outside my house as soon as I post this, and I regret that I can’t give Skulduggery Pleasant more stars. I really wanted to. It was funny and well-written, Skulduggery himself was incredibly witty… I think I may have developed a crush on him at some point which, given he’s a very old, reanimated skeleton, presents a whole set of ethical and logistical problems. The plot was solid and well-thought out, too, if a little predictable.

And yet…

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Top Ten Tuesday: Heroines in Children’s Fiction

It’s International Women’s Day on the 8th March, so today’s Top 10 Tuesday is all about female inspirations in fiction. I’m a big believer in children’s fiction setting an example for developing girls and young women, and seeing strong, independent female characters is a huge part of that representation in literature. Here are a few of the characters who inspired me when growing up.

10 – The Wrestling Princess – The Wrestling Princess by Judy Corbalis

wrestlingI remember the Wrestling Princess as my earliest fictional role model. This was in the very early nineties, when I was just starting to read by myself and I wanted something a bit meatier to sink my teeth into. Cinderella and the other Disney princesses (with the exception of Belle) never really caught my interest as a youngster, but this princess did.

She’s smart, and strong, and she doesn’t like being ladylike or proper, and she has absolutely no interest in finding a handsome prince to settle down and marry. She loves dirty engines, and fixing things, and wrestling, and all the things that princess shouldn’t like at all. Exasperated by her behaviour, her parents decree that if someone can beat their daughter in a wrestling match, then she will have to marry them. Many try, many fail, until the Wrestling Princess finds and chooses her own husband: someone who she can respect exactly the way he is, and who respects her, exactly how she is.

Also she could throw grown men over her head. What’s not to like? Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW | The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (3 stars)

girl-of-ink-and-starsVerdict: An enjoyable, ‘fairytale-esque’ story that is at once exotic and familiar. 

The story opens with Isa, a girl on the island of Joya who lives with her cartographer father. The island is being occupied by ‘The Governor’, who comes from Afrik, and has banned travel beyond Joya’s waters and even on other parts of the island, now named the ‘Forgotten Territories’. This latter point is a problem for Isa herself, who yearns to explore the rest of her home island. She is obsessed with its mythological history: it was once a floating island that could travel the seas by itself; it has its own heroine, Arinta, a young girl who heroically faced the fire demon Yote before he could destroy Joya entirely.

Soon, a revolt against the Governor sees Isa taking her own journey to the Forbidden Territories to rescue her best friend, echoing the mythological adventure of Arinta in ways that are both eerie and deadly.
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BOOK REVIEW | The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi [Bks 1-2] (4.5 stars)

Book 1: The Field Guide (5 stars)

book1coverVerdict: Sharp, simple and very engaging. 

I’m a bit late to the Spiderwick party, but I’m very glad I joined.

The Grace children- identical twins Jared and Simon, plus older sister Mallory – move into their crazy great-aunt’s old house. Jared in particular hates it, especially the squirrel he thinks lives in the wall. Very quickly we discover, however, that the noises at night are not being made by a squirrel…

The characters themselves are as engaging as the plot, although in the way of young children’s books, they are quite basic to begin with. Jared is an inadvertent trouble maker (and sometimes not so inadvertent) who tries hard but can’t seem to get into his family’s good books. Simon is the animal-loving sweetheart and Mallory the tough, talented older sister with  what seems like anger management issues. I’d gladly read more about them all any day of the week.

The Field Guide is a fast-paced introduction in the world of Spiderwick, and every moment holds your attention. Well-written and simply spun, it’s a short novel that all fans of fantasy will enjoy, regardless of their age. It is written for a younger audience (5-8) and, after reading it out of curiosity and loving it myself, I will be sharing it with my nieces who are in that blessed age bracket.

A happy afternoon’s entertainment.

Book 2: The Seeing Stone (4 stars)

book2coverVerdict: More action but not quite as pacy as the last one. Still a very good story.

And it all kicks off! With the revelation that the Fae-folk are as real as you and me, Jared, Simon and Mallory promptly land themselves into trouble. Thimbletack, their house Brownie, warns all three of them to relinquish the Field Guide but Jared keeps it, leading to Simon being abducted by goblins.

Although an easy read, interesting and certainly more action-packed than the first book, I found The Seeing Stone somehow hit a slower pace than The Field Guide. Particularly I felt that Jared and Mallory should have perhaps chased after Simon more speedily than they did, as it seemed quite some time between him being abducted and the two of them setting out to find him – despite the logic in the approach of their rescue! It just lacked a sense of urgency.

That said, once Mallory and Jared actually set out on their mission, what followed was a page-turning success, filled with danger, intrigue, and challenges of both mind and body. We learned more about the Fae world and the book opened up more questions with every answer they gave.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the next one (which is currently in my bag waiting for me).