Fantasy Realms

Explore the realms of fantasy, from Alagaesia to Middle-Earth, from Coruscant to Tortall and beyond!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Abarat

Title: Abarat
Author: Clive Barker
Pages: 431
Rating: @@@@@
Price: $6.99 (paperback)




NEW! Abarat in three words:
Imagination
Vibrant
Straightforward

Summary:

Candy Quackenbush lives in the most boring town in the U.S.: Chickentown. They’re known for...chicken farming. When her spiteful teacher tells the class to find ten facts about Chickentown, Candy’s not happy. She doesn’t want to write about chickens. She asks around, and comes upon a bit of juicy history that doesn’t appear in the textbook. When the teacher reads it, she’s furious that someone could turn in such nonsense, and consequently, Candy is sent to the principal’s office.
For some reason, she refuses. Instead, she walks out the door, down the street, and out of town into a grassy field she’d never seen. That’s when the weird things start happening. She meets John Mischief – and all the other Johns, who live on his horns. They plead with her to turn on the lighthouse – though, why there’s a lighthouse in Montana is a mystery – and doing so, she summons a sea that sweeps her into the Abarat.
As one from the Hereafter, our world, Candy causes a stir. Many factions are attempting to rule Abarat, including Christopher Carrion, who rules the Gorgossium, the island where it’s always midnight! Who is this Commexo Kid, and why is he so…generous?
Candy, caught in the middle of several plots for multi-world domination, is sought out by Carrion, his minions, and Rojo Pixler. Not only is she a link to the Hereafter, but she has the Key to…something, she’s not quite sure.
Candy has no problem staying in Abarat; she felt called to leave her world, and the only thing holding her there was a dysfunctional family. She feels as if she knows about Abarat, like she’s been there before. Snatches of memory, a vision in the 25th hour, and a feeling of connection never felt before seem to mean more than she’s realizing.

Opinion:

Many times, I get so lost in the plot that I can’t see the pictures. With this book, it’s nearly the opposite. I didn’t read the illustrated version – though one of my friends specifically bought that edition – but the vivid visions of so many species and creatures left me breathless. From the island of midnight, with nightmares galore, to late afternoon, with things beyond your dreams, this is the most lively, bright novel I’ve read in a long while. It’s difficult to think of words to accurately describe the chilling feeling of Carrion’s nightmare collar, or the sleek grace of the Tarries.
All that makes sense, because this came, originally, from paintings. Clive Barker painted over 300 pictures (100 of which illustrate the first book) before writing the books themselves. All the islands (each of which is a time of day, if you didn’t get that) are so brilliantly portrayed that I don’t even need the pretty, bright pictures.
The characters are original too. Malingo reminds me vaguely of Lump (from The Witch’s Boy), and the talking cats seem familiar, but other than that…I’ve never heard of any character who has seven other brothers living on his head. Carrion simply is a nightmare himself, taking pleasure in the living horrible thoughts that float around his collar. And our heroine, Candy, is s strong character, though at times she falls into the “narrator” trap; where the main character(s) loses their personality and becomes more of a viewpoint.
One last point that I want to say, is that I appreciated how Barker wrote about a real life, and a real family. Candy’s household is far from perfect: Her dad’s an unemployed drunk, her mom’s spineless, and the entire danged town smells like chickens!
Definitely a good book, and though I gave it a 3 out of 5, it’s more of a 3 and a half.

Sorry about the long-time-no-update. With school starting, everyone's schedule is busier, not just kids'. So expect updates on weekends (probably Saturday nights). I realize that I haven't reviewed any of the books I said I would. There's a reason for that.
...
...
Just let me think of one.
Well, I like to procrastinate, and I will do Alaizabel Cray, but I'm going to wait until I go through it and pick out all the deeper meanings, which I have to do anyway.

Now, my updated "COMING SOON" list:
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray -by Chris Wooding
Thief of Time (Discworld) -by Terry Pratchett
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -by J.K. Rowling (If anyone didn't know that...)
The Wee Free Men -by Terry Pratchett
Protector of the Small -by Tamora Pierce (Possibly her new book, depending on release, how fast I get it, etc.)
The Riddles of Epsilon -by Christine Morton-Shaw
Chanters of Tremaris -by Kate Constable
Wicked -by Gregory Maguire (Probably not, because of...past PG-13-ness.)
Silver Crown -by Robert C. O'Brien (Though Paige, I don't have the book so there will be a wait.)
Cry of the Icemark -by Stuart Hill
And more!

Really, I'm just too lazy to remember the rest! See ya next time!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Uglies

Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Pages: 448
Rating:
@@@@@
Price: $6.99

Summary:
“The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.”
When a story begins with a sentence like that, you know it has to be interesting. Tally Youngblood is waiting for her sixteenth birthday. No, not for her driver’s license. She wants to turn Pretty. In this futuristic world, everyone turns Pretty. They get to choose how they look, what they do to their face, skin, hair. It’s a full-body makeover, plastic surgery to the extreme. It’s perfect! New Pretties live in…New Pretty Town, where they party all day and all night, the perfect life for perfect people.
As in every society, there are rebels. The ones who – for some strange reason – want to stay Ugly. Tally’s new friend Shay is one of them. Shay leaves soon before her 16th birthday, wanting to take Tally, but leaving a message just in case. Then, a branch of authority thought to be a fairy tale approaches Tally with a choice: Follow Shay and betray the rebels, or never turn Pretty.

Review:
I spent days searching down this book, from the first time I saw it in the library’s “New Books” review section. Since then, I’ve read “So Yesterday,” “Midnighters” (The Secret Hour and Touching Darkness), and have “The Risen Empire” on hold at the same library. I don’t have the actual book with me, because my friend borrowed it, then her older sister borrowed it, and it has yet to make its way back to me. A book this good, to make followers out of everyone near it, has to have my highest praise. (I only lent it to my friend on conditions that “You cannot bend the cover, hurt the pages, or get any spots on it. If you do, I will hurt you.”)

What makes it so good? The characters are involved in the plot. The villains are believable while inhumanely cruel. The plot has meaning. A plot with meaning does more for a book, in my opinion, than flashy covers, multimedia news coverage, or movie-making status. The writing is lively and funny, and the ending…is the worlds’ biggest cliffhanger. If you buy this book, be prepared to spend money on its future sequel, Pretties (which you can pre-order at Amazon).

Tally, the main character, is interesting. She keeps her personality, which is extremely important and all too rare in so many books these days. You know what she’s thinking, you would make the same mistakes she did, you want her to succeed. You know her like you know your friends. She doesn’t fade off into some being with no emotions. I can think of several major novels in which the characters stop being characters and become the narrator. She doesn’t fall into that hole.

Is anyone interested in links to certain authors? Reviews of certain books? I have an extensive collection of fantasy/sci-fi author links, which I'll be adding to the links on the side of this blog. Y'know, over there ----> ---->

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Naming

Title: The Naming (The Gift, in Australia), The First Book of Pellinor
Author: Alison Croggon
Pages: 492
Rating: @@@@@
Price: $17.99 (Hardcover)

Summary:
Maerad is a young girl, living as a slave in a worthless mountain village. She’s barely able to remember her mother; all she knows about her father and younger brother is that they died. The locals think she’s a witch, and they’re more right than they think. While she’s milking the cow, a man comes into the barn who seems astounded that she can see him. The man, Cadvan, urges her to leave with him. Soon, she’s ready with all she owns: a harp from her mother. After making it through the dangerous mountains, Cadvan reveals that she has the power of a Bard, the last Bard of Pellinor. The first School they come to is like a heaven to Maerad; everyone is kind, there’s food, and best of all, hot baths. Circumstances insist that she become a Bard as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many Schools are more corrupt than Cadvan believes. Who is the orphan Hem, and what are Enkir’s true motives?

Review:
Once you get past the huge, phone-book intimidation, this book is something you can get into. I personally pick out books on the basis that they’re phone-book sized (I like something that lasts more than a day) but The Naming went quickly because I read it in every spare moment. Maerad is just a girl, and she’s thrown into drastic, extreme situations that require important decisions. The kind of decision that decides the course of the world. And the best part is, she reacts like a normal girl. All too often, authors give characters incredible powers of judgment and perception, but not Maerad. She’s unsure, she makes mistakes, and she works through them. She’s able to fix most of her errors.
One of the major factors in choosing this book was the crucial mini-reviews on the back. Only a sentence or two, but the name struck me. Tamora Pierce, the all-time girl-hero standard, liked this book and recommended it. I know from prior experience (a mini-review quote on the front of Crown Duel) that her recommendations are good. Top-of-my-favorites-list good. This book is now, predictably, one of my faves. (If anyone knows of strong girl fantasy – feminist fantasy? – please post a comment with titles and/or authors.)

http://www.theatrenotes.blogspot.com/
http://www.alisoncroggon.blogspot.com/

Reviews probably coming soon:
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray -by Chris Wooding
Thief of Time (Discworld) -by Terry Pratchett
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -by J.K. Rowling (If anyone didn't know that...)
The Wee Free Men -by Terry Pratchett
Protector of the Small -by Tamora Pierce (Possibly her new book, depending on release, how fast I get it, etc.)
The Riddles of Epsilon -by Christine Morton-Shaw
Chanters of Tremaris -by Kate Constable
Wicked -by Gregory Maguire (Probably not, because of...past PG-13-ness.)

Notice a pattern with these books? They have strong, female, leads. I think I've cleaned out every bookstore within ten miles, plus a couple in neighboring cities, of every feminist fantasy. I truly would like suggestions (as long as they're appropriate for teens, because I work closely with teen readers and suggest lots of books for them; there would be conflicting opinions from parents).

I'd also like any suggested websites/blogs for book reviews. Quality book reviews. And if you point out anything wrong with my writing, post away. I personally can't keep from correcting grammar/spelling of my friends. If you have a conflicting opinion of your own, say so! I may (if it's thought out, written correctly) post it in my next review. Suggestions, complaints, comments, opinions, anything! Make this a quality blog, with many different opinions and views!

http://www.thetomereader.blogspot.com/ - A book review blog I like.